Our Thinking
My Journey to Solution Architect (Ops)
How I got to where I am today!
15 October 2018 | Posted by Joe McGrath

I’m Joe, a Solution Architect at Kainos. I have worked in IT for more years than I care to admit. The last six years have been spent with Kainos. In this blog post, I’ll share how I got to where I am today!

First Start

I joined the Internal Systems Team as an Associate Engineer, looking after Exchange, Networks, Virtual Machines, Hypervisors, all the usual stuff that an internal IT service desk normally does. During this time I was also involved in working on issues relating to products that we supported for our customers, as well as spending almost a year working with another vendor to design, build and deliver a large scale Citrix Migration. I was then responsible for migrating the organisation from an On-Premise Exchange server to Office 365 which involved running a small team to look after all aspects of this. My experience to date here had mostly been within the Microsoft technology stack, with little to no experience of Linux, however I had started to use Powershell to leverage some automation, as well as to help improve my scripting abilities.

Next in my career, I was involved in the early days of what it now named Live Ops, which predominantly provides support services to our customers ranging from regular patching, emergency hot fixing, troubleshooting issues and making service improvements to already Live services. I worked alongside Software Developers as well as other disciplines to ensure our customers were sure that their services were getting the support they needed. I was also starting to get more involved in presales activities as well as more Linux based web services. The turning point for me here was when I was the Ops Engineer assigned to transition one of our early Government Digital Transformation projects from a Development project in to Support/BAU. This required me to up-skill rapidly in Linux, Configuration Management technologies, CI/CD tools and automation, as well as allowing me to get involved in agile delivery and all the other tools and working methodologies that brought. I particularly enjoyed this engagement and made the decision there and then that this was the sort of work that I wanted to do going forward.

ReInvention

What this meant was that I had to re-invent myself from a career perspective. I understood that while I was a senior engineer with many years experience, this was a totally new field for me. Thankfully, Kainos supported this and I was placed in a Delivery team working on a project for a high-profile Central Government Department. This allowed me to learn on the job, from people who had the knowledge and experience. It was not easy and I had to push myself-  however I quickly moved from a junior engineer to leading a highly skilled team of WebOps engineers. My background in infrastructure, and predominantly Microsoft based systems did not hold me back, as many of the skills and methods used to design, build and troubleshoot these systems are transferrable, it is simply the technology and the implementation which may be different.

Where I am today

From this early start I have since led other teams, worked alongside our Software Developers, Testers, BAs, UX and many others to deliver Digital Services across various different technology stacks and cloud platforms. I have been involved in Microsoft consultancy, platform migrations, complex service design, spoke at our internal conferences and currently help to run the Kainos Ops Capability. Not bad for someone who used to have to carry huge HP multi-function printers through the streets of Belfast!

So why am I telling you all this?

The point here is to show that while you may not be currently working with some of the technologies that I have mentioned above, or working in agile environments these are all things that you can learn and use as long as you have the desire and the drive to do so.

  • Don’t be afraid to reinvent yourself
    • Technology changes – you should be flexible enough to change with it
    • Approaches change and the same thing applies
  • If you already know the concepts then the implementation will come easy
  • It’s not possible to know everything
    • But an awareness of what is possible goes a long way
  • Keep yourself up to date with what is happening across the industry, in fields that you may not currently work in. It might just show you an interesting opportunity for you to get involved in
  • Embrace change – this is a fast moving industry and you don’t want to get left behind. You might miss the next big step in your career
  • Remember that there are others who are willing to help you succeed – but nobody will push you if you aren’t willing to push yourself outside your comfort zone

Our current job roles may not seem like they are for you but if anything in what I have said above resonates with your current role then there is every chance that you can be as successful as I have been given the opportunity – and that is something that we are just waiting to give you.

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