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A world of cloud computing and collaboration: what graduate life as a DevOps Engineer is really like

21 Jun 2023, 15:42

For Mohamed Mukhtar, working in DevOps at Sky has enabled him to find his perfect tech role building meaningful applications in a supportive and inclusive environment. He explains what a career in DevOps involves.

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After graduating with a first-class degree in computer science, Mohamed Mukhtar joined an international consulting firm working as a Data Analyst. ‘I started attending lunch and learn sessions with different speakers and found it very insightful,' Mohamed explains. 'The speakers covered various pathways into tech, including DevOps and cloud solutions, and, from then on, I decided to change from a Data Analyst role and pursue an opportunity in DevOps.’

Although Mohamed tried to change careers within his firm, there were no openings at his level and so he started looking at graduate programmes in DevOps elsewhere. Sky stood out to him because of its culture and the visibility of its platforms. He now works as an Associate Site Reliability Engineer (SRE) − also known as a DevOps Engineer − for Sky.

Mohamed Mukhtar works as an Associate Site Reliability Engineer (SRE), also known as a DevOps Engineer, for Sky. He graduated from Queen Mary University of London with a degree in computer science in 2020. He is now based at Sky’s offices in Osterley, west London.

A head-and-shoulders image of Mohamed Mukhtar, a DevOps engineer at Sky

What is DevOps?

DevOps is a hybrid of software development and IT operations. The two functions used to be entirely separate, with software developers working on a project first before handing it over to IT operations to test and maintain, ensuring smooth performance. As Mohamed points out, it makes more sense for both teams to work in parallel, collaborating as they develop and maintain applications, tools and products so that problems can be highlighted and fixed as a continuous process rather than dealt with in sequence. It means work proceeds at a faster pace to a higher quality.

How Mohamed moved into DevOps

Having already been through a graduate recruitment scheme once, you might assume it would be easier the second time around, but Mohamed says it wasn’t without its challenges. The assessment day involved completing several tasks and working under time constraints with one noticeable incident changing his way of working. ‘You had to quickly pick up your knowledge and debug issues on the spot,’ he says. ‘But I had a problem with my laptop and had to work with a partner, use his monitor and follow him through the exercises. Looking back, I realise that these sorts of scenarios mirror my work life. Every day I do something new and have to problem solve. So, it was a good hands-on experience in how being an engineer feels. Of course, work can have its stressful moments, but at the same time, when you debug issues you get a sense of satisfaction,’ Mohamed says.

The DevOps programme is entirely different to Mohamed's university course and he points out how much the sector is evolving. There was no module in DevOps or cloud computing when he was studying, but he learned foundational skills such as programming, coding languages and moving from waterfall to agile development.

‘I didn’t know what else was out there, but I attended careers fairs and events and started understanding the world of technology and the different fields I could get involved in,’ says Mohamed. He also points out that many of his colleagues from a non-technical background learned their skills on the job.

‘Sky is looking for people with technical skills but all-rounders who can communicate well, adapt and be willing to learn. So if you are from a science or a non-technical background, you can have a good career in DevOps,’ says Mohamed.

Skills and attributes for the job

Mohamed names collaboration at the top of his ‘skills you will need’ page. ‘You have to be very team orientated, so prepare to work with others and share your knowledge,’ he advises. ‘Day to day, you have to collaborate, communicate and problem-solve with different people on different teams.’ Being open to continuous learning (to meet the demands of an ever-changing field) is another key attribute. ‘You have to be prepared to adapt, integrate, and evolve as new technology comes along,’ he says, adding that Sky employees can take advantage of a series of courses of all kinds to keep skills up to date.

Career progression

Mohamed’s associate SRE role offers a chance to progress within DevOps and cloud computing and he has his eyes set on a senior SRE job. ‘The really good thing with DevOps is that you can pick your own path. It’s flexible and you can tailor your career development, working on a lot of different things, like testing and automation. You can specialise in any number of skills,’ he points out.

Why apply to Sky?

‘The work I do is really fulfilling,’ says Mohamed. ‘I’m fully hands-on and I have the opportunity to build meaningful applications for the business.’

Mohamed has also found Sky’s culture welcoming and progressive with an emphasis on soft skills: among its core values are ‘collaborative’ and ‘inclusive’.

‘Sky is like family: you can talk to different people – not just in DevOps. You can network with journalists or TV presenters and, in fact, anyone you see around the office. It’s also multicultural and has many social networks: I’m from a Muslim east-African background and have the opportunity to join networks in Sky such as the Sky Muslim network, Multiculture@Sky, and many more. It gives me a sense of belonging. You also have opportunities to learn about other people’s cultures.’

Advice for aspiring DevOps Engineers

‘Research what is out there to understand what interests you so that you are not applying blindly,’ says Mohamed. ‘Find out what DevOps Engineers do. People who do their research have a good head start. Then focus on gaining technical and software skills and an understanding of agile technologies so you have a solid foundation alongside an understanding of programming languages and cloud computing. Looking back, I would definitely tell my younger self to get more involved with personal development projects outside school or college; it’s the best way to broaden your experience and develop your skills, so that you are ready for wherever a DevOps career can take you.’

Where next?

Find out more about working at Sky and its vacancies on the Sky employer hub . You can also register on targetjobs to follow Sky and be the first hear about its vacancies, advice and more.

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