At re:Invent 2019, we sat down with Jeff Sikala, DevOps Engineer and friendly advocate and resource to his fellow Linux Academy learners.
Jeff created his DevOps career through his own discipline and passion for learning. Read on to learn how he built his skills- outside of college and outside of the traditional IT route.
Q: Where did your training with Linux Academy start?
A: I started training two years ago after I graduated from Georgia State University. I wanted to do something cloud-based but wasn’t sure where to start. I found Linux Academy and loved the ability to learn anything from anywhere.
Q: What motivated you to try online training?
A: At first, I started with certification training to advance my skills, but over the years I found so much content that was applicable to my daily job, and it kept me using Linux Academy content over and over.
Q: What would you say to someone just getting started in their learning journey?
A: There are going to be moments where you’re frustrated. It’s not a perfect journey where you know everything, but there’s a big support system and community on Linux Academy. The community is what helps me get past barriers that I otherwise couldn’t overcome on my own.
Q: What are some good habits you would emphasize to a newer learner?
A: Use the course scheduler- I utilized that to spend at least on hour a day training. Anyone has one hour a day to contribute to something that they actually care about. I started small, and when I found I had a bit more time, I bumped up my hours to 2-3 a day and before you know it, you’ve completed the entire course.
Q: How has using LA changed your life?
A: Using Linux Academy opened the doors for me to learn cloud-based systems and engineering. I had zero experience. I didn’t even know what the cloud was in the beginning. And I went from that level of knowledge to gaining certification, and obtaining a career in the industry. And now I get to share those opportunities with friends, family, anyone who’s interested really. To me, it opened up a lot of doors.
Q: What are some of the benefits of working in the technology industry?
A: This is a growing industry right now. It’s a good time to take a step forward. Because a lot of things that are being developed here are becoming a part of modern technology. This industry opens up a lot of doors for someone with no experience. And what most people don’t know is that the cloud is in the background of so many things they already love. Then, it doesn’t feel like a job because you’re actually learning more about the things that you love (Hulu, Netflix, etc). A lot of people see the cloud as difficult to get into or understand- but you’ve been using its benefits already!
Q: Who do you think would benefit from online technology training?
A: You could be a high school student, you could be in college, you could be a janitor, I’ve heard all kinds of testimonies from people with little to no experience using these tools, becoming experts. And while they may be perceived as difficult when you don’t know them, Linux Academy has a lot of essentials training dedicated to those people who may not have the experience, but they can build their knowledge through the teachers. There are also learning paths that I found to be very helpful- whether you don’t know where to start or you have a specific goal in mind. You can go straight down a path to go from zero to hero, to become a professional by the end of the learning path.
Q: Every day we hear from colleagues, family, or friends the different excuses for why they can’t accomplish, or learn what you have. What would you say to those people?
A: I don’t think there’s an excuse, because excuses are driven by fear. And I think a lot of times people are afraid that they’re doing it all alone. People that feel alone during training aren’t taking advantage of this community. There’s a huge community already there that you can join, you can ask any question and no one will judge you. It’s a learning environment. We’re all learning. And if you’re willing to learn, and take advantage of this community, you can learn anything.
Q: It’s clear that you’re passionate about lifelong learning, why is that?
A: I’m passionate about continuous learning because it’s what got me my career. And now I have to continue to learn and to grow within that career. It becomes a huge advantage for me. Today, I may do something that tomorrow, artificial intelligence could be doing, so I need to learn quickly so I can broaden my skill set.
Q: What’s next for you?
A: I would like to obtain all of the AWS associate and professional tier certifications- since they overlap. Once I knock those things out, I’ll shift my focus to Docker and anything else I’m interested in learning more about. There are always opportunities to learn, no matter what point you’re at in your career.
Q: Any final thoughts for someone that may be struggling and needing encouragement?
A: Take it from me, because I started out like you. I didn’t know anything (in cloud-computing) and nothing I’m doing was learned in college. I came into it with a clean slate, and I picked up the coursework. And now, I’m able to learn what 10-year IT professionals are learning- just by spending an hour a day, at home, following the lessons.
You can connect with Jeff within the Linux Academy Community Slack or find him on LinkedIn