10 Tips for New Cloud Engineers

In AWS by cloudkinja

Congratulations! You got past the interview and tomorrow is your first day as a cloud engineer! If you’re new to the industry you will certainly have your work cut out for you, but don’t worry. Things will get easier.

Here are 10 tips I discovered that helped accelerate my journey as a cloud software engineer:

1. Read the onboarding documentation

If your team has documentation for new hires to read, chances are there will be things in there that are required to perform your job. For instance, it may include instructions on how to setup your development environment so this should be done on your first few days on the job.

2. Start small

Your overzealous self may be tempted to sit down and decide to learn every single code repository owned by your team. It’s great to get a a big picture of how multiple projects mesh together, but don’t make an effort to understand everything in great detail. Instead, begin by focusing on solving a specific problem and slowly expand from there.

3. Know when to ask for help

Getting stuck on a problem for days won’t benefit you or your team. On the other hand, constantly running to your coworkers for help the moment you can’t figure something out isn’t an ideal situation either. Instead, spend a conscious effort trying to solve the problem yourself at first. If you feel like you’re not making any steady progress around 30 minutes or so, then ask for help. Once you know the solution, write it down so you don’t end up asking the same questions again later. Asking for help allows you to develop a relationship with someone else on your team. Why spend hours trying to figure out a problem you’re clearly stuck on when you can ask someone for help that could potentially solve it in minutes?

4. Find a mentor

This is probably one of the toughest items to accomplish on this list since this depends on a willing and able coworker. However, if you’re able to find someone to coach you, you’ll get spun up in no time. This person can be anyone on the team regardless of their position. As a software engineer, I’ve mentored new hires that were more senior than I was. I understand what its like to be the new person on a team so I always try to help out when the opportunity presents itself. Also, the faster the new person gets acclimated, the sooner they can start contributing to the team to their fullest potential.

5. Pace yourself.

When first starting out, it’s normal to feel overwhelmed and doubtful of your abilities. Chances are your new team will be working with technologies and languages that are new to you and that’s ok. You may feel like you’re not doing enough to contribute to the team and are weighing everyone down. Those feeling are normal. I felt it when I first started. To help prevent yourself from burnout, try to focus on only the essential skills needed to accomplish a specific task. For instance, if your task involves working with Docker, there’s no need to get certified and become a Docker Captain. Your coworkers will understand that you’re new and that it’ll take time for you to get acclimated.

6. Learn the jargon

When I took my first steps into the cloud industry, the only things I knew about AWS came from obtaining the AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner along with some experience building static webpages using S3 and CloudFront. However, the first several standup meetings I attended on my new team was like listening to another language. If I didn’t understand something I simply wrote it down and either look it up later or ask someone one on one. Eventually, things started making sense.

7. Write it down

You might’ve noticed a trend in the past several items. Take good notes! If there’s a piece of information you think you will need again and isn’t documented anywhere, write it down. If someone is explaining something to you take notes of what they’re saying so you don’t have to ask that person the same thing again. Adding timestamps to your notes also allows you to see the progress that you have made throughout your time on the new job and track your accomplishments.

8. Ask questions…a lot

This item might be easier said than done for some, but it is crucial to do while you’re still fresh on the team. A lot of people may be embarrassed to ask questions in front of others because they don’t want to appear ignorant. When you’re new to a team, questions are expected by your peers so take advantage of it. If you’re not sure about something, ask. You don’t want to wait 6 or 12 months down the line only to have a coworker discover that you don’t know something you should’ve already known within your first few weeks on the job. Ask now or forever hold your peace.

9. Be accepting of criticism

This item mainly pertains to pull request comments, but it could also pertain to feedback you may receive in a performance review, for instance. Some people are really shy when it comes to creating pull request because they’re afraid of all the negative comments they may get. If you’re new, chances are that you will get a lot of comments on your first several PRs. However that’s normal because you’re still learning.

10. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes

If you’re familiar with agile practices, you should know the “fail fast and fail often” principle. What I’m trying to say is don’t be afraid to make mistakes. It’s inevitable. So what if your first Jenkins build failed and your PRs are constantly getting marked as, “needs work.” In my personal experience, learning from failure is the best way to learn. There’s something about the feelings of embarrassment, stress, frustration, and contempt that comes from making a mistake that really compels you to never make it again.