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Building a Career in DevOps

An Interview with Senior DevOps Engineer, Marco Antonio Blanco

Welcome to the first installment of our career kick-off blog, where we will be interviewing NearFormers across our business functions to learn more about what their role entails, how they progressed into their current roles, and to showcase the diverse career progression stories that our team have.

This week, we are travelling to Spain to interview Marco, a Senior DevOps Engineer based in Madrid, Spain who has been with NearForm since December 2021.

What does your role entail?

As a Senior DevOps Engineer, I am responsible for the development and optimisation of our clients’ cloud-based applications and platforms with a modern DevOps mindset . In order to excel at my role, I need to bring an excellent knowledge of the latest DevOps tools & technologies, particularly while working in a remote agile environment.

What is your favourite part of your role?

I love the creative part of this role, designing and building solutions for our customers that meet their list of needs. It can be a challenging role at times to stay up to date with all the latest technologies in the DevOps market, but the dynamic nature of the role keeps things interesting and creative.

Let’s have a look at how you landed on this role. What did you want to be when growing up, and how did this translate into the desire to become a DevOps Engineer?

As a child, I wanted to be a biologist, but when I reached my mid-teens and crossed paths with computers, my interest was sparked and I decided to change course. The process of becoming a DevOps Engineer wasn’t an epiphany but rather a steady process. I’ve worked both in systems and development for all my IT career and becoming a DevOps Engineer came as a natural progression.

Tell us a bit about your university experience and what it contributed to your career?

I studied Computer Science, and really loved my time at university. I learned many basic IT-related disciplines, met many interesting people, participated in several communities (which helped me improve my soft skills) and even had my first work experience.

I was also very lucky to be mentored by great professors who introduced me to the Internet (early 90s, when online access was so scarce), system administration, the Free Software movement and best practices. There were also things I much disliked, like subjects with little to do with the degree or the test-based evaluation. All of this, both the good and the bad, helped me grow and improve my skills, both personal and professional, and contributed to leading me to where I am today.

Work with Marco!

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What was your first-ever job? 

My first role was as a System Administrator at university, managing a server and several workstations from Sun Microsystems. I began this role around the same time that I was finishing up my studies there.

Could you tell us a bit about your work history?

I tend to divide my professional career into three stages. The first, when you first enter the job market and spend more time learning than being productive, started at the university itself at the end of my studies. I spent several years working in system administration, web development and training (one of my great passions).

In 1998 I started what I call the entrepreneurial stage when I founded and participated in several business projects that helped me to grow and mature. During this stage of my career, one of the highlights was my most successful project, the startup Activa Sistemas, whose mission was to spread the professional use of Linux and Free Software in SMEs.

Then, in 2015 I decided to finish this stage and move with my family from Seville to Madrid, where I started working for several consultancies and banks in large projects that allowed me to accelerate my career in the DevOps world. During this stage of my career, one of the highlights was my time at ING Direct and its Twyp project, a secure P2P payment solution. I was responsible for migrating the project from The Netherlands to Spain, from a DevOps point of view, which meant my first experience with Kubernetes (a tool I have grown to love) and total immersion in agile methodologies applied in a realistic and productive way to project management. During this stage I also achieved a master's degree in secondary education, a long-standing desire happily fulfilled.

How did the roles that came before where you are today contribute to your career progression?

More than knowledge and experience in certain tools and technologies, what I appreciate most from my past experiences is the growth in non-technical skills, such as the continuous search for improvement and excellence, the continuous delivery of value, the use and application of best practices, team building and crisis management. I believe that these are the values and skills that the best companies hold in the highest regard and that have allowed me to mature.

What advice would you give to somebody looking to start their career in your field of work, or looking to transition to your field of work? 

Learning and practising a lot is essential, as in every work field. Specifically for the DevOps field, I would recommend being proficient in at least one “popular” programming language, knowing the building blocks of one public cloud provider, being able to use containers and getting used to the software development lifecycle. Also, I cannot emphasize enough the importance of best practices, governance and agile methodologies. Getting involved in a community would definitely be very helpful. My final advice would be to set up your own home lab and spin up several personal projects to improve your skills.

Do you have any learning resource recommendations for your field of work? 

There are nice learning platforms out there, like Coursera , Udemy or A Cloud Guru , which offer great DevOps courses. There are also interesting upskilling platforms, like HackerRank , Exercism or Codecademy , that offer interactive playgrounds for their users to improve their IT abilities. Finally, I’d like to recommend a couple of fundamental DevOps-related books: “ The Phoenix Project ” and “ Devops Y El Camino de Baldosas Amarillas ” (in Spanish).

Finally, what led you to apply to NearForm? 

I was looking for a company where values and respect were key components in the organisation’s culture. Also, I wanted a real, fully remote position, with no small print, which allowed me to balance my personal life and professional career. Then I met a recruiter that told me about NearForm. The rest is history…

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