MY ONLINE JOURNEY:
At time of writing in August 2018, I’m a 70-year old retired mechanical engineer, proud father of two lovely daughters and doting grandfather of four handsome young grandsons, aged between 2 years and 12 years.
Prior to retiring towards the end of 2016, I gained over 45 years experience in engineering, manufacture, building construction and system commissioning of offshore oil and gas developments. I’m from the UK but have been fortunate to have worked in many parts of the world, including Azerbaijan, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Norway, Singapore and Vietnam.
Apart from accumulating knowledge in engineering and project management, overseas assignments have instilled in me great admiration for other cultures, people I’ve met, appreciation of many places, wide range of cuisines and, of course, a great passion for travel.
My hobby is photography and, in particular, I enjoy curating feature hubs on Instagram, where I’m Will @viewsightandmind, founder and curator of the following accounts:
The Aim of this Website
The aim of this website, “the Wealthy Sage”, is to chronicle my retirement journey to establish and operate an online business, driven initially by a desire to monetise the above social media accounts. As such, this adventure should be of interest to home-based and small business owners, budding entrepreneurs and Internet Marketers of all experience levels. It’s been an arduous journey and taken around eight months to reach the point I feel comfortable enough to write publicly about the subject. In the medium-to-long term, however, I’m seeking to provide quality training products and business coaching for those seeking to do business online.
Prior to sharing my recent journey, and lessons learned, I’d like to present a synopsis of my life adventure. It’s a story I’d describe as largely productive but also one in which, like most, I’ve had my share of ups and downs. As always, it is life’s rich tapestries that dictate and shape outcomes, and provide context for one’s development.
MY EARLY LIFE:
I grew up in a small town in the far north of Scotland, take a step or two further north from the town and you’ll end up with wet feet by paddling into Thurso Bay. Thurso is on the Pentland Firth, an often stormy and fierce stretch of water, that lies between Caithness on the Scottish mainland and the Orkney Isles.
The town traditionally relied on agriculture and fishing and its more famous neighbour, the small township of John o’Groats, is just a short distance away, to the east of the town. Being on the north-east tip of Scotland, John o’Groats is at one end of the longest distance between any two inhabited points on the British mainland, as we say, “between John o’Groats and Lands End”. The township is consequently a magnet for tourists.
It was a quiet and tranquil upbringing, with very little traffic on the roads, and I recall a household absent of telephone and television. When television did come to the north of Scotland it was black and white, and one of my earliest memories was watching Her Majesty the Queen’s Coronation on TV in 1953.
My father was a local businessman, he traveled daily to the county town of Wick, so we did have the luxury of a motor car. In the summer months, I remember picnic rides on Sundays to many of the pretty coastal sites and beaches around Caithness’ rocky coastline, or we would visit family relatives and friends. In winter months whilst growing up in the north of Scotland, I was preoccupied with football and schooling seemed somewhat incidental.
Despite this apparent tranquility, there were macro economic factors playing out at the time, with huge impact on the region, about which I was blissfully unaware. These were the heady days of post-war expansion and a nuclear power plant was being constructed at Dounreay, a short distance away to the west of Thurso.
This facility was destined to produce electricity for export via the national grid to consumers in the south. Apart from creating employment to construct and commission the new atomic power plant, there was heavy demand for labour to build new infrastructure, such as dormitories, houses, new high school and technical college, all needed to cope with the rapid influx of people into the town.
School Education and Opportunity
In the post-war boom years in the north of Scotland, excellent education was readily available and free, as common across Scotland. By the time I reached senior school in 1964, construction of the new Thurso High School was already complete and I attended classes there for four years. After gaining “O” levels, I was recruited by the Atomic Energy Authority to undergo technical apprenticeship training at Dounreay Fast Reactor Establishment and continued education on a day release basis for an Ordinary National Certificate in Engineering (ONC) at Thurso Technical College.
The situation was more by good luck than good judgement; I was not fully aware at the time just how big an opportunity it was to be pulled into a future in technology in this way.
Further Education, Technical Progress and Change
It’s amazing in life how opportunities come and go. Although there was little semblance of plan on my part, on attaining my ONC in 1968, a further door opened and this led me to travel south to Glasgow for four years study in mechanical engineering at the University of Strathclyde. Looking back at things now, it’s clear when opportunity knocked, I simply followed along my trail of destiny with not too much thought being given to it.
Surprisingly, the amazing run of events continued and my education did not stop there. In 1972, the start of my professional life was to be held in abeyance for yet another year. As I was completing my Batchelor’s degree, macro economic factors were continuing to drive development with a rush to exploit mineral resources from the North Sea unfolding.
Although an engineering student’s work load was challenging, there were many benefits. University life was enjoyable. It was getting towards the end of the “swinging 60s” of course and we did receive generous time off between university terms.
During the holiday periods I would usually travel north by car to Thurso. It was during these trips I became aware of offshore drilling activities not far from the Scottish coastline. In particular, I could see one particular drilling rig moored on the same location off the north east coast of Scotland on recurring journeys home. This led to heightened awareness the North Sea was becoming a major exploration area for oil and gas reserves.
It did not seem any great deal at the time but in the space of less than a decade from the first “energy rush”, there was another rallying in my favour to open up opportunity for a long career in oil and gas projects.
Then, having graduated BSc in engineering in 1972, I enrolled on a one year’s Master’s degree course in Ocean Engineering at the University of London. By the time I completed this in mid 1973, the demand for engineers to develop North Sea oil and gas reserves was high and this subsequently created gainful employment for me over a wide range of offshore oil and gas projects for more than four decades
In the next section I’ll say a bit about my professional life through until retirement in fourth quarter, 2016, during which time the growth of technology was very much a recurring feature driving change in all our lives.
MY PROFESSIONAL LIFE:
Employment in UK
Whilst I was growing up in the north of Scotland, such was the demand to maintain energy supplies nationwide, that construction of nuclear power plants was not the only solution being pursued by government. Within a short period of time, steps were also put in place to access mineral resources from the UK’s continental shelf.
In 1958, the key to unlocking offshore oil and gas exploration occurred with signing of the Convention on the Continental Shelf, part of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. This treaty came into effect in June 1964 to establish the rights of sovereign states to exploit resources from contiguous maritime zones.
The UK was quick off the mark and in that same year, the Continental Shelf Act was passed vesting rights in the Crown to exploit natural resources from its continental shelf. This was followed rapidly by the UK government awarding licensing rights to a range of oil and gas operators.
BP – formerly British Petroleum – was among the first major operators granted licenses to exploit resources from the UK sector of the North Sea. For those interested in BP’s role as one of the most active participants in development of the North Sea, there’s an article from 2014 on its website which describes how it celebrated 50 years in the North Sea. Also, the video on its North Sea Technology Story provides great insight of the challenges faced and technologies deployed to recover resources from this hostile environment.
I consider myself fortunate to have worked freelance for BP over many projects and in numerous countries, including in the UK, Japan, Norway and Azerbaijan. During these assignments, including projects for a number of other major oil and gas operators, my professional life was both challenging and enjoyable, and I learned a great deal about design, construction, installation and commissioning of offshore oil and gas facilities.
The time taken to execute a typical offshore project through design, construction, marine installation and commissioning stages is typically around 3 to 5 years depending on the size and complexity of the project. On the other hand, the design life of the facilities through the production operations stage would be a minimum of 25 years, with most production facilities remaining in service well beyond this timespan.
Growth and Impact of New Technologies on Employment
During the 1980s, new technologies such as computing and telecommunications were converging rapidly and this had a marked impact on employment practices across all business areas. Micro computers were appearing on desktops and professionals were routinely absorbed in a wider range of tasks in the office. These included some of the roles traditionally done by secretarial staff and specialist support services. These changes were accelerated by development and implementation of local and wide area networks in the workplace such that email correspondence became the vogue. Moreover, the rapid growth of these “new technologies” was accompanied by an increasing demand for the workforce to learn new skills.
As a freelance professional, I became acutely aware of the need to refresh my academic training and therefore enrolled on an MBA by distance learning at Strathclyde Business School in Glasgow. Although this entailed hard work, I never regretted the effort as it equipped me for the future with an appreciation of the large impact that technical progress has on everyday lives and how this progress would continue to drive competitiveness in advanced economies.
The pace of change, especially since the 1990s and introduction of the Internet, has been relentless and our business people do need to be flexible and come to terms with perpetual and rapid change. Thus, technological developments have had dramatic effects on the workforce and apart from the impact on work practices, many were forced into unemployment.
We’re now in an era of cloud based computing, artificial intelligence applications and blockchain technology. I’m afraid the “disruptive” effects that new technologies have on existing industries, both at home and abroad, is set to continue.
I first went overseas for work in 1980; one of the North Sea projects I was working on subcontracted major fabrication of sub-assemblies to three shipyards in Japan and I was assigned to Tokyo as resident engineer across a 14 month fabrication period.
Then, considerably later in my career, towards the end of 1999, I could see projects in the UK sector of the North Sea were diminishing in size so, with family at university education stage, I accepted an assignment in Singapore on a large pipeline project being engineered for Vietnam. Further projects followed in the Far East, including in Indonesia, Hong Kong and China. Finally, my last project assignments were for BP in Azerbaijan, and several were undertaken over a period of almost 9 years.
During these overseas assignments I got to know many amazing people who have remained friends and, as a result of my numerous and varied experiences, I’ve developed a passion for travelling to exotic and far away places.
Before concluding the Wealthy Sage’s story, I’d like to describe the path I’ve been on since retiring from professional life on oil and gas projects in the last quarter of 2016.
The first 6 months or so I spent travelling and visiting family and friends, including some time spent in Hong Kong, Indonesia and New Zealand. When I finally returned to UK – Manchester for family reasons – it took the best part of 6 months to find, purchase and move into an apartment. By the end of 2017, I was well settled in Manchester, close to my younger daughter and family, with good connections to the city centre, motorway system around the city, and to Manchester Airport.
In retirement, I’ve discovered there’s a degree of tension between wishing to maintain a reasonable lifestyle and the desire to preserve as much as possible of pension savings for legacy to family. In practice, my income has dropped substantially, of course, and the result of this has inevitably led to an erosion of savings.
This was anticipated, however, and given I’ve worked freelance for most of my professional life, it seemed natural to seek a new source of income by learning how to monetise my social media accounts.
Having settled into my retirement apartment in Manchester, the next step was to start exploring ways to establish an online business to supplement my retirement income. However, the quest to make money online is a challenging one insofar as it involves a large amount of work, commitment and struggle in coming to terms with the “new economy” of online business. Also, newcomers to digital enterprise need to be alert to the many pitfalls and traps existing on the Internet.
What I’ve experienced is akin to going round in ever increasing circles. The problem is that as knowledge is gained, more avenues open up for the curious minded and it’s so easy to get distracted by a wide range of potential money making alternatives, many of which may well turn out to be scams. At some stage, however, one has to be disciplined to narrow down and focus on a particular business plan.
MY AIM FOR THE FUTURE:
As a retired individual looking back on my lifetime, I’m particularly grateful for the education, work opportunities and rewards that have come my way during 45 years in professional life.
As such, I see “the Wealthy Sage” as a means of giving back to society in one way or other and, in particular, having the scope to help others who are seeking to earn income in the “new economy”.
The short term aim is to create and deliver value from what I’ve learnt to help those who wish to make money online but also to appraise budding entrepreneurs about the pitfalls, threats and scams to be avoided when setting up business online.
It’s important not to try to do this alone; it’s better in my view to subscribe to a suitable training programme and join an appropriate online community to obtain support and guidance on the desired path to follow.
In particular, newcomers to this space should be aware there are no quick and easy fixes. It takes considerable time and effort to accomplish an online business and it’s most important to research thoroughly before committing any significant funds. There’s no guarantee of success, of course, and it’s extremely difficult to gauge how quickly income will start flowing into a new business, if at all.
Although the purpose of this website in the medium to long term is to provide quality training products and business coaching for those wishing to incorporate a business online, in the short term, successive blogs will chronicle my online journey and share the lessons I’ve gained from the experience. These will include the key components of any online business, processes and resource requirements, including the need for a rigorous marketing plan and implementation using automated techniques.
Readers are encouraged to engage with the blog article and in case of questions, comments or suggestions, raise in the comments section below so I may respond.
All the very best,