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GEM’s Gems April 2013 – Oscar G. Ngaiza

April 15, 2013

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Oscar G. Ngaiza

The Global Energy Management program would like to honor alumnus Oscar G. Ngaiza this month as one of GEM’s Gems. Ngaiza, 52, was a member of Cohort 2 and the first student to travel from a non-North American location to take part in classes over cohort weekends in Denver. Ngaiza currently serves as the Large Projects Manager at Kenya Petroleum Refineries Ltd.

Briefly describe your current role and responsibilities.

I am in charge of managing the portfolio of large capital projects in the refinery and I report to the General Manager and Chief Operating Officer. We recently commissioned a 9.2 MW captive power plant at a cost of $17 million. The most strategically important project in the refinery is the Refinery Upgrade Project. The objectives of this project are to increase yields of high value products (gasoline, diesel, and kerosene), lower sulfur content in diesel and reduce the cost of utilities (electricity, water and steam). The total estimated project cost is currently $1.16 billion. A final investment decision to proceed has not yet been made, pending the outcome of an ongoing Bankability Study.

How has the GEM program benefited you and your company? Have you been promoted since you began the program?

I took this position with the company just before completing the GEM program in October of 2010. I graduated from GEM in December 2010. The things I learned in the program, particularly leadership skills, financial analysis and human resource management, have found direct application in my work. I manage a team of engineers from different disciplines and oversee the work of consultants and contractors. Because I am accountable for the project budget and schedule I am involved in procurement and contracting, planning and scheduling, etc. The courses in finance, law, HR legal, etc., offered by the GEM Program have all found application in my work.

What were some of your favorite things to do during cohort weekends?

I enjoyed taking long walks in downtown Denver when the weather was good. Members of my cohort also once went to a comedy club, which was fun.

What are some of the things that you never forgot to bring to cohort weekends?

I never left my laptop behind when coming to cohort weekends. Since at the time I lived in Abu Dhabi (United Arab Emirates) and my family lived in Nairobi Kenya, I used Skype extensively to stay in touch with them. That continued during the cohort weekends in Denver.

Please share a story about GEM that will entertain other students.

I don’t really have an entertaining story to share. The only thing I can think of is that I was a novelty in Cohort 2 because I would travel from so far away to attend the cohort weekends. One of my flights was 12 hours on Qatar Airways from Doha to Chicago. I would then have to connect to Denver and attend class the next morning (jet lag notwithstanding). I understand that in later cohorts, international students have become commonplace.

Why did you choose the GEM program at CU Denver?

I chose the GEM program at CU Denver because I was looking to do a Masters in Business that was specific to the energy industry. I found the GEM program online and the curriculum fitted my needs perfectly. At that time (2009) the only other similar program was the one offered at University of Dundee in the UK (Centre for Energy, Petroleum and Mineral Law and Policy). However that program struck me as being more “academic” than I was interested in. After working in Industry for over 20 years, I was looking for a Master’s Program that would be directly applicable to my area of interest, which is the energy industry in East Africa.

Has GEM changed your perspective? If so, how so?

GEM has not so much changed my perspective as enlightened me and exposed me to the many options for accessing various data on energy (IEA EIA, etc). It also gave me a heightened awareness of how business decisions such as investing in renewable energy sources are influenced by government policy and how those policies may ultimately determine the type of fuels that will be dominant in the future. I also have more appreciation of how technology development plays a major role in determining which sources of energy will become accessible for humanity’s use on a large scale and at what pace those changes occur.

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