Eighteen months ago, in the halcyon days of Summer 2017, I made the difficult decision after 13 years to leave my career in the British Army and move onto pastures new in the long-forgotten sunny uplands of Civvie Street. The subsequent year and a half saw me somehow transition successfully into civilian life, with blind faith, dogged determination and good luck miraculously negating a smattering of mistakes and shear panic as I faced the daunting prospect of re-entering the job market.
I am now six months into my new role as Devops Engineer with Cloud Gateway, and I can honestly say that all the stress, worry and doubts during my transition are but a faded memory. Although I loved my time in the Army and had an amazing military career, everyone at Cloud Gateway has taken me under their wing and given me the commitment, opportunity and environment to sprint headlong down my new career path, and I consider myself amazingly lucky to be doing what I do with the people I do it with!
AWS re:Start is the reason I’m where I am today! It is a joint Amazon and MOD initiative to introduce military leavers and veterans to careers within IT with a focus on the Amazon Web Services (AWS) Cloud Computing platform. The four-week course (provided by QA at their Salford Quays office) delivers an introduction to AWS and training in a range of IT fundamentals such as the Agile framework, Python programming and MySQL databases. In addition, participants receive coaching and career advice, and access to an ever-increasing list of IT industry partners and recruiters. When I learnt about AWS re:Start at a CTP Careers Fair I immediately enquired and was lucky enough to be enrolled onto the summer 2018 course.
The re:Start programme taught me two major things: firstly, that there’s more to Amazon than being the world’s biggest online retailer; with AWS being the market-leading Cloud Computing platform that has turned the IT industry on its head, leading to evolution, innovation and exciting times ahead. Secondly, and more importantly, employers are far less concerned with formal qualifications and more attracted to a person’s attitude and willingness to learn. Military leavers offer a huge amount above and beyond their civilian counterparts. By nature, we are resourceful and focussed, and by experience and training we strive on challenges and always get the job done!
Directly off the back of re:Start, my CV landed on the desk of Cloud Gateway who had recently heard of the program and had made initial enquiries into meeting some of the course participants. I was asked to come in for an informal interview at the Leeds office and a week later was attending a second formal HR interview at the main London office. I was offered a permanent full-time position starting in Aug 2018, and six months later I am fully embedded within Cloud Gateway’s DevOps Team working on all aspects of AWS provisioning and automation.
Looking forward to the next six months and beyond, I will be working towards obtaining my AWS Associate Certifications and being fully committed to helping deliver Cloud Gateway’s exciting new services.
2019, the year of Cloud Gateway!
The following are a few key points that I wish someone would have told me at the very start of my career transition. These are just the thoughts of a military leaver who is lucky enough to have found a new career in an industry that he always wanted to be part of (since learning to code on a ZX81 in the early 80’s) but hopefully may help anyone trying to break into a DevOps role:
1. Attitude, Attitude, Attitude. As previously stated, employers are actively seeking people who will work well within their established teams. The rapid pace of growth within the IT industry and practically Cloud Computing has resulted in everyone being on a constant learning curve. Therefore, lack of formal qualifications or experience is not a deal breaker, having confidence in yourself and your ability to learn new skills will speak volumes to any employer.
2. The BASICS. Take time to learn the fundamentals of computer programming, in a language that you feel most at ease with (I personally recommend NodeJS). You will never be a programming guru, but the joy of coding is the one problem that can be solved in any number of ways depending on a coder’s ability. Sites such as Udemy.com and Codecademy.com offer short online courses targeted at complete beginners in every discipline imaginable and having just a rudimentary understanding of computer programming will stand you in good stead.
3. Learn Linux. The modern IT industry is built on Unix and Linux. Being able to work confidently within a Linux environment will speak volumes to any potential employer and will increase your DevOps capability and understanding exponentially. Take the plunge and install a version of Linux on your personal laptop or computer and start using it over Windows or Mac OS immediately. Get used to the file structure, using the terminal and the quirks of Users/Groups and Permissions and your commitment will be rewarded in due course.
4. All it costs is time. Anyone can install Linux for free. Anyone can learn to code for free. Anyone can sign up to AWS for free. Anyone can read the AWS documentation for free! With a little bit of spare time and research anyone can investigate AWS and its services, without the need for expensive development suites or deep understanding of every aspect of cloud computing. Create an AWS account and read the documentation, try the examples and spin up some virtual services and you will soon realise that DevOps is a great world and is in high demand!
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