Skip to content

Contact sales

By filling out this form and clicking submit, you acknowledge our privacy policy.

How Allen-Michael made a career switch to AWS with tech skills

Get advice from AWS Principal Developer Advocate Allen-Michael Grobelny on how to learn tech skills, land tech jobs, and practice lifelong learning.

Jun 25, 2024 • 5 Minute Read

Please set an alt value for this image...
  • AWS
  • Cloud
  • Software Development
  • Professional Development
  • Learning & Development

Changing careers or breaking into tech can seem daunting. But many people have done it—and you can, too!

Allen-Michael Grobelny, Principal Developer Advocate for GameDay at AWS, shares his advice for learning tech skills and explains how he transitioned from teaching to a tech job.

Get more insider tips for breaking into the tech industry.

Table of contents

Discovering a career path: How Allen-Michael transitioned into tech

Allen-Michael currently works as a Principal Developer Advocate for GameDay at AWS. “I'm generally trying to get out there and help people learn,” he explained. “That's at the heart of what all the developer advocates at AWS do is really [get] out there to try and engage the community, hear what they're up to, and help them engage with AWS in new and better ways.”

But he didn’t start in tech. He actually began his career in education. “I went to college, got an English degree, and my big plan was going to be in a punk band. I was going to travel the country in a van with a bunch of my band members. That didn't work out. . . . So my backup plan was [to] be a teacher.”

Allen-Michael then learned about the tech industry through a friend who was a front-end developer. “He was making really good money doing this, and he and I were talking about that. He was like, ‘You could do this.’ 

“And I'm like, ‘Well, no. I'm this English guy. I communicate. I write. I like to read. I like to make art. I'm not this math genius.’ And he's like, ‘Neither am I. . . . It's not about math, right? There's math involved, but the computer does the math.’

“And I was like, ‘Oh, okay.’ So that kind of opened this window to me of maybe tech is actually accessible to people who don't necessarily think of themselves as [having] an engineering mindset.”

How Allen-Michael determined transferable skills for a career in tech

Once Allen-Michael knew he wanted to make a career change, he made a plan to build technical skills and leverage his existing skill set.

First, he looked for a way to learn IT skills. “I've got an English degree,” he said. “I'm worried that people are not going to give me an interview, right? So I did some research. I went online and I found the cheapest online public university that I could get a bachelor's degree from (because I'm making a teacher salary).”

He also conducted a skills inventory and identified the skills he already has that can help him break into the tech industry. “I start doing a little bit more research and I find out actually, you know, engineering is one aspect [of the tech industry]. There's also a group of people called technical documentation writers. 

“I have that skill set. I can edit. I have a degree in that. So can I break in that way? I started looking regularly for job postings about documentation writers, things like that, just to get in with a tech company.”

His research paid off—he landed a job in technical documentation for an accounting software company and began earning his computer science degree at night.

Find a learning resource to build hands-on experience with tech skills

Between Allen-Michael’s technical documentation job and his college classes, he soon uncovered a gap in his learning.

“I started picking up a few things in my day job working at the accounting software place where I could revamp the documentation website. I [could] learn how websites work and things like that. But I was still lacking a more formalized path driven way of actually coding instead of just learning the theory at night in these college courses.”

He found a learning platform to fill this gap and gain hands-on application. “Pluralsight gave me a way to actually see this stuff in practice. And it was coming from people who were doing the jobs that I was looking to transition into, right? It was coming from engineers, people who coded day to day, [and] these people were very good teachers also.”

Create a schedule for tech skill development

Even with the right resources, it can be hard to find time to learn alongside a full-time job, family commitments, and other responsibilities. Allen-Michael created a schedule to keep his learning on track.

“I would wake up at six in the morning. I'd have to be at work by eight. So I would spend six to seven basically watching Pluralsight videos. Then at lunchtime, I would walk around the parking lot and watch more Pluralsight videos. And then I'd get home, do my college stuff, and then I would have my exercise routine, which was walking. I walked around our apartment complex watching Pluralsight videos.

“I did this every day for at least the two years that I was in college, because it was a supplement to that. . . . It wasn't just learning about, you know, how is memory allocated in a programming language or how does a stack work, that type of thing. It was more along the lines of how do you actually apply this to things that get built?”

Practice lifelong learning to stay on top of tech trends

Even if you’ve landed a job in the tech industry, the learning doesn’t stop. “I took a detour maybe a year or two ago into the security realm, where I had no prior experience in cybersecurity whatsoever. Pluralsight was a huge aspect of learning and getting up to date on stuff that I just hadn't experienced before,” said Allen-Michael.

“That's one of the secrets that people don't tell you. And I've come to trust Pluralsight as a huge wealth of knowledge that I can trust. That's the other side that people won't tell you. One, you've always got to learn. Two, there's going to be so much information out there that you're going to have to seek out good sources of information.”

Join a community for learning tech skills

Learning with others can help you build community, network, and even secure tech job opportunities. How can you get started?

“Go to the events, especially the ones that are free that are near you. Go to meetups. That's how I got my start in the tech community, [by] going to meetups that are generally free. Actually, they'll feed you most of the time. So you're coming out ahead in that transaction,” said Allen-Michael.

Ready to build your tech skills? Start a free trial of Pluralsight Skills.

Pluralsight Content Team

Pluralsight C.

The Pluralsight Content Team delivers the latest industry insights, technical knowledge, and business advice. As tech enthusiasts, we live and breathe the industry and are passionate about sharing our expertise. From programming and cloud computing to cybersecurity and AI, we cover a wide range of topics to keep you up to date and ahead of the curve.

More about this author