It’s nearly four months since I left my previous role to join DevOpsGroup. Moving from a large enterprise with 500+ staff to a dynamic consultancy has been quite a change. There was a lot to learn, but the journey so far has been exciting and I’ve had lots of opportunities to extend my cloud engineering skills.
Getting used to a different way of working
I spent 11 years with my previous employer, joining as a database administrator before moving to the DevOps team in 2016. By the time I left, I was a DevOps team lead. The company was an early adopter of cloud and DevOps, which gave me a great foundation in modern ways of working. But that doesn’t mean I found my new role easy at first!
If I’m completely honest, the switch to consultancy work was challenging. I had to become much more precise about estimating how long work would take, as well as learning to prioritise tasks effectively to deliver what clients need. It’s far more disciplined than in-house work as every hour must be accounted for.
Luckily, I haven’t been alone. I’m part of the digital-business squad where I specialise in Azure, and although we’re a remote team, we work very closely. My colleague Bob Larkin has always been on hand to offer guidance and support. When I look back at the past four months, I’m amazed at how far I’ve come.
Developing skills, working with new technologies
One of the advantages of working at DevOpsGroup is that I’m exposed to a greater variety of engineering situations than I was in an in-house role.
Despite working as a cloud engineer for five years, I’d never used Infrastructure as Code (IaC) before I came here. So, I tasked myself with learning more about Terraform. Since I immediately had opportunities to use it in real-world scenarios, I got up-to-speed with this technology really fast, which felt like a great early achievement. I now write IaC routinely in my work with clients.
It’s been really rewarding to extend my own knowledge and skills in Azure, as well as hearing about the work of my colleagues. One recent project in our squad involved a complex container orchestration using Kubernetes. I’ve also been working with Azure Secured Virtual hubs using Azure Firewall Premium and third party SECaaS integration.
Training and professional development
Continual improvement and ongoing learning is a big part of the DevOpsGroup culture. In a typical working week, engineers allocate four days to customer-focused activity and one day to improvement activities. This can involve anything from inner source development to training. We’re encouraged to work towards professional certificates too, and at the moment, I’m focused on becoming a Microsoft Certified: DevOps Engineer Expert.
As anyone who works in the cloud knows, new services and features are being released by major vendors and third parties all the time. Best practice is always evolving too. Having dedicated time where we can explore new technologies and approaches is good for our personal development. And it’s so rewarding when we use new learnings to solve customers’ problems.
A typical day in the digital-business squad
In my previous role I was on call 24/7, so switching to regular office hours has been good for my work-life balance. We’re able to work flexibly, and I choose to work longer hours Monday to Thursday so I can finish earlier on a Friday.
We work to fortnightly sprints and always start the day with an internal stand-up to run through the squad’s priorities for the day. This is followed with a daily client stand-up which enables us to collaborate effectively and adapt to any changing circumstances.
I’m currently working on a long-term project for an enterprise client, so my background working for a large organisation really helps. We’re in the process of creating a self-service platform to enable the client’s developers to work autonomously. This is drawing on my Terraform skills and we’re also working with YAML pipelines and Bicep files on Azure DevOps.
Most of the time, our clients are undergoing cloud migration and need our support to get foundations in place or modernise workloads. So, we often conduct proof of concept migrations where we build out cloud landing zones. We also configure hub and spoke topologies whereby clients can add new spokes as they progress to the cloud over time. Many of our clients are high-growth scale-ups, so ensuring their cloud-based infrastructures can scale on demand is key.
Working as a remote team
It was a bit daunting taking on a new role after 11 years, especially during the pandemic. But the work environment here is caring and safe. We’re told there’s never a stupid question, which encourages everybody to be open and honest. And while my squad is 100% remote, we have a ‘cameras on’ philosophy and regular team building sessions. A few weeks ago, our squad met up in London for a social catch up and we had a whole company away day in September.
Moving to DevOpsGroup was the right decision on so many levels. It’s allowed me to develop new technical skills and work with a diverse mix of interesting clients. I’ve also gained a better work-life balance and fun, supportive colleagues.