Meet our consultants: James Ingram

In the latest in our series of interviews with QA grads, we’re talking to James Ingram.

James entered QA’s Academy in January 2019, leaving his post as a cleaner, a job he’d held for nearly a year despite his degree in Computer Security. 

Today, James has almost two years of experience as a Platform Engineer under his belt and has laid the foundations for a successful career in IT. His journey to get to this point hasn’t always been easy, but he’s learned a huge amount along the way. This interview is essential reading for anybody looking to break into the IT industry. 

Firstly, what got you interested in a career in IT – and then led you to QA?

I’d always spent a lot of time on computers and thought I might as well get paid to do that. At the time there’d been some high-profile breaches in the news and I figured there’d be a demand for security people in the industry – so I did a computer security degree. 

Unfortunately I didn’t enjoy the security part! And once I graduated I discovered that it wasn’t helping me get a job, either. I was applying for entry-level jobs and getting rejected for not having experience.

I was working for about eight months as a cleaner when QA gave me a call and invited me to apply for the Academy. That call was an absolute blessing – I don’t think my IT career would have started without it.

How did you find the training experience and what skills did you learn?

Learning at the Academy was very different from my university experience. At uni you get given information but you don’t learn what to do with it. At the Academy you learn how to apply that knowledge practically, which makes a huge difference.

For example, the Academy taught me the fundamental similarities between all programming languages. I applied that knowledge to learn new programming languages very quickly. When I got on site I was able to learn the basics of a new programming language in an hour.

The other big difference from uni was that rather than a classroom situation in which one person is talking most of the time and the rest are taking notes, the QA classroom was more social, informal and cooperative. We were encouraged to learn a lot of soft skills and work as teams.

For instance, we had to do a group project and at first it was chaotic because we all thought we should be in charge! Our trainer told us to vote for a leader (and not vote for ourselves) and that took the ego out of the situation. That taught me to take a step back and be objective about my talents and the talents of the team and manage a team more effectively. 

I understand your first deployment was quite hectic at first...

That’s an understatement! Myself and two others from QA were deployed into a 24-person team of contractors. My official role was Platform Engineering Consultant. At first it was fine, but then three weeks in (for complicated contractual reasons) the 21 non-QA contractors all left – which put us three relative newbies in charge of an entire department! 

That sounds tough! How did QA help you get through that?

We went to QA and they arranged for us to train in Salesforce, Mulesoft and anything else we needed to know in order to manage the infrastructure. Thanks to that, we got up to speed very quickly. Although the whole situation was a bit of a baptism of fire, ultimately we’ve succeeded in managing the entire infrastructure, and we’ve built a file transfer application for them which I’m proud to say is now running at 99.7% reliability. 

Without QA’s resources and training we’d have really struggled. The training gave me that initial confidence I needed to cope with these big challenges and explain what I wanted to superiors, subordinates and external third parties. And the success we had on the deployment gave me even more confidence. 

That’s great. What are you planning for your next steps?

My intent is to stick with QA for at least the next five years, working with as many clients as possible. My more immediate intent is to do QA’s cybersecurity course. Admittedly, I didn’t enjoy studying computer security at university but QA has helped me understand not just how things work but why things work the way they do. So now I am interested! 

Would you recommend the Academy to others looking to become junior developers?

Absolutely. I had a computer science degree and I struggled to get even the most basic of jobs because I lacked experience. I’d recommend the training not only because it will teach you what the industry is like but it will also give you a footing on how to deal with the industry – which you might not get in a data admin role. Thanks to QA, I went from a janitor to an IT consultant in less than a year – and I’ve never been more intellectually fulfilled than I am now.

Finally, when you’re not programming at work, what do you get up to in your free time?

Uhhh – programming! I enjoy writing scripts and mods for games, using the challenges associated with scripting and programming as a source of enjoyment. Aside from that I’m an avid Lego fan and gamer. I’ve also recently started watching Formula 1, which I never thought I’d like – but it turns out it’s more science than fast cars. Who’d have thought a sport with “Formula” in its name would be so sciencey? 

Are you interested in following in James’s footsteps and getting on the fast-track into a career as a junior developer? Check out our range of Academy courses and get in touch.

 

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