Episode 147 – Learn to Speak up and Don’t Be Afraid to Pursue Your Dreams with Sarah Lean

 In Podcasts

Phil’s guest on today’s show is Sarah Lean, who has spent 15 years working as an IT professional. She is a Cloud Solution Architect for Microsoft, specifically working on Data Center Transformations. Sarah specializes in Microsoft, VMware, Veeam and Azure, but she has many other skills and is always adding more. She is a STEM Ambassador and founded the Glasgow Azure user group.


(1.08) – So Sarah, can I ask you to expand on that brief intro and tell us a little bit more about yourself? Sarah starts by sharing the fact that she has been working in IT for about 15 years. She began her career working on a helpdesk doing really basic tasks like resetting passwords.

From there, she worked up through more complex tasks. Over the years, she has touched virtually every technology. Currently, she is moving into working with the Cloud, specializing in helping companies to migrate their data across.

(2.10) – Sarah started working for Microsoft about a year ago. Phil asked her what inspired that move. She says that she had always wanted to work for Microsoft and jokes that is her inner geek showing. Now that she has the right skill set she has been able to fulfill her ambition.

(2.33) – Can you please share a unique career tip with the I.T. career audience? Sarah’s advice is to “be authentic and learn to speak up”. It is important to share your opinion. That after all is why you have been invited to meetings or asked to work on projects.

(3.40) – Can you tell us about your worst career moment? And what you learned from that experience. Sarah explains that, a while back, she was working with a manager she just did not get along with. They were polar opposites.

This situation pushed her to change jobs for the wrong reasons and she ended up working for a company that was not a good fit for her. Basically, she found herself in an even worse situation than the one she had just left.

But, it forced her to be proactive and turn the situation around. She learned to handle thing differently whenever she was struggling to work with someone. In the end, that negative episode turned out to be a growing experience for her.

(4.56) – Phil asks Sarah what she now looks for when moving jobs. Sarah likes to work for supportive managers that inspire her. She also prefers flexible working and needs to be doing the type of work she enjoys.

Phil understands this completely. He once made the mistake of accepting a job despite the fact that the interview went badly. That experience taught him to never ignore red flags.

(6.29) – What was your best career moment? For Sarah that has been joining Microsoft. Something she has wanted to do from the moment she started using computers. Her skill enabled her to land her dream job. But, there was also an element of luck involved. She was referred by someone she met through the Glasgow Azure user group, that she founded 2 years ago. He worked for Microsoft.

(7.16) – Where are you based? Sarah explains that she works mostly from home or customer sites, often, in Scotland and England. She loves the flexibility the job gives her.

(7.46) – Can you tell us what excites you about the future of the IT industry and careers? The fact that no two days are the same is something Sarah finds exciting. This is especially the case now. The whole cloud first mentality has turned things on their head. Everything is evolving and progressing very quickly. Sarah really enjoys being able to continuously learn and try out new things.

(8.43) – Clearly your focus is the Cloud, but is there any other area that particularly interests you? Sarah describes herself as a server hugger, but she is now getting more involved in DevOps. She is focusing on understanding the infrastructure as code and how to automate.

(10.00) – What drew you to a career in IT? Sarah has always enjoyed computers. The fact that she can help people and share her knowledge is something she also enjoys. Her career in IT allows her to combine all of these passions, so, for her, it is the ideal career.

(10.36) – What is the best career advice you have ever received? Sarah says that is – “be yourself”. When she was younger she tried to follow in the footsteps of some of the people she worked with and admired. Unfortunately, that strategy led to her working in roles that she was not really suited for.

(11.09) – If you were to begin your IT career again, right now, what would you do? Sarah would spend more time learning about networking. She has a good grasp of infrastructure, but often wishes her networking knowledge was even better.

(11.53) – What are you currently focusing on in your career? Sarah is currently focusing on filling in the gaps, learning more. This year, she particularly wants to secure some Linux certification. She also wants to become a more rounded person.

(12.19) – What is the number one non-technical skill that has helped you the most in your IT career? Interestingly, Sarah’s secret skill is curling. She has been involved in the sport for around 20 years, now.

Playing has taught her the importance of teamwork. As the captain (skip) she has to make decisions for the team. Often, these are split-second gut feeling decisions that define the game. So, you have to become a confident leader as well as be a good team member. The skills she has picked up while curling has definitely helped her to succeed in her IT career.

(13.44) – Phil asks Sarah to share a final piece of career advice with the audience. Sarah’s parting piece of advice is not to be afraid to pursue your dreams. You are good enough. It is important to recognize and deal properly with imposter syndrome.


(1.40) SARAH – “I’ve probably touched every technology there is.”

(3.20) SARAH – “Be yourself. And don’t be frightened to use your voice.”

(5.40) SARAH – “If you enjoy your work, it’s not really work, it becomes like an extension of you”

(8.18) SARAH – “I pick up new technologies, methodology and meet new people with different perspectives all the time.”

(14.00) SARAH – “Don’t be afraid to go and pursue your dreams we are all worthy of those dreams.”


Twitter: https://twitter.com/TechieLass

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/sazlean/

Website: https://www.techielass.com/

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