Karl Cooke Interview

Karl Cooke from Northern Island is currently employed as an Azure Consultant for Intercept B.V. in the Netherlands. He is a tech blogger and the co-organiser of the Limerick DotNet Azure User Group. Karl is a helpful individual who is continuously supporting and motivating others. He has been awarded Cloud Family Champion April 2021, a well-deserved award which is dedicated to highlight community members who deserves to have their work recognised.

Karl loves being part of the Tech community and believes that each one of us has something we can give back to the communities we exist in. “It’s so exciting to be able to help other people on their journey.”

He is one you want to follow via his social media accounts which can be found towards the end of this interview.

Note: If you have any questions or feedback, please use the comment box towards the end of the interview. All comments are reviewed before we approve and notify the interviewee. Thanks

Karl Cooke Interview

Tell us about yourself?
My name is Karl Cooke, I’m 38, a husband, father, and sci-fi nerd, living in Northern Ireland. I’ve been married to my wife, Rebecca, for almost 8 years. The community might be more familiar with my wife by her Twitter handle, @boooombex. Rebecca was the main catalyst behind the plan to dye my hair blue and raise some money for several charities.

Together, we have 4 children ranging from 18 to 3! So, when I’m not busy working or spending time with my family, I can be found studying for a new Azure certification or watching some Star Trek or Star Wars. I’ve even been known to squeeze the occasional gaming session in.

I work as an Azure Consultant for Intercept B.V. in the Netherlands. I’m still relatively new but, I can say that I’m loving every minute of this role!

What is your greatest achievement whilst working in the world of Tech?
I’m usually really hard on myself and, like many in our industry, regularly struggle with imposter syndrome. It’s part of what makes me work so hard.

If I was forced to decide on a greatest achievement, I’d have to say it’s working in a job that I love, using technologies that I’m passionate about. I could roll out some tired cliches here about finding a job that you love and never working a day in your life, but I won’t do that to you. I will say, however, that I’d probably still be doing this sort of work whether I was getting paid or not. (SSSHHH! Don’t tell anyone!! :P)

How did you get started in Tech?

Many moons ago…

…well as far back as 2011, I worked part-time for myself doing domestic computer repairs as well as working part-time for a local telecoms company, installing phone systems, SBS Servers, as well as routers/switches.

I’ve been working full-time in IT since 2014, I was 30 so, in my mind, was a bit of a late starter. I started out as a Line 1 Support Engineer (Help Desk) for a local MSP. I was probably a bit of a pain for my senior colleagues at the time as I had the drive and hunger to improve myself which meant I never stopped asking questions. After a few years of hard work and moving up the help desk ranks, I moved out of the Help Desk to a Projects/Consultancy role where I got to grips with designing solutions for all sorts of customers. I spent about 6 years working for that local MSP.

What would you recommend for someone wanting to start a career in Tech?
To be honest, my advice for someone starting out is to find something you are passionate about. I understand that it’s easy to say that and not so easy to find it, especially if you are early in your career.

Once you’ve found something you’re passionate about, start giving back to the community. Start sharing your knowledge and expertise. I blog partly to give back and partly as a way to record the things I’ve learned.

I can’t stress enough how amazing it is to get plugged into a tech community. I’ve made some great friends and contacts through the community. I don’t think I’d have my role at Intercept if I wasn’t active on Twitter and LinkedIn.

How did you get into the world of Microsoft Azure?
I’ve been working with Azure on and off since 2014. However, I’ve only really gotten to grips with it over the last few years. My role before Intercept, was primarily cloud focused so I was really able to go deep into some of the technologies.

What are your areas of expertise? Are you still working with other Microsoft products apart from Microsoft Azure?
Before starting with Intercept, I was working with Azure and Microsoft 365. Since starting to work with the team at Intercept, I’ve been 100% focused on the Azure platform.

There’s so much to learn in Azure and it’s changing at such a pace that I don’t think you could ever be an expert in it all. I’m hungry to learn all of Azure but in terms of specialisms these would be IaaS, networking, and security.

I’m looking forward to learning a lot more about cloud-native technologies and learning a lot more about Kubernetes and AKS.

You recently coloured your hair Azure Blue which then turned into a great charity event. How did this idea come to mind?
You can read more about how I ended up with blue hair on my blog, Hair goes funny to raise some money! – Irish Techie – Thoughts on Azure and the Modern Workplace but, the gist is that my wife and I had been chatting about how I used to have bright pink (it was supposed to be red) hair back in my very early 20s. We joked that it would be funny to do it again. Later that evening, my phone started to meltdown a little bit as Rebecca had tweeted about dying my hair blue if we got enough likes. Well, we got 2 or 3 times the number of likes! We then decided to use this as an opportunity to raise some money for 4 awesome charities. We ended up raising over £2000. Look out for a thank you article that I hope to release in the next week or two.

You have recently switched jobs, congratulations. How are you finding it in your new job? Was switching jobs an easy move?
Thank you! As I mentioned above, I’m really enjoying my new job. I’m now an Azure Consultant for Intercept B.V. I work from home full time as they are headquartered in the Netherlands.

I’ve joined a great group of really smart people with a passion for what they do. It’s an exciting time to be working for Intercept. If you ever get the opportunity to work here, I recommend you grab it with 2 hands!

Switching jobs was easy enough. The team at Intercept made the transition easy. I decided to complicate matters by moving house at the same time! I spent the first ½ day of a new job “borrowing” a friends internet connection because a certain large telecoms company had messed up!!

You’re the co-organiser of a user group, could you please explain what the group involves? And how can one sign up?
I am indeed! I am the co-organiser of the Limerick DotNet Azure User Group. We are a user group, based in Limerick (which is about 4 hours from my house), who enjoy talking about and bringing attendees sessions of Azure and DotNet technologies.

We are still very much working on virtual meetups so absolutely anyone is welcome. You can sign up here: Limerick DotNet-Azure User Group (LDNA) (Limerick, Ireland) | Meetup.

You also run a Tech blog, could you please explain why you decided to start a blog and provide some details on what you blog about?
I’ve wanted to give back to the community for a few years but had been procrastinating ACTUALLY contributing. After a conversation with my old boss, Daniel, early last year, I decided to take a leap and start blogging.

The motivation behind the blog is to be able to share my experience and expertise with anyone who can benefit from it. In short, I just want to help people.

I’ve been a bit slow this year to write articles but when I do write, it’s mostly on an Azure technology or the latest certification I’m studying for. I’m looking forward to increasing the cadence of my posts over the next few months.

In your opinion where is the best place to interact with the Tech community and how has your experience been?
I’d have to say, hands down, that Twitter is the best place to interact with the various tech communities. I’ve met some amazing people on this platform. It allows you to join the conversation and get involved. Twitter has been very beneficial to my career.

I honestly think that without Twitter and LinkedIn, I wouldn’t be working for Intercept.

In your opinion, why is it important to get involved with the tech community and share knowledge?
No one person can know everything and by getting involved in the community, you immediately have access to a global group of experts that are more than happy to help you out.

For me, it’s important to be able to give back to others in the same way that people have helped me out when I’ve needed it.

As humans, we are all stronger when we work together. I approach community work in the same way, I want to help as many people as possible. We are stronger as a community than we are as individuals.

What certifications have you achieved, or the certifications you are working towards?
To date I’ve achieved the following certifications:

  • CCNA: Routing and Switching (Cisco Networking)
  • Azure Administrator Associate (AZ-104)
  • Azure Security Engineer Associate (AZ-500)
  • DevOps Engineer Expert (AZ-400)

I recently sat the AZ-700 in beta, which will get me the Azure Network Engineer Associate certification if I pass.

I’m currently studying for the AZ-303 Azure Architect Technologies exam. I’m due to sit that exam on September 3rd. Fingers crossed!!!

How do you keep up to date with the latest Microsoft Azure products?
Keeping up to date on Azure can be difficult with the pace of change. I find that Twitter is the best way to keep up to date with what’s new and what’s changing. There are some amazing community contributors who make it easier to stay up to date. It also helps to keep an eye on the Azure Updates RSS feed if you have time.

What would you recommend for someone who wants to get started with Cloud?
I’ve had this conversation with a few people recently and my advice has been the same. Get involved in the community, find out which cloud technologies excite you and then just sign up for a trial and start playing and experimenting. There are plenty of excellent resources on Microsoft Learn as well as YouTube to help you on your learning journey. There are also amazing MVPs and other community contributors who create projects and guides to help you with your learning journey.

One that really attracted my attention recently was the “Azure Cloud Resume Challenge” from Gwyn Peña-Siguenza. The main point of this challenge was to build yourself a resume website using Azure technologies that you learned about as you created the site. It’s still up on the Cloud Guru site if you want to check it out.

#CloudGuruChallenge: Your resume in Azure | A Cloud Guru

There’s already some great project-based learning out there. Look out for more like this. I’ve been chatting to a few other community members about doing more learning material that’s project based.

What’s next in your Microsoft Azure journey?
I’m on a constant learning journey, there will always be other technologies or products I want to learn. The immediate next steps for me are to round out my Azure Solutions Architect certification by passing AZ-303 and AZ-304. After that I want to go deep in Kubernetes and in particular AKS. With that in mind, I’m going to look at the Certified Kubernetes Administrator (CKA) and the Certified Kubernetes Security Specialist (CKS). I am very privileged to work alongside some awesome MVPs, so I will definitely be learning as much as possible from them at the same time.

Do you have any final words of wisdom?
I’m not known for my inspirational quotes or rousing speeches but my advice for anyone in this industry is the same whether you are just starting out or if you’ve been in the industry for 20 years or more. Get connected with your local tech community, expand your reach on Twitter and/or LinkedIn. Start giving back in whatever way you are comfortable. It could be blogging, videos, a podcast, all of the above. You’ll be surprised by how many new friends you make and the impact it can have on your career.

The most important question of all 😊
From a scale from 1 – 10 how crazy are you about Microsoft Azure?

700! Although if I’m constrained by a scale of 1-10, it’s definitely 10! Azure is a great platform and one that I really enjoy working with.

End of interview

Karl Cooke
Blog: Irish Techie
LinkedIn: karlcooke
Meetup Link: Limerick-DotNet

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