The Importance Of Self-awareness – Olubukunola‌ ‌Akinsola‌

I got to know Olubukunola through a mutual LinkedIn connection called Chizoba Enechukwu. Her journey into Data Analysis captured my attention. I wanted to learn more about her inspiration for a career change; how she has overcome the challenges of moving into a STEM field.

We are honoured to have you today, Olubukunola! Kindly tell us a little bit about yourself
Hi Winnie, I am happy to be here. My name is Olubukunola‌ ‌Akinsola‌ from Nigeria. I am a Data‌ ‌Analyst‌.

Please walk us through your journey of becoming a Data Analyst
Transitioning from one career path to the other is not something novel. With the advancement in technology, many people are switching from one career path to another to meet the demands of the industry and to find career fulfillment. Mine was a little of the former and more of the latter.

I started my career in customer service by convenience. I had been a teller in a commercial bank for 3 months during the period of waiting for my National Youth Service Corps (NYSC). The most enjoyable part of my day during that period was having to interact with customers in such a way that put a smile on their faces. I would welcome them with a beautiful smile and make up my own greetings. I didn’t want the service I provided to be a bad part of their day. My manager was impressed with my new habitude.

During the course of my career in customer service, I wanted more. It was an interesting work that I loved but it became repetitive, boring, and unchallenging to me. I tend to love work that challenges my comfort zone. A colleague introduced me to Python for Programming. It was really difficult to learn as I had a faulty laptop at that time and couldn’t get enough time to learn. I was off and on in my learning for months till I finally stopped. It was easy to halt my learning because I didn’t see myself as a programmer and there was no immediate use of the skill.

A year later, I started to learn content creation with a focus on writing. During my early years in school, I used to love writing. I would write poems, short stories, and articles. Three months into perfecting my content creation, I concluded it was not something I wanted to put my head in. I decided to put my focus on my customer service and be as good as I could in it. I wanted to learn the different forms of customer service and how I could add value to diverse organizations.

I was keen on leaving the customer service field again as I felt stuck in my growth. I took an online career test at one point and got some career suggestions in Research Analysis, Financial Analysis, Data Analysis, and so on. I didn’t pay attention to the data analysis because I was unaware of the field at this time. I decided on Financial analysis, this decision was also borne out of a discussion with a friend who told me I’d be good in financial management. During my research on this field, I learned I needed to take a couple of professional exams in finance. This discouraged me to continue with this field. Another factor was that while I was good with money management, I was certain I did not want a career out of it.

My turning point happened in 2020, just before the lockdown in Nigeria. I was reviewing a report for a colleague when I observed that there were so many insights drawn from the data collected that weren’t captured in the report. I discussed these insights and I was permitted to make the necessary changes as I deemed fit. I thoroughly enjoyed the entire process of the work. It was at this period I decided I was going to be a data analyst.

I started with python because of my previous experience learning it. I did that for a few months and took a break when I got stuck. I learned SQL, and Power BI. In the first few months of my transition, I joined a data analyst community on Telegram called “Dear Analyst”. The group Admin would host weekly sessions for people transitioning or starting their data analysis journey. It was a good start for me as I got to learn a lot to help my transition process.

In January of 2021, I saw the opportunity to apply for the Microsoft Leap Apprenticeship program via LinkedIn. I was skeptical about applying because I did not feel confident in my ability to participate in the program. One of the personal quotes I tell myself when I am doubting my decision to do something is “there is no harm in trying”. This was what I said to myself to encourage me to apply to this program. It was a life-changing opportunity when I got accepted into this program. The acceptance was the launchpad for the career pivot I needed.

What has been your biggest challenge along this journey?‌
Not having the resources I needed to learn. There were times when there was no motivation to continue.

What inspired you to move forward amidst these challenges? ‌
One major inspiration is the little wins I have. It could be completing a simple project, printing out a line of code, teaching a particular data analysis course. As someone who tends to do things halfway and stop, data analysis is one thing I am most determined to see through. This is particularly because I have found gratification in it.

I am also inspired by people who share their stories on social media about how they ended up being successful at their careers.

Please tell us about your life achievements and awards ‌
The first achievement I had as a data analyst was getting an apprenticeship with an Italian-based company during the early period of my learning.‌ It was a reinforcement that this is something I could do. I have also gotten several certifications in Power BI, DAX for Power BI, and others. Just recently, I finished the Microsoft Leap Data Analyst Apprenticeship. I also became a Microsoft certified data analyst during the apprenticeship and gained certifications in Microsoft Azure fundamentals.

Oh,‌ I also got an award as the best in design, and best in DAX formulation from my fellow Microsoft Leapers.

What do you enjoy doing outside work?
Outside work I am an introvert. I enjoy anything that keeps me indoors but very specific to watching movies, sitcoms (F.R.I.E.N.D.S Is my favourite), and reading books. I also organise travel hangouts.

What is your favourite quote?
If it is to be, it is up to me” ~ William Johnsen

How would you encourage a young African girl who is just joining the world of STEM?
It is important to be self-aware.‌ Know who you are and be confident in your abilities. Do not let society tell you that you can not do things because you are a woman, that is just them trying to box you up. Do it because you can. There is no limit to what you can achieve.

There is no limit to learning, development, and growth. It’s okay to be confused. It’s okay to take a break. In the end, you’ll figure it out.

Thank you Olubukunola, for sharing your story with the world. It is of great courage for someone to successfully transition into STEM. We wish you the very best on this journey.

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