The Down Under Program – An Intensive Learning Experience That Will Shape My Career For Years to Come

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If you had told me a year ago that I, a 24 year-old Associate Consultant in Toronto, would be 15,558 km away from my family and friends, learning from some of the best cloud consultants in Australia, I would not have believed you. Yet here I am, six months and a couple of mild sunburns later, having successfully written and deployed my first AWS service for one of Australia’s biggest enterprises. From applying to the Down Under program to landing in a country I had never visited before, it all feels too good to be true.

The Down Under program was created to provide the opportunity for our consultants to serve a three or six-month period working with our Australian clients from either our Sydney or Melbourne offices. Sourced created this program with the following outcomes in mind:

  • Encouraging cross-pollination of culture across our three regions
  • Providing a systemic experience of being an employee at Sourced regardless of the consultant’s home region
  • Experiencing different work cultures across a range of global clients
  • Giving the opportunity to our employees to experience life in Australia, where Sourced was founded, and learn from team members who have been with Sourced since its founding

There is a lot that I came to love about Sourced Australia, but what I appreciated the most must be how equally excited the Australian team was for my arrival. The team greeted me with warm welcomes and their eager desire to further my knowledge in the field of cloud computing and I was sure ready to embark on this journey.

Demonstrated Client Commitment at Every Stage of the Relationship

From the day I landed, Australia was full of challenges ready for me to tackle. The team did not hesitate to throw me in the deep end and involve me in as many initiatives as possible. I had the opportunity to observe our Head of Delivery presenting a pitch to one of Australia’s biggest retail companies. I was able to study his diligent approach to understanding the client’s problem, identifying gaps within the organisation’s program, and finally proposing a compelling solution tailored to the organisation’s cloud maturity level. Being involved in this process, I was able to learn how to conduct myself as a trusted advisor in front of influential stakeholders and articulately communicate Sourced’s vision for their success.

Upon exploring the soft skills that consulting requires, the team also presented me with the opportunity to enhance the technical aspects of my role. I was involved with building a business proposal for a client, alongside an incredible team led by one of our most experienced Principal consultants. The team’s level of devotion across engagements was an eye-opening experience and the level of debate and detail that went into the architectural design was astounding. The team worked through multiple thorough discussions and white-boarding sessions before finally landing on a plan that was agreed to be the most sound and complete for the client.

From understanding the client’s problems to presenting them with a comprehensive solution, these experiences provided me with a fresh perspective on what consulting entails. Not only are our consultants engaged to showcase value on client sites every day, Sourced strives to model its values through every client interaction at all stages of the engagement, involving all of our departments through an immense collaboration effort for the betterment of our clients. The team operates on trust, valuing every member’s contribution while ensuring that every piece of documentation Sourced delivers is of the highest possible standard.

Developing My Growth Mindset

In addition to internal initiatives, a pivotal moment throughout my journey occurred when I was reminded of my self-worth. I was invited by our VP of Operations to represent her in a meetup hosted by The Executive Connection. Anxiety washed over me immediately, as I did not feel that I had earned my place amongst a room of executives. I reached out to our Head of Delivery in search of comforting words and reassurance. While he was understanding, he was quite adamant that this kind of language was not acceptable at Sourced. He explained that the mindset of “not being good enough” is a dangerous one to possess. This attitude significantly hinders growth as people often hide behind anxieties to excuse themselves from stepping out of our comfort zone. Although his voice was stern, I knew this was exactly what I needed to hear.

As someone who often experiences some element of the imposter syndrome, it is easy to retreat within my comfort zone while validating my fears with this psychological phenomenon. I have now learned that the regrets of passing up an opportunity will always outweigh my fears and I now incorporate activities aiming to boost my confidence and to take me out of my comfort zone on a more regular basis.

Cloud Consultants’ Dedicated Effort Behind Technology Adoption

One of the most valuable experiences I had while in Australia was working at one of our oldest clients in Sydney and being able to compare enterprises at different stages of their cloud journeys. This encounter provided significant insight into how organisations mature and transform with evolving technologies. Additionally, I got to witness the complete trust from stakeholders that have been with Sourced since the very beginning. The years of relationship with clients who are far into their cloud journey built a new vigour that allows more room for transformative and cutting-edge programs of work from Sourced. As enterprises continue to grow and improve with emerging cloud technologies, Sourced must also continuously come up with innovative solutions for increasingly complex problems.

With Australian enterprises starting their cloud adoption journey far earlier than their Canadian counterparts, my experience down under allowed me the opportunity to experience similar implementations of consumption models at different cloud maturity levels. I started my Sourced career by improving a relatively new implementation, laying down foundations, and building out supporting documentation. Working with a more mature enterprise allowed me a peek into the future of what I was working on in Canada. This encounter further solidified my knowledge of how technologies scale and grow organically as it gets adopted and leveraged throughout an international company.

I learned that growing technologies involve a lot of collaboration across not only the central IT team but also application teams. For a piece of technology that has been thoroughly adopted by an organisation, feature releases are no longer burdens that strictly fall on the central IT team but become instead a shared responsibility. The central team provides support to application teams exploring alpha or beta features, so long as the application teams generate the supporting documentation. The organisation of knowledge is crucial when it comes to technical solutions that grow at an accelerated pace due to group collaboration. Teams must document feature releases in a central location that is easily accessible across the enterprise.

Women Leaders in Technology

Wine and Cheese Night with the Ladies at Sourced

Apart from gaining valuable work experience in a different working culture, working abroad also provided me with opportunities to attend conferences and sit in on meetings with the local leadership team. One of the many highlights includes watching our VP of Operations – Salma Datenis, present at a conference that celebrates women in technology. This occasion was an especially inspiring experience for me, as the opportunity to work under a strong female leader played a huge factor when I applied for the Down Under program. The conference also gave me a deeper understanding of the similar struggles Australian and Canadian women in tech experience at different stages in their lives and careers.

One piece of advice from this conference indeed resonated with me. One of the speakers suggested that when going through challenging times or experiences, for example when speaking in front of a room full of people, it is essential to find someone that is your lighthouse. It means someone who brings you comfort, whether it be a mentor, a colleague, or merely a stranger in the audience offering a reassuring nod. As a lighthouse, the person can give you just enough of a nudge to help you push through doubts and anxieties.

Experts and speakers at these women in technology celebrations often encourage men to become allies and mentors to contribute to bridging the gender gap within the STEM field. Along with the “lighthouse” concept, these acts of kindness strengthen the relationship between men and women, while creating a nurturing environment for women to thrive in. These small yet significant pieces of advice further confirmed my desire to drive change and continue to work towards promoting gender diversity in the tech industry, regardless of country or culture.

World Economic Forum Gender Gap 2020 | Image source: World Economic Forum

Sourced’s Shared Principles

The Down Under program is an excellent example of cross-region initiatives that Sourced has initiated to break down invisible barriers between people and cultures. From experiencing the Aussie culture to connecting with people of diverse backgrounds, I was intrigued by the similarities and differences between each of our regions. After working in both our Canadian and Australian offices, it became apparent that everyone at Sourced shares these core fundamental values:

  • Commitment to our organisational values and goals despite our different backgrounds
  • A common desire to drive positive and impactful change together with our clients in the world of cloud computing
  • Establishing meaningful connections with our teammates, partners and clients
  • A passion that unites our people to build a cohesive and preserved global culture as our organisation looks to scale across borders

In a Nutshell

Working abroad has evolved the way I approach opportunities and tackle problems. Not only did it allow me to expand my technical expertise, but it also gave me the confidence boost I needed to take initiatives and pursue opportunities that come my way. Thanks to the support and encouragement of the Australian team, I felt comfortable taking advantage of all the learning opportunities that this program afforded me. This program has succeeded in creating a nurturing environment that has not only further piqued my interest in the intricacies of the cloud consulting craft but also accelerated my personal growth.

This experience has also helped me discover where my passions lie and allowed me to gain clarity over my day-to-day priorities. I can confidently say that the Down Under experience has been a catalyst in my life, pushing me to overcome my anxieties and chase after challenges. I thank Sourced for affording me this opportunity and feel fortunate to be part of an organisation that invests in my growth while providing me with the much needed lighthouse guidance every step along the way.

Melody headshot

Melody Huang is an Associate Consultant at Sourced Group based in Toronto, Canada. She specialises in enterprise cloud migration across highly regulated industries.