My Online Journey:
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 at time of writing.
Prior to retiring in 2016, I gained over 45 years experience in engineering, manufacture, building construction and system commissioning on 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, working overseas has instilled in me great admiration for other cultures, the people I’ve met, many places of interest I’ve visited, a wide range of cuisines and great passion for travel.
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, and budding entrepreneurs and Instagramers, alike. It’s been an arduous journey and taken around eight months to reach the point I feel comfortable enough to write publicly about it. 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 this 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’s life’s rich tapestries which dictate and shape outcomes and provide context for 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 from straying into Thurso Bay. That is, Thurso is on the Pentand 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 east of the town. It’s a magnet for tourists on the north-east tip of Scotland and is popularly known as being at one end of the longest distance between any two inhabited points on the British mainland or, as we say, between John o’Groats and Lands End in Cornwall, England.
It was a quiet and tranquil upbringing, with very little traffic on the roads to speak of and I remember 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, whilst growing up in the north of Scotland, I was preoccupied with football so 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 into the national grid to consumers in the south. Apart from creating employment to construct and commission the new atomic power plant, there was also 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.
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 age 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 I studied on a day release basis for Ordinary National Certificate in Engineering (ONC) at Thurso Technical College.
The situation was more by good luck than good judgement as 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.
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, further doors opened which led me to travel south to Glasgow for four years study in mechanical engineering at the University of Strathclyde. So, when opportunity knocked, I just followed along my trail of destiny without giving too much thought to it.
Surprisingly, the amazing run of events continued as my education did not stop there. In 1972, the start of my professional life was to be held in abeyance for a further year. As I was completing my Batchelor’s degree, there were further macro economic developments unfolding, this time there was a rush to exploit mineral resources from the North Sea.
Although an engineering student’s work load was challenging, there were also 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 terms.
During holiday periods I would usually travel north by car to Thurso. It was during these trips that I became aware of offshore drilling activities happening not far from the Scottish coastline. In particular, I could see this drilling rig moored on the same location off the North East coast of Scotland on recurring journeys home. This created 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.
So, having graduated BSc in engineering in 1972, I then 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 provided gainful employment for me in the region for more than two decades on a wide range of offshore oil and gas projects.
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.
MY PROFESSIONAL LIFE
Whilst I was growing up in Thurso, such was the demand to maintain energy supplies nationwide, construction of nuclear power plants was not the only solution pursued by government. In a short time later, steps were also 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, which came into effect in June 1964, established the rights of a sovereign state over its continental shelf. The UK was quick off the mark, and in that same year, the Continental Shelf Act was also passed vesting rights in the Crown to exploit natural resources from the UK’s 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 its hostile environment.
I consider myself fortunate to have worked freelance for BP over many projects and numerous countries, including in the UK, Japan, Norway and Azerbaijan. During these assignments, including projects worked on for a number of other major 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.
In order to understand this segment of the industry , it’s perhaps useful to explain that offshore oil and gas developments typically go through the following stages of life cycle:
- Project Appraisal
- Facilities Design
- Facilities Construction/Intallation
- System Commissioning
- Production Operations
- Field Abandonment
The time span to execute a typical offshore project through the design, construction/installation and commissioning stages is typically around 3 to 5 years depending on size and complexity. On the other hand, the design life of the facilities through the production operations stage would be a minimum of 25 years but most have remained in production beyond this.
Also, as design, construction, installation and commissioning stages of an offshore project require a unique set of technical and managerial skills, there are normally handovers between departments after the project appraisal stage and then prior to start-up of production operations.
During the 1980s, new technologies such as computing and telecommunications were converging rapidly and had a marked impact on employment practices in all business areas. Micro computers were appearing on desktops and in the first wave of change, professionals were routinely absorbing a wider range of duties in the office. These included tasks traditionally done by secretarial staff and specialist support services.
Then, during a second wave of technological change, local area networks were being implemented widely in the workplace, email correspondence became vogue, and the need to learn new skills became apparent.
At this point, as a freelance professional, I felt the need to refresh my academic training and enrolled on an MBA by distance learning at Strathclyde Business School. Although this entailed hard work, I never regretted the effort as it equipped me for the future with an appreciation how much technical progress was impacting lives and would continue to drive business 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.
I first went overseas for work in 1980; one of the North Sea projects I was engaged on subcontracted major fabrication of sub-assemblies to three shipyards in Japan and I was assigned to Tokyo as resident engineer during a 14 month fabrication and subassembly 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 there for Vietnam. Further projects followed in the Far East, including positions in Indonesia, Hong Kong and China. Finally, my last project assignments, and there were several conducted over an almost 9 year period for BP, were in Azerbaijan.
During these overseas assignments I got to know many amazing people who have remained lifelong friends and, as a result of these many and varied experiences, I developed a passion for travelling to exotic and far away places.
Before concluding 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 time spent in Hong Kong, Bali 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 became well settled in the south of Manchester, close to my younger daughter and family, with good connections to the city centre, circular 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 has inevitably meant 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 proved more difficult than anticipated and it has involved a large amount of work, commitment and struggle in coming to terms with the “new economy” of online business and the need to remain alert to many pitfalls and traps existing on the Internet.
What I’ve been through is akin to going round in ever increasing circles. The problem is that as knowledge is gained, more avenues open up and it’s so easy to get distracted by a wide range of money making alternatives, many of which may well turn out to be scams.
AIM OF THE WEALTHY SAGE
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 my 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”. It’s only now, having spent almost eight months and a considerable amount of money, that I’m feeling comfortable enough to share my experience with others.
The short term aim is to create and deliver value from what I’ve learnt, both to help those who wish to make money online but also to appraise folks about the pitfalls, threats and scams to be avoided when setting up a business online. It’s important not to try to do this alone; it’s better in my view to enrol on a suitable training programme with appropriate level of support, such as Wealthy Affiliate.
In particular, budding entrepreneurs 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, if at all, into a new business.
Although the purpose of the 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 lessons learned from the experience. These will include the key components of any online business, key processes and resource requirements, including the need for rigorous marketing plan and its implementation using automated techniques.
Readers are encouraged to engage with the blog articles and in case of any comments or questions, please raise them in the comments section below so I may respond.
All the very best,