Spotlight - Adam Hall

    By Adam Hall, Tech Lead on DVSA Technical Support Service (TSS) - Platform and Security Capability

    Adam Hall


    In this Spotlight, we spoke to Adam Hall, Platform Engineer at BJSS. Here at BJSS, we're home to one of the most successful cloud engineering teams in the UK. We have a large group of engineers who deliver complex cloud platforms for exciting clients across a range of industries.


    Starting out

    I started an apprenticeship straight after finishing college as I didn't feel like university was for me. I wasn't sure exactly what I wanted to do at that point, but I knew that I wanted to work in the IT industry. I managed to find an apprenticeship that gave me exposure to a wide range of roles which I found extremely beneficial, all whist studying for and completing a degree. It was a difficult couple of years, but it worked well for me as I gained the experience in the workplace and also obtained a degree at the same time.

    Of the different areas I got a taste for, I enjoyed a 2nd/3rd line role supporting some live services so this is the role I decided I wanted to take further. I then progressed into a Platform Engineer role as this was a natural step for me, and this is when I moved to BJSS.

    Life at BJSS

    I joined BJSS as a Platform Engineer in 2018 and my first project was the award-winning DVSA Technical Support Service (TSS) project. The team supports a wide range of critical services for the DVSA and at first, as a less experienced Platform Engineer, I found this quite daunting. However, everyone on the team made me feel really comfortable and I had great support, which helped me settle in quickly.

    My approach has always been to do what I enjoy and try not to run before I can walk. When I moved to BJSS, I felt this would be a great place to keep learning and improving in the platform space, and this has proven to be the right move. Working on TSS as a Platform Engineer for two to three years gave me exposure to services and technologies that I hadn't used before, and completing AWS certifications has been really rewarding.

    In early 2021, I was asked to take on the joint Tech Lead role for the team. This was a big step for me as I hadn't had any experience in a role like it. I've really enjoyed my time doing it and again, just like when I joined the team, I've had great support from everybody around me.

    Whilst I didn’t have experience as a Tech Lead, I felt like this was the next step I wanted to take in my career, so when I was asked to take on the role, I accepted it. Even though the opportunity presented itself earlier than I expected, I knew it was the direction I wanted to move in and that I would regret not taking it further down the line. Moving into the Tech Lead role, my experience as a Platform Engineer really helped as I experienced both the good and frustrating sides of working as a Platform Engineer, and I can use this to help the team as much as I can day-to-day.

    Lessons learned

    One of the biggest lessons has been that no matter how much you know about a project or service, it will break in ways that you didn't know were possible. One of the most important skills a Platform Engineer can have is the ability to investigate issues and work out why something has broken or isn't working in the way that you expect. Having the underlying technical skills to help investigate issues is important, however, being able to dig down and work issues out that you don't understand is crucial.

    Experience isn't everything! It can be daunting moving into a new project where you don't feel like you have the experience when compared to others on the team, but if you are interested and use the skills you do have to good effect, then you will do well.

    Ask as many questions as you feel the need to and don't be scared of asking. It's sometimes easy to feel like you might be annoying people by asking lots of questions but it's a really important part of moving into a new role or on to a new project. Asking them can help you get up to speed on the project quicker and help avoid mistakes that could be easily avoided.

    Advice for your next step

    My advice would be to take opportunities that are presented to you and not overthink. Imposter syndrome is more common than people realise and it’s easy to think that you won't be good enough for a new role or opportunity whereas if it’s something you really want then you will adapt well.

    Speak to people (Service Delivery Managers, Project Leads, Line Managers, etc.) regularly, and keep them up to date with what is happening and any issues that may be on the horizon. Being stuck on tickets/tasks and service issues are all normal aspects of day-to-day work, however if the right people aren't aware, things can't be done to help resolve them. Keeping people informed can help build trust with the people you are working with in your new role and ensure you get any help you might need. It’s perfectly normal to need more assistance when doing something new and getting the assistance can help make your transition easier.

    A great way I found to improve my skills was volunteering to pick up tasks on a project that I knew nothing about. It can be daunting at first, but it's a great way to learn new things, and making use of others with experience around you can really help too. I have found everyone that I work with to be really helpful, so just asking questions about things you aren't sure about can be a really effective way to improve skills and wider knowledge of technologies.

    Since joining BJSS, I have also completed several AWS certifications, with the most recent being the AWS Certified Solutions Architect - Professional. These can be very challenging but extremely rewarding and are a great way to widen your skills and understanding of AWS/Cloud.

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