How to get a $100,000-plus career in cloud computing without a college degree, from a guy who did it and now coaches others

Broadus PalmerBroadus Palmer

Broadus Palmer

Broadus Palmer


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  • Broadus Palmer flung himself into a high-paying career in cloud computing without a college degree and says anyone can do the same.
  • His path to tech was a long and windy one which began in earnest by his expensive sneaker collecting hobby. He was using “sneaker bots” to help him buy and sell sneakers on the internet when he decided to learn more about how the bots worked.
  • That led him to spend nearly a year self-studying a number of cloud certifications.
  • He was turned down for all the jobs he applied to until a hiring manager grew enamored by his passion and created a job for him.
  • Palmer now makes his living teaching people cloud technologies for Cloud Guru and runs his own tech career-coaching company called Level Up With Broadus.
  • Palmer says that despite COVID-19 unemployment rates and civil unrest, now is actually the perfect time to start a new career in cloud computing.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The defining moment in Broadus Palmer’s life came during his first job after high school when a Good Morning America crew showed up at his workplace.

He was a teller for a quick-loan company and a woman was on camera with GMA telling the nation how such loans  exploited her. He quit that job immediately and went to work for a regular bank, realizing on that day that he wanted a career of helping people, not inadvertently hurting them. 

It would take another decade and a half for Palmer to really fulfill that mission, finding his way to a tech career after a decade spent working in more conventional retail banks. Married with a young family, the pay of a banker just wasn’t enough. Retail banking jobs, even at the senior staff level, tend to top out at less than $50,000 a year, according to Glassdoor.

“I wanted a challenging career and to be better paid. I wanted financial stability. I always wanted to get into tech but didn’t know what I wanted to do in tech. I was talking to friends, peers and all telling me 1,000 different ways: do this or do that. It was not helping me,” he told Business Insider.

And there were other obstacles. Palmer liked computers and all things gadgets but had no idea how they operated. And he was an adult without a college degree. The leap into high-paying tech jobs seemed out of reach.

But it wasn’t. His future was found at his feet. 

From sneakers to sneaker bots

“I’m a sneaker collector,” he says but admits it’s a costly hobby. He was paying for the shoes, and earning side cash, by turning his passion into a side hustle, buying and selling sneakers over the internet.

In an effort to get the best prices, he did what lots of so-called “sneakerheads” do. He hired a “sneaker bot” service. These computer programs watch all the sneaker auction sites to buy and sell athletic shoes at the best prices. They work faster than manually bidding.

FILE PHOTO: The Adidas limited-edition sneakers that match the Berlin subway seat design, and include a yearly travel pass, are displayed at the 'Overkill' shoe store in Berlin, Germany January 16, 2018. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch/File Photo

FILE PHOTO: Adidas limited-edition sneakers that match the Berlin subway seat design are displayed in Berlin

Reuters


One day it occured to him that he had no idea how these bots worked.

So he looked into it and learned “these bots were installed in servers in the cloud. I didn’t know about the cloud,” he said. The more he read the more curious he became, until he discovered that major cloud provider Amazon Web Services had free, self-study entry level-cloud training. “AWS had no prerequisites. Just come in and do it,” he says.

Palmer also leaned that cloud architect jobs were some of the highest-paying and in-demand. “I discovered that the average pay was $136,000 and I thought, that’s what I want to do.”

But he still needed help getting there. So he researched boot camps as a way to educate himself but gagged at their high prices. “I came across companies wanting $4,000 for a two-day training. I can’t learn this in two days,” he said.

When he found Linux Academy, which charged $29 a month at the time (it is now owned by Cloud Guru and charges $50 a month or $379/year), he was at first suspicious, but he asked around, discovered it was legit and gave tbe online training courses a try.

He blasted through his first two AWS certifications. “I was on fire,” he said.

But then he failed the third and hardest certification. Impostor’s syndrome — that feeling of not being good enough — hit hard.

“I came home and told my wife that this isn’t something I want to do,” Palmer said. His wife told him to keep trying and sure enough, after a couple of weeks of study, he passed that next test, too.

All told, he spent eight months taking online classes and building a project portfolio, which he used as a substitute for a lack of internships. And then he was ready to apply for jobs.

Another smart tactic

Palmer also did another really smart thing: He began publicizing his cloud learning journey early on, posting videos on LinkedIn and YouTube. He knew that he didn’t have the internships and job experience, so he thought he’d make up for it with enthusiasm. 

Even then, it was rough going. He applied at five jobs, got interviews at all of them but no offers. When the Linux Academy posted a job for a trainer, he thought he was a shoo-in because they had trained him. But he didn’t get that job either, since he didn’t have five years of training experience they wanted.

Broadus Palmer

Broadus Palmer

Broadus Palmer


Instead the hiring manager shocked him by telling Palmer, “I love passion. You are doing this on your own. You got certified on your own and using our platform. I created a new position for you yesterday,” Palmer remembers.

The starting salary wasn’t as high as that $130,000 goal but it was far above the bank. He quit the bank job and started on his new role supporting trainers. In a year, he was promoted to full trainer and today he trains people on AWS and Google cloud technologies.

The people who had seen his videos started coming to him, asking for advice on how they, too, could get into tech.

Ane he realized he had a business idea on his hands: career coaching. He launched a company called Level Up with Broadus. While his day job teaches people the technical skills, his coaching business charges $3,000 for 16-20-weeks of career coaching to learn everything else from technical interviewing skills to building a project portfolio on Github.

He’s now coaching a couple of dozen people and employs three contract employees. He’s been so busy, he hasn’t even done a proper promotional website yet. 

And he says, two years after starting his journey, he is now exceeding that $130,000 salary goal he set for himself.

Social unrest, COVID-19 and a new cloud career?

As a Black man in tech without a college degree, Palmer has a unique perspective on an industry that has notoriously struggled with diversity.

“I want people to know that we can do whatever we put our minds to. Everyone,” he says.

He said he started his coaching business specifically to help more Black people get into tech, and he especially wants to counter the myth that tech isn’t a viable option for them. People who didn’t go to college “can’t fathom someone making six figures in a tech career,” he says. “They think you have to be genius out of the womb and know about computers.”

But to anyone out of a job during COVID-19, no matter your background, Palmer has this message: invest in yourself, your education, your training and you can do it.

And as Black people increasingly succeed in tech, they will create the change the industry needs, from Black-run tech startups, to more Black people in big tech companies.

“Regardless of what we are going through, we need to rise up and be resilient,” he says. “If you don’t see diversity in tech, the tech industry has an opportunity. This is where we use brains to solve problems and build the future. Everyone can build a future we want.”

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