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 grateful grandfather of four handsome young grandsons, aged between 2 years and 12 years.
Prior to retiring at the end of 2016, I gained over 45 years of 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, a wide range of cuisines and a great passion for travel.
My hobby is photography and, in particular, I enjoy curating feature hubs on Instagram, where my name is Will @viewsightandmind, the 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 by a desire to monetise the above social media accounts. This adventure should interest 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 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 like to describe as productive but also one in which I’ve had my share of trials and tribulations. As always, it is life’s rich tapestries that dictates and shape outcomes and provides the 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 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 Land’s End”. The township is a magnet for tourists.
It was a quiet upbringing, with little traffic on the roads, and I recall a household without a telephone and television. When television came 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 travelled daily to the county town of Wick, so we had the luxury of a motor car. In the summer months, I remember picnic rides on Sundays to 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, football preoccupied my time with schooling somewhat incidental.
Despite a climate of tranquillity, there were macro-economic factors playing out with huge impact on the region, about which I was unaware. These were the heady days of post-war expansion and a nuclear power plant was under construction at Dounreay, a short distance away to the west of Thurso.
The government destined this facility 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 a heavy demand for labour to build new infrastructure, such as dormitories, houses, a new high school and technical college, all needed to cope with the rapid influx of people into the town and demands for specialised skills.
School Education and Opportunity
In the post-war boom years in the north of Scotland, an excellent education was available, 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, the Atomic Energy Authority recruited me 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 aware at the time the extent to which technology was creating a huge opportunity for decades to follow.
Further Education, Technical Progress and Change
It’s amazing in life how opportunities come and go. Although there was little semblance of plan, having attained my ONC in 1968, a further door opened and this led me to travel south to Glasgow to study mechanical engineering at the University of Strathclyde. Looking back at things now, it’s clear when opportunity knocked, I followed along my trail of destiny without giving too much thought to it.
The amazing run of events continued and my education did not stop there. In 1972, circumstances held the start of my professional life 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 workload was challenging, there were many benefits. University life was enjoyable. It was getting towards the end of the “swinging 60s” and we received generous time off between university terms.
During the holiday periods, I would travel north by car to Thurso. During these trips, I noticed offshore drilling activities near 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 a heightened awareness that the North Sea was becoming a major exploration area for oil and gas reserves.
It seemed no 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 an 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 created gainful employment over a wide range of offshore oil and gas projects for me over four decades.
In the next section I’ll cover my professional life through until retirement in fourth quarter, 2016, during which the growth of technology was very much a recurring feature driving change in all our lives.
MY PROFESSIONAL LIFE:
Employment in the 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, it also put legislation 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, government passed the Continental Shelf Act vesting rights in the Crown to exploit natural resources from its continental shelf. The UK government quickly pursued this by awarding licensing rights to a range of oil and gas operators.
British Petroleum (now BP) 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 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 a great insight into 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 many countries, including the UK, Japan, Norway and Azerbaijan. During these assignments, including projects for several 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 around 3 to 5 years depending on the size and complexity of the project. Also, the design life of the facilities through the production operations stage would be a minimum of 25 years, although most production facilities remaining in service are well beyond this time-span.
Growth and Impact of New Technologies on Employment
During the 1980s, new technologies such as computing and telecommunications were converging, and this had a marked impact on employment practices across all business areas. Micro computers appearing on desktops and professionals having to absorb a wider range of tasks in the office were both features of this time. This included some roles by secretarial staff and specialist support services. The development and implementation of local and wide area networks sped up these changes in the workplace such that email correspondence became the vogue. Also, the rapid growth of these “new technologies” fuelled an increasing demand for the workforce to learn new skills.
As a freelance professional, the need to refresh my academic training was clear, and I 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 made me appreciate the large impact that technical progress has had on everyday lives and how this is likely to continue to drive competitiveness in advanced economies.
The pace of change since the 1990s and the introduction of the Internet has been relentless. Our businesses have become flexible to come to terms with perpetual and rapid changes in the market-place. Also, technological developments have had dramatic effects on the workforce and, apart from impact on work practices, these have forced many into unemployment.
We’re now in an era of cloud based computing, artificial intelligence, and blockchain technologies. These new technologies have caused “disruptive” effects on many industries, both at home and abroad, and these trends are likely to continue.
I first went overseas for work in 1980. One of the North Sea projects I was working on subcontracted fabrication of major leg-node sub-assemblies to three shipyards in Japan. This created an opportunity for me to work as a resident engineer in Tokyo across a 14 month fabrication period.
Later in my career, towards the end of 1999, I could see projects in the UK sector of the North Sea diminish in size. As family was at university, I accepted an assignment in Singapore on a large pipeline project being engineered for construction in Vietnam. Further projects followed in the Far East, including in Indonesia, Hong Kong and China. Finally, my last project assignments were for BP Azerbaijan, undertaken over a period of almost 9 years.
During these overseas assignments, I met lots of amazing people, many of whom have remained friends. Also, because of these many 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.
I spent the first 6 months visiting family and friends, including some time spent in Hong Kong, Indonesia, and New Zealand. Then, when I returned to Manchester in the UK for family reasons, it took a further 6 months to find, purchase and move into an apartment. Only by the end of 2017, my resettlement 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, was complete.
In retirement, I’ve discovered there’s tension between wishing to maintain a reasonable lifestyle and the desire to preserve as much as possible of pension savings for family legacy. My income has dropped resulting in an erosion of my savings.
This being expected, however, and given I’d 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 explore ways to establish an online business to supplement my retirement income. However, the quest to make money online is challenging and involves a large amount of work, commitment and struggle to come to terms with the “new economy” of online business. Also, as the industry is unregulated and described as similar to the wild west, newcomers need to be alert to the many pitfalls and traps that exist on the Internet.
What I’ve experienced is akin to going round in ever-increasing circles. The problem is that as one gains knowledge, more avenues open up for the curious minded and it’s easy to get distracted by a wide range of potential money making alternatives, many of which may well turn out to be scams. I’ve learned a large amount of discipline is necessary to narrow down and focus on a particular niche.
MY AIM FOR THE FUTURE:
As a retired individual looking back on my lifetime, I’m most grateful for the education, work opportunities and rewards that have come my way during 45 years in professional life.
I see “the Wealthy Sage” to give back to society and 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 identify opportunities but also to appraise budding entrepreneurs of the pitfalls, threats and scams that exist when setting up business online.
It’s important not to do this alone. It’s better to subscribe to a suitable training programme and join an appropriate online community to get support and guidance on the desired path to follow.
In particular, newcomers to this space should know there are no quick and easy fixes. It takes considerable time and effort to accomplish an online business, and it’s important to research thoroughly before committing significant funds. There’s no guarantee of success, and it’s difficult to gauge how soon income will flow into your 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 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 its implementation using automated techniques.
Finally, I encourage readers to engage with the blog article and in case of questions, comments or suggestions, please raise them in the comments section below so I may respond.
All the best,