My Pivot Journal is a Ventures Africa weekly series documenting people’s career transitions from one industry to another, especially to tech.
Chiamaka Obitube’s desire to have a transferable skill that could take her anywhere in the world, without being confined to the limitations of a legal career has led to her current role as a DevOps Engineer based in Paris where she is contributing to the ever-evolving tech space. Here is her pivot journal.
How it started
In 2016, I graduated from Nnamdi Azikiwe University where I studied law for five years, then I went to law school. Afterwards, I did my mandatory youth service and worked in a law firm for a year.
It all began when I came to Lagos for what was supposed to be a holiday. Coincidentally, it was around the time when Mark Zuckerberg visited Nigeria for the first time. The day after, I met with some friends who were working in the tech industry, and my curiosity was piqued.
My friend explained what coding was about and what he did at Andela, a global job placement network for software developers. I started studying to get into the Andela fellowship program, even though I knew very little about coding. I registered for their boot camp, but I had to put that on hold because of law school. Yet, I couldn’t shake off the feeling that law might limit my career opportunities, especially if I ever wanted to work outside Nigeria.
During law school, I began attending tech meetups, I still had a lot to learn and I knew I needed to connect with the tech community. After completing law school, I returned to Lagos. A friend of mine was running a Facebook developer circle and asked me to join as a writer. I enjoyed writing and had a blog, it was an opportunity to immerse myself in the tech space. I began publishing posts on Medium and writing about the community’s events. This allowed me to engage with more developers, sparking my interest even further.
During my youth service, I realized I couldn’t see myself practising law. So, I started applying for various roles related to community management. My experience organizing meetups, giving talks, and being part of the Facebook developer circle was an asset. It was how I secured my first role as a community manager at FindWorka, a startup that matched developers and designers with companies. My job was to bridge the gap between talent and opportunity.
In June, I saw an advert on Twitter for Microsoft Leap, a program created by Microsoft for people with non-technical backgrounds to transition into tech. I decided to take the leap and apply. I believed that to succeed in tech, I needed a hands-on role and not just community management.
The program spanned four months and offered the opportunity to work with Microsoft or its partners while learning more about Microsoft tools. The program focused on cloud services like Azure, and it was during this time that I discovered my passion for DevOps.
The allure of working behind the scenes, dealing with complex systems, and continuously learning drew me in. Leveraging my experience with Azure and Microsoft services, I decided to pursue certifications. I believed they could open doors for me in the industry. After passing my certification exam, I shared the news on Twitter, which led to numerous companies reaching out to me.
I secured my first DevOps role through social media. However, as I settled into the job, I realized it might not be the perfect fit. Many Nigerian companies were more interested in the idea of DevOps than actually implementing it effectively. Despite the challenges, being the sole DevOps engineer at the company gave me valuable experience.
How it’s going
After some time, I realized that I needed a more structured environment with established processes to enhance my skills. So I continued my job search while I worked. To my surprise, Nomba, a company I had previously interviewed with reached out again, offering me a DevOps position. I had a supportive team and a manager who mentored me in DevOps best practices and problem-solving.
Meanwhile, it wasn’t just certifications that helped me transition into DevOps; networking and social media played a central role. Building connections and putting myself out there on platforms like Twitter opened doors for me.
Transitioning into tech from a non-technical background was certainly challenging, mainly due to my lack of prior technical knowledge. I had to invest extra time and effort in personal learning and development. Additionally, there were few role models or peers in similar situations to turn to for guidance.
Today, I work as a DevOps engineer at an insuretech company, primarily focusing on supporting machine learning engineers in deploying their models in production. My role encompasses infrastructure deployment, CI/CD pipelines, networking, and everything needed to make machine-learning models available to users. It’s a role that constantly challenges me, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
It might be tough, but stay persistent. Strive to improve daily, and soon, you will be great at what you do. Don’t let naysayers discourage you because they think it is hard.