Bearded, red-haired young man wearing a grey suit jacket and blue shirt smiling against an out-of-focus Dublin city backdrop.
Aidan Cuffe, associate solution architect, New Relic. Image: New Relic

How can you progress your career? Keep making yourself more valuable

20 Aug 2018

Want to know how to move up the career ladder? Take some advice from someone who has climbed it before you.

Whether you’re just starting out in your career or are halfway up the ladder, you can sometimes be left wondering, what next?

Aidan Cuffe currently works as an associate solution architect with New Relic but the journey that led him to that role is an important story about how one can progress in their own career.

Here, Cuffe talks about how he got to the role he’s in now and offers advice for those who are looking to follow in his footsteps, no matter what industry they work in.

What first stirred your interest in a career in technology?

I’ve always been interested in technology. When I graduated from college, I began working at a banking software company in technical support.

I didn’t really feel passionate about what I was doing, though; banking software wasn’t really where my interests lay, particularly on-premise software. Web technologies, SaaS services and especially performance were all at the top of my mind.

Funny enough, prior to working at New Relic, I was actually a small (probably the smallest) customer of theirs for my little one-host website!

At the time, I thought New Relic was a completely US-based company, so when I reached out to their team and got a reply from one of their sales reps during my daytime hours, I was pleasantly surprised. I later found out they’d just opened a Dublin office and were starting to build a support team out of Dublin.

It was perfect timing – I applied and a few weeks later, I was starting my career in New Relic.

What other jobs led you to the role you now have?

Every job I’ve had previously has led me to the role I have now.

In my first role out of college, I learned to troubleshoot and solve tough problems, which laid the foundation for my role as a technical support engineer at New Relic.

While I had no cloud experience, my troubleshooting abilities, paired with external technical hobbies, proved that I had a passion for web and was eager to learn.

After two-and-a-half years working in support, I decided to pursue a new challenge. From tech support, I moved into technical pre-sales and took on a role as a sales engineer. Making this switch allowed me to continue growing and expanding my skillset.

I got to better understand the value proposition of New Relic’s products and showcase that value directly to our customers – not to mention, my presentation skills really improved.

That role ultimately prepared me for my current position as an associate solution architect on New Relic’s digital platform team. I’ve been able to gain additional skills in each of my roles and build on my experiences to get me to the next level.

My natural curiosity for tech, and willingness to learn new things, really set the foundation for a pretty incredible career at New Relic so far.

What were the biggest challenges you encountered on your career path?

I think my biggest challenge has been self-doubt, both when it comes to my existing capabilities and my capacity to learn new skills.

When I started as a technical support engineer, I was nervous about my skills and wasn’t sure I could do the job. That proved to be drastically wrong. I received high-quality training and worked hard to fill gaps in my knowledge.

In no time, I was operating at a high volume and quality level. I had the same doubt when I moved into sales. Could I talk the talk to back up my technical knowledge? Or, would I lose the room with too much technical babble?

Again, the training and feedback I received throughout my on-ramp process and throughout my time in that role helped me learn quickly, hone my existing skills and improve along the way.

Was there any one person who was particularly influential as your career developed?

I feel that it’s never one person who impacts your career, it’s always a sea of people whose shoulders raise you up. As a support engineer, my core colleagues were sounding boards when trying to figure out difficult problems.

I learned so much from working with such talented and knowledgeable people. I’ve had great managers who have imparted wisdom, have talked me down in times of frustration, guiding me to find productive outcomes.

In my four years at New Relic, I’ve learned so much from the people around me, and hopefully have paid that forward to newer staff and helped them along in their careers.

What do you enjoy about your job?

My biggest enjoyment comes from solving difficult problems for customers, especially problems that have been the biggest obstacles in the way of their success.

I got to do this in technical support, I got to do this as a sales engineer and I get to do this now as an associate solution architect. Each role I’ve had here has had a component of problem-solving. Each in a different capacity, with different complexities and technicalities, but each role has been engaging and challenging in its own way, bringing something new each day. I think this has ultimately made my four years at New Relic really fly.

What aspects of your personality do you feel make you suited to this job?

I like to build relationships with people, and that part of my personality has helped massively in all my roles.

If you can earn the respect of the people you are working with, the process becomes much smoother and the chances of success much greater.

When you can build great relationships, you can turn customers into lifelong advocates for your company, which is fantastic. It doesn’t hurt that our products are great, too!

How did New Relic support you on your career path?

Throughout my career, my managers have held regular one-on-one meetings with me. We used this time to talk about my strengths, set goals and determine steps to get to where I want to be.

Ironically, those conversations were rarely focused on the roles I ended up switching into, but they did help force me to think about what it is I enjoy doing, why I enjoy it and, as a result, what I want to do next.

Because of this, the times that I’ve chosen to apply for a new role, I’ve been fully supported by my manager and they’ve even played a part in giving positive references for my next role.

Knowing that the people you’re working with are behind you progressing your career and that your company supports those internal moves, even if they aren’t the normal natural career progression, is refreshing and helped me grow as an individual.

What advice would you give to those considering a career in this area, or just starting out in one?

Believe in your own abilities. Even when it feels like there is a mountain of information to learn or ingest, you will get there, and one day you’ll be considered an expert in exactly what you found daunting initially.

Listen to those around you, especially those with experience or strong skills in elements of your role or roles you are interested in improving. This will help get you to the next level and you’ll build lifelong relationships with people who will have your back.

Finally, I’d say to always set goals every few months that add a skill or certification to your CV. Continually make yourself more valuable and give yourself options with the kinds of roles you can apply for by ensuring you are always improving and moving forward. This has helped me progress in my career massively.

Want to work at New Relic? Check out the New Relic careers page for current vacancies.

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