Today we’re talking to Jonathan and Bobby, from our latest DevOps Academy Graduate intake to hear more about how the Academy set them up for life as an engineer. They’ve been working as Junior Consulting Engineers now and have both spent time working on client site for Government projects.

We started by asking them how the academy has prepared them for going onto a client site… 

Jonathan: Early on in the Academy we were split into groups to go and spent a few days on various client sites that AL is engaged with, to gain more insight into the kinds of projects we would be working on. We were usually paired with people from the previous Grad intakes. We got to see some of their work, which was a useful experience in getting to know what to expect in the future. 

Bobby: It was really nice to see how life is with real-world projects because in the academy you kind of ended up in this bubble where it still feels like a classroom. Whereas going to see the projects in real time it really cemented ‘this is what happens’ and that helps with getting used to the idea of being an engineer.

After the Academy, you both went onto the research and development team and had a few months to play around with things and then you got given projects. How did that help you improve your skills and feel ready to tackle the world of engineering?

Jonathan: So after we finished the academy, our instructor assessed our strengths and weaknesses and he gave us areas that we could improve on. For me, it was python and a little bit of docker. So he gave me a couple of tasks using them. That lasted for about a month before we moved onto more structured R&D work and then we started working with Ansible. But during that time we were allowed to just go out and explore technologies and come up with our own projects that would help us learn.

Bobby: The final projects of the Academy were based around what we could do to help current people on-site with actual client work. It was at that point that I realised, oh, I know all this technology. I know Azure, I know AWS quite well, still, it was nice to have that little bit of time afterwards to build my way up. As Jon said, we were all given personalized plans after the academy. So I was mainly focused on Terraform and I think a little bit of like Shell because I rushed Shell and moved on to Ansible which became my favourite technology.

After that, we got an actual project that had already come in based on a few of the engineers who are on different sites feedback. So we focused on creating bitesize roles that they could insert into a client-site.

So in the Academy, we take any STEM graduates who get through the interview and assessment stage, so you don’t need any prior experience (Jon didn’t even own a computer when he applied) Did either of you feel like not having done an IT degree has held you back in any way or do you feel like it was more difficult to get into it?

Jonathan: I wouldn’t say it has at all just because of the way the academy is structured. We were literally built from the ground up. So I remember when the first day I didn’t even know how to set up my laptop, I didn’t even know how to scroll on them. But then as the weeks go by, almost without realising it things just fall into place. 

Bobby: I’d have to say that by the end of it, I didn’t really care that I didn’t have an IT background because everything that I needed to know I was taught amazingly. I’m similar to Jon, I think we even did almost the same degree, I’d never done anything like this other than a couple of hours of coding before I joined. I think if anything, it helped not having a degree behind me since we’re taught in a certain way, being stuck in ‘bad habits’ might make this more difficult. Our teachers approach is to get us from 0-100 fast. Which sounds horrible, but was really, really good. I think he’s genuinely one of the best.

That’s a nice time for a little shout out to Steve Shilling, thank you very much, Steve!. So you’ve done really well in the academy and you’ve now both worked on client projects. What advice would you give to someone thinking of applying to the academy?

Bobby: I’d say just go for it. If you like the look of the company and you’ve done a STEM degree, great. But also as long as you also have the soft skills needed, they’re often forgotten. The whole process is based on people. I think that’s the biggest kind of advantage we have. People First. I mean I had my interview with one of the actual of CEO’s of the company and they’re amazing.

Jonathan: When I first came here I thought coding was an individual task. You know when you watch movies it’s always a lone person in the basement? It’s not, it’s really team-based work. I’d say one of the most useful skills to have is being able to work as a team because there’s going to be a lot of situations where you don’t know what the answer is and you’re going to have to go to ask someone else for help. That’s not a weakness, we’ll all be in that situation multiple times. So I’d say that if you feel like you’re someone that works well in a team, that’s an important factor because you can all compliment each other’s strengths and weaknesses. 

So true, we’re a big family! Last question, where do you see your career going? You’ve started from the bottom and now the world is your oyster. What kind of career options do you have open to you that you think might be interesting?

Bobby:  I think from now I’m focussed on short steps, I obviously want to become an actual consulting engineer, at the moment we’re juniors. Then I want to move to senior engineer and then hopefully something like a delivery manager. That way I can still go on the site as well but also get to deal with people because I like. I like people skills.

Jonathan: I’d say that I really like just being an engineer. I want to get to the point where I feel like I might be a big part of the team, maybe take a lot more responsibility. That’s pretty much it. 

If you’re interested in finding out more about the Academy, visit our website here.

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