I had the pleasure of connecting with this beauty, LaShaun Grandberry a few weeks ago. It was really exciting to learn more about her career and how she got into systems engineering. Read the full interview below!
1. Tell me a little bit about yourself
Hi, I’m LaShaun! Most people either call me LaShaun or LA. I’m 28 years old and from LaGrange, TN. It’s a relatively small town about 30 minutes outside of Memphis. I have lived across the state over the past ten years and I’m currently trying to decide where I’ll end up next. I am mostly self-taught.
A few years ago, I was enrolled at a local university studying biochemistry and realized I didn’t enjoy spending my days in the lab anymore. I’m currently considering going back to school to obtain my bachelor’s. I’m the youngest of three and come from a two-parent household. I have two nieces and two nephews, Ashley, Ashton, Jarvis, and Jordynn. I’m currently single and have a 15 lb Shih Tzu and miniature poodle mix named Cheerio.
What do you do for a living?
I am currently a support systems engineer for a hospital featured on the “Top 10 hospitals in the United States” list. I’ve been in my current position for about 6 months. My daily responsibilities include managing my team’s ServiceNow queue, running daily reports to show how my team brings value to the company, managing our Google Workspace suite, creating, updating, installing, and troubleshooting all things surrounding High-Performance Computing, managing our reverse Web proxies, and supporting our AWS instances.
I assign tickets to the other respected engineers and follow up with various customers to ensure that our team has done a job well done. Coming from a background of customer-centered support, I always want to ensure that the intended outcome satisfies everyone. I work with five other amazing engineers on a remote team under the leadership of a technical lead. My team spends the majority of our time working on High-Performance Computing, Cloud, Servers, and Storage. I was initially nervous about joining this new team because they’ve all worked together for 7+ years, but the guys welcomed me with open arms. The majority of my days are spent working on the command line. I learn something new every day.
I’ll begin working on other projects soon such as working with Google Cloud Platform, automation, and managing SQL servers. My manager often reminds me that we always want to take the narrowest path possible.
How’d you get into systems engineering?
I got into systems engineering, honestly by the grace of God. While working in my previous Sys Admin role, I received an InMail on LinkedIn about a business systems analyst position. After connecting with the recruiter and learning more about the BSA role, the recruiter informed me that he was looking for someone with about 10 years of experience for that role but had another position that would be perfect for me.
Coming from a background of customer-centered support, he said the new role sounded very similar to what I was currently doing and learning outside of work. The majority of my outside learning included learning about AWS. I currently have my AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner certification and I’m studying for my Solutions Architect Associate exam. It was a 2-step interview process, 1 with my now manager, and the other was a panel interview with my now colleagues.
In my panel interview, they asked me various questions about different systems and asked if I would be okay with learning Linux. I mentioned that learning Linux was something that I was currently doing and had a few books on it. One of the interviewers asked me to show him my learning materials on camera. At the time, I had maybe 5 books on Linux. I showed them my books and we all laughed, and he told me “I think you’ve got it.” I received an official offer two days later and found out my official title.
How long have you been in this role and what were you doing before?
I’ve been in this role for about 6 months. Before this, I worked as a Systems Administrator for a fitness company. I loved my previous company and the customers I supported, but I knew I wouldn’t last in my previous role forever.
I was a systems administrator for a global company. We supported local gyms to ensure their systems worked properly.
What inspired the change?
I wanted more of a challenge. Boredom set in with my previous role and I wanted to make more money. I told myself around this time last year that I would make at least 100K per year, by my 30th birthday. I wasn’t quite sure how at the time, but I knew it was possible.
What advice would you give to someone looking to pivot into systems engineering?
I would tell anyone wanting to pivot into systems engineering, to do a great amount of reading honestly. Read up on infrastructure and the different types of systems engineering. You’ll learn by doing. More specifically, if you want to learn High-Performance Computing, learn Linux and automation. Learn networking and a programming language such as Python. Ansible is also great to know. My senior HPC engineer always reminds me that the goal is to make things easier for the next time around.
My go to books are, “The Practice of System and Network Administration”, “PowerShell for Sysadmins”, “The Linux Command Line”, and “The Practice of Cloud System Administration”, and “Hands-On Site Reliability Engineering”. All of which can be found on Amazon.
Know how to communicate. Never be afraid to ask questions and know that the only way you’ll learn how to fix most things is by breaking the very thing that you’re trying to fix. Systems Engineering is all about building, maintaining, and supporting technical infrastructure. Know that it’s perfectly fine to say that you don’t know anything about a particular topic, but always be willing to learn. It’s okay to mess up, no one is perfect.
Also know that you’ll encounter spelling errors when working on the command line, so always use spell check. Learn how to multitask. I set different timers throughout the day to ensure I don’t spend too long on 1 topic. Learn Agile Methodologies and remember that big pictures are made up of small pieces that come together. Your projects are the big pictures, and you’ll work on creating many small pieces or increments that will come together to function.
Connect with like-minded people and find your community online.
You will encourage each other and celebrate your wins. Don’t be afraid to ask for help either. Your teammates will respect you for it because they’ll see how much you’re trying, and most will even offer you some advice. Don’t drown in your career, no one expects you to be superwoman. I know it’s easy to get swept into what you’re doing and get confused by the many tools that you’re using but take it one day at a time. Spin up a few virtual machines and play with them. If you’re anything like me, you’ll even break one or two then soon laugh about it.
Create a plan and modify it as needed. Your journey won’t be identical to mine. Don’t be in competition with anyone, this is your race. You’re the winner. Be loud about your learning. Make a post on Linkedin or even create a blog. Someone a few months from now will be in your same shoes and you never know how you’ll be able to help them. I’m always happy to share my resources and learning material too, so don’t hesitate to ask.
What do you do outside of your full-time job?
Outside of my full-time job, you’ll find me either studying, reading, spending time with my family, playing with Cheerio, or sleeping honestly. I firmly believe in getting my rest. I also have a Nintendo Switch that I play regularly. Animal Crossing and Super Mario Odyssey are my favorites. Tiffany D. Jackson and Terry McMillian are my absolute favorite authors.
I also binge-watch 90s shows such as Living Single. I love to travel and shop. I’m also trying to decide when to go skydiving again. My newest hobby is exercising. I work out twice a day at least 3 times a week. A great friend of mine challenged me to get back in the gym and reminded me that after getting myself together mentally, emotionally, and career-wise, it was time to step it up physically.
How do you manage work-life balance?
I manage my work/life balance by setting hard start and stop times for my workday. I wake up daily at 4:30 AM and go to the gym. I’m unavailable daily from 12 – 2 PM to make sure that I eat during my lunch and study afterward. Meditation every morning before starting my workday is important because there’s nothing like quiet time.
After my workday is over, I close my laptop and walk out of my office. Sometimes I take the evening to study or decide to take the evening for myself. I try my best to always get away from the screen whether that be my work computer, personal, tv, or iPad. I take mental health days as needed and do mental health check-ins with my closest friends regularly.
My work/life balance doesn’t always look the same each day. I try to do my best every day and some days, my best is just showing up. Your bad days will happen and so will burnout, but it’s completely okay. Every day is a new start.
Where can readers find you?
If you learn nothing else from me, remember to do it scared. Your growth will shock you; I know mine did.
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