From zero to WIP
How I transitioned from being a sys admin working on legacy middleware to sailing the cloud native seas
At the beginning of the pandemic, with a lot of free time on my hands I decided to invest some of it in learning new things over and above my day job at HSBC. With the ever-changing landscape I felt that my skills required a fair amount of polishing & therefore, I set off in search of places where I could learn and if possible, practise what I learned.
There are multiple ways you could go about doing this and my route, in no way, is a holy book that you have to follow. By sharing the basic tenets on which my decisions were made, for people stuck in a similar position with zero previous experience in cloud native, I hope, the journey becomes a little less daunting.
This was one of the very steps that I undertook. Introspecting & understanding my end goal was very important for me because learning — be it via MOOCs or any other avenue would be an investment of my time over and above my day job. With the pandemic confining all of us eventually, sure there would be more hours that I could devote to this project. However below were a few questions that helped me narrow down my end goal.
- Were my end goals intrinsically motivated? Or were they motivated by external factors such as compensation, recognition, etc?
- What amount of time could I devote on a daily basis towards improvement?
Both these questions helped define MY baseline of sustainability towards this practice. Again, this is a very subjective result but I wanted to break out of the comfort zone that I had relegated myself to. I also wanted to be able to meet folks outside of my bubble & learn more from them. Since we weren’t in lockdown mode when I started thinking about this, the time commitment was relatively shorter. I could devote, at most, 2 hours per day to this effort. This would, of course, change later on when we all went into one endless lockdown.
Taking time out to introspect is very important because nobody really knows you better than yourself. Without truly asking yourself why you’re in it, it is also extremely easy to overcommit because you end up saying yes to everything that comes your way.
With an end goal in sight, I needed to figure out how to get there with all of the constraints in place. Some of the questions that helped me during this process were,
- What are some of the avenues that are a great match for the end goal that I have in sight?
- What are some of the things, technical and non-technical, that I am really good at?
- What are some skills I could definitely brush up on/learn from scratch?
Meetup groups and open source communities were easily the best answers for the first question in this section. Meetup groups were slightly more daunting due to the fact that I had to actually meet groups of people I had never interacted with before and put myself out there. Building that muscle was difficult because I did it by learning in public. Most of my technical skills I attributed to my job & hadn’t bothered to upgrade them in years (sad, but true). In an ever-changing landscape, I had not bothered to pull myself up & learn new things. This not only festered dissatisfaction in a job that had all the perks but I ended up hitting “The Wall of Stagnation” as I call it now.
Tip: For a lot of people, meetup groups & open source communities might not be a sustainable option because of the time/effort commitment required. And that’s totally fair! There are other avenues you can pick to start learning, if that’s your end goal and you’ll be just fine.
Armed with this information, I charted my course that resembles the below
- Join open source communities & meetup groups based on the areas I was most interested in
- Figure out where I could contribute based on my skills
- Understand what my aspirational contributor level was.
- Develop new skills
Over and above this, I also got involved in the Release Team shadow program to learn more about the Kubernetes ecosystem from an end-to-end perspective. Of course, during all of this I continued learning (and failing) publicly by speaking at various events globally. This gave me the opportunity to play to my strengths while building muscle for things that I was less skilled in.
4. Course correction
I know this seems like a simple start — finish story, but it isn’t. There were multiple times throughout the journey (which is still WIP, btw) when I went completely bonkers by overcommitting & taking on more work than I should have or was skilled for.
Fun fact: I purchased a number of courses on different MOOCs during an impulsive buying spree. I thought I would get to them eventually before starting off this journey. More than half of them will never see completion, unfortunately.
I am grateful that my journey survived those downfalls because it did teach me a LOT about course correcting. A few questions for when you’ve veered too far away from the road
- Do I want to achieve something new or am I chasing the next shiny happy thing?
- Is this in alignment with my goal/s?
I ask myself these questions every quarter because I have shiny object syndrome. I get distracted very easily & focus is an alien concept. This might not be the case with everyone. But it definitely makes sense to review if what you are doing continues to make sense & if it doesn’t, to reroute yourself by going back to #1 again.
So, what’s next?
I currently co-lead the documentation efforts for Kubernetes & LitmusChaos, am a CNCF ambassador, have spoken at global events, and have even co-led the creation & review of the KCNA certification. I intend to continue and plan on writing/speaking more about cloud native & open source. My target is to get myself CKA & CKAD certified by Q1, 2022 & continue exploring other avenues of the projects I can contribute to.
I will continue to document my journey here and on Twitter. You can follow me on both avenues to stay updated with the latest goss.