Working Via The Cloud – with Nkem Uwaje Begho

‘I think that organisations as well by seeing how disruptive this crisis has been to their businesses and has been to collecting data, to being able to work remotely and being able to share information with clients, with vendors, and with their teams will realise that a cloud first strategy is something that we really have to invest in’

She goes by the name, Nkemdilim Uwaje Begho. She is the founder and managing director of Future Software Resources Limited, a digital marketing, e-learning and IT consultancy firm. She is respected and recognised as a leader in her industry. Her success is founded on a passion for driving innovative thinking, building a globally recognised technology brand and setting trends in the Nigerian technology space. 

Q: How does working via the cloud make your business smarter and a lot more secure?

So, I think that there are a couple of things right? Number 1, I would say is efficiency. Being able to share documents and share tasks or any type of resources that you have with your team, real-time and have collaboration across documents where multiple people are working on one document. I also think in terms of security, you have to consider different things right? It’s on your physical laptop and your laptop is not stolen or the hard drive crashes right? How easy can you retrieve your files, right? Another thing to sort of think about also, is that these cloud services have been set up to be very secure and a lot of them have additional security like two-factor authentication or encryption mechanisms that you can include, you can share files and information only with specific people. So, I think that there are a lot of ways that you can actually make sure your files are secure.

In terms of how it benefits you and your company, I mean collaboration is the best thing. Being able to put everything in one place so no matter who is looking for what, you can always refer to something that is saved in the cloud. I think that cloud services are definitely the way to go for most businesses. Obviously, there are businesses that are highly regulated like banks that are forced by regulation to have their data hosted in physical data centres. So, when you are setting up your business, you need to sort of look at what are the regulations? What are the available methods? I also think that a lot of cloud solutions are cheaper than deploying physical networks in offices. 

 

Q: Do you think our country’s identity system would be a lot better with cloud computing?

So, I think that our identity management has a lot of issues and probably the method of hosting the data is probably the least of issues right? I think, first of all, being able to identify a person for who they really are is our biggest problem. Simply because we have so many sources of collecting information that is not necessarily correct and that have not sorted of been collated and synchronized in a way that you have a true identity for a person. You go to one place and they forget your middle name or initials, they misspell your name and because you have not bothered to fix it, your identity is suddenly different than somewhere else.

Every Nigerian has one story or the other where it’s either your place of birth or it’s your state of origin that is wrong. It’s some other identifier that is wrong. So, I think our biggest problem is really data authenticity and making sure that we have sources that are verified and that we also sort of synchronize data across the different sources and that we make sure that we have one true data set that is verified and can be seen as a final data set. Most organizations, even the banks that have very good data sets actually still struggle with this type of information which is why they are constantly calling to do additional KYC and ask additional questions to verify your current address because you may have moved and they have not updated their system or one other thing that can lead to massive inconsistency in their data. So, it’s really hard for them to keep track of their data and to make sure that their data is up to date. 

 

Q: Africa’s cloud and data centre ecosystem will eventually be a land of serious opportunity. What is your take on this

Ok so, I think that especially with this pandemic that has forced everyone to go remote; we have really seen that cloud is the number one way of collaborating right? There are more zoom meetings going on, data being shared whether it’s via drive or dropbox or any of the other services. There is more collaboration going on whether it’s on teams or via Skype. Whatever platform is preferred, all of these platforms are actually hosted in the cloud. What I think is going to happen is that we are going to see much more start-ups actually focusing on building this type of infrastructure that allows remote working, that is locally built.

If we look at what happens when a service like Zoom decides you know what, we can no longer support Africa because there are too many requests, too much crime, too much whatever it is that is coming from there and they shut it off. What happens when a service like Netflix is no longer available in Africa, what happens when a service like Teams is no longer available. Do we have alternatives? And the answer is no right? So we actually have to invest in building our own enterprise collaboration and remote working systems and tools and all of those will be hosted in the cloud. I think that organisations as well by seeing how disruptive this crisis has been to their businesses and has been to collect data, to being able to work remotely and being able to share information with clients, with vendors, and with their teams will realise that a cloud-first strategy is something that necessarily really invest in and once you start seeing those investments, you will actually start seeing opportunities for cloud service providers as well as data centres across Nigeria that are already there and they already host AWS servers. So, they will also be able to expand further and that will also help with a lot of latency that we have by accessing services because we will be locally hosted in the country but still in the cloud. 

So, I think that we are going to see a lot of opportunities in the entire technology space. But, I think that computing power will be one of the things that will be really important and this is where we look at cloud computing and we look at quantum computing as well. I think opportunities will abound in that space, however, they will also require a lot of heavy investment right? So it will not be something that small start-ups will be able to play in, in my opinion. I think it will be more companies that are already established, like Rex center, MainOne, 21st century that will be able to really play in this space and really harness the benefits because they have already invested and built the infrastructure.

They all have between Tier 3 and Tier 4 data centres and they are expanding and Nigeria is a really big hub for also Pan-African cloud services and data hosting services. So, I think these types of businesses will really be able to accelerate their growth and I think that we will see a lot of smaller businesses that will pay back that these figure companies will offer and that will build actual cloud solutions because I think we need both right? We need the infrastructure side where we host but then we need the solution side as well where we have actual enterprise solutions that are being built for the local environment and that are hosted locally as well. Just that, we also understand as a long-term strategy that we have to as a nation reduce the dependencies that we have and become creators rather than the consumers.

I think that cloud services will be driven by the need for these types of collaborative and remote working services that are local, that is, for example, being able to pay for something in Naira denomination as opposed to having to use dollars with the currency being further depreciated. We are going to see a lot more businesses offering Naira based services that will excel and I think that these are really big opportunities that we can harness in the very near future.   

 

Q: How do you think women in tech can gain visibility ahead of their teammates?

So, I think that when it comes to technology, the most important part really is your skills. If you don’t have the right skills, you can create all the visibility you want but still not move forward or climb the ladder. Technology is really about ‘if you’re good, you’re good’ and people will recognize it. If you’re not good or you’re mediocre, people will know and also recognize it. People who are good will always find opportunities but what can you do to go a little bit further and amplify; so let’s assume that you are already good, obviously you would continue to build on your skills but the other thing, that I would suggest to do is to really focus on building your personal brand right? Building your personal brand to me is really important, I never really understood how important it was until I saw the results of it. My dad actually told me to focus on building my personal brand and putting stuff out there that I was doing from when I was 25. When I did not do it, he will just go ahead and do it. I would go and speak at a conference and he will be like ‘tell me the key points that you spoke about at the conference’. Then, he would get a journalist to publish it in one of the papers. And that’s how I sort of started to build my brand. I guess not everyone is going to have a dad that is very pushy and acts as your PR agent but you can do a lot by yourself. 

When I started my business I was 25, that was 12 years ago and it was a different world. You couldn’t get visibility by social media or by writing a blog, the way that you can now or doing video content, So, I think document your journey, celebrate the wins, share knowledge, add value to people, put your arm down and lift up the next generation coming after you regardless of what level you are. If you are entry-level in a job, people have just graduated right? They are not where you are and they want to be where you are. Help them understand how to get there. Also, connect to people who are higher than you, especially build networks of women. What I found is that a lot of women are really focused and intentionally helping the women to climb the ladder, to unlock opportunities and I think that if you are intentional about finding these women, you will be able to see opportunities that are absolutely amazing and really vast.

So, I think that it is really being intentional and actually investing in sharing information, investing in building your network. Those are the things that will help you gain more visibility. The foundation of it all is, you have to know your stuff. You cannot come half-baked and just put some packaging on it. You won’t go very far and that’s both for men and women. But I think for women especially, it is really knowing your stuff so that when you’re in that presentation or boardroom where they are already second-guessing you, that they will just go away with their jaws dropping like ‘Oh my God! She’s amazing’ right? I think that is what you have to aim for, so you have to be able to show up every single time and you have to be able to really deliver 150% all the time. So, you need to be disciplined, you need to be on your toes all the time and you need to make sure that you are intentional about all of those things that I have just mentioned.

 

Q: What are your three non-negotiables?

The first one would be excellence and I think everybody that knows me would agree with that. The second one I think would be discipline and the third one I think would be life-long learning. I think that if you are not a life-long learner, you will always be very limited right? Because it will affect so many things. In order to be a life-long learner, you obviously have to have a growth mindset to continuously learn and continuously be able to sort of focus on excellence and excellence will only come if you are an actual life-long learner. All of those things are tied together by discipline because if you don’t have the discipline to be a life-long learner and to have a growth mindset and to deliver excellence over and over again. You won’t be able to have any of those three key components which are my three non-negotiables.

 

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