Six months ago I did something crazy. I signed up for a twenty-four-week DevOps program that promised to change my life for the better. This might not sound crazy on the surface, but the thing is, I already had a successful career. I have been in healthcare for the last fifteen years, starting as a bedside intensive care unit Registered Nurse, then earning my Master’s degree in Nursing and becoming a board-certified Acute Care Nurse Practitioner, where I continued to work in intensive care units, taking care of the sickest of the sick.
Many factors led me to contemplate a career change in 2022, but that’s a story for another time.
What I want to focus on right now is the DevOps community I found.
Throughout my time in a twenty-four-week DevOps program, I was taught and encouraged on how to connect with people on LinkedIn, and how to build a network of like-minded people. I had never used LinkedIn before but I slowly began connecting with strangers in the tech field, filtering potential connections by searching for other DevOps engineers and basically “cold messaging” them.
“Hi, my name is Brandi. I’m new to the DevOps field and looking to connect with others in the industry. Would love if you would accept the connection!”
This went on for months, sending 10–20 connection requests per week. Some people simply accepted the connection. Others sent a personal message, and then we would chat back and forth. A few connections clicked and we mutually encouraged each other on our respective tech journeys, offering tips and guidance based on our own learning experiences. After twelve weeks of my twenty-four-week program, I started reaching out to hiring managers and recruiters of companies I found interesting or thought that I might want to be involved with in the future.
“Hi, my name is Brandi. I came across your company on LinkedIn and just wanted to reach out to say I was so impressed with the company’s commitment to <fill in the blank>. I am currently in a DevOps training program and plan to keep your company on my radar for when I complete my program!”
This method was hit or miss. Some recruiters would not respond at all and some were kind enough to talk to me on the phone, even though I wasn’t ready for the job hunt yet. One recruiter, in particular, kept me in mind when an opening in her company came up, and the thing is, it was exactly the company I wanted to work for.
In addition to building a network of recruiters and hiring managers, I focused on reaching out to other DevOps engineers. Many were in the same boat as me, new to the field and learning as they went. We traded tips on which Udemy or KodeKloud courses we found useful, and what resources we used to prepare for certification exams. We encouraged each other along the journey and celebrated our successes together. I even found a mentor or two that was farther down the DevOps road and willing to guide me. When I first started using LinkedIn and reaching out to people I had never met, I was afraid I would get hit with many rejections or rude comments. To my surprise, this was not the case. Overall, I felt the LinkedIn community I built to be extremely supportive and encouraging and that gave me the confidence to keep building and sharing.
Tips for a Successful LinkedIn Network
Now that you know my story, I want to encourage you to build a LinkedIn community of your own. There may be a few connections that you make that are not ideal or maybe even toxic, but you can always block those individuals. I guarantee the majority of your connections will be positive and will encourage you to keep moving forward and bettering your career. They will be there to celebrate your wins and mourn your losses. Here are a few tips to get started:
Step 1: Update Your Profile
Nobody wants to connect with a person that they can’t see. Make sure you have a profile picture, preferably a professional looking one. It doesn’t have to be taken by a professional, but it does need to have a non-busy background. If you crop your profile photo out of a family photo, ensure you only see yourself, not half the head of another family member. After updating your profile picture, change your LinkedIn banner to something other than the default. The banner size should be 1584 × 396 pixels and you can simply use a background photo (similar to your computer’s background) or create a custom banner using free tools like canva.com. In addition to your profile picture and banner, update your work history and the “About” section. You don’t have to complete every section your profile offers, but the above steps should be done at a minimum. If you have a portfolio of your software engineer or DevOps projects, be sure to link it in the section under your name.
Step 2: Identify Your Target Community and Reach Out
Identify the type of people you want to connect with, typically the people who are already working in the field you are in or the field you are transitioning to. Myself, I was transitioning to the DevOps field and wanted to find others already working in DevOps. In the top left corner of LinkedIn, there is a search bar. Enter the job title of the type of people you want to connect to, then sort by “People”. You can even sort by “Location” after you’ve found people with the desired job title.
Once you have a list of people with the job title you want to reach out to, send them a connection request with a message. Try to include a personal touch or maybe reference something you noticed on their LinkedIn profile. You will be amazed at how many people will accept your connection!
Step 3: Interact Daily and Post Regularly
My third and final tip is to interact daily on LinkedIn and post regularly. Your engagement should be meaningful with well-thought-out comments, not simply “liking” a post. Sometimes you are busy and a “like” is ok, but if you truly want to build connections, this will require a bit more effort. In the last 6 months of posting DevOps tutorials regularly, I have noticed that certain days and times are better to get more interactions. When I would post a tutorial on the weekend, particularly on Sunday, I received minimal engagement. If I posted on Tuesdays or Wednesdays between the hours of 8:30 AM and 10:30 AM I got much more engagement. There were many days when I would post in the morning, and by the evening I had 20+ connection requests, without ever reaching out to those people directly. The more connections you make, the more community you build. In my case, I want to learn from others, and teach others as I learn, so building a community is important so that I can receive mentorship and also give it. It’s a cycle of giving back as a life-long learner and one that I place high importance on. When you help others, everyone wins.
Okay, I said Step 3 was my final tip, but I have one more for you. I have to credit one of my LinkedIn connections with this tip. We’ve never met in person, but I noticed a software engineer student commenting on several of my posts. The reason I noticed him is because his comments were thoughtful and engaging. As part of his networking strategy, he was reaching out to others in the field and engaging with meaningful questions and comments. Then, he asked if we could do a video chat as he had several questions about DevOps. This was the key…reaching out to someone and going a step further with a video chat. We talked for an hour and I answered his questions, and he answered mine. We talked about our tech journeys and discovered we both wanted to work for the same company. We shared the insights we each had on the company. The point is, I got more out of that one-hour conversation than I would have ever gotten through chat. So the bonus tip here is don’t be afraid of video or voice chats with people you’ve never met. They could lead to some of your greatest connections!
Now that you know my tips for being successful on LinkedIn, get out there and start building your community! You will want the camaraderie when you land that remote job, and if you are a career changer like me, the LinkedIn community will be invaluable in helping you land your first tech role.