One Big Data Engineer’s Journey to DevOps – Success Story of Yukti Agrawal
Sometimes when we start a career and spend many years in one field, we can lose motivation or wish we were doing more. You may not even realize your apathy until you run across something new that suddenly reignites your love for something, or gives a new perspective you’ve never seen before.
This is what happened to Yukti Agrawal. Yukti, who is originally from India and has lived in Singapore, the United States, and now the United Kingdom, was scrolling through LinkedIn one day and stumbled into a Your DevOps Mentor post, explaining “DevOps.”
After 9 years in the Big Data space, DevOps looked like an exciting chance to break out of stagnancy. Yukti reached out to Your DevOps Mentor, began a learning journey, and is now employed in the DevOps field—and loving it.
Yukti’s story is like so many—it’s about rekindling excitement, overcoming challenges with motivation, and finding new career paths to pursue.
Below, read through an interview where Yukti shares her journey.
You used to be a Big Data engineer; Can you say more about that? What attracted you to Big Data, and what was your experience like?
Even before I worked in Big Data, I had some basic training in technology, although it wasn’t necessarily out of interest. At the time, I had no clue what I wanted to so I found a job in tech that used basic tools like java, html, css, and simple application development. I was assigned to a project that wasn’t super interesting and very basic, so I decided to step down from that role.
Some senior people at the company told me about new technology at the time called Big Data. I looked into it and quickly developed an interest. To say it simply, Big Data is data that is big.
Everyone engages with a huge amount of data every day, and as we moved from older tech usage to current tech usage, the old way to store data using databases just didn’t have the capacity to store all the data. Data must be stored and maintained, but older database tables are not sufficient to maintain or query it.
Big Data works with a much larger quantity- at the level of terabytes- and then involves some type of analysis and refinement of that data. I liked working on such a large scale, so I found a job in Big Data. This was in 2013.
After close to a decade in Big Data, frankly speaking, it was stagnant for me. For a long time I’d been doing the same kind of work. I needed a break from that technology. This is when I came across Vladimir on LinkedIn.
How did you learn about DevOps? Why did you seek out Your DevOps Mentor?
During the period of the coronavirus, I had gone through a lot of transition. After working in Singapore, then the U.S., then spending 1.5 years back in India, and finally back in the U.K.
I was feeling quite fatigued, and the stagnancy of my job didn’t help. I actually got to know about DevOps through Vladimir (of Your DevOps Mentor). I was scrolling through LinkedIn and was attracted to a post that attracted me to his page.
There, I realized that this guy is not only a DevOps expert but also a mentor. I saw a post about someone who switched their entire career to IT using Your DevOps Mentor. It was inspiring, so I figured let me try it.
There was a free trial of seven days, so I scheduled a call. Vladimir explained how he does his work and what DevOps is. This got me asking myself: what are the things I can try in DevOps that can actually help me in my career? What kinds of advanced tech can I learn that builds upon the past tech I had used?
I already had the basic AWS cloud certification, so I wanted to look for something beneficial using cloud. Overall, I wanted something to help me make progress using the skillset I already have and the skillset I want to attain. I really liked the pillars of DevOps, which moved from Cloud to increasingly advanced tech like Terraform and Kubernetes as levels of DevOps work. I started working with Vladimir.
What did you do in Your DevOps? What worked for you?
I had to start from what I knew and then learn how to complete tasks. The first major goal for me was to get a certification in Terraform, which was the next step up from what I already had in AWS.
The process was different than other training or classes I’ve had. Usually, when we have training or class, the teacher tells you everything at once, including how to do it. Most of the time, the teacher focuses on theory, not practical things.
This program’s pattern is quite different. Your mentor makes sure that a person learns independently. They will give you every resource to follow, but won’t tell you how to do it. They want you to do it by understanding the task by learning the skill behind it.
My mentor would give me tasks via email and provide all the resources I needed. But I had to study, learn, and then perform the task on my own. This is the best part about the mentorship; you won’t be spoon-fed.
You will learn a lot of things because you try things by yourself, you fail, and you try a new process until you get success. I feel much more able to think about doing things in multiple ways, and a lot more agile. I was forced to learn by myself, and I will now remember it for a long time, or even a lifetime.
After 2.5-3 months, I completed the terraform certification and passed it. The next big hurdle for me was applying for jobs in DevOps.
What were some challenges in the process?
After my Terraform certification, I was eager to get a job. I created a resume and the mentorship program helped me refine it. I applied for jobs on LinkedIn and uploaded my resume to the UK database. A lot of the calls I got were for jobs in Big Data because I had so much experience there. But I got a few for DevOps and started interviewing.
I learned quickly that I would not be getting a job on my first interview—or even my first five. I would leave interviews feeling like I had answers wrong, and then I wouldn’t get the job. It was frustrating, and I started to lose motivation. My mentor assured me that this was normal, and to use the first few interviews as learning opportunities. I would record the interviews or write down every question asked. That way, after a few of them, I would know how to refine my answers. The program helped out a lot with this.
How did you work to overcome those motivational challenges? What did you learn from that experience of struggle?
Beginning the interview process for DevOps jobs, I realized how hard it is to start a big career change. When you’re at a point in your career like I was, with almost 9.5 years of experience, it’s difficult to start learning new tech or moving into new tech. We feel very safe in our own space—I was so comfortable in Big Tech because I had been working so long in that field.
But you have to leave that safe space to move somewhere or learn something new, to be at a new place or a good place. You have to leave it. But once you leave it, it’s also not easy to get through that process.
You were in your safe space; now, you have to face challenges and do a lot of hard work. For those first few months, I had a lot of feelings of frustration and self-doubt. I felt like this wasn’t working out, that I wasn’t able to make this change, and that I was too late in my career to do this. I felt like I should have done this earlier.
The mentorship program helped me a lot through this. My mentor is very supportive—technically, and mentally, throughout the process. Most of the time, technical mentors will give you tech support, but not personal support. But this program actually supports you mentally as well. Your mentor actually makes sure your confidence won’t decrease, and that you will have progress.
The key thing that I learned to keep in mind always is patience. This process takes time. When you give interviews, you are not going to get the first interview clear. But it’s all right. The first five are really more of a learning phase. It’s actually good if you’re not selected because you’ll strive for more and look for more. Stay patient and try harder.
But it is all worth it once you get through it. Looking back now, it doesn’t feel like a lot of time struggling. You forget those negative thoughts because when you do succeed, you feel content and it’s like ok, I got this.
Any interviewing tips?
For interviews specifically, I learned that the key point was to record them or write questions down. I made an excel sheet of the questions and after the first five interviews, I suddenly had 30-40 questions I was fully prepared on.
I also learned to be as calm as possible. If at a certain point, you are not able to answer a question, your confidence level wants to drop. Once that happens, the next answers won’t be as confident because you will panic and think too much about being wrong in the past. As much as possible, be calm. Don’t lose your confidence and remember that the interviewer won’t hold just one wrong answer against you.
You now have a job in DevOps. What do you do?
Yes, I’ve made a career switch. I moved to a new company and now use new technology. I’m currently a platform engineer at Genomics Inland. The company captures data from patients in the UK’s National Health System, processes and refines them, and extracts the data that helps for research on genomes. Genomes are super huge, but their DNA can help with research, so we work to refine and keep that data for NHS researchers.
As a platform engineer, I work with AWS, and a mix of cloud and DevOps (Terraform, iplap, and monitoring). Each team has its own platform. I am on the research team, so I maintain the five applications that hold the data on genomes. I handle any issues and also continuously work to enhance the environment. All of this work is on Terraform—not manual—so I have written a Terraform code to enable application monitoring. I work on upgrades, installing certificates, and writing lambda functions for automation.
What future goals do you have?
I’ve already talked about this with the mentorship program. What are my next steps? Firstly, I have a goal to get my professional-level certificate in AWS by the end of this year. I also aim to work towards a senior platform engineer position in my current company by next year. I’m taking baby steps and going upwards.
Vladimir has a vision for the mentorship, and he helped me immediately start thinking about specific next goals. When you do a switch like I just did, sometimes you’ve prepared so much for it that you stop moving forward and don’t think about what you’ll do after. So it’s really helpful because now I have a vision for how I want to make progress.
For anything, once you have the vision, you will do things in that direction.
I’ve learned that I am someone who needs to stay motivated by constantly learning new things. Otherwise, I will end up in stagnant points like in my former job. In order to not get to that point, I have to continuously learn new things.
I can’t do the same work for a long time—I get bored. This is why I have not left the mentorship; I’m still doing it and will continue to be doing it. Personally, I’ll keep myself motivated not just in work, but in other things as well—to do things and take action.
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DevOps career blog 👉 http://yourdevopsmentor.com/blog/
Apply for individual mentorship here 👉 https://yourdevopsmentor.com/apply/
Connect with Yukti here 👉 https://www.linkedin.com/in/yagrawal-962113/
Connect with Vladimir here 👉 https://www.linkedin.com/in/vladimir-mukhin-devops/