Becoming the hero in the equation, a DevOps engineer.

Alastair Sumner 15th February 2021

Changing career at any time of your life is a terrifying concept.

Deciding to flick the switch and essentially start again leads to a whirlwind of emotions. For me, having spent almost a decade building up a level of competence in one role, to then jack it all in to try something new felt incredibly overwhelming and something I did not decide overnight. It brought about feelings of inadequacy and failure having not succeeded in what I set out to do so many years prior.

The (almost certain) short term salary drop that comes with changing career made me question if I was being selfish and irresponsible – especially with my other half casually adding people to our ever-growing wedding guest list (I’m still not sure her friend’s / brother’s girlfriends really needs to attend, but that’s a battle for another day).

Having come out the other side of the tumultuous ‘change in career’ journey – and now armed with the wonderful power of hindsight – I’m here to tell you (especially those considering embarking on this journey themselves) that it was the best thing I have ever done for myself.

Why the change?

For me, what was missing in my working life was a true feeling of satisfaction. My role was a technical pre-sales consultant working within digital transformations into public cloud – a mouthful I know! Essentially my job was to help businesses migrate very traditional, rigid and usually legacy infrastructure into more flexible, scalable cloud platforms.

Therein lay the rub for me. As I was working in sales, I wasn’t actually helping with that transformation. I was merely a conduit or a go-between matching a client or prospective client with the real hero in the equation, the engineers.

Within the past ten years, we have seen the meteoric rise of some great technology companies. What these businesses have in common is they have taken a service and made it faster, easier to use, and more available for their customers or users.

This is what I saw engineers doing for the clients we worked with and I was fascinated. I eventually realised that I wanted to do what they did.

I knew this was the satisfaction I had been craving for so long. Being able to build something tangible and be able to say ‘I did that’ was what was missing. Don’t get me wrong, working in sales is a great career and no business could grow without it, but it left me feeling empty that I wasn’t creating anything.

The next step was the biggest hurdle. Where do I start?

Getting into tech

I read endless blogs on getting into tech, watched videos on intro to programming languages and pretty much overwhelmed myself at the mountain that lay before me. Luckily, a friend of mine had gone through a similar experience a number of years before and was willing to share some much-needed pearls of wisdom.

Over a cold beer in the local pub (those were the days eh!) he told me all about a programming bootcamp he enrolled on that was worth looking into. Countless hours later, bootcamps researched, prerequisites complete, applications done, interview successful, I started my programming bootcamp.

My tech journey had officially begun.

Legless colleagues

The elation I was feeling was quickly replaced with dread.

The Covid pandemic had suddenly become a global concern and there were whispers of the UK going into some sort of lockdown.

Alas, lockdown did hit and many of my friends were being furloughed or even losing their jobs.

Had I made a huge mistake leaving a stable job in such uncertain times? When would I be earning again?

I must say I had the luxury (that I appreciate may not be the case for everyone) of having a supportive fiancé. She helped financially, kept me grounded and assured me that things would all work out for the best.

As always, she was correct.

Due to the circumstances, we were notified just before starting that the course was to be fully remote, which was a very strange experience in itself. We became very close as a cohort over the 16 weeks despite only having met each other from the waist up.

In what felt like no time at all, the bootcamp was nearing completion and the real world was just around the corner. The dreaded question started to plague me day and night. Will I be able to get a job?

Luckily my bootcamp cohort were some of the best people I’ve had the pleasure to know and we were all in the same boat. Scared, but optimistic.

Searching for a job was an extremely trying time. A lot of jobs out there required a year plus experience or were looking for computer science grads. Not only that, but Covid meant that there were a huge number of people out of work and it became easy to succumb to imposter syndrome thinking maybe it just won’t ever happen for me. Hours were spent completing job applications and technical tests to no avail.

But then luck struck!

The fortuitous LinkedIn invitation

It was at this time I was approached on LinkedIn by Steven – a member of the Talent Acquisition & People Partner team at ECS. He wondered if I would be interested in hearing more about the ECS Training Academy, where industry leaders would dedicate their own time to up-skill myself in the latest tools, technology and consultancy skills to become a digital transformation consultant.

Stephen explained that the course would cover a whole range of topics from tech skills like an intro to DevOps, automation tools (Jenkins and Terraform), test automation and programming with JavaScript, to soft skills such as presenting, stakeholder management and business writing. The opportunity sounded like everything I had been looking for since I first made the decision to hand in my notice as a sales consultant.

The rest, as they say, is history.

What the ECS Training Academy taught me

Having completed the Academy in January 2021, I am now delighted to be a fully-fledged member of the team.

I learnt so much from my fellow academy colleagues – one of which was a fellow cohort member from my bootcamp and, as you can imagine, he felt surprisingly tall in person! – and all the trainers that have taught us along the way.

If anyone reading this is thinking about joining the Training Academy, I thought I’d quickly summarise my key learnings and what I truly loved about the experience:

  • The teachers are amazing – they are members of the ECS team and are giving up their time to share their knowledge and expertise. Hands down some of the best and brightest in the business and could not have been more supportive.
  • It was extremely well coordinated – I joined in October 2020, still during the pandemic. Even with all the changes in rules and tiers, the workshops ran without a hiccough. The balance of remote sessions to those we were able to (safely) have in person was perfect.
  • The content is fantastic, and I now have a good grounding in a number of industry leading tools as well as an arsenal of soft skills to build on moving forward.
  • There was still a great company effort to integrate us into the team. I joined in on murder mystery events, truffle making classes, virtual dinners to meet new colleagues, and even got sent a beautiful hamper from Fortnum and Mason as a Christmas present. I was overwhelmed by the generosity and the focus on making us feel so much more than a number in a business.

Looking back on the journey, it has been the most emotionally charged of my life (definitely now sporting a few premature grey hairs!), but I have never felt so proud of what I’ve achieved.

It has been unpredictable and often scary, yet I am now exactly where I wanted to be.

More about the author:

Alastair Sumner graduated from the 2020/21 ECS Training Academy and is now a Delivery Consultant for the digital engineering practice. When not working (or in lockdown) Alastair is a keen golfer, swimmer and runner, loves escape rooms and has an unhealthy addiction to pizza. You can find him on LinkedIn here.

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