Ugwem Eneyo | The Legacy Project

Creative Innovation


Ugwem Eneyo | The Legacy Project is Nigerian-American engineer, inventor and entrepreneur, currently serving as the co-founder and CEO of SHYFT Power Solutions (formerly known as Solstice Energy Solutions), a venture-backed, award-winning energy technology company.

The company is a bi-product of her research as a former Stanford MS/PhD student in Civil & Environmental Engineering. Prior to Stanford, Ugwem worked as an Environmental and Regulatory Risk Advisor for infrastructure projects throughout South Asia, Africa, and the Americas.

She graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a degree in Civil and Environmental Engineering.

Ugwem Eneyo | The Legacy Project

What drives you? | Much of what drives me has less to do with me, and more to do with events and circumstances around me. My family is from a minority ethnic group in Nigeria’s Niger Delta, a region that has a long history of environmental and human rights challenges.

Growing up and being a part of two vastly different worlds, Niger Delta and a small town in Southern Illinois, often had me comparing what is and what could. Ugwem Eneyo | The Legacy Project became quite obsessed with what could be, feeling as though the series of serendipitous events that provided me the opportunities I had in the U.S., meant that I was my life and purpose were tied to something bigger than me.

These circumstances and my life events made me recognize I was uniquely positioned to accomplish certain things, to be a catalyst of change and progress. This is ultimately what drives me.

What do you think is often the difference between people who are good at what they do and people who are great at what they do? | Being good at what you do can be natural and come with little effort. I think about when I ran track and field. I was a good runner, but it was not my passion and thus, I did not put feel committed to it and thus, I did not work extra hard work at it.

The great runners were those who may have had natural affinity for running but leaned into with passion and hard work. That’s the difference between good and great. You cannot be great without the passion and diligent effort, but you can be good.

What is one talent or strength of yours, which has been critical to your success? | Confidence and grit have been critical to my success thus far, not only in my work as an entrepreneur but even in university and previous work. I make an effort to be realistic with myself, well aware of what Ugwem Eneyo | The Legacy Project is capable of and being confident in that, while also making sure I know my weaknesses and not having a false sense of confidence in those areas.

This has meant that other people’s opinions or expectations of me, could not impact my sense of what’s possible and could not dictate my path.

It also meant that I knew when to ask for help. With a whole lot of grit, this has meant that in the face of seemingly insurmountable challenges or opposition, I kept going where others may have stopped or turned back and I had the right resources around me.

When you get / got STUCK, what caused it and how did you get going again? | Getting stuck is normal and it’s not a problem in and of itself. How long one remains stuck is where the problem lies. The key to getting unstuck quickly and optimally is knowing when to ask for help, which is usually sooner than when you actually need it.

From my days as an engineering student that had a father who was a professor, I realized how valuable it is to feel comfortable asking for help and regularly found myself in office hours even when I felt okay about a subject matter. This has translated into my work as an entrepreneur and has been incredibly valuable in getting ‘unstuck’.

What are the principles and values that you believe are important to live by? | There are a few principles that I live by but among them, integrity is paramount. For me, it has less to do with what other people think about me and more about what how I feel about myself. Nothing is more valuable than peace of mind, and no matter what you gain in life, a lack of integrity can and will rob you of peace of mind.

On a psychological or mind-set level, how do you use your mind and how do you think in a specific way to help you achieve your goals and realize your ambitions? | I’ve used running as a way to train my mind. Running was not something I enjoyed in my youth, but as an adult, I realized it had almost as much to do with my mind as it did with my physical fitness.

For example, I would know that I can run 5 miles because I did it a week ago, but while I’m running those 5 miles, there are distractions and a strong and natural desire to stop or give myself a break even though I have a goal time.

I know, in my mind, I don’t need to stop. I need to focus on putting one foot in front of the other. I feel numerous emotions during the run, at times feeling good about my pace and confident, and at other times, convincing myself that I don’t have to do this, and I can stop. I convince myself on the run that maybe I’ll never hit my goal time, or that stopping won’t really impact anyone.

However, it always feels good when I finish, and I always find it worthwhile. This whole mental exercise becomes useful for me in achieving life and career goals. I feel similar emotions on the journey to a fulfilling a professional or life goal and use the same running mindset to power through.

What are you most afraid of right now? | For people who choose to have children, I imagine many of us hope that our children and future generations can lead lives with more opportunities and in a world that’s better than the one we experienced. Currently, I’m most afraid that this may not be the case.

I feel like the saying, ‘unprecedented times’ is cliché, but I fear that it may be true for all the wrong reasons. In the face of climate change, racism and social injustice, and a recent pandemic, I fear the world that the next generations will have to deal with but remain optimistic that future generations will be the greatest problem solvers.

How do you ensure you are always feeling energised and performing at your peak? | There are two things that help me ensure that I am energised and performing at my peak. First, it’s keeping in touch with my purpose. Life and work can become a process, where value and fulfilment become lost.

That makes hard work extremely stressful and burdensome, and it’s important to feel fulfilled instead of drained as a means to stay energised. For me, this comes through in my faith, journaling and remaining close to the challenges and causes I am passionate about. Secondly, it’s balance and rest.

There’s misconception that entrepreneurs should work unrealistically and it’s simply false. I’m concerned about my personal sustainability. It’s important that I do not burnout, not only important to me, but my colleague, customers and investors. This means ensuring I stay balanced and in tune with myself, in all realms.

Would you consider yourself a happy person? If so, how do you cultivate your daily happiness? | I would certainly consider myself a happy person. For me, happiness comes hand in hand with peace of mind. I make mistakes, but I try not to beat myself up about it. I have sticky notes of mantras and quotes that coach me through tough times, like “Get mad then get over it.”

Ugwem Eneyo | The Legacy Project also actively avoid comparing my life journey with others, as the saying goes “comparison is the thief of joy”. Social media does a great job of making us compare our lives to others in a way that is often unrealistic and can make us feel less than. I try to avoid content that can foster that sentiment.

Lastly, Ugwem Eneyo | The Legacy Project value my character and integrity, which allows me to be at peace with who I am. That is happiness to me and I’m more often than not, in that disposition

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