Working as a IT support engineer is both interesting and rewarding. However, when major issues occur, you may find yourself working at some rather unsociable hours, as operations analyst Chris Ray highlights here.
What’s your name?
I’m 25 years old.
Where do you work?
I work for Skyscape Cloud Services.
What's your job title?
My official job title is an operations analyst, this means I’m a member of Skyscape’s support team. As a team we are responsible for investigating and resolving issues raised by Skyscape’s customers with the cloud services they have purchased.
How long have you been doing that?
I joined Skyscape Cloud Services April 2013,
How did you get there?
I joined Skyscape Cloud Services after leaving my job as a virtual infrastructure engineer at Hewlett Packard. At the time I was looking for a company that would provide me with an opportunity to apply my virtualisation knowledge on a much larger scale. Skyscape’s cloud platform is built on cutting edge and industry leading technologies supplied by VMware, Cisco, EMC and VCE. It was this blend of advanced technologies and Skyscape’s desire to radically shake up the procurement and provisioning process of IT systems for the UK public sector that attracted me to the company.
What's the day-to-day experience like?
As a member of the support team I spend a lot of time investigating, reviewing and updating support tickets. The tasks I perform on a day-to-day basis vary quite a bit depending on the type of assistance customers require or the issues they are facing. In a given day I could spend time investigating various network connectivity, virtual machine configuration and automated API provisioning problems. This has allowed me to build on and develop new skills using a range of diverse technologies.
What's the best thing about the job?
I have had the opportunity to gain hands-on experience with a range of advanced and highly scalable IT systems. The employees are all highly motivated and are each extremely knowledgeable in their own fields. I have learnt many new troubleshooting techniques whilst working together to resolve customer-facing issues.
And the worst?
Each week a member of the support team takes home the on call phone. The customers can call this phone for assistance out of normal office hours. When this was first put in place Skyscape’s monitoring team were still tuning the monitoring system. This meant that the on call engineer could be woken up in the middle of the night by an alert that upon further investigation turned out to be a false positive. Thankfully the volume of false positive alerts has significantly reduced.
What standout things have you got involved in through your work?
There have been two special projects that I have been involved with recently that have been both technically challenging and interesting. The first project was to provide a number of shared virtual hard drives between a set of virtual machines specified by the customer. The virtual machines were distributed between Skyscape’s physical data centres, which are approximately 80 miles apart.
The second project was to take a backup of the firewall and network address translation rules in a customer’s virtual router using API calls. Maintenance was then carried out on the virtual router, once this had been completed the customer’s configuration was re-applied programmatically, again using API calls.
How would you describe life as a working engineer?
Working as a IT support engineer is both interesting and rewarding, however when major issues occur you may find yourself working at some rather unsociable hours. In addition to this there is a plethora of new and emerging technologies to get to grips with to keep your skill set up to date and relevant.
What did you expect when you started work? Were there any surprises?
So far I haven’t had any real surprises whilst at work. I have certainly come to value detailed system documentation and accurate notes. It is definitely worth taking the time to note down fixes and solutions to problems just in case they reoccur.
Is there any advice you’d like to pass on to those about to enter an engineering workplace?
You need to have a real passion for the area you choose to work in. You must have the drive and determination to study and discover new and better ways of completing the tasks assigned to you.
Successfully completing a university degree or apprenticeship scheme is just the beginning of your knowledge-gathering career. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and seek clarification. Virtualisation and cloud environments are complex systems consisting of many different layers and use a range of different technologies, it’s highly unlikely you’ll be an expert at each level from day one.
What do you think you'll do next?
In a few years time once I have gained more experience I would like to move into either virtual or cloud infrastructure system design as a systems architect.