Agile & Lean

Meet our tech specialists: Barnaby Robertson Hurst

In part one of our QA Talent Graduate interview series, we speak to Barnaby Robertson Hurst about his experience with QA and the practicalities of joining the workforce in lockdown.

There’s a huge (and growing) demand for skilled DevOps engineers – but even at entry level, it’s nearly impossible to break into the industry without practical experience. This has become something of a Catch 22 for both aspiring developers and employers. Everyone wants junior DevOps skills, but no one can get hold of them.

We’re working on solving this problem. We’re encouraging people who have the ambition and aptitude to work in IT but lack the practical experience to get a foot in the door to enter our intensive 12-week QA Talent programme. In just three months, our tech specialists pick up all the essential, in-demand digital skills they need to excel as a junior DevOps engineer.

We then deploy these individuals within organisations who want to bypass the expensive and lengthy process of recruitment. We call this offering Squad-as-a-Service (SQaaS). 

In this series, we’ll be talking to some of our QA Talent graduates, now working in junior tech roles at top companies, to get their view on this route into a tech career.

Our first interviewee is Barnaby Robertson Hurst, a 25-year-old STEM graduate. Barnaby was trained at QA Talent in Azure DevOps in 2020 – and not long after was deployed into his first position as a junior DevOps engineer within a government organisation.  

2020 was, of course, disrupted by Covid-19. Here Barnaby explains how his training and deployment were affected by taking place in lockdown, as well as his experience of breaking into a career in IT.

How did you get started with QA?

BRH: I studied Engineering and Mathematics at university, which gave me a good base in some of the more theoretical aspects of software development and coding. After graduating, I wanted to pursue a career in IT, but I didn’t really have a strong enough practical skill set to land the junior DevOps engineer roles I applied for. Thankfully, the option of training with QA popped up on my radar. Based on my prior experience, QA recommended that I pursue the Azure DevOps training path. This has given me a direction for where I want to head in my career.  

What did you enjoy most about the training?

I thoroughly enjoyed the group work element of the training, especially in the beginning. It really helped us bond as a group and we also developed a great rapport with the trainer, which helped a lot when we had to switch to virtual learning. 

Throughout the course, I appreciated how QA struck a balance between making sure everybody learned what they needed to but also had space for personal growth. I came into the programme with some prior coding experience that others didn’t have, but I was never twiddling my thumbs. Our trainer was always available to recommend different approaches I could try out and there were loads of online resources for improving my skills when I had the time to do so. 

And while the training was sometimes very intense, we had regular one-to-ones with our trainers to talk through anything we found difficult, any concerns we had and what work to prioritise – so I never felt overwhelmed.

I was hesitant to do the training at first, but I made the plunge and I don’t regret it at all. The 12-week digital bootcamp programme gave me all the skills I needed to feel confident about being deployed as a junior DevOps developer. 

And how was your experience of being deployed?

We had an odd experience because of the pandemic – it meant that for the duration of our deployment we never met a physical person! So it was challenging, but QA’s support structure is excellent and helped smooth the whole process. 

I had a line manager and technical manager from QA supporting me throughout. My technical manager was always on hand to send me relevant documentation and to sign me up for extra courses wherever I needed to pick up extra technical knowledge. 

Overall, I really enjoyed the deployment. The training we completed with QA gave me a good skills base to start from – and not just technical skills, but also soft skills. We did a lot of presenting during the training. I gained some experience of giving presentations as a student so was quite used to doing this but others were not. I think a lot of people who are attracted to working in IT are quite introverted, so it’s important to learn how to communicate and share information effectively before you get into a work environment. 

How is QA helping you move forward in your career?

QA really cares about keeping their tech specialists happy – and part of the reason for that is they know that you’ll be more productive if you’re happier. So they encourage you to pursue the pathway that suits you – and provide the training you need to take that path. 

During my deployment, I spoke with my technical manager a lot about what I want to do next and he suggested a cyber security training course. Even if I don’t pursue a career in cyber – if I become a senior DevOps engineer, for example – having a grounding in security will be hugely important. There’s no downside to training in security for a junior developer – except for the acute anxiety it gives you about changing some of your less imaginative passwords!

Finally, what do you get up to when you’re not being a developer?

Before lockdown I was into rock climbing. Climbing hasn’t been as easy to do over the last year, so I’ve been playing a lot of video games with my friends in the evening to keep my sanity. I do quite a bit of baking, too – which also helps with the sanity.

Are you interested in following in Barnaby’s footsteps and getting on the fast track into a career as a junior DevOps engineer? Check out our range of QA Talent courses and get in touch.

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