From zero to DevOps hero: an interview with platform engineer Yasmin Taylor

Yasmin Taylor is one of those young people who can’t fail to inspire with their motivation and relentless pursuit of personal and professional growth. Recipient of the “Wonder woman Tech 2018 – Woman of colour in Robotics” and other awards and distinctions, she’s climbing the career success ladder two steps at a time. I was impressed at the speed with which she picks up new skills and applies them to her career progression, so I was quite excited when she agreed to do this interview.

We discuss the challenges she’s faced and the opportunities she’s seized as part of her higher education and afterwards; her secrets for quickly picking up new relevant skills; her experience interviewing for tech roles and her entrepreneurial aspirations.

A sci-fi inspired journey into a career in tech

JD: Yasmin, tell us a bit about your journey towards a successful career in tech. Where did you start and how did you get where you are now?

YT: My name is Yasmin Taylor and I currently work as a Cloud Consultant. In this role I help clients with the on-boarding process of deploying software to the cloud. I’m also responsible for the client relationship management. In my day to day role, I regularly help with the debugging of software issues, leaning on my knowledge of HTML & CSS, Java and C Sharp.

Before I got into tech? When I was younger I wanted to become an astronaut! So I’ve always been quite big on science. In college I studied applied science, which consist of biology, physics and chemistry. I didn’t do as well academically as I thought I would have and got CC’d on what I got for my levels. My parents have always supported me academically and it helped that my dad was a math genius so I learned algebra quite early on. Later I studied Artificial Intelligence and Robotics in university and then went straight into a tech career.

At the moment I am interviewing for a new role within implementation and service delivery. I enjoy helping clients through the project management lifecycle whilst also having the technical ability to debug any issues within the code or in the deployment environments.

My love of sci-fi movies predominantly led to my passion in tech.I saw from the movies how fun and easy having advanced tech made life seem – and it fuelled my curiosity to create or imitate something similar.

The best way to quickly get valuable hands-on experience with new technologies

JD: I know you’ve made very quick progress into your career in tech over a short period of time. How do you manage to learn and pick up new skills at this pace? What mindsets, resources, tools or advice have been particularly helpful to you? What challenges did you face?

YT: As I mentioned, my first step into tech was my course in university. I studied Artificial Intelligence and Robotics and it was during my time on this course I was introduced into the world of coding. One of the hardest things I’ve had to face during my time in tech was being the only person of colour, only person from a working class background and the only female. It was very hard to convince them that I was more than capable of doing my job and it felt like I had to prove to them by going above and beyond that I deserve to be here.

I am a very spiritual person so with hard work and prayer I was able to calm myself down and understand that I am paving the way for others that look like me.

I would say freelancing and creating projects to add to my personal git hub or portfolio has been particularly helpful. Many times if there is an industry or job role that I want to break in, but I don’t feel like I have the right amount of experience, creating side-projects has allowed me to get a real life feel of what my day-to-day could be like.

I also google job roles and what they entail. I find this useful as I can see what skills I am missing or what certifications I need to gain.

Interviewing for a tech role: what to expect and how to prepare

JD: What was the interview process for your first tech job like?

YT: I originally started searching for jobs by using Google and typing in the role there.I also would do some business development and generated some leads via LinkedIn, which allowed me to connect to potential recruiters to source out new contracts.

I would prepare for interviews by reading through the job spec and catching up with recruiters before-hand to ensure I am fully prepped. I would ask before hand if there was a technical test I needed to prepare for or revise and would ask for any supporting materials to help me with it.

Another key thing I would do is look up my potential manager on LinkedIn to get a feel of their character and also their position.

The first interview is usually a phone call just to check if you are human and if you are technically competent.

The second stage is usually a face-to-face and a meeting with your potential manager and sometimes the team.I would sometimes do a presentation or a test.The next stage after that is usually an offer (or rejection).

The importance of understanding the business side of things

JD: What would you say are the most practically useful skills that you’ve picked up so far? What else are you focusing on at the moment?

YT: Most useful skill I have picked up is understanding and immersing myself in the software sales cycle. Knowing the reasons as to why a client / company wants to use your software.This also allows you to build a relationship with the client and become a bridge of trust.

I am also focusing on getting more into the pre-sales side of tech ! I enjoy talking about tech and helping consulting clients on new ways that we can upgrade their infrastructure and so on.

Dreaming up a better future

JD: What other tools or technologies would you love to learn more about and become better at?

YT: I would love to learn more about using big data tools as I believe that data is the future. I also see it being used effectively with the push and drive towards automation.

JD: If you had lots of free time and some resources, what side-project(s) would you like to pursue?

YT: I would love to create an app to rival Uber (optimistic, I know!) An autonomous driving Uber-like service that particularly helps the elderly.

JD: What book or course title do you wish someone would create?

YT: I hope someone (maybe myself!) would write a book on the different jobs you can obtain in tech without being too technical. A lot of people assume that tech is just software engineering or coding but there is so much more to it!

You can connect with Yasmin Taylor on LinkedIn or follow her on Medium.

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