Bohdan Tsys – junior sys admin to DevOps engineer and certified K8s administrator: a homegrown K&C success story

Bohdan has come a long way in his career in the three years since joining K&C and his progress is only accelerating. This is the man behind the cloud infrastructure automation skills.

DevOpsUPDATED ON December 21, 2023

John Adam K&C head of marketing

Author

Bohdan playing the guitar

I first met Bohdan not so long after he first joined K&C in early 2021 as a junior sys admin, recruited to support the company’s internal infrastructure and everyone using it. We had organised an informal English-speaking club hosted online once a week and open to anyone from K&C keen to practice their spoken English skills.

Bohdan was one of the first and most consistent participants, engaging in conversations on topics that ranged from sharing favourite and interesting customs from our different countries to whether Earth has already been visited by extraterrestrial civilisations.

At the time, he was living in Kyiv and working from our local branch office in Ukraine’s capital city. He’d recently graduated from Kyiv National University of Technologies and Design (KNUTD), earning a master’s degree in industrial automation engineering.

I remember Bohdan explaining to me that on graduation he had encountered a lack of graduate-level mechatronics jobs available in either Kyiv or Ukraine. That saw him pivot towards the IT sector – where there was, by contrast, huge demand for talented young professionals with an engineering background.

 

From Kyiv to Katowice via Krakow and promotion to DevOps engineer

Almost 3 years on and I’m speaking to Bohdan over a Teams call from his apartment in Katowice. He’s been in Poland since moving there on the cusp of Russia invading his home country in early 2022 –  relocating to K&C’s Krakow office after joining a new project as a DevOps engineer – a role he has graduated into since we first met.

He sees his promotion to a position on the new project and the additional financial firepower that came with it as a stroke of luck – at least in its timing. He wouldn’t have otherwise moved to Poland before the outbreak of war.

Over the previous few months, he had been following the news of the build-up of Russian troops along Ukraine’s border and “recognised the threat”.

“But I didn’t think I could afford to live in Poland on my junior DevOps salary. When I got the raise with the new position and after speaking to other colleagues who had already moved to Poland from Ukraine, I decided I could go now. We moved just a month before the war started.”

Most of the team Bohdan joined, developing the core digital platform of the world’s biggest events company, is based in our Krakow office. He decided joining them would smooth his transition into his new, more senior role.

Some months later he decided with his girlfriend to make the short move to Katowice, 140km and a 2 hour drive away – a drive he regularly makes to spend some time working with his team in person. Or for social events like this year’s office Christmas party.

 

K&C 2023 Christmas Party Krakow pic 1

 

Bohdan and Tim Reznichenko standing with others at Krakow Christmas party 2023

Bohdan socialising with colleagues at K&C Krakow’s 2023 Christmas Party

 

A newly certified Kubernetes Administrator

The catalyst for this conversation is that Bohdan recently acquired his Certified Kubernetes Administrator (CKA) Certification, representing another step on his journey as a DevOps engineer.

He’s come a long way since joining us as a junior sys admin who found himself slightly bored with the job of keeping K&C’s digital infrastructure running smoothly – and taking the initiative to ask for more challenging assignments.

He’s now a key member of the team building and maintaining the core digital platform of a FTSE 100 company worth over €12 billion.

He’s come an even longer way since being born in the small town of Myrhorod in the Poltava Oblast in east-central Ukraine most famous for its hot mineral springs and geysers. And as the birthplace Nikolai Gogol, the renowned 19th-century Ukrainian novelist and playwright. Gogol was a pioneer of the grotesque literary technique that influenced other writers of the time, notably including Charles Dickens.

 

The backstory to a rising DevOps star

Bohdan only lived in Myrhorod until he was 4 years old, when the family moved to Kyiv. But he did regularly travel back to his birthplace, spending 2 months there with his grandparents every summer throughout his childhood.

He learned to ride a bicycle and fished at a local river with a friend, his aunt’s nephew but not a blood relation, during those summers away from the bustle and traffic of Kyiv.

Until the war started, he would still visit Myrhorod from time to time, though for less extended periods after his grandparents passed away. The family still owns the house where his grandparents lived and before the war periodically made the 300km, 4-hour drive to spend a few days there and maintain it in good condition.

That’s since become more difficult.

 

Bohdans grandparents house in Myrhorod Ukraine

Bohdan’s grandparents’ house in Myrhorod before a renovation some years ago.

 

Bohdan and his brother are third generation engineers

Bohdan comes from a family of IT and engineering specialists. His father studied electronic engineering before becoming a programmer – one of the first generation of Ukrainian software developers who paved the way for the country’s booming IT sector. Ukraine’s IT sector actually grew 5.8% in 2022, despite Russia’s invasion and the start of the ongoing war. It was the only sector to show growth.

Bohdan’s brother is also a software developer and his grandfather on his father’s side was a radio engineer, meaning an unbroken line of tech specialists spanning three generations. While Bohdan is a DevOps engineer rather than a software developer, a career in the tech sector was destined.

He’s been building and assembling things since childhood including “maybe some soldering” and put his first electronic device together from a DIY kit when he was around 12 years old. His father had taught him how to solder “very early”.

As a teen Bohdan was more interested in physical engineering “like pneumatics, mechanics,  hydraulics and so on – so I didn’t want to start programming and I got a degree in that”.

However, when he graduated, a lack of good employment opportunities in physical engineering convinced him to make the transition to computer and digital infrastructure engineering and he hasn’t looked back.

He now considers himself lucky that not being able to find a good graduate position in one of the fields he first saw himself working in set him on the DevOps path he is now making such great strides along.

Bohdan’s first job was as an IT and software support engineer at Kyiv’s Feofaniya Hospital. It involved a little bit of everything, from sys admin to more general IT support. The job had some similarities, we joked, with the popular sitcom “The IT Crowd”.

But that first step did set Bohdan on his way to a promising career in the tech sector. Less than a year later he was approached by a member of K&C’s Kyiv recruitment team tasked with finding suitable candidates for an internal sys admin role with the company.

We chose Bohdan, who had only recently joined K&C when we started the English-speaking club that first introduced us to each other.

“I was completely green. I knew nothing about anything”, recalls Bohdan.

K&C’s recruitment team had reached a different conclusion and spotted potential and a willingness to learn and grow.

 

Bohdan didn’t wait to be offered the chance to move into DevOps from sys admin – he asked for then earned it

They were right. Within a few months, Bohdan was already finding that the simple sys admin and other IT support tasks he was tasked with no longer challenged him and he was keen to take on additional responsibilities.

One of K&C’s senior DevOps engineers had taken Bohdan under his wing and when he learned that he was ready to push on, he had a suggestion. He was looking after the DevOps infrastructure of a K&C client developing a monitoring software system for solar farms.

It was a fractional DevOps position and generally didn’t involve much that was especially complicated or required a senior level of expertise. He suggested providing Bohdan with on-the-job training with a view to him taking over the role – with the support and safety net of more experienced colleagues to turn to if required.

Bohdan enthusiastically accepted the offer and started to learn the ropes as a junior DevOps engineer. When he was completely up to speed, Bohdan was left to fill the fractional DevOps position independently, while still also looking after the K&C infrastructure as sys admin.

He also continued to study to keep broadening his knowledge base and level up as a DevOps engineer. He was being mentored in his ongoing DevOps education by another senior engineer with K&C.

When his mentor was brought into a major long term project with the world’s biggest events company, he in turn brought Bohdan into the team a few months later. The role of the DevOps engineers was broader and more involved in Bohdan’s new project, which gave him the professional exposure to continue to develop his skills and knowledge base.

3 years into his DevOps journey, 28-year-old Bohdan’s project experience and technical skills qualify him as an advanced DevOps engineer. He’s also recently become a certified Kubernetes operator, a hard-won accreditation issued by the Cloud Native Computing Foundation.

 

Image of Bohdans Certified Kubernetes Administrator certificate

 

Building monitoring and maintaining CI/CD pipelines for an enterprise events portal

Bohdan and the rest of the DevOps team that is part of the K&C development team supporting the world’s biggest events company are responsible for maintaining the project’s CI/CD pipeline. Their infrastructure automation supports deployments, every step of production, new environments, databases etc. They monitor, support and, if necessary, fix this system if something goes long.

There are four full-time DevOps engineers in Bohdan’s direct team, including himself. A fifth, the DevOps tech lead, splits his time between the project Bohdan is working on and another for the same group a separate K&C team is developing.

While he is now able to take on plenty of responsibility by himself, his team is also a great place to learn, with most of his colleagues still more experienced than he is. That includes the team lead, who spends 50% of his time on the project and Bohdan notes is both a high-level senior expert and willing to share his knowledge.

There’s good teamwork between the group with whoever has the most experience or knowledge of a particular topic or category of problem lending their expertise to whoever is working on a tricky task.

So what’s next for Bohdan when it comes to his career development? Is he planning on gaining any new certifications after becoming a certified Kubernetes Administrator?

He is already thinking about embarking on certification in cloud engineering skills and tools – particularly AWS certifications as it is most relevant to his current project.

Does Bohdan see himself returning to Ukraine when the war ends? He’s not sure when it will be possible or if life and his career will lead him back to his home country for the long term. But he misses Ukraine “very much”.

 

Image of a VW camper van of the kind Bohdan would like to one day tour Ukraine in

 

He has a lifelong dream to travel Ukraine, visiting the country’s most interesting spots in a campervan. He’s not sure when it will happen as he is concerned that even when peace does come, it will be many years before Russian-laid mines are cleared and the whole country is again safely accessible.

“There are still cases of people being blown up in the Kyiv region by mines” – set during the brief period at the start of the war when Russian forces advanced on Ukraine’s capital from Belarus in the north before being driven back again.

“They mined everything even if they weren’t there for a long time”.

He tells of hearing about a case where people returning home to previously Russian-occupied areas found a grenade in a beehive.

“It didn’t detonate because it was so packed with honey it couldn’t. The bees saved this guy.”

In his free time Bohdan plays guitar. He played a bit before but started taking regular lessons when the war starts “to help ease my mind”. His lessons are online with a teacher based in Ukraine.

 

 

He’s learning to play a collection of Ukrainian songs including music by Okean Elzy. Any Western artists?

“I can play House of the Rising Sun”.

I ask Bohdan if he’s established ties and a social circle in his new home in Katowice.

“No, no. I just live with my girlfriend. That’s all.”

“So you’re just in your little bubble, working, playing guitar, living the quiet life with your girlfriend and waiting to see what the future brings?”

Bohdan nods and confirms with a “yeah”.