Welcome to Women of DevOps, Episode Twelve! Never have I ever… thought Women of DevOps would get such a worldwide reach! Not only is today’s guest from Ghana, but an upcoming guest is from Brazil. I’m humbled by the wonderful women who choose to spend some time with me to get the word out, and who are working so hard to pave the way for future women in tech. But enough about me - let’s meet Abigail Boakye in this episode of Women of DevOps.
‘Til next time,
The Women of DevOps, Ep. 12
Can’t listen to the audio? Read on below for a transcript of our conversation.
Rox: Hey everyone, thank you all so much for joining us for another episode of Women of DevOps. Today we're joined by Abigail Boakye, all the way from Ghana! Hi Abigail, to start, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Abigail: I'm Abigail Acheampong Boakye as you just mentioned, and I'm a system administrator - a Cloud, Unix System Administrator with Eprocess International S.A, which is under Ecobank, currently.
Rox: Very cool. How long have you been in tech? What's been your career progression like?
Abigail: I've been in tech for two years and over. So with the tech that I've been in, I was a National Service Personnel for nine months, and then after serving for nine months, I was moved from a Service Personnel to a contract staff for six months, then upon working hard, I was fortunately made permanent staff, which has been over a year and some months now. So I'm currently in a permanent role with the company as a Cloud, Unix System Administrator.
Rox: That's great. And what drew you to tech initially?
Abigail: I had interest in tech, but not interest in the sense that I wanted to do tech. I think I wanted to become an optometrist, rather. But, when I was moving to the University after I got my grade in WASSCE and I got my results, I was given the option by my mom to choose - out of three courses, to choose one. The programs were mathematics, computer science, and actuarial science [Rox note: I had to look that up]. But at that time, I had a very close friend of mine who was already in a university in his final year. He was [studying] actuarial science. I'm not the type of person that really wanted to [study] a mathematics program in the first place, and at times, it is good when you come across people that know you well, too. So I told my friend, I would [study] actuarial science because I was trying to escape mathematics, not knowing actuarial science was a whole lot of mathematics. He told me that he would advise me not to go for actuarial science. I should go for computer science, because mathematics would be the same thing as going for actuarial science.
My dear, I thought I was escaping! [laughs] But to my surprise, I met almighty mathematics again in computer science. So that was how I came into tech - this whole technology thing. I started with computer science, and then I came into this whole now being a Cloud, Unix System Administrator. But! My role that I'm currently in, when I was in school, there was a specific lecturer who was assigned to teach us - to lecture us, sorry - I noticed that any time the lecturer taught me, I didn't understand anything. So mostly, what I did was that any time I was going for operating systems, because Unix is an operating system, anytime I was going for that lecture, I was just there to go and join the crowd. I wouldn't take notes, because I knew I wouldn't get what he was trying to see. So I wouldn't waste my time taking notes. What I would do is sit down and watch him.
Prior to the exams, I was wondering how I was going to pass, knowing very well I don't understand what is going on in the class. But I had a friend that I had known since first year when I joined the class, that was computer science first year. He knew this specific course very, very, very well. So luckily for me, we are close. It seems the programs that I have fought with, he is able to find his way through and with the ones I have problems with, so it's much more of, “You help me and then I have to also help you.”
So with the operating systems, which Unix is currently under, I told him he should teach me. He came over to my place, and then, he took me through. I’m telling you, Roxy, one of the programs I have written until now that I can testify that I was surprised that I passed so, so well was operating systems!
Rox: [laughs] Nice!
Abigail: Yes! I felt I wasn't going to make it. So when I wrote my midterm and I passed - it's out of 30 and I got 20 and over, I can't remember [the exact number] - but when I wrote my end of the exam - the final exams - it's out of 70, so after the addition, I got 80-something percent.
Rox: That's great!
Abigail: And at that time, the operating system we were using was Ubuntu. And you know, Ubuntu is a little bit different from RHEL.
So I joined the company, and as a National Service Personnel - you know, at times, destiny knows where you are gonna end up one day. That is a thing. So I joined a company and we were talking through a lot of things. HR came and told us that they were going to assign us to teams to join. A paper was placed in front of you with your team, and your name was already on it - you are not going to select what you want. That is when life really begins.
I opened the sheet, and then I saw Unix. I almost cried because - it's not that I was crying out of joy; I didn't know that Unix is kind of like an operating system. I thought it was something that I didn't know. So I picked up my phone and Googled, and I realized that it was the same thing that gave me a headache. I had a fairly good score in school, but now the challenge was, I had to move from a different operating system where I used to think Ubuntu now to RHEL. And RHEL is Enterprise, so that comes to something different.
That was when I realized that at times, God prepares you for something greater that you are not even aware of. The things you feel that you cannot do, those are the things that might take you to greater heights. That's how I came to this role.
Rox: Very cool. So about your current role. Cloud, Unix, Storage - what's your actual day-to-day like?
Abigail: So in my day-to-day, provisioning of servers, installations, configurations, upgrades, and patching using Red Hat Satellite, and also a little bit of DevOps.
Rox: Well, that leads perfectly into my next question: It's about DevOps. Is there a section of DevOps that maybe you haven't touched a lot yet, but you're super excited to get involved with?
Abigail: Oh, yes, there is. AWS, that is Amazon Web Services, which we are currently using. I'm looking forward to building myself in that, because in AWS and as a DevOps practice, you can use it for provisioning, managing infrastructure, and deployments. So I think that is the thing that I'm looking forward to - AWS in DevOps.
Rox: Yeah! Very cool. So I saw on your LinkedIn that you're certified in machine learning. How do you use machine learning in your work?
Abigail: I think maybe I should tell you, you saw machine learning, but I can't really say I use it to work a lot. I think in the coding aspect, and trying to get data at times, I use machine learning.
Rox: Got it.
Abigail: And with the machine learning you saw, also on my profile, it was just a Udemy course that I did. That was in 2019. I used my personal Udemy account to be precise, and I decided that, “Let me try this machine learning thing on LinkedIn.” And I passed, surprisingly! The first time, I failed. The second time, I passed.
Rox: [laughs] Nice. How do you like Udemy? Did you find good value in it?
Abigail: I really do find good value in Udemy. For instance, at my company, we have Udemy Business. Most of the programs that I want to do something on, if I want to write a certification, or I need to finish a course, at times I use Udemy. Though, Udemy is very tedious one course after the other. I think it's a very good platform if you want to follow a program or course outline stepwise.
Rox: Gotcha. Very cool. Well since we're on the note of education, what's your take on education in tech? You got a Bachelor's - was that the right way to go for you?
Abigail: I think it was the right way looking at where I come from, in the sense of I'm in Africa. [laughs] Yes. And in Africa, it's stepwise. I don't know if someone has written a certification and has just straight up gotten a job, which I know in the States and Canada, it works like that. But in Africa, at times, like I said, you need to go through stages.
Rox: That makes sense. It feels kind of unfair. It feels like we have a little cheat code here where you can just get certified or even teach yourself and then you can get a job.
Abigail: But in Africa times, our times are not like that. You have to go the hard way.
Rox: Yup! So if you could go back and do it all over again, what would you change, if anything? What advice would you give your younger self in regards to your career?
Abigail: I think some of the things that I would like to change is how I perceive things at times. At times, the things you feel, they seem like it, but they are not. Like I told you, the reason why I think I couldn't see the OS the way I was seeing it was because it seemed like it but it wasn't it. At times, you need to go deeper, do a lot of research, sit down, and come back and better yourself. I think the things that I would have loved to have tried were, when I was in school, I was friendly, but not to a great extent. I wouldn't say I was an extrovert or an introvert, I don't even know which one to say. But I couldn't make that kind of friendship with people. You know, you meet people, you build a kind of friendship and all of those things. Yes, I knew people, and people knew me. You know, “hello, hi” and everything [Rox note: think acquaintances, not friends]. I think those are the things I would have changed. But even in the small circle that I had, I can tell you that the things I have achieved, it's been through people's help. People who have remembered me in the good times, because I remembered them in their worst moments.
Rox: Yeah. I get that a lot - just how important networking and building those deep connections is.
Abigail: Yes. I'm now looking forward to networking with people, which I think maybe it was at my stage of life. But now that I am currently in a role, today, with the introduction of these platforms and all of these things, you get to meet a lot of people, a whole lot of people. And those kinds of networks you are building, you are building them on top of good foundations, reasonable things, and not just any friendship or just anything for anything’s sake.
Rox: Yeah, that's fair. I have a hard question coming for you - what has your experience been like as a woman in tech?
Abigail: My experience being a woman in tech, I think it's been a little bit difficult. Because at times, there is that feeling that women are fragile and women shouldn't be doing a lot. So at times, even if there's something you feel deep within you, that you can execute this task, they will give it to the man because they feel the man can stay out for eight hours, and a woman cannot. She needs to go to bed.
You need to build yourself. Whilst the task is being given to the man, you tell yourself, you would really want to take this task upon yourself, even though you feel it is tedious. They are trying to take this task away from you because they feel they are thinking about you. They are helping reduce your burden [Rox note: good intentions, bad execution]. But time and tide waits for no one. You also want to build yourself, because you might be here one day, you can wake up and a new opening will be anywhere. It can be within your company. It can be outside your company. But if you don’t have that ground you’ve broken, if you don't have that skill set, you can’t work at Amazon. [laughs] Yes, I think that has been the thing that I'm most facing: the fact that they want to give women that liberty, feeling they are fragile. But as for me, I want them to feel, “fine, I am a woman. But I can equally do as other men - or other people - are performing.”
Rox: Amen. So kind of a similar vein for this question, but do you have any advice for other women looking to start a career in tech?
Abigail: I think a lot of people, when you talk about tech, they might think tech is all about sitting behind your computer and being a software engineer, a frontend developer, or a backend developer. It's not all about that. There are people in tech roles who don't even know how to code, Rox, you're very much aware. Asher, people having roles in Asher, they don't even know how to code.
You can be in tech,and you wouldn’t code, but you have to know how to maneuver to get into those roles. So I think it’s about knowing what you want, working upon it, and going for it. Tech is just a name - it’s technology. It’s not going to break you apart. You just have to find your stronghold, you have to find, “This is what I really want to go out for, so if I feel I can't do coding, I can’t program, I can’t work on an operating system, I can't be in something else like DevOps, maybe I feel learning a managerial skills in tech is going to help me,” you go in for it. But brace yourself, that is all that I can tell you, because you can be in a position of not being in programming today, but you can wake up and be taken from where you are to a different place.
One thing you must understand is that things are changing. The world is moving forward. You should move out of your comfort zone, and you should brace yourself for anything that will be coming across you just like turbulence hitting an airplane. There's nothing you can do about it.
Rox: Yeah, that's really good advice getting out of your comfort zone. It sucks, but that's where you have the most growth and the most change, like - when there is a lot of change is when you grow the most, you know?
Rox: Final question for you! Is there anything exciting coming down the pipeline for you, a certification or anything like that, that you're looking forward to?
Abigail: I'm currently trying to get my hands on AWS certification, and it has taken a toll on my emotions. But the only thing that pushes me to get it is called deadline. [laughs] I have a deadline to get the certification. At times, a deadline is the only thing that can push you to do so many things in life. So that is what I'm looking forward to - and also trying to build myself in my tech role, in the sense of programming and trying other things. At times, along the way in life, you realize you have a lot more in you than you thought. All of those things you felt you couldn't do, now, it's much more like a balloon filled with water, which is best. Now, you feel you can do the things you couldn't do. So that is what I'm looking out for - certifications, and also trying to move forward in terms of education. There are great things ahead.
Rox: Awesome. Abigail, thank you so much for your time today. It was a great conversation.