03-May-2021 09:59 - edited 01-Feb-2022 20:46
Our Featured Member series is a way for us to show appreciation and highlight active contributors in our community. Communities thrive on interaction and our Featured Series gives you some insight on some of our most engaged folks. DevCentral MVP Andy McGrath is our Featured Member for May! Let's catch up with Andy!
DevCentral: Please explain to the DC community a little about yourself, what you do and why it is important.
Andy: I'm an old school techie (at least I feel like it), starting my involvement with the world of computers back in the mid-90s. Today, I'm a Cloud Platform Engineer working in a small team for a property tech start-up in the UK Boomin.
I love what I do and feel like we build the foundation for the broader engineering team ensuring the services they are writing have a place to run and are healthy and stable. I also love learning and playing with new stuff, and so in a world of Kubernetes, Helm, Terraform, CI/CD, and all the other technologies, I always have something to tinker with. Additionally, I have been learning and working with .Net (C# and toying with F#) and Go, which I love writing code in.
DevCentral: You’re an active contributor in the DevCentral community. What keeps you involved?
Andy: Generally, I love to share my knowledge and experience. I was lucky enough to have several people and communities, one of them being DevCentral, do this when I was younger, so happy and willing to give back where I can.
F5 has done with DevCentral to create the feeling of a small intimate community while not having a huge barrier to get involved. May other technical communities feel like you either contribute knowledge or consume knowledge. However, DevCentral is a community where people with little experience with F5 technologies can and do still contribute alongside those oldies like me.
DevCentral: Tell us a little about the technical expertise you have.
Andy: I started my career wanted to be a game developer and learnt to code by making games and building mods for games like Quake 2 and Half-life. However, somehow I ended up as a systems engineer for a consultancy company.
I tend to get bored working with technologies, so I have always pushed myself into different disciplines and tech. I was lucky enough to work with a manager and a company that allowed me to do just that and would often throw new stuff at me. I ended up doing networking, security, storage, virtualization, server migrations and more with them. In 2004 I was asked to learn F5 BIG-IP, running F5 TMOS 9.0.1, with the support of an excellent F5 SE and some second-hand training. Later Juniper and F5 became the leading vendor technologies I worked with for a long time.
Several years ago, I landed a contract position at Lloyds Banking Group, working on a team dedicated to writing and maintaining iRules (and later iRuleLX). This changed my world from very infrastructure-focused to development-focused and got thrown into the deep end with DevOps.
DevCentral: You are a Cloud Platform Engineer at Boomin. Can you describe your typical workday, how you manage work/life balance and the strong support of F5 solutions? How has the recent pandemic impacted your work?
Andy: Boomin is a start-up that I was, fortunately, able to join early on before they launched. My workdays are highly varied. Last week, we worked on a redesign of our Kubernetes cluster build pipelines and Infrastructure as Code, which involved many Terraform, Helm and Azure DevOps pipeline updates. Next week might be a security review or updating the code for our Distributed Tracing solution. It's a role that included many different technologies and so one that can be taxing at times, but I find it really enjoyable, engaging and I am always learning something new.
Our team is very focused on Infrastructure as Code, automation, and always looking to improve, no technology is sacred, so if we find something to do a better job, we will consider it or put it on the backlog to look at when we have time.
As for work/life balance, I now work 100% from home (in part thanks to the pandemic) in a small log cabin office at the end of my garden right on the edge of the English countryside. So I'm at home with the family and our dogs which is fantastic, but I don't think I could do it without my own dedicated space for work. I find I work more hours, but I can also turn off from work when needed and just get away from it for a short time, something you struggle to do in an office.
DevCentral: Do you have any F5 Certifications? If so, why are these important to you and how have they helped with your career?
Andy: I have had several, from the early days of certs based on v9, v10 and v11 which was useful to me at the time. However, sorry to say they have all expired now, and as I don't need them directly, I have no plans to regain any at the moment. I recommend people who want to learn more about F5 getting on some of the courses. They are a great way to learn and gain insight into the F5 tech and people.
DevCentral: Describe one of your biggest Customer challenges and how the community helped in that situation.
Andy: I think almost all my big projects have been helped in some way by the communities. But have to say working at Lloyds Banking Group, writing and maintaining iRules, DevCentral and some smaller communities (mostly on Github) became like a second home. I learnt a lot about how to do proper development as part of a team and CI/CD.
That role and the communities I was involded in definitely changed my career for the better.
DevCentral: Lastly, if you weren’t doing what you’re doing – what would be your dream career? Or better yet, when you were a kid – what did you want to be when you grew up?
Andy: As a kid, I had a new career in mind every other week until I got my first proper computer, a 486 DX2 running DOS 6.2 and Windows 3.1. From that point, working with computers was it, but I really wanted to become a games developer and think if I had stuck with it, I might be doing that now. Other than that, I did a short stint as a Juniper Instructor, which I loved, and so think when I'm done with keeping up with all the new tech, I might just find my self a well-paid job teaching computing.
---Thanks Andy! We really appreciate your willingness to share with the DevCentral Community. Stay connected with Andy and Boomin on social media:
It often feels like developers have to know everything, constantly juggling dozens of tools, languages, libraries, and frameworks. To do this, they have to be able to quickly find the information they need in order to get back to writing software. When that information is public, all you need is a quick search on Stack Overflow to turn up an answer and be on your way. But when that information is internal and private, it’s a maze of stale wikis and lost emails.