Ugochukwu Francis Okechukwu has a passion for making what most people consider impossible, possible. In fact, it’s his mantra. The Nigerian native has faced many obstacles on his path to study in the U.S., and has also overcome challenges as an app developer, aspiring engineer, business owner and a motivational speaker.
So it’s no surprise he chose that topic of choice when he was invited to speak at a TEDx Conference in Savannah, Georgia, recently. Okechukwu used examples of obstacles he faced as he taught himself app development in a country where access to electricity isn’t even a guarantee.
“In Nigeria, it seems like almost everything one tries to accomplish takes a lot of effort because there are always multiple obstacles to every activity or plan,” he said. “Even the electricity supply is inconstant, and traffic so hectic, it’s dangerous to get where you’re going. Malaria and typhoid are rampant, and health care and security are weak at best.”
But despite these conditions, Okechukwu held on to his dreams of growing his knowledge of technology. He earned a degree in physics from the University of Ibadan in Nigeria, but wanted more.
“Although my physics degree from the University of Ibadan was very useful for me, the study of physics is rather broad and did not give me the specific training I desired in engineering and technology,” he said. “As I moved forward to grow a tech business with my brother, I realized further education with cutting-edge technology would be a great asset in building our tech startup, which focused on bringing microprocessor education to university students in Nigeria.”
In addition, Okechukwu said he delved deep into mobile app development, which at the time hadn’t made any concrete headway in Nigeria. “I knew if I gained a degree in engineering from the United States, I would be exposed to the latest technological advances and could bring knowledge and experience back to my business.”
Although he touted Georgia Southern University’s outreach to international students as welcoming, friendly and helpful throughout his application process, Okechukwu still faced challenges when applying to an American higher education institution.
“Many Nigerians hope to study in the U.S. because the quality of education here is recognized worldwide as the best on earth,” he said. “Especially when it comes to science and engineering, a U.S. education is invaluable. Although many Nigerians attempt to study here, it’s very hard to actually succeed.
“There are numerous expenses and you must plan very far in advance to meet all the deadlines. Having sporadic electricity and Internet makes it difficult to do all the necessary research and fill out all the necessary paperwork. Even getting documents mailed back and forth across the ocean is expensive and difficult.”
But difficulty never deterred Okechukwu from pushing forward with his dreams. He kept a positive mindset, and even took the time while still in Nigeria to encourage classmates, family, and friends, as he served in various philanthropic organizations to motivate others to help improve his hometown community.
Tying together his message of maintaining a positive outlook with emerging technology became a logical fit for the TEDx Talk. TEDx was created in the spirit of TED, a non-profit organization that encourages sharing ideas to spark conversation on topics ranging from politics to architecture and more.
“In the talk, I used my own personal experiences to elucidate how we can create an evolution from the impossible to the possible. One example I used was teaching myself app development under the less-than-amenable conditions I faced in Nigeria, but every day presents more challenges. At the moment, I am currently faced with multiple challenges of managing and keeping up with my work, business research and studies,” he said.
But Okechukwu doesn’t let those challenges diminish his will to succeed. He developed the Georgia Historical Markers app, other apps for Georgia Southern as well as personal apps. He’s also on his way to finishing his Bachelor of Science in mechanical engineering, participating in a co-op engineering project at a plant in Savannah, and working on undergraduate research developing a cyber-physical system that can monitor and control ankle-foot orthosis. Okechukwu plans to continue developing and growing his business with his brother in Nigeria, as well as finding a career as a mechanical engineer, software engineer or physicist.
“I have always believed that when times are toughest, that is an opportunity to find some good or achieve some goal. You just have to look for the deeper benefit,” he said. “Everything is possible for anyone who takes the proper steps to achieving their dreams. But if you give up, then nothing is possible. You can actually control your destiny this way.” – Crissie Elrick
Watch Okechukwu’s TEDx Talk here:
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