BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT and Computing launched this year’s UK IT Industry Awards to recognise exceptional organisations, people, projects and products. We had 4 entries shortlisted across 3 categories including Best Workplace in IT, UK Innovation and Entrepreneurship and Young IT Professional of the Year. We are delighted to have AL’s achievements recognised as part of these prestigious awards and it’s been an exciting point of reflection for us as a business.

We are especially proud of Piotr and Anna, two of our Consulting Engineers, who are finalists in the Young IT Professional of the year category. They have both been with us since the start of their DevOps career, and have both been working on one of our largest engagements over the last year, helping to digitise government services. We wanted to get their point of view on how they’ve got to where they are today, and what they think is important when it comes to being a great DevOps Engineer.

How do you feel having been shortlisted for this award?

Anna: It’s really flattering, I guess it’s still sinking in.

Piotr: Honoured, if I had to summarise it in one word. Especially that I was chosen to be put forward by Kris and Norm, the founders, and especially that I’ve got this far.

What do you think it takes to be a good candidate?

Anna: It’s definitely important to be technically skilled, you can’t shy away from that part. But I’d also say adaptability and being able to pick up new things rapidly is so important, as well as the softer skills of being able to ask the right questions and see where work needs to be done. Never underestimate the power of being proactive.

Piotr: Similarly, I agree. it’s definitely adaptability. The ability to pick up new things quickly when you’re part of a complex IT programme is so important.

How did you start your career in IT?

Piotr: From a really young age I enjoyed playing around with computers, I remember my Grandparents being surprised how quickly I picked things up when they couldn’t work it themselves. Since then I’ve just been fascinated with them. Before I was a teenager I had downloaded Linux, and that’s what really got me into it. Then from ICT in college and Computer Science at University, I came across the AL Academy when I finished. The rest is history.

Anna: I’m quite different; until I was at University computers were just things you used to get on the internet, I never really thought much of them. As part of a research project in my 4th year Chemistry Degree, we had to run a lot of simulations to support the research we were doing, we were using Linux machines and that was the first time I was exposed to any kind of coding or sysadmin work. It was then that I slowly realised I preferred doing that to Chemistry. So when I left, I started looking for jobs that used those skills. DevOps, it turned out, is a combination of scripting and basic sysadmin, so it seemed a good fit for me.  

How would you describe your role at Automation Logic?

Anna: I’m the Lead engineer on one of our current client projects which involves all kinds of work. There is still a need for technical skills, but it also combines mentoring for the junior engineers and dealing with senior client stakeholders. I make sure the team is doing well, not just in terms of hitting deadlines and staying on budget but that the junior engineers are okay and know what they’re doing, as well as being given the opportunity to improve their skills.

Pitor: Currently, in my role, my main job involves fixing issues as they come, then between those periods I just try and automate something new.

How do you stay professional in high-pressure situations?

Piotr: I try to be thorough with any and all work I’m doing, each and every job should be done right, and finished completely.

Anna: To me being professional just means getting the job done well, we’re all constantly having to deal with code from the past that maybe hasn’t been done to the standard we would hope for. It’s possible this was due to time constraints, but it makes everyone’s life more difficult. So you want to do your job right, knowing that someone else is going to have to deal with it at some point.

Is there a time that you’ve had to overcome a challenging situation at work?

Anna: A challenging situation for me recently was a huge migration with deadlines that, initially, we all felt were impossible to hit. It meant a lot of out of hours work, and the whole time we were thinking of how hard it was to achieve. But, we did it. Much of it was down to the tenacity of the team, breaking down the work for the junior engineers, giving people work that’s suited to their skill set. Our team have a really varied skill set, so it’s a challenge in itself to not just give people work that they will be able to do, but also making sure people don’t feel to silo’d and they can still benefit from the broad range of tools.

Piotr: For me, it was getting requirements defined and specified. It’s important to gain the confidence to speak to senior stakeholders to clarify exactly what they need and why so you can explain what is and isn’t possible.

Can you give an example of how you apply your personal values to your daily work?

Piotr: I’d say curiosity is one I always apply when working on a solution, finding a modern fix that will work often takes some research exploring possibilities. I suppose it takes curiosity to just try new approaches to solving problems we encounter.

Anna: I’d agree, it’s continuous learning in this industry.

Is there an example of a time you’ve had to learn new things on the job in order to be able to get something done?

Piotr: An example for me would be learning Terraform and Ansible pretty rapidly when I got moved to a new team. It was to deliver a strategic platform that was already being developed, and I jumped in about 3 months into development. I had to pick up the tools pretty quickly to be able to help them out. It’s not just that though, the structure of the environment and the platform was really different to what I had experienced before.

Anna: All the time. Things like that are really common for us. Also, we move around teams a lot, there’s a lot of learning new ways of working and being flexible is necessary to succeed.

Can you think of a time you’ve helped your colleagues to deliver better work?

Piotr: When the Academy Graduates were doing their work experience on a client site I was looking after them and trying to get them to grips with what life is like on a real project. But really we effectively help each other every day, it’s a constant loop of helping one another out, you never know when you’ll run into a problem that someone else already has a solution to.

Anna: Everyone is collaborative, that’s why it’s such a good team to work with. I’ve never understood why some people assume this is is the kind of work that doesn’t require soft skills, you always need to talk to people. I spend very little of my day stood at my desk just coding, there’s constant communication.

Is there anything you contributed to a recent project that you’re particularly proud of?

Anna: Personally, my proudest achievement recently is meeting all our deadlines, we’ve delivered everything we should have by now despite intense demands. It can be a challenging environment, the nature of the work is high pressure and sensitive and we’re constantly asked to rework things to fit necessary requirements. It’s also nice to look back and see how much easier we’ve made life for ourselves, compared to a year ago when it could take months just to spin up a test environment, even the Devs are starting to see the improvements now.

Piotr: For me, it was working on developing infrastructure on the platform for a recent client engagement. It’s the first project I ever delivered personally. It may not have had the greatest noticeable impact commercially, but it improved a lot of things ‘under the hood’ in comparison to what was in place before. The security improvements we’re seeing at the moment are huge.

How have you developed in your role over the last 12 months?

Piotr: I think my greatest development is on a more personal level than technical. I’m much more confident having conversations with different people in various roles, I can happily speak to a senior stakeholder in a friendly manner. That being said, I’d like to spend the next few months focussing on some technical development, maybe with some certifications to show on paper what I’m capable of using industry standard tests.

Anna: I think I’ve grown over the last 12 months. Technically, I’m still always getting to grips with new tools and ways of working, adhering to client standards. I went in as a junior engineer and it’s been a steep learning curve but I really feel that I’m getting there now. I’ve taken on management responsibility, and more responsibility in general across the whole project which is great, but also a little scary. I think my focus for the next year is finding my feet as a manager and getting better at that, but I’d also like to try a new project soon. That’s one of the great things about working here, there’s a big choice of clients to work for which gives you a chance to always be experiencing new technology.

The results for these awards are announced in Battersea London on the 14th of November, so keep an eye out for the announcements, we’ll be wishing our finalists the best of luck!

For more information on AL’s DevOps Academy and how to begin your career as a junior engineer, click here.