A Project Manager at Manchester Airport hopes his new book will inspire readers to believe that they ‘have the potential to be great’, as he imparts lessons learned on a remarkable life journey that took him from his hometown in Ghana to the UK’s third largest airport, via a job as a kitchen porter in a casino.
Sam Buah, 45, grew up in the West African country at a time where career prospects were limited for most young people. His parents, he admits, “had just about sufficient means to provide our basic needs, and nothing more.”
And yet, through graft and perseverance, Sam secured a place at university – which in turn opened the doors for him to gain a Masters degree in the UK, start a career here and, ultimately, to help others follow in his steps.
Sam has now authored a book, The Non-Project Manager’s Guide to Project Management, which launches on online bookselling platforms including Amazon this Friday. Profits from the book will be reinvested into a charitable venture that Sam is setting up with the support of Manchester Airport, the Sam Buah Foundation, to help open doors to professional careers for those from disadvantaged backgrounds in Ghana and the UK.
Becoming a published author is the latest milestone in a remarkable story, but Sam remains proud of his humble beginnings.
“I had a happy childhood, because I was raised to be content and grateful with what I had,” he reflects. “I was fortunate enough to be educated up to degree level [in Ghana] but studying abroad was totally out of the question because there was no way my parents could afford it.”
Sam first visited Manchester in 2000, on behalf of his university, to attend a conference and took the chance to visit the University of Manchester’s Engineering Department. Such was the impression he made, he was invited to apply for their MSc course in Corrosion Control Engineering, and was accepted to start the following September.
“I was not on any scholarship or grant or in receipt of any support from anywhere,” he explains. “I was just determined to do my utmost to complete my MSc. At one point I was working several jobs, including as a Kitchen Porter in a Casino.
“When I came to Manchester to study, nearly everything was new to me – the weather, the culture, the accent. Some of the people I met knew about Ghana, others thought Africa was one country. Some people had preconceived ideas about me even before speaking to me.
“But through it all, I became resilient and made an effort to embrace the culture and way of life in the UK. There are still challenges, and it is good to see a big push in today’s society to ensure everyone feels accepted as equal, regardless of colour or race.”
After completing his course, Sam took up a Safety Engineering role with Transport for London, before returning to the North West for a Project Management role with Transport for Greater Manchester in late 2008. He then made the move to Manchester Airport in 2013.
In more recent years, he has taken it upon himself to help those from a similar background follow his path up the career ladder. Having delivered training sessions on project management he decided to lay out some tips in a book, with proceeds going to the Sam Buah Foundation. The charity aims to mentor and provide professional opportunities to the talented, gifted, and most disadvantaged within the black and minority ethnic (BAME) community.
“The book covers all the tips and critical topics any person new to project management would like to know,” Sam says. “The amazing truth is that regardless of what we do, we all apply project management in our day to day lives. We all use project management principles and techniques without knowing.
“Having experienced the challenges I faced, I have learned two things are key to success: hard work and opportunity. You could work as hard as you want, but sometimes you need some help in guiding you on the right path. I want to reach out and help lead young people to the right opportunities that could transform their lives.”
Manchester Airport has thrown its support behind Sam in his latest endeavours, offering practical help and guidance. Managing Director, Karen Smart, said: “People make our airport, and Sam’s incredible journey is emblematic of the dedicated, driven, community-focused culture that we have built. We are very proud to be supporting him as he writes the next chapter in his story with the launch of his book and charitable foundation.”
Sam’s book, The Non-Project Manager’s Guide to Project Management, is available on Amazon from £29.99 for the ebook and £39.99 for a hard copy, from Friday 26 February.