UCL Alumni


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UCL Alumni Blog: Vome Aghoghovbia-Gafaar

A UCL alumna, energy consultant and founder of The Sparkle Initiative, the incredible Vome Aghoghovbia-Gafaar encourages us to explore what makes us unique.

Image of Vome Aghoghovbia-Gafaar

Tell us about your time at UCL, what did you study and how did it set you up for where you are today?

I am a proud UCL alumnus. I loved and thoroughly enjoyed my time there. At UCL, I met talented and wonderful students, some of them have become long-time friends. I studied chemical engineering. The university’s services and my peers were supportive throughout my time there. I particularly enjoyed my final year research project; it helped me develop key skills and my research supervisor, Dr George Manos was extremely supportive. I ended up receiving the first prize for the Institution of Chemical Engineers Young Engineers Award Milton Keynes for technical breakthrough for my final year research project.

My education and the skills I developed were a strong foundation for the various experiences I have had since graduating from my MEng programme in 2015. The research and report writing skills I developed throughout my degree, but particularly during my research project were invaluable when I wrote my first book, ‘Everyone Deserves to Sparkle’. The technical skills I learnt are being utilised in my role as an energy consultant. This led to me starting ‘Ignite Energy Africa’. At UCL, I learnt to be independent and drive my own learning. This has helped me chart my own course on my career journey which has not been conventional.

What was your journey like from UCL to where you are now?

Leaving UCL, I started working as a management consultant. Shortly after, I went back to UCL to do an MSc in Global Management of Natural Resources. This was an interesting programme. It included doing research for six months in South Australia which expanded my horizons.

After my MSc, I went to work for Bulb, the fastest-growing energy supplier in the UK. Working for a fast-growing renewable energy start-up was a unique experience that gave me the opportunity to learn a lot and utilise entrepreneurial abilities.

With my passion for energy and sustainability, technical skills I developed during my chemical engineering degree, research work in Australia and my experience at Bulb, I decided to start ‘Ignite Energy Africa’, a knowledge and innovation hub to help shape the future of energy in Africa.

What achievement are you most proud of?

I am most proud of publishing my first book at 23. I have been writing short stories, poems and song lyrics since I was a child. I am glad I was able to put pen to paper and publish my first book, 'Everyone Deserves to Sparkle', a non-fiction inspirational book about discovering your uniqueness, understanding the purpose for your gifts and unique attributes and making a difference. The book has been distributed in Europe, Africa and Australia.

Another reason I am proud of the book is that it birthed my social enterprise, ‘Sparkle Initiatives’, a social enterprise that inspires people to sparkle with purpose. From inspiring books to engaging brunch clubs to captivating talks, our aim is to empower education, set people on a journey through embracing their uniqueness and using their gifts to set the world on fire! We have given talks and organised workshops at schools, universities, career fairs, orphanages and organisations around the world.

What were your biggest challenges and how did you go about facing them?

My biggest challenge was having to move to Australia for research during my MSc. As exciting as moving to a new country can be, it can also be daunting. This experience took me out of my comfort zone as I had never travelled on my own before. I initially considered not doing that part of the MSc because I had to move.

However, I decided to embrace the new experience. While it was difficult leaving and going on my own, I changed my mindset and decided to embrace every part of the experience. I was intentional about enjoying and making the most of my experience. I did a lot of travelling, I tried new activities such as snorkelling, I engaged with the people and culture I was exposed to. I believe taking on this challenge head on, broadened my viewpoint and gave me a rich experience which helped me grow personally and professionally.

Was there a defining moment that led you to help others understand their own uniqueness and are there any small day-to-day things that people can be doing to empower others to embrace their individuality?

Growing up, I was a very expressive and bold child, as I grew older, I started suppressing that part of me because I was exploring who and what I wanted to be.

Over time, I realised that we go through different stages in our lives on our journey towards becoming what we are intended to be. The journey to becoming your most realised self is one that should be embraced and enjoyed. Life is a process and you can aim to embrace yourself, develop and sparkle through the journey. I embarked on the journey and I decided to share the message that helped me.

Embracing your uniqueness while accepting different expressions in others is beautiful but can be difficult. You are a unique masterpiece and no one else will have your exact experiences or live your life. Having that mindset helps you embrace your uniqueness. Another useful step is aiming to become the best version of yourself. There is a process of reflection that is helpful: To know your gifts and talents by exposing yourself to different opportunities and experiences, to think about what drives you and what your passions are, to explore your personality (one way to do this could be via personality tests) and to reflect on your experiences. All these things plus more, make you who you are. A process of accepting yourself, building on your strengths and learning how to navigate your weaknesses is a process, but a worthwhile one. It can be difficult filtering through expectations, fears, norms etc., to seek what you were created to do, find your own unique design and do what is right, but it is a beautiful journey.

Finally, accepting the different expressions of others is one way to empower people to embrace their individuality. It can feel uncomfortable when something is different, but I look at nature and see variety everywhere, different expressions of God's beauty in species, languages, landscape, etc. We should approach people with love and understanding and give people room to have their own unique expressions and grow into the best version of themselves, not what we expect them to be.  

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