Episode 117– Learn How to Secure Your Role and Continue to Move Forwards in Your IT Career with Corey Quinn
Phil’s guest on today’s show is Corey Quinn, who is a cloud economist, consultant, business owner, blogger and podcaster. His early career was spent as a system administrator. He later moved into DevOps. Today, he is a consultant who specializes in creating cost-optimized AWS cloud solutions that work efficiently, despite the fact that the cost of running them has been cut drastically.
(00.28) – So Corey, can you expand on that brief introduction and tell us a little bit more about yourself. Corey explains that he is a cloud economist. He started as an assistant systems administrator, which is the equivalent of an SRE, doing both individual contributor work and managing teams. But, for the last couple of years he has run his own AWS consultancy company. His main service is fixing the huge AWS bills that many companies end up with.
More recently, he has become for his Last Week in AWS newsletter, which pulls together what is happening in the Amazon cloud ecosystem.
At this point gives an important tip. Making fun of giant companies will make you less employable than you think. He also runs the Screaming in the Cloud podcast.
(2.09) – Phil asks Corey for a unique IT career tip, one the audience probably does not already know. Corey says it is important not to lose sight of how valuable you are to the business. Being able to understand and prove your true value will really help the next time there are layoffs. So, it is wise to get into the habit of tracking that type of data.
(3.16) – Phil asks how someone who cannot easily visualize their monetary value to the people they work for and how they would go about evaluating their true worth. Corey says that the best way he has found to do that is to speak to people within the company and outside about his role. Doing this has enabled him to get some perspective. He has been able to see how they think his type of role benefits a business and how it adds value. Finding a mentor helps too, they will also provide insight into this.
You can also ask your boss how the company realizes the benefit of having you there. Don’t be afraid of asking this question. Doing so enables you to better understand your role and be able to fill it more effectively. It stops you from focusing on things the company does not ascribe much value to. Things they are not really interested in your taking care of for them.
(4.48) – Corey is asked to share his worst career moment by Phil. Corey has a reoccurring moment. He has been “let go” several times and being fired never feels good, especially when you don’t see it coming.
Over the years, Corey has been let go five or six times. Usually, because he was misaligned with what the business found valuable. He was just not focusing on what they wanted to have done. However, in some cases, it was a cultural mismatch that led to him being fired.
Being let go hurts and can make you feel like you are a loser, even though you are not. But, on the flip side you usually end up feeling relieved, liberated even.
(6.52) – Phil asks Corey if being fired has become any easier, over the years. Corey explains that it has gotten easier in that he knows what to do next. But, emotionally it is still hard.
This is despite the fact that he knows every job comes to an end, at some point. In reality, you are either going to leave, because you are no longer a good fit, or your company is going to let you go, for the same reason. It is a fact of life.
Besides which if you are no longer a good fit, continuing to work for that company is not good for you or your employer. Despite that, being told you have been fired is still painful.
(7.53) – Have you ever experienced a situation where perhaps the company has moved on and the role that you’re performing is no longer as valuable as it was previously? In Corey’s case, this has usually happened because the role has shifted radically. This has definitely been the case when he has joined a company during its early days. What a firm needs doing during start-up is very different from what they require once they are fully up and running.
Corey enjoys fixing problems and turning things around. But, once everything is settled and he has to switch to take care of mundane day-to-day tasks he quickly gets bored. When that happens, it is best for him to move on quickly.
(9.12) – Phil asks Corey what his best career moment was. For Corey that has definitely been helping a friend of his to grow her career. Over the years, she has regularly sought advice from him. Today, she credits him with some of her success. Corey gets more of a sense of achievement from having helped her than he does from saving companies large sums of money or help them to recover from problems.
(10.28) – Can you tell us what excites you about the future of the IT industry and careers? The fact that the barrier of entry is lowering is exciting. Now, anyone with a credit card and ten bucks can implement their business idea in the cloud. They can easily set up a test lab at home. You no longer have to spend a fortune like Corey did, years ago, when setting up a simple mail server meant buying lots of expensive equipment.
(11.39) – Phil agrees he is seeing more companies use the cloud as their long-term IT solution. Business owners seem to be far less concern about potential security issues. He asks Corey if he has seen the same thing happening. Corey he agrees, but explains that he occasionally comes across firms who are worried about data security. But, when he reminds them that the tax authorities, banks and other big organizations use the technology, most understand that the risk is low. Typically, they decide to make the change and move to the cloud.
(13.17) – What first attracted you to a career in IT, Corey? At one time, Corey worked as an IT recruiter. Eventually, he got tired of placing people in roles he knew he could do a better job of. So, 14 years ago, he figured he would give IT a try and significantly increase the amount he was earning. He certainly earned more, with the added bonus that he really enjoyed the work.
(13.41) – What is the best career advice you have received? “Talk less, listen more”. It is something Corey still struggles with doing. But, he is working at developing this skill and is getting better at listening. After all, “nobody ever listens themselves into having to apologize.”
(14.33) – What career objectives are you currently focusing on? Corey says that would be continuing to grow his business. Currently, he is focusing on marketing and sales. Unfortunately, he no longer has the time to code much.
(15.18) – What is the number one non-technical skill that has helped you the most in your IT career? For Corey it is storytelling. Telling a story about something in a way that resonates with your audience is a great skill to have. That is the case whether you are trying to convince a client, one of your peers or a colleague, of something.
You have to engage with them in a way that resonates. When you learn to do that, it automatically becomes easier to speak publicly, put together podcasts and participate at meetups.
(16.30) – Phil asks Corey to share a final piece of career advice. Every three months, pull up your resume and update it. Add what you have done for the past three months and think about what you want to add the next time you review your resume.
If you find that you have nothing to add for the last three months, work out why that is. Make sure that you don’t stall your career.
The last thing you need is to end up working for a company for 15years, yet only gain one year of experience. It is all easy to slip into the tap of doing the same thing year in, year out and end up stagnating. Reviewing your resume every three months will ensure that you are always intentional with your career choices.
(1.38) COREY – “First career tip don’t make fun of giant companies. It makes you less employable than you’d think.”
(2.19) COREY – “Make sure you don’t lose sight of the business value that you provide to your employer”
(10.12) COREY – “Saving clients, large piles of money, sort of pales in comparison to having helped someone develop in their career.”
(15.20) COREY – “Regardless of what it is you’re doing, you need to be able to tell a story about it in a way that resonates with the business.”
(16.13) PHIL “Stories are a fantastic way to communicate ideas and really communicate the solutions as well.”
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