In the latest installment of our #TechQA series, we caught up with Oana Garnett, Head of Services at startup Kubernetes professional services firm, Jetstack.
Oana reveals some of the benefits and challenges of working for a startup firm, the ever-present skills gap in the tech industry and offers her advice to those looking at starting a career in the world of technology.
Third Republic (TR): Could you start by giving us an overview of your background?
OG: So, I actually accidentally fell into the world of IT after completing my degree in international and political studies. A friend of a friend knew of an opening for an entry-level service delivery role within a large cloud hosting provider – and the rest is history really.
I progressed through the ranks of service delivery and then around 4 years ago I made another accidental move into Linux and technology management. This was quite a scary (albeit amazing) move for me as I was moving into a much more technical team and I pretty much knew nothing of Linux before that point. However, I ended up staying for almost 3 years and really enjoyed my role managing a fantastic team of engineers.
TR: How did you get to where you are today as the Head of Services at Jetstack?
OG: After 6 years in my previous role, I decided I wanted something new and wanted to solve new problems. I also wanted the opportunity to help build something from scratch, so, I decided that a startup was the way to go.
After some searching, a friend working at Google recommended Jetstack, I started in a Head of Support role and after a year was promoted to Head of Services. I’ve been with Jetstack for 18 months now and I’m loving it. I’m a big advocate of letting things happen organically!
TR: Could you explain in a little more detail about the work that Jetstack does?
OG: Essentially, Jetstack is a Kubernetes services company. We started about 4 – 5 years ago, when Kubernetes was open sourced as a way to help companies get business value out of the technology. We offer anything from training to consultancy and I was initially hired to setup the subscription offering. Subscription is how we strategically help our customers as they move into production. It’s exciting to be part of a business that’s always expanding.
TR: What does your role as Head of Services at Jetstack involve?
OG: It’s really quite varied – at a startup, you’re always doing many things that fall outside of your job description. Essentially, my role as Head of Services involves a combination of business focused and customer focused initiatives – internal and external. At the route of it, my role is to help Jetstack grow and ensure the services that we provide are scalable as well as being what our customers need. I am also responsible for ensuring that we have the mechanisms in place for ensuring that our business will thrive.
TR: Could you explain some of the challenges and benefits of working for a startup?
OG: Let’s start with some of the challenges – working within a startup is incredibly fast-paced and the rate of change can be very quick. It’s important to keep organised and manage your time effectively. In a startup environment, it’s key for everyone to get involved and help out so you need to be prepared to take on tasks outside of your role. It also goes without saying that sometimes taking a role in a startup can feel like a bit of a risk. You might not feel as secure and safe as you would in a long-running company.
From an employee and recruitment perspective; people can get very comfortable with extensive benefits they get at some of the larger companies. This can make it slightly more difficult to engage talent initially.
On the other side, there are numerous benefits to working for a startup business. I absolutely love being involved in extra tasks and getting to work across teams and all aspects of the businesses. There is also the freedom to design your own role – the business is building itself up and you are 100% part of this. Your opinions and ideas are likely to have more influence since, in many startups, the mentality is to test and trial things.
TR: Have you noticed any skills gaps in new technical talent in the industry?
OG: I think there is a skills gap across the board in tech. Given Kubernetes is still relatively new, we face the big challenge of trying to identify Kubernetes, DevOps and Open-source skillsets. Demand is most definitely higher than supply and it’s difficult to find talent on the market with real-life experience.’
Thanks to a number of open source tools we have launched, we have a very good connection to the Kubernetes community and have the advantage of getting many people interested in joining us as a way to further their career or contribute to the project at the same time.
It’s also important for us to encourage people who are graduating to trial a career in tech. You don’t always have to be the most technical person, as long as you are hungry to learn and invest the effort required to learn the skills and start a career in tech you will find success. We, as a community, need to encourage and inspire new and emerging talent to help close these gaps.
TR: What are some of the challenges you have faced when it comes to sourcing and engaging technical talent at Jetstack?
OG: One of the biggest challenges is that technical talent has become much more self-aware when it comes to their position in the market, meaning they are able to make much more educated and considered decisions on their careers.
People with niche skillsets such as; DevOps and Software Engineers have so much choice now. This has, in turn, increased the competition between companies. Everyone is trying so hard to attract such a small pool of talent. It’s vital for businesses to work on their brand and find new ways of standing out such as; holding events and writing blogs. A role has become so much more than just salary now – people want flexibility, culture and other benefits that will improve their work-life balance.
TR: How do you think the role of tech teams in businesses has changed over recent years?
OG: From what I have seen, tech teams are becoming the centre of businesses. Digital transformation and the constantly evolving world of technology is driving so many assets of life, that it has become essential for all businesses to advance along with these changes.
Businesses now need tech skills in order to be successful in their digital transformations, therefore tech teams are becoming increasingly empowered and involved in key business decisions.
TR: How do you think businesses can adapt to the ever-changing digital world that we live in?
OG: It’s so important for all businesses, whether you’re a startup or have been around for 50 years, to embrace digital changes. There’s no denying the digital landscape will continue to evolve and if businesses refuse to evolve along with it, they will eventually fall behind – if they want to survive, they have to adapt.
It’s about employing a mindset shift across the business, looking at their business in new ways. Starting to think about how these incredible advancements in technology can improve service and product offerings.
However, it’s also key to conduct thorough research before starting on a digital transformation journey. Ensure that the business is prepared and everyone across the business is aware of changes.
TR: Finally, do you have any advice for those looking to start their career in tech?
OG: Be excited! Think about what it is that you’d like to start out with. This might not be what you continue to do, but it’s good to have an idea of what you think you might enjoy. There are so many opportunities available that if you start now, you have the luxury of trying things out to see if they’re suited to you.
Also, believe in yourself! You might think that you’re not the most technical of people but if it’s something you really want to pursue, then try to gain as much knowledge as possible. There are plenty of learning sources out there, from online communities to meetups and conferences.
Due to the nature of most IT jobs, being so detail-oriented, it’s sometimes a good idea to take a step back and look at the big picture. Have a think – are you where you want to be? If not, refine your skills – this will help you to stand out at the ecosystem grows.
If you’d like to be involved in our next Q&A, get in touch with us today!