MBA grad from war-torn Angola succeeds online
University of Phoenix students typically work in offices by day and study via laptops by night. But Alexandre Pambo, a 2012 MBA program graduate, is anything but typical.
A native of Angola — a country embroiled in a devastating civil war from 1975 to 2002 — Pambo made education a priority despite the difficulties of living in a poor, unstable African nation.
“My background reveals the ups and downs of civil conflict in my home country,” he says.
The decades-long war completely destroyed Angola’s infrastructure, from schools and hospitals to telecommunications and energy grids.
“I walked 12 miles back and forth to school every day in the ’80s,” Pambo notes.
After working as a hospital nurse, Pambo sought new opportunities in his country’s emerging oil and gas industry. He started out as a mechanic trainee for the Cabinda Gulf Oil Company (CABGOC, a division of Chevron) and moved up the ranks while also pursuing additional education — first at Angola’s National Petroleum Institute, and later at a large traditional university, where he studied business administration.
“You might ask, ‘Why [would a petroleum worker] want to study business administration?’” Pambo says. “It was because opportunities to continue my education in my field of expertise didn’t exist in my country, so I decided to grab at what did exist.”
But Pambo didn’t stop there. He wanted to continue his studies with an MBA. Because accredited programs were hard to come by in Angola, he researched online degree programs during a training stint in Florence, Italy, and found University of Phoenix.
“I could not resist saying, ‘This is the right university where I want to challenge myself,’” Pambo says.
And it was a challenge. Even with the online learning option, Pambo sometimes struggled to stay in contact with his instructors and fellow students due to Angola’s ongoing infrastructure problems. Loss of power and Internet connectivity are frequent occurrences in Angola.
For Pambo to complete his coursework, he used two personal computers, two different Internet connection accounts, four torchlights, two portable printers, backup batteries and a healthy dose of optimism. “I removed negative thoughts,” he says.
Strategic thinking serves Pambo well in his current role as a rotating equipment analyst on the Angola LNG (liquified natural gas) project. “I am responsible for predictive maintenance strategy,” he explains. He credits the critical thinking and analytical skills he gained from the MBA program to his ongoing success on the project, especially when dealing with difficult colleagues.
“Some [of my co-workers] are resistant to change,” he explains. “But management and I seek continuous improvement through education and certification to keep our facility’s maintenance program effective.”
Pambo hopes to eventually start his own business. Meanwhile, he enjoys spending time with his wife and three children.
“My 12-year-old son,” he says, “may become a University of Phoenix student [someday].”