Meet Lana, one of our DevOps interns!
16 May 2022
Lana Sakkoul is a third-year bachelor’s student in Applied Information Technology at HOGENT. She chose to specialise in system and network management, and in her last semester she is doing an internship at FlowFactor, a DevOps service provider part of the Cronos Group. Lana’s dream is to become a successful woman in tech. And to achieve that success she sees technical knowledge, skills and experience as the key ingredients. We have a feeling her determination won’t hurt either. 🔻
The forbidden fruit
Lana moved from Syria to Belgium in 2016, at the age of 20. She learnt Dutch and enrolled at HOGENT three years ago. The Applied Information Technology course was an obvious choice after developing an interest in computers as a young girl.
Lana, how old were you when you first got interested in IT?
“I was eight when my older sister got a computer. It was the first time I’d seen one and straight away I found it really interesting. Of course, my sister didn’t let me touch it. It was her computer. But this only made me more curious. To make up for it, my sister bought me a PlayStation, but I preferred sitting next to her, watching her use the computer. After a while, I would wait impatiently for my sister to leave the house so I could secretly use it myself. She still doesn’t know I did that!”
“In Syria we have a saying: ‘Everything that is forbidden is attractive.’ Perhaps this is the main reason I developed an interest in IT. Because I was doing something that wasn’t allowed.”
Did you play games on the computer then?
“Yes, but I also tried out all the buttons. I really wanted to know how it all worked but sometimes it went wrong. This was a problem because my sister was studying technology at school, and she needed her computer for that. Luckily she didn’t know it was me who broke it.”
“My big sister bought me a PlayStation because she didn’t want me to use her computer. But I secretly used it anyway and that’s how I taught myself IT.”
Self-made IT girl
So you taught yourself IT?
“That’s how it started, yes, and it actually went really well. After a few years I became the ‘IT girl’ in the family and at school. For anything related to cabling and computer problems, everyone came to me for a solution.”
When you’re already so good at computers at such a young age, it seems obvious to continue with it. But Lana was doubting between two courses.
Did you always want to study IT later on?
“Not necessarily. Besides computer science, I was also interested in biology. That was my favourite subject at school. When I started studying, I was doubting between biomedical sciences and IT. I actually saw myself working in a lab, but a few people I knew convinced me to go for technology after all. It was their enthusiasm for IT that convinced me.”
Now you’re about to graduate from HOGENT and you chose to specialise in system and network management. Why did you choose that?
“I didn’t really find programming in .NET or Java or something that interesting. System and network management is broader than programming or just writing code. It’s much more varied and I like that.”
Lana is completing her bachelor’s degree with a three-month internship in a company. She deliberately chose the field of DevOps and this is how she ended up at FlowFactor.
“This internship has made me realise even more who I am and what I like to do, which definitely includes DevOps. I would like to make it my career.”
Can you tell us about your internship at FlowFactor?
“I’d been interested in DevOps for a while and wanted to find out whether it would live up to my expectations in practice. During my initial conversation at FlowFactor there was an immediate click on a personal level, so that already ticked the first box. I also like the work I’m doing within the company. I’m using OpenShift and working on the security of the cluster. Really exciting! This internship has made me realise even more who I am and what I like to do, which definitely includes DevOps. I would like to make it my career.”
Lana hasn’t had it easy in recent years. She’s a go-getter, that’s for sure.
What are you most proud of?
“I’m very proud that I’m in my last semester of Applied Information Technology. My family is still in Saudi Arabia. It’s not easy for a non-Dutch-speaking student to get this far on their own. This is my biggest achievement till now.”
What challenges are you still facing?
“Every day I face two challenges, both related to DevOps tools. The first is the large amount of DevOps tools available, which makes choosing very difficult, especially when you don’t know enough about the technology behind them. The second challenge is the lack of general knowledge about the tools, something I experience as an intern. I always have to be eager to learn, but I don’t mind that. One of the main ways for me to become a successful IT professional is to stay up to date with the latest technologies and be able to work with a range of tools to meet customer requirements.”
How do you approach that? How do you want to achieve that?
“By continuously gathering information and always trying to learn how to use as many new tools as possible. I study a lot, until late at night, at the moment focused on DevOps for my internship.”
You said you want to become a successful IT professional. What does success mean for you?
“It is indeed my ambition to become a successful woman in tech. Success for me is all about having the necessary experience, skills and technical knowledge. The content is the most important thing for me. For example, I’m ecstatic when, after a lot of searching, I finally manage to solve a problem. It gives me such a good feeling.”
A clear message for women
“A real woman is who she wants to be.”
What is it like being a woman in tech?
“I once read a quote that stuck with me: ‘Being a woman in a team of all men means you’re going to have a unique voice. It is important to embrace that.’ I totally agree. My first priority is that I do what I like doing.”
And there’s something else Lana wants to add: “I would like to motivate other women to do something in IT. Out of the 70 students on my course, only three are women. That’s disappointing. Technology is an important part of our daily lives. The digital world continues to evolve and the technology sector is growing exponentially. Women should also have the courage to get involved. A real woman is who she wants to be.”
Lana Sakkoul is a high-flyer, of that we’re convinced. She knows exactly where she’s headed and how she thinks she’ll get there. A great example for girls interested in IT and women who want to develop further in tech.
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