The first quarter of 2018 is off to flying start at AL with our latest DevOps Academy intake having joined us in January. We began the Automation Logic DevOps Academy last year as a unique way to equip graduates from STEM backgrounds with the skills they need to become DevOps Engineers.
The latest intake of grads are just entering the 6th week of the 12-week course, so we decided to catch up with them at the halfway point to see how they’re getting on.
Danish and Lily are two of our newest graduates and both come from a Mechanical engineering background, a common theme for this year’s intake. They’ve joined the business with a great work ethic and the enthusiasm needed to get stuck into the challenging academy syllabus. As well as already demonstrating AL’s cultural values of Curiosity, Humility, Integrity and Collaboration, Danish and Lily have a broad range of interests beyond DevOps. Lily’s performed in a number of orchestras over the years, and Danish is a keen basketball player. They both have a passion for art and drawing, proving you can be both artistic and technical!
What initially interested you when you came across our DevOps Academy programme?
Lily: The fact that the job description didn’t ask for prior knowledge in a specific area which a lot of other places did want. The only thing it did make clear was the need for problem solvers, it was obvious AL were looking for a certain mindset. Also, the idea that this was a culture of continuous learning, that was a huge thing for me. I love the idea that there’s always going to be something new.
Danish: Yeah, Lily’s summed it up pretty well, it was the idea of not just having a certain set of skills but being able to develop them based on what you’re good at. In this case, problem solving and analysis. It’s my background and it’s what I enjoy.
How did it differ from other opportunities you saw?
Lily: The whole vibe of the office was immediately friendly when I walked in. A lot of previous assessments I’d been to did try to be casual but, it still felt awkward because it was just an exam. Also, seeing the arcade machine as soon as you walk in, I think that made me think yeah, I belong here. A massive thing for me though is that the training is paid for, it gives you this immediate feeling that they’re actually investing in you.
Danish: I found that a lot of companies, before they interview you, had based you entirely on your CV. It sort of led them to talk to you like a robot. From the moment I walked through the door here, people actually took the time to get to know me, rather than assuming they had it all worked out from a piece of paper. When speaking to Kris [partner and co-founder] during the interview, he wasn’t just telling me what the company does, but getting to know me. I really feel like you don’t just work here for the money; I believe in what the company does which results in real dedication. The culture inspires loyalty, which I love.
Did you feel that the interview process gave you a good idea of the company and how you would fit in the team?
Lily: Yeah we got the chance to speak to last year’s academy grads and ask them any questions we had. Plus we can get in touch with them any time now to see what they’re up to and what it’s like after graduation.
Danish: The company made an effort to help us understand. I’ve heard of other peoples experiences in first jobs on grad schemes and they’ve really struggled to integrate. It’s not like that here, with such a close team and no hierarchy. We’ll have a better answer in a week though after we’ve done our client site experience, right now our projects are classroom style but I know that’s not what the job will be like in the future.
How do you find the teaching method/group size? Does it suit your learning style and give you the freedom you need to grow?
Lily: Yeah, the learning style is perfect and I think because it’s such a small group it’s really tailored to individual needs. There’s no worry about others going too fast or too slow.
Danish: No one’s needs are overlooked. I don’t think anyone is ever sitting around idle, but we’re never overwhelmed at the same time. Honestly, I can’t express enough how great a tutor Steve is. It helps that we’ve all come from different educational backgrounds, we have different ways of looking at things, when we’re looking at solving a problem, everyone has their own style of approach, which makes collaborating really helpful.
Are there any highlights from the course so far and what tools and technologies have you been working with?
Danish: Everyone’s response is always the free beer fridge and snacks, obviously. But now I look back over 5 and a half weeks, there’s this moment everything just clicked, but I wasn’t aware of it at the time. I had a moment I was just tapping away and looked down and was like wait, did I type that? It’s really rewarding and I’d say that’s definitely one of the highlights of the Academy. We’ve worked with many cloud-based services, particularly Amazon web services [AWS]. Steve gets us up to speed one tool at a time, almost as if he is giving us a Lego kit with each topic, which then leads to constructing the final toy: the assessments. I’d probably run out of the character count if I tried to list all the things, but ansible and shell are the two most prominent ones we’ve used so far to build and manipulate cloud infrastructure.
Lily: Do you know what, so far, the best part is that I really like everyone in the academy. But also in terms of learning AWS, Jenkins and Python etc. I find that the assessments are actually the best way for me to learn and retain new information. Along with group discussion, they really consolidate your understanding of the sometimes-abstract concepts you’re taught. I think it’s probably because, at the heart of it, the assessments are basically huge puzzle-solving exercises, which is obviously very engaging.
How do you find getting to grips with the technologies and tools? Are there any specific techniques you’ve used to best retain new information?
Lily: It’s pretty much been at about the right pace for me. Like I mentioned earlier it’s really the assessments that consolidate everything.
Danish: Yeah I would say so, the tech itself isn’t that complex, it’s making the tools do what you want that’s the challenge. I mean I get how this works but when I’m using Python, for example, what do I need to code to get what I need? That’s been the only real challenge. No specific technique comes to mind when thinking about that. Good memory is definitely a plus, as it is with everything. If I were to honestly answer, it’s more the mindset of accepting that you aren’t meant to understand everything, but being open, ready and willing to learn, until eventually (and it always will) you subconsciously click everything together.
What does a typical assessment look like, do they help you work as a team?
Danish: The assessments bring together individual and team skills to give everyone a chance to show off their new, fancy toys and create something that people don’t even think about when they use it every single day – and all this just from 5 weeks, you’d think the team are a bunch of wizards, but it’s a bunch of great, driven people.
Lily: They’re really varied and really hands on, which is great! We get to try out all the tools for ourselves and put what we’ve learnt into practice. They don’t feel like ‘exams’ just a group of us getting to try new things together.
Do you find the team live up to the company values? [Curiosity/Integrity/Collaboration/Humility]
Lily: Literally everyone I’ve spoken to in this company is exceedingly nice. Like sometimes it genuinely seems unbelievable.
Danish: We hang around Steve [the teacher] the most and I see every value in him. He’s great. I’ve had a fair few teachers through University and before I met Steve I would have said they were good. Now I’ve been taught by Steve though, they all seem so… average in comparison.
How do you find the social culture of the office to be?
Lily: It seems like this is a really laid back office. I don’t feel micromanaged.
Danish: The thing I like about the way it works here is everyone is just really happy. People just pop downstairs smiling, and it’s totally genuine.
Do you feel as though you could ask other members of the team for support?
Danish: Sure, definitely, yes, that’s the most confident yes I could give right now.
Lily: Don’t really have anything to add to that.
How would you describe working at AL?
Danish: Weeks are pretty much flying by, it’s gone so fast. I mean a way to describe it, is that I don’t wake up on Mondays and think ‘oh no, it’s Monday.’ I spoke to the last group of grads and they said if you enjoy learning and trying out new things you’ll like this job. It’s easy for someone to say that, but to actually mean it and for it to be true, then that’s pretty cool.
Lily: I almost look forward to Mondays! I really like learning new tools and technologies. Every day you think back on all the stuff we’ve done, and really feel a sense of pride.
Okay, one last question, what are your career ambitions as you progress at AL?
Lily: To work on client site, to be seen as an expert, to start a new project, to fix an old one. I mean so many opportunities are opening up for us and it’s just really exciting to see what’s next.
Danish: The idea of working for some of the clients that AL are working with at the moment is definitely really exciting. From what I’ve been told it’s not always easy but even that is really exciting. Actually applying what we’ve been doing, with problem-solving and having challenges. It sounds like it wouldn’t get boring easily, you’re always doing something new.
There’s still another 6 weeks to go until they can graduate from the Academy following their final assessments. This week the Academy team will be undertaking client work experience and assisting the AL product development team as they work to build new and innovative client solutions. We’ll be catching up with the grads again at the end of the course so watch this space.
Read more about the Automation Logic DevOps Academy here or tweet us @AutomationLogic
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Piotr Grześkowiak has been at Automation Logic for just over five years, starting out in our DevOps Academy after graduating in Computer Science with Information Security. During those 5 years, he’s gone from an engineer in training to a well respected senior engineer, trusted by the whole company. Piotr’s been on three Central Government client […]
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