I graduated from my Engineering School. A three year journey back and forth between school and Orange, The company where I worked as an apprentice-Engineer. This has been an amazing experience that has made me an engineer.
I think the learning path my tutors planned for me was interesting and I wish to share it with you.
During these three years I did not only have one job, one tutor and one project. I had the opportunity to be mentored by various people, three to be exact. Each one of them with expertise in different backgrounds. I started my apprenticeship with Philippe, a former chemical engineer and an insatiable geek. We were working on ways to improve IT and ease Operations’ work.
But I thought you were a production engineer, an Ops.
Indeed, but my first job was to understand the process and eventually challenge them, I had a new insight and I realized some things didn’t make sense. I eventually presented a project about backups to a bunch of people, that were three hierarchical levels above me, my very first crash, good time.
Looking back I get this position was meant to apprehend the life cycle of projects, to understand how things work.
Later on I joined an Ops team that was handling critical financial applications. There I met Laurent, a senior production engineer who was a killer in Tech, literally. He had this just do it state of mind, together we created tools and automated tasks. He also taught me a lot about Ops work : handling the production, resolving incidents, writing postmortems …
During the first major incident I handled, he was telling me what to do on a macroscopic level. I was basically a wireless keyboard that could process the information he was dictating and translate it to Unix commands. Yet this was rewarding because I was deeply implicated in the resolution of the incident. I quickly picked up his way of resolving problems and could from then on handle the incidents myself.
After one year in Orange, I had a good overview of the environment, strong Unix knowledge and basic, yet sound, Operations skills. Soon they gave me a small application to manage, being the beginning of my responsibilities. Because of good achievements they decided to give me several more a few months after, where some were critical.
Laurent was about to leave the team so a new engineer came in : Jean-Philippe. He had a very heterogene experience, leading teams for several years. Till the end of my apprenticeship he taught me everything I needed to know. He did not only go deeper into the overall Unix knowledge, he also trained me to manage and be part of a real business-related project. This was where I grew and took a leap in the right direction, I was an apprentice but he made me an engineer.
During the last six months, Jean-Philippe left, only two engineers were remaining in our team, myself included. Even though Jean-Philippe purposely let me organize my work and lead the projects I was a part of. This was particularly interesting as I wasn’t seen as an intern but really an employee, I felt 100% trusted for my expertise. But whenever there were improvements to be made, Jean-Philippe took the time to discuss it with me.
The last month was really thrilling as well. A new engineer came in, Romain. I instantly clicked with him, a thirty-something passionate guy about everything. With another colleague we did Romain’s onboarding. What are the tools, the process, etc. Eventually I supported him for his first tickets, more or less like Laurent did with me. Sharing my knowledge and my experience was really rewarding. I felt useful teaching someone important things and eventually challenge them with him.
This is more a story than a proper article but to sum up what was pertinent in my apprenticeship, I would say :
- Three distinct mentors to learn from. They have heterogene backgrounds and are technical killers
- Two jobs, first on the overall quality of IT and then as a proper Production Engineer
- Real responsibilities (managing critical applications, handling the onboarding of a new engineer)
- Letting me do mistakes and then take the time to discuss it and help me grow out of it
This way I learned a lot, was trusted and was recognized for my skills. An apprentice, an intern, are here to learn before being really useful. I had the chance to be mentored by people who understood that, they progressively made me an engineer.