Ajen Limbu: Meet the student being mentored by Lockheed Martin’s former CEO

“I’ve always been interested in building things,” says Ajen Limbu, a second year undergraduate on the BEng Civil Engineering course. “Even when I was at school, I would enter Lego competitions where you had to construct something that could answer a particular challenge – I find that sort of thing really exciting.”

It’s that passion, and a desire to help people through problem-solving and design, that has drawn Ajen to civil engineering. And that in turn has led the 20-year-old to Plymouth, home to some of the most iconic civil engineering monuments, such as Smeaton’s Lighthouse and Brunel’s bridge spanning the River Tamar.

“When you turn on a tap in the morning, the pipe system that brings you your water has been created by civil engineers,” he says. “The roads you drive to work on have been designed by civil engineers to ensure they are flat and have the right surface. It’s a profession that enables you to help people on a really wide scale.”

And it’s here in Plymouth that Ajen has been afforded a remarkable opportunity – to be personally mentored by Lockheed Martin’s former CEO, Stephen Ball. Stephen, a graduate and honorary doctorate from Plymouth, was introduced to Ajen through the Development Office, and the two hit it off immediately.

They now have weekly hour-long calls, where Ajen has an opportunity to explore issues around leadership, problem-solving and communication, and gain a remarkable insight into how Stephen would handle different situations.

“It’s been great – he’s really helped me throughout the year,” Ajen says. “To have an hour of his time every week, when he is so busy, is a real privilege. He’s really helped me focus upon communication, touching upon neurolinguistic programming, and adopting a positive frame of mind. It’s given me a great deal of confidence, and as a result, I have pushed myself into project management tasks and have spoken in front of audiences.”

In addition to being mentored by Stephen, Ajen, who was born in Brunei and moved to the UK at the age of five via a spell in Nepal, also received a scholarship of £4,500 to support his studies.

With the launch of the Tamar Engineering Fund later this year, supported by Stephen Ball, the University is taking steps to address the acknowledged lack of engineers in the UK. Supported by an official University campaign, orchestrated by the Development Office, it will aim to support and encourage students to enrol on engineering degrees.

Stephen Ball says: 

“As a career path, engineering offers the highest level of social mobility and the second highest graduate premium of any profession. Students who are passionate and prepared to work hard can transform their lives, but they often need support to realise their potential. For some, help with funding is the difference between success and failure. For all, mentoring and advice provides insights from those with more experience and this gives them the confidence they need to be successful. In short the key thing they learn is to expect more of themselves.”

Stephen Ball, former Chief Executive of Lockheed Martin

“It can really inspire a student to work even harder and really maintain that level of commitment to the course,” Ajen says when he’s asked about what he’d say to a potential donor. “And working with Stephen has really enabled me to challenge myself and push myself out of my comfort zone – all of which is going to benefit me in the long-run.”

And what does the future hold for Ajen? After next year’s placement, he’ll return to Plymouth for his final year, before moving on to the master’s degree. Beyond that, it’s a potential chartership, a role in project management, and the chance to leave his own legacy-piece in the world.

“I went to Singapore and I saw the Marina Bay Sands resort, which is essentially a giant boat perched atop two buildings, and it’s beautiful,” he says. “So alongside working on projects that make a difference to people, I want to be able to leave my mark.”

Ajen is now 21, and he is in the fourth year of his studies as he’s been promoted to the MEng programme.

The Tamar Engineering Project

Funding and mentoring for high achievers who might not otherwise consider higher education as a route to a career in engineering.

Learn if you are eligible for this scholarship to study engineering at Plymouth University through the Tamar Engineering Project.

Successful applicants will receive:

  • £3,000 towards living costs per year of study
  • £1,500 course fee waiver per year of study
  • one-to-one mentoring from an industry expert.
Read more about the Tamar Engineering Project.

Spotlight: Stephen Ball

Engineering underpins the very fabric of our country and economy, from our roads and bridges to our buildings and utilities. And yet, in this country, we haven’t valued engineering anywhere near highly enough.

Learn more about Stephen Ball