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Be inspired: John Afolabi

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Be inspired: John Afolabi

Tuesday 15 December 2020

What does your job entail?

I work in oil and gas, which is a very high-risk environment. People spend months at sea and anything can happen. It’s my job to ensure that our staff go to work safely and get back to their homes safely.

I write and review health and safety procedures, analyse data, and protect the environment by ensuring there are no spillages and our waste is properly managed.

What are your memories of studying at Sheffield Hallam?

The lecturers were outstanding, the library was top class – the whole experience was great. I loved the multicultural environment and I made some very good friends who I’m still in touch with today.

What happened after you graduated?

I finished the course in June 2008 and started working at a marine engineering company in Newcastle. After six months in the job, there was a big economic downturn. I could see demand going down in the industry and I felt I needed to protect myself from the recession.

I looked at the bigger picture and decided to develop myself further. So I took a course in health and safety and secured a job in Nigeria as the deputy health and safety manager for one of the affiliate companies of Bourbon Offshore.

Since then I have been promoted several times. I now live with my family in Ottawa, Canada, and commute to Angola for work (although due to Covid-19 I am working remotely more at the moment). Canada is a very beautiful place, and very diverse. It’s a migrants’ country – everybody came from somewhere else, so there is less discrimination.

What impact did Sheffield Hallam have on your career?

I work in a large multinational organisation. My experience in Sheffield prepared me for this, because I studied alongside so many people from different countries, different faiths and different cultures.

One of the key aspects of the course at Sheffield Hallam was making presentations. Now I regularly present to up to 2,000 people, and thanks to that experience on my course, I am comfortable doing that.

And one of the modules I did at Hallam was in project and quality management, which directly helped me to get the job in Nigeria. Overall, my time at Sheffield Hallam has really helped me a lot in my career.

Do you have a message for the Class of 2020 as they move into the next chapter of their lives?

Congratulations – you must have learned so many skills. Learn from my experience and keep on developing your skills. This pandemic won’t last forever – keep learning and good things will come.


1. Never stop learning

The world is always changing, so there’s never a time when you can stop learning. Keep on developing yourself and you will succeed.

2. Develop your soft skills

Communication skills, IT skills – these are really important to make yourself into a top candidate for a future job.

3. Keep going

I know what it’s like in a tough job market. You need resilience and determination. But keep improving yourself and you will find success.

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