Chad Quinlan skipped traditional cloud engineer education—and makes 30% more with every new role
August 10, 2022
Chad Quinlan is a lifelong learner. Remarkably, he’s also been able to move up the tech ladder without traditional or formal education—all the way to his current role as the Senior Cloud Engineer at Avilamb. Upskilling with ACG and Pluralsight Skills has been a crucial part of Chad’s journey to career success.
It all started when Chad was five or six years old. His dad started bringing home old office computers for Chad to tinker with. “I pulled them apart, put them back together to see what would work, figured out how they broke,” he explains. “Eventually, I decided I want to do this with the big dogs.”
Chad’s career officially started at 17 when he worked a high-school internship at the help desk for an engineering firm. His work ethic and passion for learning helped him move up the ranks. Before long, he realized he wanted to become a systems administrator, which meant he would have to learn some new skills.
Undaunted, Chad dove right into learning how to script in Windows Server and eventually found a systems administrator position. Chad stayed in the role for several years until massive layoffs hit his company. By that point, he’d picked up a lot of infrastructure experience with Linux and AWS Cloud, so the company recruited him for a DevOps position.
The new DevOps role was a major challenge, even with the skills he’d gained as a systems administrator. A lot of the difficulty came from feeling like there was no well-defined route for success in the role. He was in the deep end with DevOps, and he found himself in need of a learning path. This was pre-cloud boom, so it was very difficult to find the kind of cloud sandbox environment he was looking for. That’s where ACG and Skills came in…
Upskilling without school
Over time, Chad explored his options for online cloud learning. Why did he decide on ACG and Skills? For one, the community: “The instructors were invested in the students.” He often enjoyed simply hopping on Slack or Discord to chat with course authors about tech skills or something else entirely. “It’s fun to hear firsthand what’s going on,” he explains. “That was one thing that really kept me around.” Another big factor was the highly structured learning paths: “The constant guidance . . . gave me some clarity on what I need to learn if I want to become a guru.”
Why did Chad ultimately decide on ACG and Skills? For one, the community: “The instructors were invested in the students.”
Compared to his experience with formal education, it was a major upgrade. “I did try to continue my education with a bachelor’s degree, and I found I was just regurgitating a textbook,” Chad explains. “I wasn’t getting anything particularly applicable to my career path. So I stopped working on my degree, because everything I needed to know to keep moving up was available to me on Pluralsight Skills or ACG. The instructor quality remained very high. They kept covering more and more topics that I was interested in, while keeping plenty of content fresh for what I need to remain proficient in.”
Of all the courses he explored, the AWS IAM Deep Dive was one of the most helpful. “IAM is in everything, and the more you understand it, the easier your life is going to be. So I jumped in, did the deep dive, and to this day it is constantly saving my bacon, so to speak.”
Upskilling with ACG and Skills helped Chad gain specific knowledge and become a better learner. His managers began to take note, placing more trust in him to learn new skills. “In my last role, I’d never worked with this tool called Terraform,” he recalls. “I knew nothing about it whatsoever, but an opportunity came up for working with a client, and my manager said, ‘Well, you better start learning it.’ Eventually, that grew to be my absolute favorite tool that I use in the space.”
Upskilling has opened a lot of doors for future jobs, too. “I always want to position myself to be favorable to my future self,” Chad says. For example, he recently picked up some Azure experience in his current role, put it on his LinkedIn profile, and quickly started receiving an influx of messages asking if he was interested in Azure-related roles. “It’s been a tremendous opportunity for me—I’m not worried about job security.”
“I did try to continue my education with a bachelor’s degree, and I found I was just regurgitating a textbook. I wasn’t getting anything particularly applicable to my career path. So I stopped working on my degree, because everything I needed to know to keep moving up was available to me on Pluralsight Skills or ACG.”
It goes to show the power of quality learning for opening career doors. For anyone looking to follow in Chad’s footsteps, he offers one crucial piece of advice: You have to want it. “If you really have the motivation to grow yourself, then you will find a way.”
For Chad, the present is never static; there’s always an opportunity to keep growing. ACG and Skills have empowered him to advance his career journey. We hope they inspire you to take the next step on yours.
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