In this short post, I’ll be touching on my experience of moving into a customer-facing role, and my experience of overcoming work-based anxieties.
I have worked purely within internal operations for the last 5 years. This started with Linux systems administration for a few years before going on to cloud platform engineering. More recently, I did a short stint as a technical solutions engineer. During this time spent working in the engine rooms of small businesses I built up some experience of platform reliability and observability. It was from this experience that my mindset shifted from managing on-premise infrastructure to designing cloud-native solutions.
My interest in cloud-native technologies and platform reliability prompted me to find a new role which incorporated both of these elements. So when the Customer Reliability Engineer (CRE) role came up, it caught my eye and I applied. I have now been working on the CRE team since November 2019, and it has been a fantastic learning experience. That said, looking back I realize how unprepared I was for the transition into a customer facing role - however I’m glad I took the leap.
Moving from a purely internal role to a heavily customer-facing one was a bit more culture-shock than I anticipated. Imposter syndrome set in quickly and I started to over-think my responses to clients, trying to piece together something that sounded overly professional. It wasn’t long until I realized that I was creating pedestals for everyone that I interacted with, and projecting expectations onto myself that simply weren’t there.
I was scared that talking to anyone about it would cast doubt on my abilities, but after jokingly mentioning it to my manager, we had a talk about it, and she told me that what I was going through was normal, lots of people get it. Me being me, I went off to do some research on the topic.
It turns out that it’s super common. One study even puts the numbers at about 70% of adults feeling the same way.
Thankfully, our company has an incredibly open culture, and speaking to my manager in frequent 1-to-1’s, with a few people over lunch or while travelling, and engaging in discussions in our #well-being Slack channel helped ease my anxieties enough that I could see that I was already doing pretty well for someone who’d just started. I can’t stress how helpful the entire team has been in helping me overcome this little patch of turbulence.
If you’re ever dealing with something similar, my advice would be to start by finding one person you trust to talk about it, and once you get comfortable discussing it with them, start discussing it through a wider channel. It sounds super scary, and it can be at first, but you’ll often find that you’re not alone.
Not every company has an existing personal support structure, or even places to talk about mental health and well-being issues, but just one conversation or Slack channel can be enough to make a difference.
What about the actual job?
My role is amazingly varied, between developing proof of concepts for clients and advising on issues they might have with their Kubernetes clusters and helping at training events, I’ve also been using my operational experience by contributing to re-usable architecture schematics we’re calling “Blueprints”.
All while constantly learning new things about the internal workings of Kubernetes and cloud platforms.
Recently, the support structures here have come into their own element, with the increase of remote working due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The #well-being and #remotes Slack channels are abuzz with conversation and advice on how to stay safe and healthy in this difficult time. We’ve even started a “water-cooler” video call to help ease social distancing.
I hope you all stay safe, and maybe this post has given you some inspiration to help keep each other sane :)
If you fancy a change of pace in your career, and like cloudy containery things, we’d like to hear from you, you can view our roles here.