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My 1st Year in Cloud Native — Let's Recap

My first year in the cloud native space, how did I end up here, what are my learnings,... let me take you on a journey through my first year <3

Anais Urlichs
Anais Urlichs
9 min read
My 1st Year in Cloud Native — Let's Recap

Today, one year ago, is the day that I joined Codefresh as Developer Advocate. Today, one year ago, is the day that I left the blockchain space to get started in DevOps. And today, one year ago, is the day that I had no idea what would happen throughout the following year.

I love to take you on a little journey that I call "My first year in cloud native". I will share with you

  • How I ended up here
  • My lows and my highs throughout the past year
  • Major learnings and self-development that I went through
  • Anything else I wish you'd know
  • Everything I am particularly proud of

It took a year for me to get here, so let's get started.

How did I end up here?

Belonging to a minority group in the blockchain space, I struggled to gain the same opportunities, support and visibility that my male counterparts would enjoy. If you have followed me for long enough, you know how much passion I have for the blockchain space; well, specifically for the social experiments and research that it enables. However, working for various startups as a contractor, I also encountered all those negative clichés that the space is known for.

I am currently (since 3 years) studying for my (online) computer science degree. When I got started in the blockchain space, I was attracted to the technology and the research. However, at the most recent startup, I was pushed towards taking on the glue-work that no one else wanted to do, nor would I gain much recognition for my work.

One day, at the beginning of September, a recruiter from Codefresh reached out. I went through their interviewing process and got a job offer. It all happened really "organically". I had to do some example work and soon after received an offer.

While I was working in the blockchain space, I was fairly active on Twitter and had published several Medium articles. However, beyond the blockchain space and my role as community manager of a crypto project, I had not built up much of a following. The Twitter followers that I did have were interested in token tweets, updates, and meme-posts that the crypto-space is known for. Me tweeting about DevOps was not interesting. While starting out, I lost as many followers as I gained on a monthly basis.

Creating content and grow my following

If you want to go fast, go alone, if you want to go far, go together.

To get integrated into the space I asked myself the following questions:

  • Whom can I interact with online (follow on social media or talk to) + whom can I learn something from
  • What can I bring to the community i.e. content that does not exist yet in the same format
  • What unique value can I add to the content that I create

I did not know the tech very well when I got started in the cloud native ecosystem (think about this: 13 months ago was the first time I properly read about Docker and deployed my first Helm Chart). However, what I did know was that

  • I come across lots of interesting content by other amazing people in the space throughout my learning journey, which curates into an amazing newsletter
  • there is no one really talking about what it is like getting started and documenting their journey

And this is exactly how my newsletter and my YouTube channel came about.

100 Days Of Kubernetes is based on other challenges, namely 100 Days of Code and 100 Days of Cloud that I knew about before. Detailing what it is like learning about technology and my approach to it makes the content more accessible to other people. The most difficult part is getting started in the space than actually learning about the technology.

Once people see that you are adding value to the space, they will naturally want to keep up-to-date with your progress. In the end, you are the only one who can create the content exactly the way that you can.

From Developer Advocacy to SRE

Usually, Developer Advocates are Developers who got tired of developing software.

My first roles in the blockchain space were related to technical writing. I really enjoyed research, documenting, and sharing my findings. You can even see some examples on my blog page.

This is pretty much what developer advocates do in one way or another but I never thought about it as a specific role. My first "proper job" as a developer advocate happened by chance through connecting with the hiring manager on Twitter. I still had to go through the entire interviewing process. However, that role turned out to be heavily community focused — like mentioned earlier "I took on the glue-work" which usually ended up being less technical.

At Codefresh, I had the chance to develop little demos and, specifically, familiarise myself with other platforms and tools across the cloud native space. But, I still did not get to code much.

Let me share a little secret with you: Always keep your eyes open. There might be new opportunities, experiences, or lessons that could pass your path. Now that is exactly what I did. In March 2021, I ended up interviewing for lots of different companies for Developer Advocacy but none of those roles provided any advantages over my role at Codefresh.

You see, Codefresh gave me time to learn, time to do YouTube, time to explore various demos and just — to go crazy with content.

Then, Mark reached out and we started to talk about different roles at Civo.

The first time I heard about Civo was in late 2020 when Saiyam joined a Clubhouse conversation that Alex was hosting. Before, I had met both via Twitter. They talked about the NYC1 region launch. I had no idea what the conversation was about.

Later on, I came across Civo multiple times.

Mark's philosophy is: Hire great people and give them a chance to do what they love to do and your team will be successful. So he asked me if I would like to work within the Civo SRE team.

Next, I went on Google and looked for "What is SRE". I think this is one of those things, you come from the DevOps space (or like myself from some random crypto mafia) and you are not 100% sure what SRE is all about but once you keep reading about it, the same themes start to repeat.

Anyway, this is what I wanted: To jump into a role that would not limit my content creation skills but would allow me to be part of a technical team and contribute.

Top tips

This post is not "just" about my personal story but also to share some practical learning from the past year; so here are my top three tips that I would love to share with you:

Mentors

I only got this far in one year in the space because I was privileged enough to get lots of support from some amazing mentors. However, you cannot really "ask" for mentorship. Instead, I would suggest getting started contributing, creating content, and "make mentors find you". This is obviously easier said than done but it will give people a long-term reason to support you.

A special shout-out goes to Viktor, Bartek, and Alex for their constant support and all the opportunities that they helped me to create for myself.

Practice

I was lucky enough to be working with Kubernetes on a daily basis for my work. I was basically paid to practice using cloud native tools. In any case, and for whatever you want to be doing, one of the most important aspects to enhance your learning is to make sure you practice. A LOT.

If you want to be a technical writer: Write.

If you want to be an engineer: Code.

If you want to be a content creator: Create content.

Whatever you practice, you will become better at it. Similarly, most of my roles were only given to me because I could demonstrate through my public work that I was capable of doing the job.

Be bold

A lot of the opportunities that I did get in the space were mainly because I asked for them. Now, I am not suggesting you go to people and demand opportunities, you have to give them a reason. E.g. When I published 100daysofkubernetes.io, I tweeted at Kelsey, asking whether he would speak with me at KubeCon EU in 2022. The tweet did not get anywhere, he probably did not even see it but it is just one example that very well could have ended in a co-speaking opportunity 🙂

The highs and the lows

The past year has not only been easy, full of accomplishments and self-growth, or fun. It was a rollercoaster, both in my personal and in my professional life.

Here is to the highs 🍻

This community is in many ways the opposite of what I had experienced in the blockchain space. Like mentioned, when I got started in this space, I did not know a single person. People were excited to connect and help me get onboarded, whether that was through explaining concepts or providing support and guidance on different platforms and tools.

I tried to get lots of co-speaking opportunities to expose myself to technologies that I would otherwise either have problems learning by myself. One of the highlights was how many people reached out, people who have been working in the space for years and know their stuff, and were interested in co-speaking.

Here is to the lows — may I learn and grow from them ♥️

On a professional level, I have never felt as insecure and shaken by imposter syndrome as I have in the past months since joining Civo. Getting started in a technical role, with a technology that I hardly know can be tough. Sometimes, I have to check really really basic things. I know they are basic and it can be frustrating.

Here is how I measure my own performance: I often would not want to work with myself.

Now, this likely sounds really harsh to many readers right now. Luckily, I am aware that it is me being quite harsh to myself and even better: I have a really patient team at Civo, who do not make me feel bad about all those little "What is this..." and "How do I do that.." or "What does this mean?" and sometimes even "oh, did I just delete that!?" 😵‍💫

Sometimes, there are days in which I hardly understand the Slack messages in the tech-related channels. Those days are the toughest. However, then, there are days like today, on which I felt confident enough to deploy new terraform modules, debug customer clusters, and delete S3 buckets that are no longer needed.

You can do it. People cannot convince you otherwise, without your consent.

Achievements

It's good to remind ourselves constantly about how far we have come. The past year has been incredible and I want to thank everyone who helped me make it happen! Here is to everything that I am proud of having achieved throughout the past year:

✨ I moved from the blockchain space into DevOps

✨ Started public speaking; here is the playlist with a lot of talks https://youtu.be/Z8hfs_CN1EY

✨ Became CNCF [Cloud Native Computing Foundation] ambassador

✨ Started my YouTube channel https://www.youtube.com/c/AnaisUrlichs

✨ Launched a website with my notes around 100DaysOfKubernetes: https://100daysofkubernetes.io/

✨ Transitioned from Developer Advocacy into SRE at Civo

✨ Became Speaker at DockerCon 2021

✨ Built-up my weekly newsletter with #39 editions and counting https://anaisurl.com

✨ AND NOW, I am speaking at KubeCon 2021

Sometimes, I get asked, how I managed to do all of the above... Well, my number one tip is to do it every day a little bit. It's like laundry, "one wash a day keeps the mountain away". If I would write every single day, I would get tired of writing. If I would never write, I will never get written content out to the community. To be honest, I do not feel like I am "working that much" but I am working deliberately every day towards my goals.

Separately, you have to keep in mind that I am currently living alone, without kids ⇒ so the time that I do have is entirely dependent on how I allocate it.

Community

I wholehearted think that the community got me this far. Without the constant support by the community in response to my work, I would not have managed to get as much done, I would have probably been discouraged before or not seen the value in allocating my time to this "additional work".

I think the cloud native community changed a lot over the past year. When I got started, I felt like the same people are the centre of this "cloud native bubble". However, over the past year, more and more initiatives have popped up that allow more people, as well as students, to get involved.

The blockchain space had lots of initiatives, also student centred initiatives, but sometimes, they felt exploitive — towards benefiting the interests of a single group of people.

In comparison, everyone in the cloud native space is coming together to help it grow. Of course, there are individuals who have their own interests in mind (more than anything else) but those individuals tend to not have a winder impact on the ecosystem.

So, what is next?

A lot. Where do I start... (I could write a song about this). Here are some of my goals:

  • Become better in engineering-related work i.e. I want to become good in Go
  • More deep-dive technical YouTube tutorials — I feel like the space is missing those
  • I plan to launch some courses that provide more detail
  • Continue my newsletter
  • More public speaker — hopefully, I get to speak in person in front of people soon
  • Finish my Computer Science Degree and do a Masters
  • Get my Terraform Associate Certificate & my CKS (I don't have any certificates yet)
  • Celebrate Christmas with my family & Take an amazing vacation in Greece

If you have any questions, join my live stream next week ♥️

Here is the community chat, feel free to share content, ask questions, and contribute

https://community.100daysofkubernetes.io/

DevOps

Anais Urlichs

Heya, I'm Anais, a Developer Advocate writing about tech, in particular about DevOps and how to get started in the space. Additional topics include studies, career, and lifestyle.