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From Raw Material to Finished Product: A Life In Manufacturing

Picture of Augury's Ben Iduku

Benjamin Iduku is a project manager at Augury. We spoke to him about his background, role models, career, and what Black History Month means to him as a Nigerian who moved to the US only a few years ago. “They paved the way for equal opportunities so I can be here today,” says Ben.

Please explain your job in a non-techie way.

Ben: I facilitate the implementation and expansion of the Augury solution with our different customers as a project manager – removing any impediments and ensuring a smooth transition from a project’s kickoff to its closeout. I also work with the client to ensure we fix any issues that may come up with the solution at their site. It’s all about creating a great customer experience. 

How did you end up at Augury?

I’m originally a petroleum engineer. I started out working for Haliburton on oil drilling rigs, first in Nigeria and then later when I moved to the US – in Oklahoma, West Texas and New Mexico. At one point I got a message on LinkedIn asking if I’d be interested in hearing about the opportunities at this startup. At the time, I was coming off a two-month hitch of working every day. We ended up going through a series of interviews and I got an offer. I was about to give my two-week’s notice, when I got a memo from Haliburton saying there was going to be a mass lay-off due to COVID. So, I had joined Augury at the exact right time: while my colleagues at Haliburton were losing their jobs, I was lucky enough to have already found another. And so, I began at Augury on the field team with installations and since November 2021, I became a project manager.

“The store shelves now come more to life for me.”

What’s your attraction to manufacturing?

I find it fascinating to get to learn about how something comes to be – especially things that I have seen my whole life. For example, Coca-Cola: it’s always been around for me. And last summer, I got to go to a Coca-Cola site and watch how they actually produce those bottles – from raw materials to finished product. The store shelves now come more to life for me: I have a better grasp on the whole process of what gets a product there.

When do you feel the most job satisfaction?

Funny enough it’s going to Walmart and seeing all those empty shelves and knowing I am one of many people trying to help solve this supply chain bottleneck that we’re in now. I’m playing a part in helping make machines more reliable and avoiding downtime, so that customer demands can be met and shelves can be filled again.

But how about on the job itself? Is there a particular moment when you say: I’m in the right place doing the right thing?

All the time. We just finished doing an expansion for a major food producer in New York. I was the project manager for the expansion, but I also did the initial install as a field engineer. So I had already met the contact. I asked him at the end of the expansion what his overall experience has been with Augury. He told me they were always having failures before and now they can catch the faults before they turn into big issues. And the cost of a single downtime alone pretty much covers the costs of a full year of our program. So yes, hearing that was very, very satisfying… 

It’s currently Black History Month. Do you have a strong connection with this US celebration as someone who grew up in Nigeria?

Absolutely. It’s the struggles of Martin Luther King Junior and other civil rights movement leaders – and all those people who marched in Selma or during the Million Man March – that paved the way for equal opportunities. And now today, this young man from Nigeria can come to the United States and live the American Dream and take care of a lot of people back home. So of course, I am very, very grateful.

“My father always had the right words to make me feel better and keep going. And I graduated with distinction – and without student debt.”

Did you have any role models or inspiration growing up in Nigeria that led you down this technical path?

I have an older half-brother who’s also a petroleum engineer. I looked up to him and saw how smart and successful he was. He was my inspiration growing up. So that certainly formed my story.

My late Dad was always one of my biggest supporters. For example, when I was in grad school in England, I worked  at nursing homes to take care of myself and pay my school fees. There were some tough times to balance everything, but my father always had the right words to make me feel better and keep going. And I graduated with distinction – and without student debt.

And perhaps the experience only made you stronger…

It becomes part of your story. Like with the saying “For gold is tried in fire and acceptable men in the furnace of adversity”, it made me a better man.  

So, what advice do you have for young people who want to follow a similar journey as yours – to find, as it were, their own inner finished product?

I would say your story today is not tomorrow. If someone told me 12 years ago about the quality of life I have now, I would not have believed them. So just focus on that, and don’t let anything sidetrack you. There’s a saying: “Success is where preparation and opportunity meet”. So, make sure you are prepared when the opportunity arrives.  

“Companies need to be willing to recognize potential and also help develop that potential.”

From your experience, is there more that companies can do to support such a journey?

I would say take a chance on people – like this young man who started out his journey from Nigeria. I am where I am today, and who I am today, because someone took a chance on me. And if you take a chance on someone, that person might even work extra hard out of pure gratitude. Companies need to be willing to recognize potential and also help develop that potential  – to give them the opportunities and resources to grow not only as employees, but also as citizens. In the words of Vince Lombardi: “Leaders are made, not born.” 

Nice: help people grow and glow like gold. Thank you, Ben.

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