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Employee Spotlight on Rikki Barnes: From Falling into IT to Cloud Consulting

Rikki Barnes, Cloud Consultant, on how he moved from helpdesk to cloud consultant, how his team helped him to get out of a sticky spot, and how his family has impacted his career aspirations.

I always wanted to be a firefighter. My dad has a photo of me when I was little wearing a fireman’s hat and outfit. I never really had a passion for IT, I took it at school but that was it. After college I applied to be a firefighter, but I was knocked back because of a lack of “life experience”.

So, I applied for apprenticeships and in the end, I had to choose between IT or lifeguarding. I took IT because I thought it would broaden my horizons. Plus, I couldn’t see myself working in swimming pools for the rest of my life.

After my apprenticeship, I did contracting work with the NHS for a couple of years which is how I got into working on an IT helpdesk. It was a high-stress environment, as some issues could be a life or death situation, I quickly learned how to diffuse a situation and get people cooperating with me. Instead of someone seeing me as the problem, I like it to feel like we’re working together to solve a problem.

The job after that I loved and I worked there for four years, but I couldn’t see where I’d progress to and the work had gotten too easy because I’d been there so long. That’s why I moved to Perfect Image, for a change. It was sink or swim and luckily, I swam.

A Career Change at Perfect Image

I saw Perfect Image had great progression opportunities and they’d give you the training you’d need. But it was a massive change. When I first started, I worked as a 2nd Line Service Desk Analyst, meaning I was the next level of escalation for support calls from our customers. It was our job to take the issues that first line can’t fix, as well as any proactive alerts, such as server or networking issues.

It was strange coming from an on-site role to remote support. Rather than just driving to a site to resolve an issue, you have put yourself in the customers’ shoes and think about what they can see. There are also different customer setups to learn, as well as multitasking 3-4 different jobs at the same time, which I thought was quite fun. It was like simultaneously trying to solve lots of little puzzles. I did that for two years before I got the itch again, when it felt like I wasn’t learning or developing.

Before working at Perfect Image I’d never even really heard of the cloud before, but when a cloud consultant role became available I approached my manager about applying. It was November, and he said that if I could pass 5 exams before April I would be considered for the role. My daughter would have been two months old at the time. That was a lot of late sleepless nights and early mornings, studying and looking after the family – it was draining! I managed to do it though, and by April I passed my exams and was offered the job.

I started connecting the dots with the theory from training and the work I was doing in practice, and quickly adjusted to the role. Now I do consultancy mostly for new clients. The solution architects design the solutions for us to put in place. We also do all the proactive checks for cloud customers to see if there are any cost savings they can make, or if they have any red flags in their infrastructure.

Recovering from Mistakes with Teamwork

I’ve always been a people pleaser. I try to do too much for other people because I like to help. My co-workers would probably describe me as helpful, friendly and personable. Here, no one’s afraid to ask questions. We all check each other’s work to stop mistakes. Because we’re human, we all make mistakes, no matter how thorough we are.

Recently I was working on a project for outbound email for a client. After I made a change, within minutes a backlog of hundreds of emails started piling up. I flagged it to my manager straight away and we found a way of fixing it. If I hadn’t, it would have built up and built up and I’d have been at the centre of a whirlwind of mess. You know when you feel the weight of a whole business on you? It was horrible!

It’s great that everyone in my team is friendly. Everyone wants to help each other and make a difference. Other places I’ve worked you couldn’t even talk to people on other teams. Our team would much rather people ask a question than make a mistake they can’t recover from.

Three Generations of Problem-Solvers

My dad’s a tinkerer and he loves to fix things. For example, recently my Dad put up a baby gate for my daughter, but it wasn’t wide enough. My dad got out bits of wood and used those to make it fit. That wood was from my baby chair that he’d sawed down and kept – I’m 28 now!

Since I’ve become a dad myself, I’ve noticed I’m turning into my dad more and more every day with little “inventions”. If I ever get stuck on a problem I always think, “What would my dad do?” The other day I was trying to clear a cobweb from our high ceiling on the stairs that we couldn’t reach. I duct taped together two brooms and a mop to reach it and my girlfriend thought it was a brilliant idea.

He’s probably where I get my problem-solving skills from. I think my daughter is going the same way too. She likes the toys where you put shapes into holes and she also loves pressing keys on a laptop. She sits there and taps away on this old Chromebook we gave her. When I work from home, I’ve got to go upstairs so she doesn’t press the power button while I’m doing something important.

Looking Forward: Broadening Horizons and Continuing to Develop

It’s been a massive year. I can’t lie, it’s been stressful because it’s been a massive change in not only my personal life but my work life too. But it’s all been for the better. I have a better mindset of where I want to go and what I want to achieve. Since I’ve moved into this role, I’ve got a newfound passion for IT. I find myself on weekends looking at any updates about the cloud.

I think Perfect Image is a great company. It’s been a very good experience working here. I wouldn’t have gotten to where I am today without Perfect Image. I’ve put hard work in, but if I’ve wanted to go for a position even though I didn’t have the experience, they’ve given me a chance.

Before I had my daughter, I didn’t really have much of a drive or determination, but when she was born and I held her for the first time, I knew that I would do whatever I can for her. Since having her it’s made me a better person and makes me want to provide for my family and be somebody that my family can be proud of.

I fell into IT but I’m glad I’ve stuck with it, as it is something that I do enjoy doing – I don’t think I’d enjoy being a firefighter now, my work and life balance would be completely different. Plus, I’ve got my family now. I was thankfully given the opportunity to move into this cloud position, which has been the best thing ever, it’s really broadened my horizons. It’s sparked that fire in me to learn it all. At the minute I want to continue developing my skill set, achieve more certifications, and to keep learning and progressing.

Rikki’s manager, Martin Reah, says, “Rikki has really come on since joining the Cloud and Infrastructure team. He is keen to learn and develop and he is becoming an integral part of the team. He is growing in confidence especially around AWS and Azure cloud and he is producing a high quality of work for our customers. The speed at which Rikki is progressing is remarkable and he should be very proud.”

Rikki Barnes
Rikki Barnes, Cloud Consultant

About Rikki Barnes

Rikki began his IT career in 2009 at Newcastle City Council. He began working on an IT helpdesk in 2013 and then joined Perfect Image in 2016. Starting as a 2nd Line Service Desk Analyst, he worked his way up to become Cloud Consultant in 2019. His role includes building effective and secure cloud solutions, as well as proactively monitoring cloud environments. He has a range of certifications under his belt including AWS Solutions Architect – Associate, AWS Certificate Cloud Practitioner, Azure Administrator – Associate, Microsoft Azure Fundamentals, and more.

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