WomenTech Global Awards Voices 2021: Winner Akua Opong

    Akua Opong works as a Senior Analyst within the Corporate Technology team at London Stock Exchange Group. This focuses on overseeing and maintaining the company hardware and software systems, resolving technical issues acting as an escalation point for the first line support team through the ITIL framework.  As part of her work, Akua mentors new starters in the team, including interns and graduates, and provides technology guidance to colleagues across the Group. Akua is process-driven and enjoys project work, as well as sharing knowledge through technical documentation.

    Outside of her main role, Akua is a keen diversity and inclusion advocate, a mental health champion within the LSEG Wellbeing Committee, and a community lead for LSEG’s Women’s Inspired Network. She is passionate about raising the profile of women in STEM.

    Especially for the WomenTech Network, Akua agreed to give an interview and share her story.

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    Congratulations on winning a WomenTech Network Mentor of the Year Award! How did it feel when you found out you had won?

    Thank you very much and the Women Tech Network is such a fantastic network. My mentor Anna Znachko who I met through the Women Tech Network community has been amazing and we work in sync. This is a huge honor to receive this incredible accolade and it would help me to showcase being a role model as well as support girls and women everywhere, to dream big and achieve the success that awaits them. I won this because of my mentors and everyone that has supported me in my career.

    I grew up learning from my grandparents (who passed away when I was a teenager) to give back to others. I want to make a difference in different areas of the technology industry as a STEM ambassador and encourage more girls and women to take up STEM subjects. I have been doing this through Cajigo and Inclusive Careers, and connecting with people on LinkedIn that have reached out to me and with grads/interns at LSEG.

    I want to be a mentor, coach, and sponsor to empower others to believe in their capabilities and provide guidance throughout their careers. This is how you make a difference and what truly matters by building a community and support network for others to thrive. #Techforgood and increase the women in STEM subjects.

    I love to inspire others, as it takes a community to implement a change, and want to tell a story. It is like a film can be inspired by a true story. For example, when you are fundraising for an event, you need a support network to help you set up the event, people to take part, a friend/colleague to help run the event and promote the event. It is important to collaborate and share ideas to achieve success, take in people's opinions, and especially constructive criticism, as this will help you improve each time. 

    This is one of my favorite quotes, "By doing what you love, you inspire and awaken the hearts of others." A good deed or act of kindness radiates amongst individuals where it spreads elements of positivity and joy. I want to inspire others to be the voice of empowerment for change, show honesty, integrity and be yourself. No one can ever fault you for this.

    Tell us about your background, journey in tech, and what inspired you to develop your career in this direction.

    What do I do? 
    I work in Corporate Technology, supporting colleagues with their hardware, applications and providing second-line support on a daily basis. I am very process-driven and enjoy creating technical documentation. I have a methodical and analytical approach to problem-solving whilst maintaining the highest of standards. I am passionate about technology with the ability to learn new technology and adapt to different situations.  

    My willingness to work efficiently to build (acquire) knowledge on systems, hardware, and software. Also, I have developed a broad knowledge and understanding of all aspects of computing, networking, and troubleshooting skills. 

    How did you become interested in working in tech? 
    Growing up, I wanted to be a pediatrician, a medical practitioner specializing in children and their diseases. Then looked at working in the army in emergency response but with an IT intelligence role after University.  I studied Business Studies with Sociology and Religious Studies/Philosophy. Followed by BSc (Honours) Computing and IT (Sandwich Course) (2:1), the University of Surrey, with a dissertation project, developed a Smart Key Concept. I completed an excellent work placement with Infrastructure Support for Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Ltd. 

    My first role was in retail part-time alongside my studies. Still, I have over eight years of experience working in IT in different industries, from Hospitality, Consulting to Financial Services. 

    Tell us about your journey into tech? 
    I studied my Computing & IT degree at the University of Surrey with a one-year industrial placement at Rolls-Royce. I worked part-time throughout my studies and then had a part-time job alongside my IT roles. I wanted to be independent and didn't want to rely on my parents; they always worked so hard and deserved to stand on my own two feet to cover my tuition fees. 

    I struggled to find a role in technology when I graduated. I was told that I didn't have enough experience or need IT certifications considering I just graduated with a four-year degree, including a year in the industry. Thinking about having a student loan to pay, I looked at IT training programs to join but preferred to get on-the-job training where I can study at the same time. I started working at Carphone Warehouse that later merged with Best Buy and now Geek Squad as a Sales Consultant, but everyone could see my technical skills. I was more focused on resolving queries rather than selling equipment. This enabled me to work on the queries that we would get daily or troubleshoot customer issues. At the start of my career, I rarely saw many women in Tech roles and fewer black women. It did make me fear that how could I progress going forwards. In the initial stages of each position, I was mainly the first or sometimes only black woman on the team. However, to make it clear, I would never join a company to be part of their demographic or a tick box exercise. 

    My first IT job was supporting the Dubai Royal family across their UK properties, and I worked at Rathbones for nearly five years, then PA Consulting, and fast forward to July 2019, I joined LSEG. At LSEG, I work in the Desktop Services Team within Corporate Technology, and it is very fast-paced, which I enjoy. 

    Outside of my current role, I am part of the UK Wellbeing Committee, WIN Community, help the UK Charity Committee, and a Mental Health Awareness Champion. I want to make a difference and promote diversity.

    As a Senior Analyst at LSEG, my role includes supporting colleagues with their hardware queries, applications and providing second-line support daily. I am very process-driven and enjoy creating technical documentation. I have a methodical and analytical approach to problem-solving and am dedicated to maintaining the highest of standards. I am passionate about technology and can learn new technology and adapt to different operating environments. My willingness to work efficiently had enabled me to build knowledge on a wide range of systems, hardware and software. I have also acquired broad knowledge and understanding of all aspects of computing, networking and troubleshooting skills. 

    My role is client-facing, which allows me to meet new people across the business, collaborating and resolving their technical issues. I learn about new technology and the most effective way to use it every day. There are continually new processes and enhancements in technology, so my role also involves reading up on the latest technology advancements, attending webinars and networking. Knowledge is power. You need to be team orientated, analytical, enjoy collaborating, react to changes and follow the IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL), which is a library of volumes describing a framework of best practices for delivering IT services. 

    I am a member of the British Computer Society working towards becoming a Chartered Professional through a Career Development Plan of continuous learning. I want to be involved in Project Management and navigate to cyber security in the defense industry. I have a big focus on mental health, being a STEM ambassador, and diversity and inclusion in Tech. 

    For me, I’m striving to achieve self-fulfillment. I want to keep networking, mentoring, and being curious by continuous learning, context switching, and challenging myself. Outside of my daily role, I want to become a trustee in the Education sector by 2024, this would help combine my passion for philanthropy/humanitarian aid where I use technology to drive sustainable development goals and social impact, and to raise awareness of neurodiversity and help young girls achieve their goals in STEM through mentorship/ being an ambassador. I enjoy variety as you learn more about the wider world. 

    Any advice you would like to give to girls in STEM on pursuing their dreams? 

    I would advise looking for a mentor in Technology. Sponsors, Coaches, Mentors, Community, Colleagues, and friends have helped me enhance my career development. So important! Many people have helped me to grow both personally and professionally. 
    I'm a big believer in having more than one mentor to provide support and encouragement. Some of the fantastic mentors in the past few years who have been there for me are Jennifer Burns, Rav Bumbra, Bev Shah, Neelam Kaul, Jo Thackwray, Anna Znachko and Ovo Gharoro. I have learned so much from these incredible women by having open conversations and discussing shared experiences.  I have been fortunate to be part of a few Mentoring schemes from Like Minded Females, City Hive, and LSEG Mentor Exchange.

    This is also why I mentor young individuals in STEM roles as a STEM Ambassador and their journey in the workplace.

    Mentoring or even participating in a mentoring circle is so important to provide knowledge of the industry or job role and provides a support network to discuss how to maneuver your career. It is important to be aware of the difference between a mentor and a sponsor. A mentor helps you improve at your job, but a sponsor can help you move up in your career. 

    Mentorship is important as you receive guidance from an experienced professional to support you in your current role and you can discuss any obstacles that you may be experiencing or how to get to the next level. Also, it can help to expand your network through connections and being introduced to others in the industry. Other aspects of mentorship involve discussing both short and long-term goals but remember this is a two-way process. It will adapt and change based on the needs of the mentee, but in the early stages to deliver a good rapport both the mentor and mentee should discuss a schedule and how frequently to meet to establish a better connection. 
    I have been fortunate to have amazing mentors where we have similar working practices and are in sync to have a great work relationship where we can discuss different ideas and how to create change in the workplace. Using my experience as a mentee, I am now taking the role of mentor to help others be the best version of themselves as a Cajigo Mentor.