How I got here: Jonathan Evason, DevOps engineer

I was tempted to open this post by saying that my way into the tech industry was unusual but what I’ve learnt from reading other people’s stories is that a ‘standard way in’ does not exist. Footasylum Tech is made up of people with very different CVs. I hope that’s encouraging for anyone thinking of applying for a role here.

The demise of my rockstar ambitions 🎸

At school, I was good at science – I took after my dad who has a PHD in microbiology. But I was more into playing in bands – also like my dad whose band went on a european tour back in the day. It wasn’t until I read Stephen Hawking’s Brief History of Time in the first year of college that I realised that I was more passionate about science and the challenge of studying it, than playing music.

I picked up physics in my second year of college and got my AS level. From there, I did a foundation year to bridge some gaps before studying for an undergraduate degree in Acoustics at Salford University. It was the perfect mix of physical science and music.

Jobs. But not dream jobs

I worked for an environmental consultancy when I graduated and after that I took a role in the same sort of area but for a company who dealt with the manufacturing side of things.

At this point my son arrived. A few weeks into his life we were told he needed major surgery. The lack of kindness and understanding shown to me by my workplace made a very anxious and difficult time even more stressful.

Although I’ll never forget that company’s poor treatment of me and my family, it gave me the drive I needed to make changes. My frustration strengthened my ambition, gave my career more direction and shaped my idea of what healthy work culture looks like.

Determination, initiative and clear priorities

Because my background is in a technical discipline, it wasn’t such a stretch to imagine getting into a career in IT. After spending my 9-5 with the company I desperately wanted to leave, I spent my evenings looking at job adverts for the roles I wanted.

I scraped information from job specs to learn about the industry, and I noted the skills that employers were looking for most often (at this point, C# and C++ as well as python were frequently sought after programming languages). I started to teach myself with a Raspberry Pi. I spent an hour or so every other night following online tutorials and getting stuck into Hello World projects.

After about 6 months I started applying for a variety of junior roles, from web development to security and games development. When I started applying, I knew I was a long shot. I got interviews at IBM, SG Gaming and then – after 18 months of self-led study and loads of applications – someone took a chance on me.

Cosatto. A local shop for baby stuff with an online presence.

You only need one chance

Changing career was a massive risk for me and my family – but knowing that made me determined to succeed. During my interview, I showed Cosatto a simple website I’d built in python. They asked me to “go away and host it on AWS and come and show us again in a week.” I had no idea how to do that or what it really meant but I smiled and told them “no problem.” I read guides, scrambled around and after signing up to AWS I had to rewrite my python site in the Django framework just to be able to host it. Eventually I nailed it.

I got the job. From that point on, I was away...

Blagging it. Training on the job 😬

I worked alongside an IT manager and a software developer and I dipped into both disciplines. I had 6 months to move the intranet from to C# so I taught myself Visual Studio, entity framework, Angular JS, SQL, Windows Servers and IIS Hosting. When the developer left, I picked up his work with the custom software – I was thrown in at the deep-end but solving problems and learning on the job was something I was used to at this point.

Joining Footasylum Tech

I joined the Platform team around a year ago as a software developer. Back then, the job advert I answered was for a .net developer but we tend to get rid of the specifics in titles now because it feels a little limiting.

At the beginning of this year I moved across into a DevOps position – a role that combines software development and IT operations. The focus of my role changes from writing code, to looking at how we write code, how we release it and how we get feedback from our systems. Part of my enthusiasm for the discipline comes from it being quite scientific – we have a hypothesis, we run an experiment, get results and then analyse them. This process helps us make sure what we build and how we build it delivers value.

Big up DevOps 💪

My goal is to strengthen the DevOps community here at Footasylum. I’ve been inspired by conferences and posts on how companies of all sizes are organising and communicating within the discipline.

We’re also getting the DevOps community of practice back on track because – as I know very well from being a lone ranger in other jobs – it’s essential to have the opportunity to support and be supported by people doing similar things.

Good culture sets us up for success

I report in to Andy Norton who has been the right amount of supportive and available without being suffocating. Within Footasylum Tech, I feel safe to ask anything and that no question is daft. I also feel that we all have permission to fail because there's value in failing – it's all part of the personal development process.

I still think about the toxic place I worked at when my son was born – mostly because working here has amplified the difference in attitudes and priorities. We put people above the work here and that's refreshing.

Long may that continue.

Jonathan Evason DevOps engineer