From Biologist to DevOps engineer in record Time – Gerry’s Experience with Your DevOps Mentor
When Gerry decided to make a career switch from biology to IT, he was frustrated by the lack of traction on his many job applications.
Since connecting with Vladimir at Your DevOps Mentor, Gerry has mastered the most cutting-edge technologies in IT and landed a competitive job in the industry.
We had the opportunity to chat with Gerry about his experience. In this interview, you’ll get an inside look at the tactic that allowed him to secure his first job in IT in record time.
Tell me about yourself and your background.
My name is Gerry Zhiguang Huang and I live and work in Dallas, TX. For a decade, I was a biologist.
I received my Ph.D. in biological science in Hong Kong and then completed my post-doctoral training and practiced biomedical science at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center for 10 years.
During this time, I had an extremely successful career. I published papers in well-established journals and conducted experiments in the areas of metabolic disease and cancer.
Why did you start considering a career switch?
I really enjoyed my first career in biology, but I grew frustrated with the slow progress that is the nature of the field.
Sometimes it can take months, even years, after experiments to publish in journals, not to mention the cost of maintaining a laboratory and conducting studies.
I realized that I wanted to work in a field that moved at a faster pace.
Why did you seek a career in IT?
In 2019, I decided to switch careers from biology to IT. Although this switch may seem like a jump, it was a natural progression for me. I’ve been interested in science and technology since I was a child, which is why I initially chose to study biology in the first place.
When I started learning more about IT, I was inspired by its potential for impact and excited by the fast pace of progress. IT is very different. It’s changing rapidly; you can do an experiment and see results quickly. Cloud especially is amazing, because you can test things with minimal time and low initial cost and then scale up from there to be extremely successful.
What was your experience in “traditional” IT education?
I ventured into IT by registering for courses at a local Dallas community college, had training in Java programming, web development, and cyber security. Over the course of about two years, I trained and received certificates in programs like AWS, CCNA, and CompTIA A+. I got A’s in all of my courses and when I finished the program, I felt confident that after all that training I was well-prepared for a job in the IT field.
Yet, despite sending out application after application, I received no interviews. This surprised and depressed me. I did all this training…why wasn’t it leading to a job? Was I not meant for this field after all?
How did you find Vladimir and Your DevOps Mentor?
What insight did Your DevOps Mentor offer?
I reached out to an IT director friend for advice. My friend referred me to Vladimir Mukhin, explaining that he was an expert in DevOps and could offer insight.
Vladimir is also the creator behind Your DevOps Mentor, a business that helps people like me prepare for IT jobs. He took a look at my resume and explained that the problem wasn’t how much I knew, but it was what I knew—what I had learned in my local classes was outdated.
My classes followed the “traditional” IT route that uses physical servers and storage space to connect to networks on site. I learned that this was “hot” 10 years ago, but now network administrative work is neither up-to-date nor in high demand from employers—everything is on the Cloud.
Vladimir offered to teach me the most cutting-edge DevOps technologies through an extensive mentorship program—“If you learn with me, I can guarantee you a job,” he said.
What mentorship plan did you set up with Vladimir?
I was determined to succeed in IT, so I agreed to work with Vladimir. He gave me detailed information about his carefully designed DevOps mentorship program.
This included offering project-based education in programs like Terraform, AWS, and Kubernetes, identifying certificates to earn, recommending reading materials, and reviewing job application materials. He gave me structural projects step by step.
What new technologies did you learn?
What certificates did you get?
In a stepwise model, Vladimir taught me the fundamentals of Terraform, including working with AWS (which is the biggest cloud provider) using official modules—the best practice for all Terraform users.
These projects added up and I used them to make a final portfolio piece: a WordPress app for a website that includes a private and public subnet is linked to ELB, can auto-scale for high availability, and is secure.
On top of this, I earned the newest certificates in Terraform, AWS Architect’s Associate, CCNA, and CompTIA.
How did Vladimir help you prepare for job applications?
With this new knowledge under my belt, I felt ready to tackle job applications again. Thankfully, Vladimir helped me with that too.
He intensively reworked my resume. He condensed my 3-page resume into just a single page emphasizing my most important, eye-catching IT experience. Using this new resume, I scored a number of interviews, which Vladimir also helped me prepare for.
Interviews in this field are tough and highly competitive because they are designed to weed through the sometimes up to 300 candidates applying for a single job. If you don’t prepare well for an interview, you very likely can’t get a job. Vladimir worked closely with me to prepare me to stand out in interviews.
Vladimir helped me prepare for every single interview that I was offered, both for the technical parts and the interpersonal skills required. We sat for mock interviews together, and Vladimir even brought in some friends in the field to test me as well. After each of my official interviews, we debriefed by analyzing each question asked and discussing how to improve in the future.
It sounds so good to be true.
Were any challenges in your journey?
Already, my applications were getting more traction than before working with You DevOps Mentor, but I will admit that the process wasn’t always the smoothest.
I didn’t get a job immediately, even though I wanted to. There was a period of time where job applications and interviews were slow and unsuccessful.
I felt frustrated about this, but at the same time, I still felt supported and encouraged. When I described this to Vladimir, he encouraged me to keep learning in the meantime and started teaching me Kubernetes, an advanced technology.
Where did you accept a job?
What made you stand out from other candidates?
Finally, my perseverance paid off when I applied for a job at Ezoic, a California-based AI company. I went through four rounds of interviews with Ezoic in three weeks, and at the end of it, I got a job offer.
The interviewers told me how impressed they were by what I had done in DevOps. In the third round of interviews (out of four total), Ezoic challenged me to complete a project. They told me they thought my solution was the best example out of all the potential candidates, and then even passed it along as an exemplar.
In October 2021, I accepted the job offer at Ezoic working on the infrastructure team managing, automizing, and configuring their cloud.
What was the timeline, from the start to getting a job?
I started working with Vladimir and Your DevOps Mentor in June 2021. And it only took me four months to get a job offer and start my new job in an entirely new field.
In that short time, I received numerous advanced certificates in the most cutting-edge DevOps technologies, built a strong portfolio, and honed my interviews.
I was amazed at how fast and successful my journey with Your DevOps Mentor was. In particular, though, I couldn’t have done it without Vladimir’s mentorship and support.
What did you like the most out of your mentorship with Vladimir? How would you describe your experience to someone else looking to start an IT job?
I started working with Your DevOps Mentor hoping to learn more and get a job in IT. Yet, what I ultimately appreciated the most about the program was how clearly invested Vladimir and Your DevOps Mentor were in me as a trainee.
Vladimir truly believed in me. He is a very responsible person. He answers all my questions. He really wants the success of trainees.
I’ve already referred several friends to Your DevOps Mentor. I tell them: “This guy is the best mentor I’ve had. From Kindergarten to postdoc, the best mentor.” Vladimir has such strong knowledge of the field and is an amazing teacher, but most importantly he cares about you.
What are your next steps?
Right now, I’m enjoying my new job in IT. I’m also still learning Kubernetes and am excited to see where having that advanced certificate will take me.
I also still have a passion for biology. I see a lot of potential connections between IT and biology and hope that one day I can bridge those worlds and bring a strong IT background to my existing biology knowledge. I can already see it: using IT with biology to study the genome, DNA, and identify diseases
Does Gerry’s story inspire you? Do you, too, want to make a successful career shift to IT while being supported every step along the way?
Apply for individual mentorship here: https://yourdevopsmentor.com/apply/
Connect with Gerry here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/zhiguang-gerry-huang-41ab3756/
Connect with Vladimir here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/vladimir-mukhin-devops/