My Pivot Journal is a Ventures Africa weekly series documenting people’s career transitions from one industry to another, especially to tech.
Akpapka Aghogho and her circle of friends were raised in an oil-rich state in Nigeria, where their collective aspiration was to work for big oil corporations like Exxon Mobil or Shell. Their conviction dictated that Engineering was the definitive path, thus they honed their calculation skills and excelled in Mathematics. However, fate had a different plan in store for Aghogho. Five years after graduating with an Engineering degree, an unforeseen restructuring at her workplace would eventually lead her towards discovering her true purpose as a Data Analyst. This is her pivot journal.
How it started
My name is Akpakpa Aghogho and I am a career mom in my 30s. I was born and raised in a small community in Sapele, Delta State, one of the oil-producing communities in Nigeria. During my childhood, my friends and I harboured a dream of working with one of the big oil companies in Delta State. We yearned to experience the thrill of working offshore for weeks and returning in a grand helicopter. We believed that the only path to achieving this dream was by becoming an engineer, so we spent a lot of time practising calculations. As a result, I became proficient in mathematics.
My father worked as a staff member of the now-defunct National Electric Power Authority (NEPA). I attended NEPA Staff Secondary School in Sapele and later enrolled at the University of Benin to pursue a Bachelor’s Degree in Electrical and Electronic Engineering, which I completed in late 2012. Upon completing my one-year mandatory National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) in Anambra State, I relocated to Lagos in 2014 in search of employment. Unfortunately, I couldn’t secure an engineering job at the time. However, I found work as a teacher in a privately-owned secondary school. I taught Mathematics and English, earning a monthly salary of N20,000. Later, I got another job as a church administrator.
I was barely six months into the job when a friend told me of an opening for meter installation supervisors in the Project Management Office of the Port Harcourt Electricity Distribution Company. I applied and got the job as a contract worker in June 2015. I learnt how to install prepaid and maximum-demand energy meters on the job. Afterwards, I applied as a graduate trainee to a sister company, Income Electrix Limited, in July 2016 and got the job.
I continued as a meter installation supervisor and later became a project management officer still in the metering dept. In November 2019, shortly after my second maternity leave, there was an organisational restructuring that led to my return to Port Harcourt Electricity Distribution Plc as a Meter Installation (MIS) Officer. But on my return, I met a reshuffled office and was informed that I would be working with the technical partners as a Data Analyst.
Transitioning was challenging for me. In my new role as a data analyst, I had to present reports using numbers and dashboards, including projections that I had no prior knowledge of. For the first two months, I struggled and cried a lot because I felt useless in the department. Initially, I thought someone was deliberately trying to frustrate me out of my job with the new role. But with the help of a colleague, I began to enjoy the whole thing.
Soon, it became like maths to me. Maths was my best subject in school, so, I decided to make lemonade out of the lemon I was given. In January 2020, I fully transitioned into tech as a Data Analyst.
I am very curious and love to learn new things. And because I learn fast, I immediately started seeking additional resources. I watched numerous YouTube videos on developing a comprehensive and interactive dashboard. I went on to enrol in both free and paid courses including Power BI, and Introduction to QSL and kept learning new functions in Excel to stay updated. Some of the Excel courses I have taken include, Basic Excel, Introduction to Excel
Excel functions, Conditional functions in Excel ( Sumifs, Countifs, Ifs, etc), Combining and manipulating functions, the Lookup Functions (V, X, H lookup), Advance Excel, VBA and Macro.
I also was privileged to get free mentorship from an Indian expert, a data scientist, among the technical partners. He coached me for a great while and that made the process smooth for me. All I needed was to understand functions, what they do and how they worked.
How it’s going
I am currently working as a Data Analyst in the billing department of Port Harcourt Electricity Distribution Plc (PHED). My job entails I bill rightly. With a large number of customers that uses PHED’s services, the database is very large and requires my analytical skill to navigate through in other to bill right. Thus, I cannot afford any mistakes because that could cost the company millions of dollars.
I won’t say that I completely have it figured out because, in the tech world, new things keep popping up so one has to stay abreast and keep upskilling with new trends. I understand that I did not study data analysis as my first degree, so, I keep learning every day. I am currently taking another online course in Data Science. I have to stay on top of my game.
Identify in-demand skills in the tech industry, such as coding, data analysis, project management, or cybersecurity you wish to learn and go for it.
Take courses, attend workshops and boot camps, and build and demonstrate your skills. Also, remember that transitioning to a career in tech takes time, effort, and persistence. So, stay focused on your goals and keep working towards them. With the right skills, attitude, and approach, you can successfully transition to a career in tech.