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Career Spotlight: DevOps Engineer

"Why do you do what you do?" is a question I have often asked over my recruiting and coaching career, to allow me to better understand the person more from a big picture perspective. One can never assume why someone likes it or how they got to that point in their career, and because of that, I love sharing stories of people in my network that inspire and show folks that there are many ways to reach the same goal - not all of them how you might assume! For my blog in 2021, I'm focusing on highlighting a variety of professions to share with folks out there who are either still figuring out their next step, or know what they're interested in, but could use a little external motivation!

Today's spotlight is on Jesse, who I recruited nearly 8 years ago out of the Midwest to come live in Portland and lead DevOps for a fintech startup client of mine! In this interview, Jesse's describing for us not only what his work as a DevOps Engineering Manager is all about, but also how he got there, what he learned along the way, and even provided some major inspiration for job seekers in such a competitive industry.

Check out Jesse's professional journey...

Describe what you do as a DevOps Engineering Manager.

I am an advocate and Subject Matter Expert (SME) for Development, Security and Operations (AKA DevSecOps) culture at a federal technology consulting firm. I enable teams of engineers to deliver high quality software faster, more reliably and safely without any manual steps. My focus is solely based on automation around the AWS cloud and my current role is multi-part. I support client delivery on several projects across DHS and DEA. I also lead the Cloud Community of Interest, an internal group of like-minded individuals who share ideas and knowledge. Finally, I support proposal response efforts and am the automation lead for tech challenges, tech demos, and oral response teams.

What do you enjoy most about this kind of work?

I really enjoy the variety. Each week tends to bring something fresh and new that I get to work on. For example, I can be automating continuous integration/delivery (CI/CD) pipelines one day, and then digging super deep into container security best practices the next. The next day may bring a full day AWS virtual training on trending MLOps techniques. This keeps me excited and constantly looking forward to the next challenge.

Describe your career path to get here.

Ever since high school, I've been obsessed with automating things! I think it mainly is because at my core I am actually pretty lazy and easy going in nature. I've always naturally looked for boring manual tasks that are potentially subject to human error and automated them. I started as a web/application developer (PHP, Ruby) and fell into this role as my career evolved early on.

How did you gain the skills to do the work? What helped you advance?

I've always just been very curious and eager to try new technologies, programming languages, and operating systems. I'm a closet GNU/FLOSS/Linux nerd and have always found the open source communities to be awesome and fascinating. I have a drive to continue to learn new things that I find interesting. I add the things that work to my arsenal and leave behind everything else. All of this random experience has helped strengthen my skills over time. I don't have as much time as I did in high school and college to devote to this (wife, kids, etc.) but it is still very important to stay sharp. I work it in as much as I can. There is no specific formula here. Just figure out what excites you and play around!

What advice would you offer to someone wanting to get into this line of work?

It is much more difficult to get started in this industry today than it was 10 years ago. When AWS first started out, it was just a handful of services that were offered. Now there are hundreds! The open source communities are just as crazy! My advice is to not let yourself get overwhelmed. Find what calls you to and pursue that path. You don't have to be a master of everything. As you search around and learn more in a specific area, you will naturally find mechanisms (blogs, podcasts, email groups, forums, etc) that you can use to stay in sync with the pertinent communities.

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