A crucial part of AL’s business success is the ability to keep up with the changing technology landscape, from developing services that meet the needs of our clients to building and supporting a team of talented consulting engineers.
Over the last 5 years there has been a shift towards DevOps leading to a surge in demand for DevOps engineers. AL noticed that relevant DevOps skills were in short supply in the marketplace and decided to help address this challenge to ensure that AL has the latest and greatest talent onboard and can connect our clients with scarce expertise.
The Automation Logic DevOps Academy is designed to equip junior IT professionals from STEM backgrounds in a broad range of DevOps practices and automation tools and technologies.
Our robust hiring and onboarding process has ensured a phenomenal success rate across the team who joined our Academy this year and we’re proud to share an interview that describes the experience of two of our Academy graduates from joining the Academy, contributing to product development efforts and gaining client-facing experience working with one of our key clients.
Chrystel and Seb
Meet two of our latest graduates to complete the academy: Chrystel Keegan, who studied BSc Computer Science at King’s College London, and Sebastian Norris who studied BSc Physics at the University of Birmingham. They’re currently working at Automation Logic as Graduate Consulting Engineers. Here’s what they have to say about life as graduates at AL and their first job onsite with a major enterprise.
1. Why did you choose to sign up for AL’s DevOps Academy?
Seb: When I left University I knew I wanted to work within the tech and software engineering industry. After searching through job sites, I came across AL and it was the first I’d seen of the DevOps industry. As it’s a fairly new concept, it was an immediate interest that stood out against everywhere else. I knew DevOps was going to be big, so the idea of being trained in it was a real incentive.
The real difference for me though was the interview process. After a fair few bad interviews that left me with a bad view of the company, AL’s approach was so different. It was casual, friendly, and gave a really good impression of the company culture.
Chrystel: I’m similar. I knew I wanted a job in the computer science area, but everywhere I looked was offering very specific training. You could either work in Java or development specifically, for example.. AL stood out because of the variety and because DevOps is such a new concept that it was intriguing. The thought of being a pioneer in a new movement motivated me.
2. What made AL the best option for you to begin your career as a DevOps Consulting Engineer?
Seb: The initial attraction was really down to the fantastic training offered. Not just technically, but everywhere else I looked at actually expected you to pay for your own training. AL not only offered you the training at a cost to them, but paid us for our time. DevOps is such a specialised skill, but there is a culture of continuous learning with AL. You’re not expected to start with the knowledge, you’re taught by industry leading professionals.
Chrystel: For me it was that AL was the only placement I found offering training in DevOps. It stood out to me in such a positive way. As well as this though, with AL you’re given the opportunity to learn so many different tools. For example, you don’t just learn Azure and AWS, you get taught so many different systems which means you’re always keeping your options open and that allows you to be flexible.
3. Over and above DevOps practices and learning about automation tools and technologies did you learn any other skills?
Seb: Being able to plan efficiently. Surprisingly the key skills I learnt weren’t really a technical skill set. Most people here have already come from a tech background, so it was really learning to apply it. Honestly, our first trial project was a disaster. From that though, you learn to ask: Where do we want to be and how do we get there? The final project really showed how much plans can change, which I guess shows how flexibly we work. Most importantly the training is on mind set, don’t beat yourself up when you go down the wrong path.
Chrystel: You learn to be very adaptable. The core structure of the training is to learn one tool, get to grips with it for a couple of days, then move onto the next. So you’ve got to be willing to be flexible and throw yourself into things. You learn that the time you take to discuss and plan with your team before starting projects makes a huge difference to the outcome. A big part of the training is getting rid of that fear of failing, you learn to fail early so you can succeed later. No one starts perfect.
4. Since graduating from the Academy, how have you contributed to Product Development?
Seb: There was a big change in the way we worked, we were used to starting a project from scratch. When we came out of the academy we were able to work on real projects where someone had already done a lot of the work, we had to pick these up and work out what they’d done and build on it. This meant a lot of clean up tasks and maturing projects farther down the line.
Chrystel: Initially I was spending a lot of time on AWS, then I got the chance to play around with some different web application like Java and Azure. Initially it was really just about getting used to everything, like opening up a page over over 1000 lines of code and just thinking, ‘woah’.
One really interesting thing we’ve been working on is an application which we adapted to be run in 6 different environments, with 6 different databases, in 6 different languages. It wasn’t too overwhelming though, we worked in pairs for most of it so you had that support network. A fair few of the graduates felt like they needed a holiday after the intensive training though!
5. How have AL demonstrated good team-work through Product Development work – do you get the opportunity to learn from others in the team?
Seb: Yeah totally, it makes me really glad I don’t work for a company who just groups their graduates together and leaves them to get on with it. Instead you’re spending your time with Senior Consultants every day.
Chrystel: All the time, non-stop; because the office is so open you know where everyone is and as it’s such a small company you know who everyone is. You can literally walk up to anyone and ask for help or just see what they’re doing and learn something new. I think it says a lot about the people AL hires, they’re all more than happy to collaborate on work and there’s no such thing as a stupid question here.
6. You have also undertaken work experience for a leading retail client in recent weeks, what type of project were you engaged in ?
Seb: It was in the ecommerce sector which is an interesting field, we used a lot of the knowledge from over the last few months on site.
Chrystel: We were dealing with a company whose main issue was that they have a current legacy system in place, and they want to move into the world of modern technology and migrate to the cloud using AWS and DevOps. We were adding to their system, whilst monitoring and alerting to any issues.
7. What were your key responsibilities and how did it feel to put your skills into practice in a client environment?
Seb: It was quite daunting as it’s the first experience of being in a live production experience, mistakes have consequences and success has real value. There’s a sense of urgency in a client environment. It felt great to know that the academy worked though, believing I can actually do my job and getting that sense of accomplishment.
Chrystel: The key responsibilities were monitoring and alerting issues when moving from the old system to the new. The migration wasn’t going to be smooth sailing, there were hiccups which meant making issues known to developers before it causes a massive crash was important, if no one can use the website you’re going to leave the company with a lot of angry customers who may not come back to you. You become aware of how critical time is, if it takes an hour or two to find an issue, it’s actually a big deal as people can suffer as a consequence. If you can work out what’s going on within 10 minutes it’s a big help. You don’t get that feeling of imminent threat in an office.
8. Do you feel the Academy programme and the product development work you have been involved in helped you to hit the ground running when working on a client project?
Seb: ‘Yes, 100% yes, yeah.’ There’s no way I would have been able to teach myself those skills, I needed someone to point me in the right direction. As well as that, when dealing with the pressure. Seeing someone who’s an expert in this field make mistakes, and deal with them, helps prepare you for every eventuality.
Chrystel: In the tech world a lot of people say they’re self taught, but they can fall into bad habits. Even if you learn the ways that work, it would be difficult to keep up with the fast paced environment of technology. We’re constantly learning from each other, as a team.
9. How would you describe life working at AL?
Seb: AL inspires self-motivation, you enjoy what you do and get a sense of achievement out of it. It’s not what you would expect from a tech company, there’s more imagination than logic and reasoning. There’s no ego here, everyone at every level is open to suggestions to improve the end goal. I think it says a lot that we can work from home, we’re given that freedom, but none of us really do because we love the interaction.
Chrystel: Where to begin… I think with a lot of companies you can get lost in the numbers, never see your boss or have any kind of relationship with them. With AL it’s the total opposite. You see your boss all the time, even out of work hours, which I like. There’s a lot of trust and autonomy. With no micro-management. Because of this, it’s easier to do your job without having someone on your back all the time. It’s really about the culture here, about people fitting in and doing the best they can because people are always willing to help. We get the same level of respect as anyone else in the company, and our ideas aren’t shut down because we’re new.
10. What are your forward-looking career ambitions as you progress at AL?
Seb: For me at the moment, the most important thing is to keep growing and getting better at what I do. It’s such a dense topic that it feels as though I could be learning forever. ‘Aim for the moon and at least you’ll land somewhere in the stars’ as they say.
As well as that though, I’d like to start achieving some more formal qualifications which AL gives me the opportunity to do. The dream is that one day my knowledge is so good, I can walk in anywhere and understand exactly what’s going on.
Chrystel: I’d like to know I have that respect from even people outside of AL. Having so much experience, when I say something, it holds weight and I know it adds value.
Read more about the Automation Logic DevOps Academy here.
About Automation Logic
Automation Logic is a leading professional services consultancy helping organisations to embrace human-friendly automation and achieve their creative potential.
We advocate the strategic adoption of automation as the foundation for prosperity in the digital age
As individuals and as a team, we value curiosity, humility, integrity and collaboration above all, and we exist to deliver better business through automation.