Meet Your Mentor – a Conversation with Michael Ifeanyi about Life and Career￼
Michael Ifeanyi is a DevOps engineer whose pathway was far from linear. And yet, Michael’s life experiences and professional experiences alike have all contributed to the person that he is at this point in time, doing what he is at this moment. Michael went through the Your DevOps Mentor experience as a mentee. Now, he’s come full circle; he’s working as a mentor for others in addition to his job as a Technical Solutions Specialist at Google.
The following is an interview with Michael, tracing everything from his first childhood interest in technology to his immigration from Nigeria to Canada to his approach to mentoring.
Introduce yourself. Tell me about your childhood.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
I grew up in my home country of Nigeria. When I was younger, I wanted to be lots of things—a pilot, a doctor, and more. I was always fascinated by technical gadgets, and I remember the first time I got to learn about computers at school. I was in Primary 3—this was around the mid-1990’s and the school brought in huge CRT monitors to teach us about computers. Seeing the Windows ’95 screen, and then seeing all of the functions I could learn to use, was beyond exciting. I felt inspired by learning about how to put all those pieces together. You feel important when you actually get your hands on these kinds of things.
Where did those interests take you in your early career?
In Nigeria, I learned the traditional IT admin role and had a job as a systems administrator for a five-star hotel. I handled all the IT infrastructure that kept the hotel up and running from a technical standpoint. Information Technology has been my “first love” career, and I enjoyed being able to navigate my way through the daily workings of the role. I was always learning, trying to stay up to date on the latest trends within the space.
You immigrated to Canada in 2017.
What was that experience like?
How did it impact your career and life?
Moving from Nigeria to Canada wasn’t easy. I had three of my study permit applications refused before I was finally approved to move to Canada. Once I finally made the move, I had to remain a permanent resident in Canada for three years before applying for my citizenship. I’m grateful to say that as of 2021, I am officially Canadian. Certainly, immigration itself is an adjustment and could be challenging in different ways. That said, I’ll admit that one of the largest shocks I experienced was the climate – I moved from sunny Lagos where temperatures clocked 32 degrees Celsius to cold Regina which gets as much as -52 degrees(+windchill) during winter! It’s amazing how we humans can adapt.
I think immigration impacted me the most in my career. When I first moved, I thought that my experience in IT would get me a job immediately. That wasn’t the case. I realized that I was facing what is often the cultural reality of an immigrant – you may need to start over. I shifted dynamics to the realities of life and was able to get a position as a Customer Service Representative before I was promoted to Project Resource Planner at Saskpower Corporation (the provincial power corporation). While I appreciated the job and the new things I was learning and supporting in my position, I also quickly wanted to get back to what I loved best – Information Technology.
How did you get back into IT?
I was itching to get back into technology, and that itchiness propelled me to remain constantly learning. The more you’re out of IT, the rustier you can become. The industry moves fast and is constantly developing. I tried to keep tabs on changes by reading and taking certification courses.
What was your early exposure to DevOps and cloud infrastructure like?
In Nigeria, the cloud had not yet reached the mainstream, so my introduction to the cloud took place in Canada while I was job-hunting. I used LinkedIn to analyze the open job opportunities and saw that most were cloud-inclined. I realized I needed a huge paradigm shift in my career path to stay relevant and skill up to bridge the knowledge gap.
This period happened to coincide with a time of early DevOps adoption by major companies. With more and more businesses switching to cloud infrastructure, these companies were offering free and reduced-cost classes to encourage engineers to learn new cloud concepts and meet changing demands. I did take advantage of this opportunity to learn – I completed the self-learning of Microsoft Azure fundamentals and the Associate level solutions architect in AWS after which I go certified in both.
You became a mentee in Your DevOps Mentor.
What was that experience like?
As I got deeper into cloud technologies and ramped up my job search in the IT space, I realized I needed someone to help guide me along a path that made sense for my goals. I connected with Vladimir on LinkedIn and he helped me make a roadmap to actually follow. We used this roadmap as an action plan as I started learning more DevOps tools like Terraform, Docker, and Kubernetes. Vladimir opened my eyes to the tricks of the trade and best practices in DevOps which I keep learning. After the mentorship, I revamped my LinkedIn profile and resume and prepared myself for experiencing the new world of DevOps engineering.
What did you learn during the process of entering the DevOps job field?
Firstly, getting a job didn’t happen with a snap of my fingers, and the process was frustrating at times. But the key to my success was staying in the game and remaining resilient. Success also came from realizing the two things that you need to get a job nowadays: Knowledge of the field and networking abilities. Knowing the technical aspects of a job is just one-half. The rest is all about connecting with others and positioning yourself as not just a job candidate, but someone who can provide value to the business.
How did you become a mentor at Your DevOps Mentor? What is your approach to training others?
I was a mentee in 2021. Soon after, Vladimir reached out to me with the opportunity to be a mentor. I was surprised…me? A mentor? I wasn’t sure what that would be like. But I decided to challenge myself. Now I see that being a mentor makes a lot of sense. I have been in the same shoes as new mentees. I understand where their frustrations are coming from. To me, mentorship is all about where you are in your journey—you can give an outstretched hand to another that is willing to walk the path. I approach mentorship from this perspective. First, I know that I need to establish a relationship with a mentee: that’s the starting point then we can move to higher grounds by having deeper conversations about goals and developing action plans.
I’ve found that the best advice for frustrated mentees has been reframing how they think about the job process. I encourage people to ask: What have you done? What position have you painted yourself in? What can you offer? Networking isn’t just about reaching out, sharing your resume, and asking about a job neither is life all about what you can expect; It’s also about the value you can give. Introduce yourself as someone who can provide value, not just take. Ask for a virtual coffee chat, or something casual, first. It’s a relationship. When people know your skillset and value, then they are more likely to introduce you to their network.
Looking back at some of your past careers, how have they influenced you and your mentorship style?
All the careers I’ve had have influenced my life in a certain manner. In particular, I’ve taken away two lessons: Always be willing to share knowledge, never stop learning, and use your skillsets. This will open a lot of doors for you.
And the future?
Right now, I’m focusing on my job as a technical solutions specialist with Google and trainee mentor with Your DevOps Mentor. I’m still learning more advanced technologies to be better at what I do. And I’m excited to share what I know with others as a mentor.
From your perspective as a past mentee, why should an aspiring cloud engineer seek out Your DevOps Mentor?
When I was looking for a mentor, I wasn’t looking for someone who didn’t understand me. I wanted someone who would listen to me, understand my problems, and communicate those problems back to me in my language. Everyone wants to be listened to. Everyone wants to be heard. Everyone wants to be understood. I got this from Your DevOps Mentor, and I aim to provide it now as well.