Q&A with Principal Cloud Solutions Architect (IT)

Name: John Wildes

Job Title:  Principal Cloud Solutions Architect

Career Field: IT Engineering / Operations

Industry: Currently DoD / FedGov, previously Fortune 500, Fortune 1000

Military Branch: US Navy (Currently Reserves, 15 years)

Military Occupation: Chief Petty Officer / Senior Enlisted Leader NCAGS Chicago

How did your military background help your career so far?

Later on, in my career the leadership development I gained from paygrade E5 to CPO paid off a lot. Technical skills I picked up in my civilian careers helped on the military side with being able to do things that just weren’t taught in my career field.  So it’s been a bit of benefit on both sides.  I’ve been able to successfully move in and out of leadership roles easily when looking for other jobs simply because of my experience in the Navy.

What advice or steps would you recommend for veterans preparing to enter your career field?  

Entering the IT field specifically requires constant technical growth.  Gone are the days that you could learn one skill set, one hardware platform, and be successful for an entire career.  You need to always be learning.  There’s plenty of focus on the transitioning veteran to the IT field.  Microsoft, Amazon both have huge Veteran recruitment divisions, and they have training pipelines to give you entry level to mid-level skills coming out of the military.

What do you enjoy the most about your career field?

I like technology and seeing how it changes over the years, and trying to forecast where things will go next.  It’s been an amazing 20 years so far.  It’ll be a more amazing next 20 years!

What do you like least about your career field?

There is a lot of churn. To move up in any org you really have to jump around a lot, maybe leave and come back.  Staying in one role is a sure fire way to stay in that role, and possibly never advance.

What skills, abilities, and personal attributes are essential to success in this career field?  

Skills are always adaptable, so learn things that will help in your daily work and learn what is next. Personal attributes I see in more successful people these days is developing a personal brand, and talking about it.  Something I think that older military folks might have a hard time doing, because of a lot of things we’ve been taught.  PERSEC, OPSEC, all of that I think keeps people from sharing the work that they do publicly but that is exactly what will help you in your IT career or just about any career lately.  Also, the ability to network with individuals is key, and I think that military veterans do that pretty well.  We have had to work with many units, commands, leadership levels, I think all of us have huge contact lists of people we can call when we need assistance. That is even more true in the civilian world.

Is there something you wish you’d known or a skill you wish you’d had starting out in this career field?  

Don’t be afraid to take risks.  One thing that the military taught me is that you can endure pretty much anything, and what matters is your personal mindset.  If you fail to take calculated risks because of fear of failure or being set back, you never really get anywhere.  Take those leaps, learn and keep moving forward.

How do most people get into this career field? What are common entry-level jobs?

Common entry level jobs are technicians who keep the infrastructure running, help desk support professionals, and developers who write business applications.  Internships are huge at larger organizations, and I believe that networking works best for small to medium sized organizations.   Temporary staffing also works in certain cases where you have no experience and need work, also “gig” work is common as well.  If you’re good at what you do, 1099 yourself to an organization and make money that way.

How did you find and apply for this job role?

My current role was through networking.  A group of people I worked with in the past had an opportunity and specifically reached out to me for it.

What made you stand out as a candidate for this job role?

It was a new business for this organization, and I have 20+ years working in the Microsoft space, from software sales, to how partnership works, to implementation and support.

What kind of education, training or experiences does your job role require?  

Because I’m in a more senior role a lot of the work is based on previous experience and being able to help develop more junior people.  So, it’s less day to day tactical work in IT and more management of individuals.  However, to get here you do have to pick a career focus and become an expert in it. This requires mostly certifications, and practical project experience.  In some of the more specialized areas a computer science degree is mandatory, and even further specialization requires masters level education the further you progress in your career.

What are the major components of your job role on a daily basis?  

Forming relationships with various subcontractors and within Microsoft community of people.  I do a lot of pre-sales motions for the organization which requires me to be at about a 100/200 level expertise in some the technology we’re selling, as well as be able to relate how that technology can solve the customer’s business challenges.  It does require that I have technical knowledge enough to demonstrate key concepts of the software or services in question, and possibly help direct an implementation.  In general, I have to be a mile wide and inch deep on just about everything in my space. I strive to be 300/400 level in a few key areas to maintain my “brand” but other than that I it’s difficult to keep up with everything in IT these days 😉

What do you like about your industry?

I like that there is a lot of opportunity.  You will never be out of work in the technology space, if you can adapt to the needs of employers, and keep learning.  Pay is competitive as well.

How do you see your industry changing in the next 10 years?

It’s going to be crazy the next 10 years, AI is a big thing right now, I think you’ll see less and less of the infrastructure careers as hardware becomes more powerful and less complex to implement.  I think you’ll see a centralization of infrastructure technicians into several cloud brokers, as more organizations realize that maintaining their own IT divisions are expensive.  The real value in technology is being able to make it do things for your organization that humans simply cannot.  There will still be human operators, but it is at that intersection point of human operation and technology processing that will prove crucial for tomorrows IT workers. Developing the next business application, applying the newest software technology will never go out need, unless of course we write AI that does coding…then…Skynet 😉

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