From Lagos to London breaking taboos through cloud
A wise man once said that success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice and most of all, love of what you are doing. Abigail Opiah speaks to Oluwapamilerin Adegun, cloud architect at Rackspace about how he ticked all those boxes on his unconventional route to cloud computing.
Adegun first got into IT in his final year of high school in Nigeria, when he was given his first laptop from his uncle at the age of 17. He had a cousin who was a software engineer, which inspired him to go into tech and after high school he signed up for a specialist tech school. His first role was in web development in Nigeria, before coming to the UK to do a BS in information Technology and Business Information Systems, then a Master’s degree in Computer Science.
Since university, he joined the Accenture grad scheme as a software engineer – where he would also go into universities to tell students about the different things they should look for in graduate schemes in tech.
He’s now working at Rackspace as a cloud engineer and architect where he’s continued to upskill, achieving certifications as an AWS solution architect, Google Pro Architect and is currently understanding a Data Engineer qualification to support his interest in machine learning and AI.
How did you get into the tech industry?
After receiving my first laptop, I was hooked on technology, how it worked, and what I could do with it. I set about teaching myself coding, read everything I could get my hands on about technology and programming and talked to everyone I could find in the industry. On Saturday mornings I attended the Co-Creation HUB Lagos to learn the basics in a range of programming languages and then self-taught myself from there during my final year in high school.
There’s an expectation in Nigeria that you finish school and then head straight to a reputable university. However, I took a different route, applying to a specialist technology college in Lagos to earn a diploma in programming languages. During this time, I also got myself a job working for a local branding company, using the skills that I had taught myself to build websites for their customers.
My first role in technology was a job on the graduate scheme at Accenture as a software engineer, where I had the chance to work on large transformation projects, and launch my career in the technology industry.
Who inspired you to enter the tech industry?
My dad and my cousin. Taking this path from school and going to a specialist technology centre rather than a university is not a cultural norm or something most families would support in Nigeria. But my father was behind me every step of the way. I also had a huge amount of guidance from some of my neighbors who worked in the industry, once I had started to teach myself to code. Without these people, I wouldn’t be where I am today.
What does a typical day look like for a Cloud Architect?
As a cloud engineer and cloud architect at Rackspace, my role is to help customers along their cloud adoption, wherever they are on their journey. I work with clients to design and implement the frameworks and procedures that allow them to migrate to and accelerate the value they get from the cloud – whether that’s a single or multi-cloud environment. About half of my time is spent directly with the client, working through their challenge, and the other half spent building the solution to that problem.
For example, today I’m helping one of the world’s largest multination banks on its Google Cloud Platform adoption. A key component of this is designing a system that helps to automate much of its compliance procedures – a significant challenge for financial services organisations.
What has been your biggest accomplishment so far?
I’ve had the privilege to work on a number of large-scale digital transformation projects for major global brands, being exposed to a wide range of skills at the cutting edge of technology, from cloud to big data, as well as high-level business problem solving. Seeing where I am now, and looking back on where I came from – that journey from the boy teaching himself coding in his room in Lagos, to today, is what I am most proud of.
I get a genuine sense of pride in the knowledge that I have the opportunity to use my passion for technology to solve problems for some of the biggest brands in the world.
In your opinion, what do companies need to know about millennials?
There are two key areas that the industry needs to focus on if it is to attract more young talent. The first is awareness – promoting the immense opportunities and incredible array of paths you can take. The second is to break down the barriers (or perceived barriers) to entry. You don’t NEED to study computer science at university or at school. By promoting conversion courses, apprenticeships and training programmes, young people can see that they do not have to be a maths professor to have a passion for technology and build a career in it.
Where do you see the tech industry heading, and what do you expect from the industry’s future?
Industries across the board are adopting or migrating to the public cloud and that is only set to increase as companies begin to realise the array of benefits it can offer. As part of that trend, we will see a concurrent move away from data centres and fully-on-premise infrastructure, so organisations can become more nimble. Within those new public and hybrid cloud environments we’ll also see a greater use of machine learning and big data technologies to harvest value out of the sea of information produced by modern business. This change will be particularly profound in regulation-heavy industries like financial services, where the automation of compliance and complexity will not just become a tickbox activity, but an essential factor of competitive advantage.
Where do you see yourself in 5 to 10 years’ time?
I’m ambitious and driven and continuously want to learn and improve. Ultimately, I would love to work my way up to becoming a CIO or CTO, contributing to and influencing the technology industry through the skills that I’ve learnt.