This post is a response to a user on the 100 Days of Cloud Discord server asking about details of my journey to where I am now in my career as a cloud engineer. It's a long story but I hope a helpful one.
First off, there's a reason why I have “Classical guitar by training, cloud engineer by accident” as my blog's byline. I got here with a lot of luck.
I've spent 7 years of my life studying to be a music teacher & performer. Being a classical guitarist was my identity for a good part of my adult life. On the cusp of starting a doctoral program, however, something felt off. Music sustained me spiritually, emotionally, and mentally. To make music sustain me financially felt forced. Being an adjunct professor at a college and performing on the side? I couldn't see myself doing that. Why continue? With that I dropped out of the doctoral program, working as a barista all the while.
At this point the accident happened. There was a family friend who needed an extra hand with their IT Consulting business — no experience required. I had been let go at a role I took after the barista gig. No experience? As a music person, that was me in a nutshell. With nothing to lose I decided to jump in.
This was my entry into the world of technology. I learned how to support Windows work stations, printers, servers on prem, Wordpress sites, VoIP phones. The role taught me troubleshooting, of going into a problem with little context and learning enough to solve it. Having the ability to sit with ambiguity long enough to work through a problem? An invaluable skill I carry with me to this day.
Later into my IT role I picked up Python as a programming language to learn on the side. I'm lucky to have had a mentor along the way of learning Python — my friend/landlord who was a backend/operations engineer at the time. He'd sit down with me to go over web frameworks like Django and Flask along with other Pythonic things.
Around the time I got into Python I started using Write.as, my blogging home. One of its many virtues is a clean, straightforward API. This got me thinking — why not create an API client library for Write.as in Python? That's what I did. I shared it to the Write.as forum and tried to be helpful there. The client library allowed me to help some fellow users in different ways — from creating a custom search app to showing a blog's currently used tags. I was able to meet the founder/CEO of Write.as, Matt Baer, a couple times over coffee as well. Soon enough I saw that Write.as was looking for a community manager. I was doing a lot of the things that they needed already and had experience with the product with passion to boot. Why not? I asked Matt about the role. After a couple of conversations I got the job as community manager.
The community manager role involved a lot of advocacy for the product. One part I focused on was getting developers involved in using our API. To do this at scale I created apps using Glitch that took advantage of the API wrapper I made before. We had fun ideas, from turning a Notion page into a blog post to creating a messaging platform that used anonymous Write.as posts as the backend. Glitch eventually reached out to us and we collaborated on a piece for their blog. Using Glitch is a magical experience. I wondered how they could allow people to create web apps so quickly. The answer? AWS. Little did I know this was my first experience with the cloud.
Along with promoting the API we were also trying to find ways for people to install the open-source version of Write.as called WriteFreely. It was here that I explored containerization with Docker along with Infrastructure as Code with Terraform & CloudFormation templates. This got me further into thinking about cloud technologies.
Though all the while I wasn't sure I wanted to transition into cloud. What I wanted to get into was cybersecurity, so I studied up on Linux fundamentals, networking, exploit tooling, and even went as far as getting the Security + certification.
This is when another accident happened. My cybersecurity mentor at the time suggested that I shouldn't focus on getting into cybersecurity through the front door but by finding another way in. Why not through cloud? Be a cloud engineer first and then you can transition into cybersecurity. So I took his advice and focused on a particular cloud, AWS, brushing up on the AWS CLI along with CloudFormation & other fundamentals. I passed the AWS Solutions Architect Associate exam, threw out a lot of applications, and hoped for the best. After many months I got an interview for my current role as an Associate Cloud Operations Engineer.
If you would have told me that I'd be a cloud engineer back when I studied guitar, I'd have thought you bonkers. I took a programming & music elective and hated the course. Why would I do that as a job? But life works out in mysterious ways, in fits & starts, in stumbling along the way. That's why it's hard to give advice. I feel lucky more than anything else. How can I give advice on how to be lucky?