My time with the Cloud Academy

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

In September 2020 DVLA kicked off their exciting and innovative Cloud Academy. This is part of their Centre of Digital Excellence (CoDE) talent pipeline to grow digital skills from the ground up. A year on we caught up with one of the inaugural academy members, Daniel James, to find out about his journey so far. 

Hi Daniel, before we talk about the academy, can you tell us a bit about yourself? 

“Of course, my name is Daniel James and I joined ITS in September 2020 as one of the members of the DVLA Cloud Academy. I started with DVLA in 2012 and worked in the Contact Centre (vehicles side) for around five and a half years, doing various roles, before joining Drivers Medical. During this time I worked the evening shift for 18 months to help with childcare, before then moving to day shifts. 

“I’m married with two children and also have a Pug fur baby. I enjoy family time, trips away/nights out (although these are few and far between these days), gaming, audiobooks, movie/films, walking the dog and anything else I can find time to do”. 

Following on from your first year on the Cloud Academy, I hear you have started a degree in Cloud Computing. How is it going? 

“The last 12 months has flown by and in that time, I feel I have learnt so much. When I saw the digital degree apprenticeships advertised I felt it would be a great opportunity to bolster my skills and gain the bachelor’s degree in Cloud Computing at the same time. 

“Things are going well, and I’ve passed my first exam in my ‘Network and Cybersecurity Essentials’ module. Now that’s done, it’s all about the coursework and there is plenty to keep me busy”. 

What have you achieved through participating in the Cloud Academy so far? 

“During the initial three-month bootcamp I gained certifications in both Agile and DevOps, this in turn helped pave the way for me to gain my Amazon Web Services (AWS) certifications in both ‘Cloud Practitioner’ and ‘Solutions Architect Associate’. Once the bootcamp had finished I moved onto completing the ‘AWS SysOps Associate’ certification. Since then, I have been getting to grips with all the tools and systems used by DVLA in Cloud Engineering, and that is harder than any certification, I can tell you!” 

What is your next key milestone and how are you preparing for it? 

“From the university side of things I’ve completed my first exam, so now it’s head down with the coursework to complete the first semester and finish all assignments on time. 

“Regarding work, I am hoping to gain the AWS Security Specialist certification before the new year. I’m trying to absorb as much as possible and take on work that is out of my comfort zone and that broadens my knowledge.” 

What is involved with the degree apprenticeship? 

“Every Monday I attend my lectures at the computer lab; the first lecture starts at 9am and I finish the assigned classes at 4pm. It’s a perfect opportunity to spend a day concentrating on my university work. I can catch up on assignments/coursework or research. 

“I am assigned a liaison officer by the university whom I meet with alongside my manager every other month. We discuss my progress and any challenges I am experiencing, just like any other student. I’ve even got a NUS card and get millions of emails about student events and discounts for here, there, and everywhere, so I can’t complain. 

“There is quite a lot of work to do, and this became evident in my first week when I was told I needed to do a 10-hour course as a pre-requisite in one module and, about 6 hours of videos to watch in another module, all by the following week. It is achievable but it’s certainly teaching me the benefits of planning my work and schedule carefully to ensure I stay up to date, I must remember it’s back to work the next morning and I have family life to consider.” 

What’s next for you? 

“I guess the next big step for me is to be made permanent in the role as we are currently on a fixed term contract until September 2022. After that I guess it’s all about aiming at reaching the skill level of the Senior Engineers. 

“Oh, and finally, I want to gain a few other AWS certifications, along with the Certified Kubernetes Administrator (CKA) certification. A lot of the work I do on team is with the Kubernetes system and having recently completed a course, I’d love to pass the exam as soon as I can fit in the time.”