18 Months In

March 6th 2020

It feels like I wrote my “12 months in” post yesterday, so writing this reflection on the past 6 months feels so strange. Time has definitely flown by so quickly! I’ve shared my graduate scheme experience with BT quite a bit on my blog, feel free to check out my other reflective posts here.

At the end of this week, I finished the third rotation of my graduate scheme. The graduate scheme is 2 years long, with rotations lasting 6 months each which means I’m now rolling into my fourth and final team for the next 6 months.

Giving a presentation about my third rotation - sharing the fact that my time in Platform Services was like a game of Snakes and Ladders.
Giving a presentation about my third rotation – sharing the fact that my time in Platform Services was like a game of Snakes and Ladders.

My third rotation was in the Platform Services team within BT Consumer’s Digital Engineering. Unlike my second rotation, I came into the Platform Services team with very little to no knowledge about how the team works, the details of the day-to-day and their tech stacks. I had some high level idea from my little exposure to the team during my first year, but no real idea to be honest.

It was huge difference compared to joining a development team where I could hit the ground running with my existing front-end knowledge; I actually felt like I sorta jumped into a challenging rotation head first without thinking and then spent the first few weeks drowning a bit.

Now that I’m moving to my next rotation, I’m so glad that I dove in despite it being completely out of my comfort zone. Turns out “just going for it” really gets you somewhere.


The team

The Platform Services team was made of several DevOps Engineers, a Scrum Master, Team Lead/Manager and me – a graduate, trying my best to contribute. 😂 Unlike my previous team, this team was a lot smaller with most colleagues based in Leeds but some in Belarus, India and London too.

Although my first few weeks were very much me staring at error message after error message as I tried to set up the development environment on my machine, everyone in the team were incredibly patient with me. I have to say, although it was a rocky start, I felt very supported by everyone. I’ve never really believed it when people say, “there are no stupid questions” because I always end up feeling stupid after asking… But in this team, no one ever made me feel like my initial knowledge gap was a burden which is so rare.


Key learnings

Because Platform Services had so much going on, there was definitely a steep learning curve especially for someone who is completely new to the DevOps/Infrastructure space. It was one of those teams where you would go home and literally need to do nothing for an hour to rest your brain. 😂 I think the challenge, the pace of the team dynamics and workflow, the tech all really excited me so even though I would be exhausted after a day of learning, I was ready to go again the next day. 💪🏼

Looking back, I’ve picked up so much stuff! Here’s just a few of my learnings:

Non-technical Learnings:

I always knew that the Platform Services team were doing some pretty important stuff, but I just didn’t know what exactly. So having the opportunity to spend 6 months with them, really opened my eyes to how vital the team is for the future of our digital platforms. We are the foundation of everything – the centre of what helps make the other teams be able to show off our products to our customers. Not only this but we also affect how we work internally to make sure that we are as lean and agile as we can be as a team (e.g. deploying us with the best tooling strategy to improve efficiency!) It was awesome to see both sides during the 6 months!

I also learned that nothing works first time, and hand-in-hand, there is always a reason why something isn’t working. The solutions isn’t always obvious, but that’s OK because no one knows everything – we’re all just trying our best. This is something that everyone has always said to me, but never really sunk in until I joined this team and experienced the responsibility of projects and high priority tasks from start-to-finish.

AWS
AWS

Technical Learnings:

Writing down everything I was learning week-in, week-out was actually insane. It is a little overwhelming writing this all now, because I literally knew 0 on this list. But now, I know so much more than my brain can probably carry; I need to archive the excess away in da cloud (yo, S3 Glacier joke dab)

  • Cloud Technologies – specifically Amazon Web Services (AWS)
  • Infrastructure-as-Code – Writing Terraform modules, using Packer, configuring so many YAML and JSON files 🤣
  • Scripting and Automation – Python
  • Linux and Unix – general information
  • Computer Networking – this is still a huge puzzle to me, but I’m gaining more knowledge the more I ssh into machines 😬
  • Docker – Containers are the future – it just works?!
  • Kubernetes – very lightly touched on, but I now know more beyond tweets on my feed
  • Deployment of applications – how we host our digital products and projects on AWS using all the technologies above

I wrote a bit more detail about my learnings of these technologies in a previous post – you can check that out here.

Month One to Month Six progression
Month One to Month Six progression

Proudest achievements

  1. Picking up the technical knowledge to be able to contribute to sprint work and ad-hoc projects and tasks. My first ticket was editing a line of configuration code to change our EC2 instance type from t.2 to t.3. By the end of the 6 months, I wrote a whole Terraform module and delivered a Self-Serve “service” for colleagues. I also set-up a Single-Sign On Solution on Slack for a different area of BT!
  2. Sharing my knowledge with others. I was able to help onboard new team members in my 5 month mark, this was huge for me! I love “paying it forward” so having the chance to help with onboarding including dev set-up on tech I didn’t know about a few months ago was something I was incredibly proud of.
  3. Getting AWS Certified in 3 months. My first professional “qualification”, still such a win for me.

Wider graduate programme and community achievement

  • I was part of BT’s “Beyond Limits” rebrand where I was in a board room writing out a development workflow. 🤣 It is still so strange seeing myself on the ad on TVs across the office – but it was such a wonderful opportunity to be part of something I really believe in. Going beyond limits!
  • I had the opportunity to share my story of getting into technology and waving the flag high for the Platform Services team and wider Digital Engineering in the Daily Mirror.
  • I was part of DevOps Leeds panel, “10 years of DevOps” where I shared my thoughts on being a newbie joining the space, and again waved the flag for Platform Services and Digital Engineering.
  • The SAS team (an internal social committee) and I had the opportunity to run a Hack Day hackathon in partnership with Leeds University where students built some cool hacks that used “the power of communications to build a better world.”

🏃🏻‍♀️ Moving forward

I wouldn’t have been able to learn what I learnt and achieve what I achieved without the support from the team. Everyone had my best interest at heart!

Without the continuous support from day one, I don’t think I could’ve got as much out of every single day as I did. I suffered the most imposter syndrome I had ever had whilst in this team, so having my manager and the rest of the team remind me everyday that I’m moving in the right direction was what I really needed to truly thrive. (Thank you to the PS team!!)

I've grown in this rotation - much like my plant
I’ve grown in this rotation – much like my plant

Although there is still so much more to learn, I’m confident that I can do it – maybe not straight away, but I will find the solution eventually. 🙌🏻

Truly inspired by the fantastic work being done in Platform Services and in great timing, a shoot-off squad called the Site Reliability Engineering (SRE) Squad has formed and is where I’ll be going into for my final rotation.

It’s still a new space, and although I’m slightly nervous, I’m ridiculously more excited to not only develop my skillset but also help shape where this new team is going. I can’t wait. Let’s do this. 🤩

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