Hi, everyone. I'm looking for advice on how to be ...
# jobs
c
Hi, everyone. I'm looking for advice on how to be a stronger candidate. I'm kinda-sorta looking, but have realized that my skill set needs work before I can be a strong candidate for most roles. I'm going to keep this as brief as I can, at the risk of leaving out important context. The question I have is what would be the most logical thing to do between now and January, as my understanding is that that's when hiring generally picks up. Between now and then, I'm thinking about studying for the GCP Professional Cloud DevOps Engineer or the Network+ certification, though I'm aware of the limited value of certs without demonstrable experience. Context in ๐Ÿงต
About me: I have roughly eight years of experience in this part of the tech world, a decade if my time as a telco/low-voltage tech is counted. I did full-stack for three years before realizing it was a bad fit for a few reasons, so I worked to get into SRE/DevOps/Platform Engineering. My first gig was a 6-month contract at Charter, then I was accepted into LinkedIn's REACH apprenticeship program on the SRE track. I was there for another three years before getting my current gig at Apple, where I've been an SRE for about 18 months. I have no professional AWS/GCP/Azure experience, as my previous employers have largely been big enough to require their own internal infrastructure. I am in Louisville, KY, which is obviously not a tech hub or anywhere close to one. I also have no meaningful personal projects; that is due to Apple's stringent OSS policy, which bans OSS contributions and discussions, even in one's personal time (I'm not sure how that's legal, but I don't have the resources to take on a trillion-dollar giant). I do have about 7 years of Go experience and a strong interest in Linux. While at LI, I got the Linux+ cert in my free time. I also like to do silly things like take apart embedded devices and figure out how they work, even if it means hunting down UART on the board and soldering on some leads. I have some k8s experience, but nothing deep like setting up a cluster from scratch. And most of the past 10 months have been spent working on my skip-level's passion project, an internal web app (a dashboard), which has also limited the skills I've gained in this job so far. My role on that project just ended and one of the seniors, who's sort of an informal mentor to me, has said he's going to advocate for me to be exposed to things I want to learn. I need to stay remote for health reasons, plus I don't relish the thought of taking a huge pay cut just to do work that doesn't interest me. I'm aware that the latter part of that sentence is full of assumptions, but let's just say that there aren't any tech or tech-adjacent companies here and that's the world in which I wish to stay. I've put in over 100 applications and have gotten a handful of interviews. I made it through to the final round for one company, a robotics startup, but lost out mostly because of my location and their HR's pressure to stop hiring people in states where they don't already have employees or a physical presence. That role was in Internal Tools Engineering and the JD very closely fit my existing experience. To say I was gutted wouldn't begin to describe it. But, to put a positive spin on it, that means that I have the skills to get hired somewhere, it just has to be for the right job, I guess. If you've made it this far, thank you. I'm open to any feedback or suggestions.
j
what kind of position are you looking for?
c
At this point, I don't even know. Ideally, SRE or Platform Eng, but I realize I'm not a very strong candidate for either
j
hahaha, i don't know what i want to be when i grow up, either
c
I mean, my dream job would be kernel development (not exactly related to this Slack group, I know), but that's a long-term goal. I'm okay-ish with staying at Apple, but the prohibition on anything OSS is going to make it harder to move on.
j
so if you're applying for platform-y roles, more cloud and k8s experience would help round you out. getting the aws cloud practioner / azure fundamentals certs are pretty easy, you can entirely just study for them and pass, probably long before january. they aren't super attractive on their own, but they'll put you on a good path to getting AWS solutions arch / whatever the azure equiv is. (idk about google certs but I'm guessing they have equivalent tiers.) as for which one, i'd look at where you've been applying and what cloud providers seem to have come up the most. (personally i'd recommend aws, but I am v biased.) CKA cert would require a bit more hands on, but if you do the udemy course + killer.sh practice tests, you should be able to get that by january. that is a bit more attractive to employers. hating kubernetes is my entire personality, and while i was able to avoid k8s for a long period of my career, it's basically required now. k8s also might be good for you because (from what i've been told by several people), contributing to k8s development is a pretty good way to get into OSS. also, most k8s stuff is written is golang, which sounds like you're already set up for.
another thing you should probably be doing is getting very good at reformatting your resume for different role applications. you need to take the most relevant experience you have for that role and make it front and center.
finally, if you're applying on linkedin, follow up every application with a note to the recuiter. usually this is listed in the linked application; if not you can usually figure it out in a few minutes by looking at the company's employee's and filtering out who the recruiters are. this immediately puts you at the top of the list when they're reviewing your resume. it won't just you over the finish line, but they get so many applications sometimes, it can be what at least gets you into the race in the first place.
c
Thank you! I hadn't considered the CKA cert, but that would actually be more aligned with my interests. About a month or two into actively looking, I realized that things are different than they were pre-COVID and I'd have to be savvier about how I present myself. I have 2-3 differently formatted resumes, which increased the response rate. I also try to apply within 12-36 hours of the listing being posted, which seems to have helped. I'm also a little concerned that my location triggers some latent bias against folks who aren't in tech hubs, as I've been targeting West Coast-based companies for reasons. But I have no control over that and it's probably not a big deal if it even exists.
j
yeah, the market is weird right now. I just recently switched jobs and it actually took me a long while to find something I felt was a good fit, whereas even just three years ago I was finding a lot more roles available and people were much more interested in hiring. definitely gone from an engineer's to an employer's market in 2023.
c
Sounds like my experience. There also seems to be much less interest in hiring someone who doesn't meet all 27 of the listed requirements even if they have a track record of picking up things quickly on the job, which is how and why I learned Go in the first place. The only reason I'm not going to pursue FTE at Apple is that it would require relocation and I'd still be subject to the no OSS policy unless I got very lucky and got accepted into the pilot program that they're running. I like this job, but not enough to go through the same 4-5 rounds that they'd require of a stranger who applied and, should I be fortunate enough to make it through that, uproot my partner and myself to a high CoL place where neither of us knows anyone.
k
FWIW if you have a cert with no experience that shows at least a desire to learn and it lets me know if I was interviewing that you at least have done the initial legwork to get some foundational knowledge, and that does mean something to some of us who are interviewing candidates. Also, just because you don't have experience with a specific platform I wouldn't discount all of your experience. Are you making data driven decisions? Yeah, you might have proprietary systems there you can't go into detail about but I'm sure if you're doing "SRE type things" at Apple I would assume that means some kind of SLO/SLA/SLI work and metrics analysis and tool building and programming the TOIL away. If you're applying to SRE type roles, that means a lot, even without specific cloud knowledge. I have a bit of experience across all three of the major cloud providers and even some on-prem stuff and a LOT of the concepts are very similar, so I would be pretty surprised if a company as large as Apple didn't have at least some kind of similarity to the public cloud providers at their scale. I also understand that not every company has the opportunity to hire people and upskill them on the job the way mine does, some need someone who can hit the ground running with experience to help them out of a jam, so that would exclude those jobs at least ๐Ÿ˜ž
TL;DR - Certs without applicable experience won't disqualify you, especially if you're up front about it. Though, with that said, sometimes I look at people who have like every possible certification you can have from something and wonder how they have time to actually work tho XD
c
Thank you; that's super helpful and it gives me hope. It also confirms that I have work to do. ๐Ÿ˜‰
Also, just because you don't have experience with a specific platform I wouldn't discount all of your experience. Are you making data driven decisions? Yeah, you might have proprietary systems there you can't go into detail about but I'm sure if you're doing "SRE type things" at Apple I would assume that means some kind of SLO/SLA/SLI work and metrics analysis and tool building and programming the TOIL away.
The bulk of my practical experience has been in tools development. What tends to happen is that I get hired because of my dev background and the depth of my Go experience, with the intent to upskill me in everything else. In practice, I end up doing dev work for various reasons, which TBH isn't a terrible thing. But I'm now at the point where if I apply for SWE roles, I'm told that I'm not qualified but they'll reach out if/when they start hiring for infra. When I apply for SRE/infra roles, I rarely even get an interview or I get a code test that is just outside my ability to figure things out as I go along. So I've been targeting roles that are primarily tools development, which are few, predominantly on-site or hybrid, and mostly in the games industry. I'm hoping that using the downtime over the holidays to gain some foundational knowledge in the areas to which I've not been exposed will help and that hiring will pick up in January.