For this interview, we have the pleasure of delving into the journey of Mohammad, a driven and dedicated individual with a remarkable story in the realm of cloud IT. Mohammad is currently pursuing a dual bachelor’s degree in Cyber Security & Cloud while working at Fairbanks and 42on. His experiences and insights offer valuable lessons on the intersection of education, professional growth, and thriving in a diverse and inclusive work environment. So, let’s continue reading to discover the details of our conversation with Mohammad about his journey and the insightful responses he provided.
- Can you tell me a bit about yourself and your background in cloud IT?
I’m Mohammad, 27 years old, originally from Syria, and I’ve been living in the Netherlands for 8 years now. In Syria, I studied IT and attended university for a year. Due to circumstances, I had to leave my studies there and came to the Netherlands. When I arrived here, I pursued an MBO (Intermediate Vocational Education) program and earned my diploma. Currently, I just started my third year of the dual Cyber Security & Cloud HBO (Bachelor’s) program. A dual program means studying and working at the same time, with a significant interconnection between the two. It’s kind of comparable to a traineeship.
- How did you come across the Cyber Security & Cloud program?
Cybersecurity has always been of interest to me. I’ve always wanted to do something related to hacking and security. During my MBO program, I gained some initial exposure to this field, but the level wasn’t sufficient to work in the security sector at a company. So, after completing my MBO program, I began searching for a bachelor’s program that would allow me to pursue this interest. I didn’t want to focus solely on work or solely on education; I wanted both. I applied to CITA, and they referred me to Fairbanks. CITA plays a role in making the match between the student and a company. So, CITA forwarded my CV to Fairbanks, and that’s how the discussions started. Being accepted was a huge relief because, at my university, you first need to find a company before you’re officially accepted into the program. If that doesn’t work out, you’re transferred to a full-time program instead of a dual program.
- What motivated you to apply for a position at Fairbanks?
I was seeking guidance for my studies, especially since Dutch isn’t my native language. Other companies I had applied to said they couldn’t provide the kind of support I needed, both in terms of soft skills and technical skills. During the interviews with Fairbanks, I felt they could give me the right guidance. In addition, Fairbanks only works with open-source technologies, which I find really interesting and this is where I want to develop.
- How do you experience the combination of working and learning simultaneously?
It’s like a rollercoaster. It’s interesting and challenging. Sometimes, I have to deal with exams and the pressure of work and my personal life all at once, which can be stressful. On the other hand, that stress motivates me to achieve good results. Fortunately, Fairbanks is supporting me in this and helping me find a good work-life balance.
- What aspects of Fairbanks’ company culture and values appeal to you the most based on your own experience?
The sense of being part of a family is what I appreciate the most. I’m not treated as just a student, they really treat me as a fully contributing member of the company. I feel very comfortable here, and there’s room for technical and personal development. Additionally, I like that the management, including the CTO and COO, is very approachable. It feels like a flat organization.
- How do you see your role as a dual student contributing to your long-term goals in cloud IT?
Right now, my studies have the highest priority, and obtaining my degree is my primary goal. Once I achieve that, I will consider my other goals.
- Our company places a strong emphasis on learning and development. How does this commitment align with your personal growth objectives?
It aligns well. I have regular 1-on-1 talks with my team lead and HR, where we discuss both technical as well as soft skills. I receive a lot of attention for development related to those skills. To keep track of my developing progress, we use the STARRT method as a coaching tool.
- Can you share an example of a situation where you effectively collaborated within a team?
For my studies, I work on projects. Every semester, we have to submit a project for both Fairbanks and school. My school project has now become a project for Fairbanks as well. So, I am not just working for school; I am genuinely contributing value to Fairbanks and 42on. Sometimes I collaborate with other colleagues on these projects as well.
- How have you contributed to the team’s success?
I contribute by working on tickets, solving problems, and addressing structural issues.
- Our company encourages collaboration across different functions. How do you feel about collaborating with colleagues from our sister company, 42on, which specializes in Ceph?
As part of the operations team, we serve as the front line for the entire company. If we encounter a problem related to Ceph in the operations team and can’t resolve it on our own, we collaborate with 42on to solve the issue. We also leverage the knowledge of the 42on team. This collaboration is seamless, and communication is easy and open.
- How do you handle complex technical challenges?
I always try to simplify incidents or problems and fully understand what the customer means. Based on that, I determine the next steps and attempt to find a solution. If I can’t solve it, I escalate it to senior colleagues to work together on a solution. Sometimes, I can answer questions easily if I have prior experience or knowledge, but it depends on the complexity of the issue.
- Maintaining a healthy work-life balance is important. How do you ensure that you effectively manage your responsibilities while taking care of your well-being?
I try not to mix my private life too much with work. Having a clear separation helps prevent problems from arising. When I’m at work, I don’t want to think about my private life, and vice versa. This way, I stay healthy for both my personal life and work.
- Our company promotes a supportive work environment. How do you deal with stress or pressure, and how do you seek help when needed?
I always try to discuss issues causing stress with HR and my team. Additionally, spending time with friends helps.
- What aspects of our company’s projects or services resonate with you the most?
There’s no hierarchy; everyone is equal, and the atmosphere is pleasant. I have a strong motivation to keep learning and growing, which aligns well with Fairbanks.
- How do you handle working in a diverse team, and how do you contribute to an inclusive work environment?
It doesn’t really matter; everyone is open to each other, and we don’t focus on our differences. That’s what makes our team stronger. Our universal language is open source.
- Can you share an experience where you’ve learned from collaborating with someone from a different background or perspective?
I’m from Syria and am now experiencing entirely new cultures and meeting people with different backgrounds. It’s an introduction to many different cultures.
- Would you recommend this work and learn combination through CITA to other students?
Absolutely, because I grow quickly, and I can apply the theoretical knowledge I gain at school directly in practice at work. Not everything aligns perfectly, but many aspects are relevant to my job. This helps me understand the material better. CITA served as a connection point for me, where they also provide a coach and training for developing professional skills.
This was a very interesting interview with Mohammad. Mohammad’s journey is a testament to the power of determination and adaptability. From his early days in Syria to his current role at Fairbanks, he has displayed a commitment to both personal and professional development. His experience as a dual student underscores the significance of bridging theory with real-world practice and the importance of fostering a supportive work culture. We extend our gratitude to Mohammad for sharing his story with us, and we hope his experiences inspire others in their educational and career pursuits in cloud IT.