40-year-old Steven Allent Pugla from the Tepoka tribe in Dei District of Western Highlands Province is the epitome of success that comes about through sheer hard work, commitment and determination towards achieving set goals.
The Grade 10 dropout who is now an Auditor at the Department of Finance & Auditor General’s Office (AGO) said that it has been quite a long and challenging journey since and every experience he has been through has prepared him for this moment in his life.
Last month, Pugla graduated from the University of Papua New Guinea with a Bachelors Degree in Public Finance and Accountancy which has been made possible through support from his current employer.
Pugla, like all other daring young men with hopes and dreams came to Port Moresby in Year 2000 to pursue further opportunities after he was unable to continue with his Grade 11 studies due to school fee issues.
“After completing Grade 10 from Kitip High School in 1999, I was unable to continue on to do Grade 11 at Kabiufa SDA Secondary School in Goroka due to lack of funding.”
“Burdened with a low self-esteem as a school drop-out and an uncertainty of what the future held in store for me, I came to Port Moresby in the year 2000 in search of better opportunities,” Pugla said.
Unbeknownst to him, Pugla came to Port Moresby in search of good job opportunities which are always quite hard to find here in the city these days.
Shortly after arrival in the big city, Pugla secured his first ever paid job as a Boss Crew on the PMV Buses however, he had lasted only 4 months on the job before he decided to find work as a security guard.
“I worked as a security guard for 4 years from year 2000 to 2003 with various companies and organisations including BSP.”
“Then in 2004, I left to become a taxi driver, a job which I performed diligently for the next 2 years,” Pugla said.
“In 2005, after operating as a taxi driver for some time, I decided to go and look for work as a driver at the Department of Finance & Auditor General’s Office.”
“With just a driver’s license and a Grade 10 certificate, I took the risk and turned up at the office and to this day, I thank God for leading me to that place at that exact time,” an elated Pugla said.
It has been 16 years to the day since Pugla knocked on the doors of the Department of Finance & AGO.
Throughout the years, he has made his way up from being the office admin driver to Trainee Finance Officer then on to Finance Officer and finally Auditor for the last seven years.
Having a well-paid job, Pugla decided to pursue tertiary studies on self-sponsor to further enhance his knowledge and work experience as an Accountant.
In 2010, 11 years after leaving high school, Pugla graduated with a Certificate in Business then the following year, graduated with a Diploma in Accounting from the PNG Institute of Public Administration.
“Growing up, I always had a dream to go to university. Whether this would be possible amidst the hardships and challenges I was going through, I was not too sure at the time but I held on to the dream anyway.”
“Who would have thought that I would be standing here 22 years later as an Auditor for Department of Finance and a university degree in hand,” said the former taxi driver.
Pugla’s experiences in life have taught him to be humble and to have respect for people from all walks of life.
“As a former boss crew and taxi driver, I have met different kinds of people through the years.”
“In fact, whenever I used to drive people around especially those in the workforce, I would study their lifestyles and would ask myself, what is stopping me from living a life like them, to work in an office like them and earn enough money to look after my needs and that of my family’s.”
Being able to experience life in its’ lowest forms and reaching the current status in life, Pugla says that he has so much respect for all those school drop outs like him who are currently out there trying to make something of their lives.
“I was a school drop out once and so I know what it’s like.”
“To those bus drivers and taxi drivers and anyone who holds jobs that are at the lowest of any corporate ladder, I have so much respect for you.”
“Only God knows your struggle and he will reward you one day. You just have to keep going,” said the taxi driver turned Auditor.
“Along the way I have faced many challenges both at university and also back at home but they have motivated me to keep going because there is always a reward in the end for hard workers.”
The university graduate said that the achievement would not have been made possible without the support of many important people who have contributed towards his quest for a university degree.
He expressed his heartfelt gratitude and thanks to his current employer and made specific mention of Dr Ken Ngangan with his Executive Management at Department of Finance, former Auditor General Mr Philip Nauga and current Auditor General Mr Gordon Kega with his Senior Management and Mr Panditha Bandara of UPNG for playing vital roles in his educational journey.
Pugla also dedicated the achievement to his wife who has been by his side all throughout and said that choosing a good partner in life is also paramount because he or she will also play a big role in determining the successes or failures in one’s life.
“Don’t choose a partner based on their beauty or outward appearance. Instead, choose someone with a good heart, who will back you up when you are down and stand with you in good and bad times. If you choose the wrong partner, he or she can be a burden in your life,” the man from Tepoka said.
Mr Pugla’s advise to his former colleagues especially those boss crews, taxi drivers and security guards is to never be comfortable with where they are and to always strive to be better than what they are now.
“If a simple Grade 10 drop out like me can obtain a Bachelors Degree in Accountancy and be an Auditor at the Department of Finance & AGO after starting out my career as a boss crew, a security guard, a taxi driver and a simple office driver then I strongly believe in my heart that you too can do it.”
Mr Pugla appeals to parents to never give up on their children when they have failed at something and to never class them as failures because there is always something else that their children may be good at and so they must get behind their children and continue to support them.
The young man from Western Highlands said that had it not been for his Christian faith in God and the support from his SDA church family, he would not have made it this far as well.
“Twenty-two years ago, I found myself as a Grade 10 ‘drop out’. It was the lowest point in my life. Others looked down on me, some made demeaning comments saying that I would never get anywhere in life but I thank God because He never gave up on me.”