Who knew that we would ever get a female Cloud Services Engineer in Africa? Besides, what do such people do at work? Beatrice is here to answer some of these questions in today’s interview;
Hi, Beatrice! It is a privilege to have you as our guest today. You are welcome to Words That Count
Hi Winnie, I am honored to be interviewed. This is actually the first time someone has asked me to tell my story.
Wow! We are double privileged then, haha.
Please give us a brief introduction about yourself
My name is Beatrice Nabukenya from Uganda. I am the Cloud Services Engineer at the National IT Authority of Uganda. That means I am the focal point for cloud-related data center services, inquiries, discussions, advisory, and provisions. I am also responsible for technical assessment for any government entity that wants to use the private cloud that is hosted at the National Data Centres of Uganda. I am a certified PRINCE2 Practitioner, Vmware VCP-DCV, VCA-VBT, Azure, and ITIL.
We are eager to learn about your journey into cloud services; what has it been like for you?
A cloud-related career came up as an evolution of events – that’s what I can say. My first passion was always accounting – this is actually interesting. Anyways, when I joined university, I was advised to try information technology and computing. So, that’s what I did and I loved it. It was also easy because my late father was very passionate about the sciences. So, he encouraged me to go with the flow. That’s how I ended up in IT.
My first passion in IT has always been Networks; it’s my first love. There’s that sense of joy you get when you work on something and it’s actually up and running. So my first job was with Liquid Telecom (formerly Infocom). I used to work on computers, networks, and servers. My love for the kind of work I was doing made me become very good at it. I have heard people say that every time they report an issue to me, I just look at the computer and it works again.
My job after that was with Huawei on the MTN ITSS Project in Uganda as the window server admin. I was a member of a team that was handling MTN IT infrastructure for 5 countries including Uganda, Zambia, Eswatini, and South Sudan. It was a very high-paced environment but I enjoyed it. We were required to think on our feet, solve issues, and work late hours.
Surprising as this might sound, I had never been part of a work environment as the only female. I usually found female colleagues with a 1:3 ratio to men. It’s only at my current job that I joined as the only woman, but I have gotten used to it now. The challenge is the struggle to constantly prove that you are just as good as they are. I had to work twice as hard for colleagues to realize that I was equally as good.
So after MTN, I was assigned to a World Bank project called the Regional Communication Infrastructure Program (RCIP). That’s what I am currently doing at NITA and my title is Consultant – Cloud Services. Cloud is basically virtualization at the backend (incorporates servers, networks, storage & security) In simple terms, it is the provision of services over the internet. So if you understand virtualization, then you can easily understand how a cloud is set up, designed, and run.
This is clearly a male-dominated field! Tell us about how hard it’s been for you as a woman in the same field
The field I work in is relatively new in Uganda. Cloud computing has been here for a long time but users were not aware. I mean, we have users who have had yahoo accounts for as long as I can remember. All these people have been utilizing the cloud but we never bothered to know more. All we needed then were email addresses (which are cloud services).
At the moment, my biggest challenge is that the technology is relatively new and people are still skeptical about its efficiency. However, once tried, the majority have liked it and have seen its advantages. This makes it easy for us to scale up and drive efficiency.
The other challenge I face is the fast-changing world that technology is! I have to constantly appease myself with the new information and ways to do things as technologies change every 3 to 5 years. In my field of work, I also need to be diversified all the time. I can’t know cloud services only. For me to be at the top of my game, I need to know cyber security, business continuity, networks, service delivery, and many other things. And I have to fit the cloud model into all these different perspectives. It’s a challenging factor but it comes with the job. Evolution is where we are and here we are.
You must be very passionate about your job for you to stay through all challenges. What else motivates you to keep going?
One thing I learned is that at some point you have to stop competing and proving yourself worthy. I have reached that point where I focus more on myself and what I want in life. I want to learn how different technologies and approaches can help make my job easier and better. That is what drives me, and everything else falls into place.
It requires you to keep a level of maturity and not to attend to every situation in your life. I have learned how to pick out my battles, focus my energy and use that energy to progress myself and get work done. While growing up, I used to like the saying, “don’t throw stones at every barking dog because you will never reach where you are going”. This now makes more sense to me than then.
Tell us about your prestigious moments while on this journey
I was recognized as the employee of the month in the third month of my first job. It was a unique and great feeling because I was freshly out of campus and new in the field. It was one of the best recognitions.
The challenge I have with recognition is that the IT industry is only put in the spotlight when things go wrong. We don’t necessarily get noticed for the work we do. Many times people won’t know that we are up late in the night getting things done so that others can enjoy our services.
I have had many recognitions before I joined backend but the first one I mentioned is what showed me how good I am at what I do.
Who is Beatrice outside work?
I am a farmer who grows crops and rears goats and cows. We can add cooking and baking to the list because I enjoy those too.
Do you have a favorite quote?
“A wise man looks for a perfect wife. Meanwhile, he marries” ~ Anonymous. This quote to me means that in life we all want perfect things. But as you wait for the perfect one, get what’s closer and work on that as you wait for a better one. You never know, this might even be your perfect one!
“If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a chair” ~ Shirley Chisholm. We all know that STEM is a man’s world, so if they don’t welcome us there, we are bringing our own chairs to contribute to that discussion.
How would you encourage a young girl who is passionate about STEM but can’t find their foot in the field?
They need to look in the mirror and define who they are first. Listen to that small voice asking you who you are and what you want. Don’t do this for only your career, even other aspects of life!
It’s true STEM subjects are harder than other subjects but if you want something, you have to be willing to put in the extra effort to have it.
There are many women who have walked your path; just choose one and ask for direction, mentorship, and empowerment. You are not alone in this.
Lastly, there are many career paths you can take in IT. You just have to venture out and find something that resonates with you.
Thank you for the wonderful time, Beatrice! It was an honor to write about you and learn from your pool of knowledge.