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"I doubled my salary in 3 months" – From help desk to cloud with ACG

How do you land your first cloud job? ACG student Thad McMullen shares how he made the jump from help desk to cloud — and basically doubled his salary.

Jun 08, 2023 • 6 Minute Read

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  • Cloud
  • Learning & Development

Learning cloud skills comes with the potential to unlock some top-paying cloud jobs. But if you're new to cloud, how can you jump-start your career and go from cloud newbie to landing that first cloud gig?

To get a real take from the job-seeking trenches about how to find a cloud job, we chatted with ACG student Thad McMullen.

While some people took up skating, baking, or Pokémon over the last year, Thad comes out of 2020–2021 with one heck of an accomplishment. Over the course of a few months, he made the jump from a help desk job to a cloud role — and basically doubled his salary along the way. 

If you're looking for some guidance on making a similar career move (or just enjoy stories about smart, hard-working humans doing awesome things), check out Thad's journey.

This interview was done via email. Some portions may have been edited for clarity.

Getting started

Thad is from Miami, where he worked in a help desk role for about two years. Before that, he bounced around in other positions like QA analyst. Thad knew he wanted to move up to a career in the cloud. That's when he tried A Cloud Guru.

"I had a number of people refer me to A Cloud Guru," he said. "My previous employer actually paid for and endorsed the program, and I received recommendations for ACG from an Amazon AWS Evangelist and some cloud engineers and architects that I know."

While getting up to speed on cloud with ACG, Thad did some Google research to find common interview questions and in-demand cloud tools. He used that to form a base of things to research and study. 

"I looked online for in-demand skills in cloud engineering and architecture and put myself out there and contacted people I knew to get my finger on the pulse of the market," Thad said. "During the interview process, I found containers and container orchestration tools to be the most commonly assessed skills, second only to having a strong base and understanding of Linux."

Past experiences, future opportunities

Thad set himself up for success by using his previous positions to his advantage and chatting up the people who had the jobs he was aiming to get.

"I always tried to take advantage of any new information by picking the brains of the users I work with. I've had the opportunity to speak in-depth to cloud engineers, system administrators, and software engineers to get their opinions on best practices, the direction of the market, study and certification strategy, etc."

To build up experience, Thad focused on getting his hands cloudy every chance he got.

"On any side project that came up, I tried to leverage the cloud as much as possible. I would do things like set up websites and use EC2 instances, Route 53 DNS, and elastic load balancer. Or create VPCs and try to mimic the architecture of multi-tier applications."

From there, Thad tapped into his network and sought referrals and threw his hat in the ring for a few random jobs. After some interviews, Thad found a job that was the right fit. His soon-to-be employer put him through a series of three interviews, including character assessments and technical interviews to gauge familiarity with the tools used by the team.

While he was leaving the world of help desk behind, Thad leveraged his help desk experience to help him land the job.

"Having worked in support, I've been constantly exposed to new technologies and new software to install and support for end-users… I found that my broad experience set me up as a candidate who is adaptable and able to pick up on new technologies while simultaneously managing a full workload."

WATCH: Solving The "No Experience" Cloud Hiring Problem

You can’t get experience without a job. And who’ll hire you without experience? Conundrum! Watch this free, on-demand webinar featuring a panel discussion on cloud careers, including insights from the ACG challenge that helped dozens get their first cloud job. 

Three months later…

After about three months after signing up for A Cloud Guru, Thad had a job offer at a Fortune 500 company migrating to Microsoft Azure and leveraging the cloud to support a globally distributed network for international travel.

Besides climbing the career ladder, Thad also saw a serious salary increase. 

"I will be making approximately twice as much as I was before when factoring in the bonus," he said.

Thad cited a few key ways training with A Cloud Guru helped him in the job hunt process.

"ACG offered me a comprehensive understanding of cloud technology that went beyond just the bullet points. The lessons during the AWS Certified Solutions Architect - Associate (AWS SAA) course gave insight into the direction of the market and the tools used by companies to leverage the cloud. And the hands-on labs were extremely useful, as I could offer real-world application of my skills by referencing the lab/projects I've completed," he said. "Beyond that, the ACG Discord chat was full of professionals who offered real-world insight and shared projects or issues that I could try to mimic myself."

As for what's next, Thad is planning to continue advancing his skills with ACG and working towards earning his AWS Solutions Architect Associate Certification

"It's more necessary now than before given that I need to have a solid understanding of all the tools that the dev team uses. I'm already brushing up using the Kubernetes Deep Dive course and Chef course."

Thad has the following advice for others looking to make the jump from help desk to cloud.

"Build, build, build and read, read, read," he said. "Create a portfolio and learn about the technologies that companies use. Get familiar with containers and start using Linux as a daily driver so that you can navigate the command line as easily as you could a graphical desktop . . . I'd recommend going through all the ACG labs and scouring the internet for newsletters and articles about potential side projects. Also, one thing that helped was making sure that anything I did in the console, I could also do via the CLI."

Master the most in-demand skills

A Cloud Guru makes it easy (and awesome) to level up your cloud career — whether you’re new to cloud or a seasoned pro. Check out ACG’s current free courses or get started now with a free trial.