As part of DevOpsGroup’s 2021 intake of graduate engineers, I’ve been immersed in cloud and DevOps for six months now. It’s hard to believe that just three years ago I was completing an English degree. Back then, I never would have thought that a STEM career was on the horizon. But thanks to a brilliant MSc Computing conversion course at Cardiff University and DevOpsGroup’s open-minded attitude to recruitment, here I am.
The career conversion trend
Half of the people on my conversion course were women. We ranged from 20-somethings who’d recently completed a non-technical degree to people aged 50+ returning to the workplace or looking for a career change.
This demographic reflects a wider UK trend for digital conversion courses. Last year the Office for Students released findings about conversion courses in artificial intelligence and data science. It says 46% of students are women, 23% are black and 20% are disabled. This compares to 27%, 12% and 16% respectively for traditional computing postgraduate masters.
It’s well known that there’s a worrying lack of diversity in IT, coupled with a serious digital skills shortage. Appealing to people who may not have previously considered a career in tech, and making the sector more accessible, will help address this. As our co-founder James Smith said in a blog post last year:
“Action is needed to help workers without a technology background develop new skills. School leavers need to be presented with a full range of digital training options that could lead to a fulfilling career. And, most importantly of all, we need to find ways to ensure fundamental digital skills are integrated with learning throughout the education cycle – from nursery school to high school and beyond.”
Conversion courses are an important part of the solution. And so are progressive employers. DevOpsGroup wasn’t concerned that my A-Levels and degree focused on arts and humanities. What they cared about was my genuine interest in technology and willingness to learn.
Offering a different perspective
Finding ways to improve diversity would bring a lot of advantages to the tech sector. Diverse teams offer a greater variety of perspectives, which can aid innovation and problem solving. It also injects new and different skills to complement technical capabilities.
My squad at DevOpsGroup values my background as it enables me to contribute in different ways. As a graduate engineer on a steep learning curve this is empowering and rewarding. I’ve also discovered that my experience as a humanities student enables me to work and learn independently as well as within a team. This is a really useful skill to have.
It’s great to have found a position that allows me to draw on and develop existing skills as well as strengthening my newer technical capabilities. I have no regrets about taking an indirect route to my tech career. In fact, I think that having a blend of people who have followed different paths makes for a balanced team that is well-equipped to support clients.
My conversion course was quite general. We covered a range of programming languages and completed projects in web development and software engineering. I also opted for a data visualisation module. It’s given me a good foundation, but working here requires specialist knowledge about cloud, agile and DevOps. Since joining in September, I’ve completed several industry recognised certifications as well as shadowing my colleagues. My squad focuses on AWS clients, so I’m now working towards an AWS Associate qualification.
One of the best things about working in a technology consultancy is that you can add value even when you’re at a junior level. It’s really fulfilling to see that my work has purpose and makes a positive difference. Also, because cloud is constantly evolving, every one of us is still learning. It’s exciting to be part of such a dynamic industry, and it’s reassuring to see that DevOpsGroup takes professional development and training seriously for all members of staff, not just graduate engineers.
Don’t let a non-tech background hold you back
My desire for a tech career was ignited in my first job when I took part in a secondment with the digital team. However, it couldn’t be accommodated within the graduate programme I was on at the time.
I was fortunate to be able to enrol on a conversion course, but I still had some reservations. My experience on the course itself, and with DevOpsGroup, has shown that my initial fears were unfounded. The world of tech is crying out for more people with diverse skillsets and backgrounds. If you’re sitting on the fence over an opportunity to convert to a tech career, go ahead and seize it with both hands!