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Akua Opong: from Business Studies to Senior Analyst

Social media handle(s): LinkedIn

A few words about me:

A black Neurodivergent woman in a cream dress doing a superhero pose

I work as a Senior Analyst within the Infrastructure and Cloud Team at LSEG (London Stock Exchange Group). As part of my role, I mentor new starters in the team, including interns and graduates, and provide technical guidance to colleagues across the Group.

Outside of my main role, I'm a keen diversity & inclusion advocate, UK Accessibility lead, a mental health champion and a Community lead for LSEG's Women's Inspired Network. I'm passionate about raising the profile of Women in STEM, as a STEM ambassador and Cajigo mentor.

I'm also a Neurodiversity advocate (self identify as Dyslexic and have ADHD), a fundraiser, Team London ambassador, a charity volunteer, and a keen sports volunteer for Netball England and British Athletics. I was born in the year of the tiger in the Chinese calendar and like butterflies. I love travelling and was lucky to experience hang gliding in Rio a few years ago.

Are there any professional experiences you've had that are quite unexpected compared to what you do nowadays?

Yes, working as a Service Desk Analyst for the Dubai Royal family. It was very busy during the summer. We supported multiple sites in the UK, Geneva and Dubai.

Is your background more STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) or non-STEM related?

Both, STEM and non-STEM.

Where did your professional journey start?

Growing up, I wanted to be a Paediatrician, diagnosing and treating health conditions that affect babies, children and young people. Then I 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. My studies were followed by BSc (Honours) Computing and IT (Sandwich Course) at the University of Surrey, with a dissertation project developing a Smart Key Concept. I also completed an excellent work placement with Infrastructure Support for Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Ltd.

My first IT job was supporting the Dubai Royal family across their UK properties; 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 Infrastructure and Cloud; it is very fast-paced, which I love.

How did you get into tech and what motivated you?

I was quite creative growing up, drawing, doing artwork and was always fixing things at home. Even when I worked as a Sales Consultant, I spent more time dealing with queries or troubleshooting faults than selling mobile phone contracts as I was a problem solver.

Have you experienced any 'career in tech' challenges / stereotypes?

Sometimes I was the only woman in the tech teams or even the only black woman at first. It was challenging to feel that sometimes your voice is not heard.

I recommend the film Hidden Figures as this focuses on three trailblazing women in STEM. One in particular, Katherine Johnson the Mathematician that worked for NASA once said “I was excited at something new, always liked something new, but give credit to everybody who helped. I didn't do anything alone but try to go to the root of the question and succeed there.”

She was my inspiration in terms of how to overcome challenges.

Be open to multiple possibilities, don't allow the Imposter Syndrome or a lack of confidence to stop you. Be brave enough to go for it! This also includes looking for role models in the industry and helping to set a benchmark for others. When we see others that look like us in a room, it gives us a chance and makes us feel like we belong. Never stop believing what you can become in the future.

"Stand up for what you believe in, don't just imitate others – be your authentic self."

What you wish you knew before getting started in tech...

Develop a growth mindset and commit yourself to continuous learning. I think this is essential to succeed in the tech industry, but I try to apply this to several areas of my life – keep learning, keep developing new skills – invest 30 minutes every day in self-development.

Never lose yourself. Put yourself forward to be your advocate and cheerleader that shows self-belief.

Think about the things you care deeply about – have some values, understand clearly what you bring to the table. Stand up for what you believe in, don't just imitate others – be your authentic self.

More advice specifically for women in STEM:

- Break down barriers and stereotypes

- Provide confidence for other women to pursue careers in tech

- Bring authenticity

- Relay own experiences and opinions

- Demonstrate how to navigate without feeling unworthy

- Continuous improvement

- Be persistent

- Think outside the box.

What has been your biggest 'wow!' moment related to working in tech so far?

The impact technology makes in people's lives from young children to adults. How technology is used in medicine or even sustainability or the environment! It is fascinating what you can create each day.

What do you like / not like about working in tech?

Technology is always changing and new technology is always being introduced. Everyday you are learning something new.

Sometimes you can work long hours but it depends on the role and what is your motivation. I have a strong work ethic so I don't mind.

I also want to see more representation at all levels of the business.

"Be open to multiple possibilities, don't allow the Imposter Syndrome or a lack of confidence to stop you. Be brave enough to go for it!"

What's been your favourite / most memorable / funniest 'career in tech' moment so far?

Memorable - winning the CEO Inspiration award (but true to my normal self, I was working away when it was announced that I had won).

Funniest - I would love to do puppy yoga every week.

Favourite - being grateful for being in this industry. Little girls with dreams, become women with vision!

And to wrap up, is there any advice you'd like to give to others interested in a career in tech?

Sponsors, coaches, mentors, community, colleagues and friends have helped me enhance my career development. Many people have helped me grow both personally and professionally.

My recommendation is to build yourself a network - colleagues, friends, mentors, sponsors, coaches, community and family - surround yourself with many people who you trust, who can be a sounding board for your ideas, who can challenge you, and who will help you see and seize new opportunities when they present themselves.

And lastly, meet with other black women in the industry to help drive change. This is so important! We need intersectionality at all times.


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