The NoDegree Podcast – No Degree Success Stories for Job Searching, Careers, and Entrepreneurship

E16 | Fashion to Technology—Antoni Tzavelas

Episode Summary

What do fashion and technology have in common? Antoni Tzavelas, that's what. He was an autodidactic fashion designer that had his first fashion show at 17. After he dropped out of college, he went on to own a fashion label that hit quarter-million dollars in sales within three years. Then the 2004 collapse of the clothing industry in Canada had him straddling the poverty line. With only his willpower and a mindset on continuous learning, he pivoted into the IT field. Listen to his story.

Episode Notes

From the fashion industry, to working in the IT industry, Antoni Tzavelas relates his career journey that has as many plot twists as a soap opera. 

He learned to sew at age 10 and got so skilled at it that he held his first fashion show at age seventeen. He went to college to pursue a degree in fashion but later dropped out because he felt he was learning things he already knew. He worked in clothing factories and stayed back after hours at work to make clothes to sell. Two days after making his first sale, the same buyer called requesting a dozen more items. 

After meeting his now-wife, they opened up their own clothing label. Within 3 years, they reached over a quarter-million dollars in sales. But going to trade shows, selling in all of North America and even Australia couldn't prepare them for the industry crash in 2004. 

Now straddling the poverty line, with only his willpower and a mind set on continuous learning, he pivoted. At the invitation of a friend, he went into the IT field.  He now holds 10 cloud certifications.

Antoni  shares his story with  Jonaed.

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Episode Transcription


Jonaed Iqbal: [00:00:03] Welcome to the 16th episode, other the NoDegree podcast. This is your host Joaned Iqbal, and today's guest is Antoni Tzavelas. Antoni started off his career in fashion and worked his way into tech, once the fashion industry, sort of imploded in Canada. Antoni will tell you how he earned his certifications and worked his way up into the IT field.

Antoni shows that it is possible to switch industries if you do it strategically. Subscribe to our Patreon at Every contribution is appreciated. This show is impossible without you. Let's get the show started.

Welcome to another episode of the no degree podcast, and today we have Antoni . How's your day so far, Antoni? And tell the audience what you do. 

Antoni Tzavelas: [00:00:54] I'm fantastic. Thanks for having me on the, uh, on the podcast Jonaed.

Jonaed Iqbal: [00:00:58] You're always welcome. So what do you do? Can you tell the audience what you do? 

Antoni Tzavelas: [00:01:02] Currently, I'm a technical trainer and I train people in the cloud space.

A lot of companies run their, their whole infrastructure on cloud, whether it be Amazon, Microsoft, or Google. And I train people in how to use the cloud. So that they can in turn, make better decisions for big organizations on how they can move their infrastructure to cloud. No longer be in the data center.

Jonaed Iqbal: [00:01:30] I know you have a lot of certifications. Can you tell the 

audience some of the certifications that you have? 

Antoni Tzavelas: [00:01:36] I currently hold 10 cloud certifications and seven of them are in Amazon web services, also known as AWS. I hold all the associate level certifications in AWS, which is the developer associate, the solutions architect associate and SysOps associate.

I also hold the cloud practitioner, which is the entry level ah certification. I also hold the two professional level certifications, which is the DevOps certification and the solutions architect professional. I also hold the security specialty certification and then I hold three other certifications in Google cloud.

Jonaed Iqbal: [00:02:22] Nice. How long did it take you to sort of get all these certifications? 

Antoni Tzavelas: [00:02:26] It took me...I want to say probably three, two, four years. 

Jonaed Iqbal: [00:02:33] Wow. Okay. So did you get a lot of them early or it'll just evenly spaced out? 

Antoni Tzavelas: [00:02:39] It was evenly spaced out. Some of them I had a fast track cause I just wanted to get more certifications, which would allow me for a better job.

At the time it was fight or flight. It was, um, just coming out of being a SysAdmin for years. I had just gotten laid off and so I was like, "what am I going to do that will allow me to bring my technical career to retirement with the skill set that I have?" And I realized that the future is in cloud, but I didn't have the skillset.

What I did was I buckled down. I took some online courses. It allowed me to gain two certifications over the course of, I believe it was a week. So just before I got those certifications, I had gotten a break into a cloud position. It was the architect position. And I took a $30,000 pay cut.

Jonaed Iqbal: [00:03:41:59] And this is Canadian, so that's like what?

Antoni Tzavelas: [3:44:88] [Laughs]

Jonaed Iqbal: [00:03:47] It's like 20 it's like twenty-thou. Twenty- something thousand US. But still a significant pay cut.

Antoni Tzavelas: [00:03:51] Yeah. Yes. Significant pay cut. But once I gained those two certifications and then I gained a third one after that. The next job that I got, I doubled my salary. 

Jonaed Iqbal: [00:04:04] Wow. In the long run, it definitely paid off. 

Antoni Tzavelas: [00:04:06] Yeah, definitely.

Jonaed Iqbal: [00:04:07] So let's take it back to the beginning. Even though you're in technology right now, you weren't always in technology and you started from fashion. Let's go back to even high school. What did you sort of want to do or what do you, where do you want to get into in high school and what happened after high school?

Antoni Tzavelas: [00:04:22] Well in high school-actually, I'll take it back even further. I started sewing since I was 10 years old, so it all started. I want it to be the popular kid and all the popular kids who were wearing these construction pants, but they were tapered and back then they didn't have the spandex. So you taper them as tight as you could, just so you can get your foot through.

Jonaed Iqbal: [00:04:46] Mmm, Okay. 

Antoni Tzavelas: [00:04:47] Your foot through the bottom. I kept on telling my mom, I was like, "Mom, please taper my pants." She's like, "yeah, yeah, I'll get to it. Yeah, I'll get to it." I think it was after like a week and a half. I said, "You know what? I'm just going to do this myself." 

Jonaed Iqbal: [00:05:01] That's funny

Antoni Tzavelas: [00:05:03] So I got on her sewing machine. I broke so many needles.

I basically, because it was a computerized machine back then, computerized machine was very expensive. I actually caused some damage to it, so I had to go into the shop a couple times. But yeah, I just, I started tapering my pants. You know, that was the start to my fashion career. Next thing you know, I was, I was doing all sorts of stuff.

I was signing up sweaters. I was, um, I remember in grade eight, I actually did home EC class. We had to either, so sweater, do something else. And I was like, Oh. And I saw a sweater. So I sort of sweater and one of my aunts used to work at the roots factory back when, you know, it was just in Canada and she took it in and she did an embroidery for me, and I was like, so proud of the sweater.

It was like, you know.

Jonaed Iqbal: [00:05:56] Do you still have it?

Antoni Tzavelas: [00:05:57] I wish I still had it. I actually lost it on a school trip 

Jonaed Iqbal: [00:06:01] Ah man!

Antoni Tzavelas: [00:06:05] Yeah. But, uh, fast forward to high school. I did my first fashion show when I was 17 years old. Had a 16 piece collection. It was all tailor made jackets, like sports jackets, tailor made pants. It was more high end stuff. It got such a great response that it was in the local newspaper right then and there.

I knew I was like, I'm totally going into fashion and I always, I always said to myself, I'm going to be in the next Calvin Klein. 

I could see you doing that. 

I studied real hard. By the time I got to school, I got into my local university, Ryerson Polytechnic University. The fashion course that I had signed up for, they were doing stuff that I was doing two, three years ago. They were showing me techniques that I already knew, so I was like, "Why am I here? Why am I doing this? Like this is a waste of my time." I literally dropped out after first semester. 

Jonaed Iqbal: [00:07:05] Did you drop at the end of the semester? Middle? When? 

Antoni Tzavelas: [00:07:07] I think it was at the end of the semester. As soon as they told me that I had to do the color wheel again, I was like, 

Jonaed Iqbal: [00:07:13] Oh man

Antoni Tzavelas: [00:07:13] I am. I am not doing this again. I can't do it. Yeah, it's killing me. So I dropped out and it was tough for me because back then my dad was going to support me and he's like, Antoni, as long as you're in university, I'll support you.

I'll pay your rent, make sure you have food on the table. But I was like, I just couldn't do it. I owed myself more than that.So when I dropped out, I had no support. So I had to do something. I started to work in factories, in clothing factories. I worked in, uh, t-shirt factories. I worked in lingerie factories.

I worked candidate goose before it became Canada goose. 

Jonaed Iqbal: [00:07:59] What was it before Canada goose? 

Antoni Tzavelas: [00:08:01] Well, it was, it was still Canada goose, but it wasn't. 

Jonaed Iqbal: [00:08:04] Yeah. Okay. 

Antoni Tzavelas: [00:08:05] The brand 

Jonaed Iqbal: [00:08:05] that you know now. 

Okay. That's cool. 

Antoni Tzavelas: [00:08:08] Yeah. It was a a really fun time just because I got to explore what it is to not just be an entrepreneur, but to take a skill set that you knew that you had and take it to the next level.

I basically, when I was working in my t-shirt fact, I would ask my boss, Hey, can I use your machines after hours so I can sew up some samples. Sides, so up a whole bunch of clothing, and then I would go and peddle it on Young Street. For those of you who don't know, Toronto Young Street is like the main strip that runs North and South, and back then it was just littered with clothing boutiques.

So I would literally take these samples and I would go from store. To store and finally I've landed on one. The guy was like, "I love these." I was like, "Great. How many are you going to take?" He's like, "Eh, I'll take six, six of the skirts and six of those tops for now." I was like, okay, 

Jonaed Iqbal: [00:09:08] How many did you have total?

Antoni Tzavelas: [00:09:09] I had six. 

Jonaed Iqbal: [00:09:11] All right, good. 

Antoni Tzavelas: [00:09:12] What I wasn't expecting was him calling two days later saying, "Antoni, I'm sold out. I need more. Give me a dozen of each now." I was like, "Oh dang." So there I was sewing after my shift till like 10 o'clock at night. And 


Jonaed Iqbal: [00:09:31] how much were you selling a shirt for? 

Antoni Tzavelas: [00:09:34] Oh geez. I can't even remember so long ago, but all I remember was that I was making enough money to pay my rent.

And to me that was, I was like, I was happy I was paying my rent. I was able to eat. What more could I ask for? Right. That was the beginning and then, you know, fast forward a few years, I had met my now wife, ho was my girlfriend at the time in 1999. After different jobs in the industry, I decided that I was, I was going solo and so I started making custom club wear for a lot of people in the city. When I met my wife, she was like, "Hey, let's, let's open up a clothing label." I was like, "That's really cool". Cause she was in fashion merchandising. So I was like, "Oh, this is a match made in heaven. She knows the business side. I know the creative side" Let's do it. Two months after we started dating, we, uh, we opened this fashion label. We're in our 20s, our young 20s. And it was, uh, you know, it was just., doing what 20 year olds do, just being crazy. But little did we know that it would take off within probably, I think it was like two, three years, we hit a quarter million dollars in sales.

Jonaed Iqbal: [00:10:56] Whoa. That's, that's big stuff!

Antoni Tzavelas: [00:10:58] And that was just me and my wife. And we are going to the trade shows in Vegas. We're going to trade shows here in Canada. 

Jonaed Iqbal: [00:11:06] That time, the Canadian dollar is stronger than the US right? 

Antoni Tzavelas: [00:11:08] Yeah. 

Jonaed Iqbal: [00:11:09] So that was some serious money. 

Antoni Tzavelas: [00:11:10] And then we're, we started selling to boutiques across North America, and even in Australia. It was becoming really big in Canadian street where we really had a hold on the market.

But what had happened in 2004 is that a free trade agreement came, came along. Between Canada and China, and that was the end of fashion as we know it in Canada because all the factories that used to sew up, all of our clothes, they had to shut down because they couldn't, couldn't compete. Making one garment here in Canada costs the same amount as making 10 of those same items in China.

The whole industry collapsed. All the shops shut down. There is fabric stores as far as the eye could see. They're all shutting down-all of them. I was, um, I got to the point where a year later, like we try to hang on as long as we could because we said, "You know what? We are proud to be made in Canada and we want to continue being made Canada." We didn't want to go to China, so we hung on as long as we could. I think we hung on a little too long because next thing you know it, we were straddling poverty level. Like to the point where I was, I was digging through the couch for change. So I could buy coffee and cigarettes. Oh man. It was a really, really tough time.

Jonaed Iqbal: [00:12:37] What got you through that time? 

Antoni Tzavelas: [00:12:39] Faith. Hope. Just a positive mindset. Knowing that, you know what it's going to be. Okay. We're going to be okay. So at the time it was me, my wife, and my child. I believe he was six years old, seven years old. It just got to that point where I was like, I need to do something. So a friend of mine who lived in the living in a loft at the time, he lived in the loft behind me. He came over, he says, "Antoni, I'm making a crap load of money doing IT work."

It's like, what are you doing? He's like, "Well, I'm building a website for this company and they have these videos and I'm formatting these videos for mobile phones. Back in the day, mobile phones just started coming in, so nobody had, like, there were very few companies that could do that. But this guy, he knew how to do it.

So he came to me. He's like, "So umm, I'm really short on people and I'm looking for a database administrator. Do you know anything about databases Antoni?" And I was like, "How hard can it be?" That was my exact response to him.[Laughs] How hard can it be? Literally when he told me that he was making a ton of money, there was like a sparkle in my eye and I was like, I got to get that green.

So as soon as he left, I went straight to my computer and I looked on the internet for eBooks. So back then, we didn't have the resources that we have now. So now we have things like Pluralsight and Linux Academy and A Cloud Guru that where you can just go online and learn about anything for like a nominal fee every month and you can get certified, but it wasn't that easy back then.

Jonaed Iqbal: [00:14:32] I can only imagine. 

Antoni Tzavelas: [00:14:33] It wasn't bad. It wasn't easy. So-

Jonaed Iqbal: [00:14:35] What year is this? What is back then? If -

Antoni Tzavelas: [00:14:37] 2005, it was a while back back then, we are looking for what you want it to find stuff online. You had to go through torrent sites. 

Jonaed Iqbal: [00:14:47] Oh man. I remember- 

Antoni Tzavelas: [00:14:51] I was digging through Torrent sites. I Deewano was my, it was my go-to. And I would just scrounge and it looked through the list. Eh- and you know, 50 pages, and I'd be like, "can I find anymore?" I found a whole bunch of them, a whole bunch of eBooks, and I started reading them and it just got to the point where I was like, "I- I don't know what the heck these are saying. I have no idea. I can't understand like Schemas or anything."

So I was like, screw it. I made a decision. The next day I signed up at Herzing College. And, uh, I signed up for their database administration course. I knew nothing about IT. I knew how to repair my computer. Back then, computers weren't as easy to put together. They had like jumpers, they had specific cables and you had to cable your hard drive and your DVD drive in a specific way otherwise it wouldn't work and the jumpers had to be correct. Now you don't have to do that. 

Jonaed Iqbal: [00:15:51] Yeah. Now it's so much easier. 

Antoni Tzavelas: [00:15:53] Yeah. But back then I was like so scared to change the DVD drive. I was afraid I was going to mess up the whole computer. 

Jonaed Iqbal: [00:15:59] I put it in a DVD drive once. I remember, cause we, yeah. That computer didn't have a DVD drive.

Antoni Tzavelas: [00:16:06] Right. 

Jonaed Iqbal: [00:16:07] I installed one and I was proud of it.

Antoni Tzavelas: [00:16:10] [Laughs] Me too. So anyways, yeah, I went back to school. It was a lot of sleepless nights. I'd fall asleep at my desk studying. Studying Oracle database administration. Back then, it was super tough, super tough, but I was, I was dedicated and I was determined. I was like, you know what? I'm going to make just as much money as that guy.

My friend. I continued with it and sure enough, by the end of that year that I had graduated. I graduated top of my class. I was also the systems administrator for the school and I was the teacher's assistant on top of that, and now top of that, I had a part time job at Geek Squad. 

Jonaed Iqbal: [00:16:55] Okay. You started early. 

Antoni Tzavelas: [00:16:58] So I was like, "anything I can do to get me through." As soon as I finished six months, not even six months later, I had recruiters contact me via email. Next thing you know, I was working at CitiGroup for back then. I think I was making like $65,000 a year, and I was back then. 

Jonaed Iqbal: [00:17:18] Yeah. Yeah. That was a good amount. 

Antoni Tzavelas: [00:17:19] Yeah, and because I couldn't find a job as a database administrator, because back then it was, we didn't have the same methodologies and technologies that we have today to be able to train junior database admins.

Nobody wanted anyone touching their data that wasn't familiar with it. So I ended up getting a job as a UNIX Admin. And for those of you who are computer savvy, I was working with Solaris 8,9 and 10. Back then I had gotten my Oracle database certification and I got my Solaris certification. And I think, at least I, I feel that if it wasn't for me getting those certifications, I probably wouldn't have gotten that job because it showed a competency that a lot of people didn't have. Which is why I'm so into certifications.

I know that it's not, doesn't exactly tell people that you're an expert per se, but it shows that you have a, first of all, you have the willpower and you have a mindset of continuous learning and that you're competent in, you know, these technologies that you're using.

Jonaed Iqbal: [00:18:32] And yeah. And the other beauty of certifications is that as technology grows 

Antoni Tzavelas: [00:18:38] And evolves, 

Jonaed Iqbal: [00:18:38] Change and evolve, you can stay up to date. Cause you know, 

Antoni Tzavelas: [00:18:41] Exact-

Jonaed Iqbal: [00:18:41] I've seen people who have like computer science degrees from the 80s and it's like. Right. It's such a different field now. 

Antoni Tzavelas: [00:18:50] Totally. 

Jonaed Iqbal: [00:18:51] And it's like you've got to keep up with times. So what was next? Like you got those two certifications, you've got the job, and what else do you do in addition to the certifications? What cause you to sort of move up? Because that was, that was just a starting point for you. 

Antoni Tzavelas: [00:19:04] I worked at Citi Group for two and a half years. Then I got laid off because they shut down all of their offices. And they were like, we're moving to Texas. If you don't want to move to Texas, then sorry, we got to package you out.

I was like, that's fine. I'll take the package. I didn't really know what to do after that, and so I saw another friend of mine, she asked me to fix her computer. For me it was like, super easy. She's like, "Antoni, you need to make a business out of this". And that's where Mobile Genius was born. So I ran my own business for small businesses and back then cloud was just starting to emerge. Like Gmail for business.

Now you're paying, I think it's $5 per user per month. 

Jonaed Iqbal: [00:19:54] Yeah, something around that. 

Antoni Tzavelas: [00:19:55] I'm grandfathered in a plan that I had signed up for back then. You know how much I'm paying, 

Jonaed Iqbal: [00:20:03] What two bucks?

Antoni Tzavelas: [00:20:05] Nothing. 

Jonaed Iqbal: [00:20:06] Nothing? Wow. 

Antoni Tzavelas: [00:20:07] I have a 50 user account.

Jonaed Iqbal: [00:20:10] Wooow! 

Antoni Tzavelas: [00:20:10] That I'm grandfathered into, and it was because Gmail for business, they had no market share.

Here I was with this new technology and I was pushing it on small businesses. Cause I was like, "These people couldn't afford an exchange server and then somebody coming in and administering this exchange server, making sure it's up and running, doing backups, whatever. I was like, no, why don't they get a free Gmail for business account? And they don't got to pay for anything" And all their, all their employees are taken care of and they have- They have Gmail. So they got their email coming in. They have calenda. They have Google drive. And they were stoked that it actually sinked up with their mobile phone. So they were like, "What do you mean? I can delete a message on my phone, it'll delete my inbox when I go on my computer. They couldn't even grasp that concept. [Laughs] And it's because it was all cloud based. Once I got people into that mindset, then they like, "Wow, I can run my small business like an enterprise." And so I started working with more cloud technologies, you know, back then Amazon was- S3 was their big product. It still is. But back then it was so cheap for you to store stuff on in S3 that there was like small mass devices that can hook up to S3. You just type in your credentials for AWS and bam, you've got an instant backup in the cloud. 

Jonaed Iqbal: [00:21:50] So what year was this? The AWS?

Antoni Tzavelas: [00:21:52] AWS started in, I want to say early two thousands. 

Jonaed Iqbal: [00:21:58] Wow. Okay. You guys really took off in the last few years. Right? 

Antoni Tzavelas: [00:22:02] Once they hit their 10 year Mark, that's when they-

Jonaed Iqbal: [00:22:05] That's- Cause I know in the last few years it's like AWS, AWS, everywhere you go. AWS. Like before that, I never heard of AWS. 

Antoni Tzavelas: [00:22:12] Back then I knew it wasn't as popular, but it was in the runnings. It's definitely in the runnings. I ran that for, I think there's three years and it got to the point where I was just like, I was ready to either grow it or kill it. I was just, at that point. I was actually going to, and no one really knows this, but I was actually going to put together a fleet of ambulances.

Jonaed Iqbal: [00:22:38] Wow.

Antoni Tzavelas: [00:22:39] Modified to be workstations on the inside. 

Jonaed Iqbal: [00:22:43] That's cool. 

Antoni Tzavelas: [00:22:45] So you can just show up in front of a business or in front of a, you know, somebody's home. They just bring in their laptop or whatever and you can fix it right there in the truck. 

Jonaed Iqbal: [00:22:55] Okay. Mobile repair shop. 

Antoni Tzavelas: [00:22:57] Yeah, so it was a cool idea, but I was just like, I don't know if I wa- I want to risk that much. I mean, you know, it was about strategy back then and then I just couldn't afford, you know, me losing my home or anything so-

Jonaed Iqbal: [00:23:10] Yeah, I don't think anybody can afford that. 

Antoni Tzavelas: [00:23:12] [Laughs] So at the same time, I had a friend of mine that I worked with back at Citi Group and he approached me. He says, "Antoni, I got this wicked job. It's perfect for you." It was a SysAdmin job. Is for windows. All the servers are in a data center. So I was like, "I don't have any data center experience, so this would be perfect. This is awesome." And so they brought me on, took the job, and it was, it was awesome. And I started playing with virtualization software and I started playing with a lot of newer technologies that I've never done before, and older technologies that I haven't even touched. So yeah, it was, it was a really, really good experience for me. But there came a point where I was like, "Ok, I need to grow? What's up? What's next?" Let's, let's get more efficient here. And when I started to see that, you know, we're having problems, this tape drives, once you've experienced the 2:00 AM a wake up call, you never want to go back.

It's just like, it totally sucks. I actually, I got woken up at midnight because our backup stopped, so I had to go down to the data center and to wait for this IBM tech to come in, take a look, and meanwhile it was just a faulty tape. 

Jonaed Iqbal: [00:24:33] Oh my. That's the worst. 

Antoni Tzavelas: [00:24:35] By the time I got home, it was like five o'clock and I was exhausted and I had to be in the office the next day.

Back then, while we did have the methodologies that we have today, but they just weren't as forthcoming with it. It wasn't as popular as it is today. So yeah, I did that for for two and a half years, and it got to the point where I wanted to grow more and I wanted to, I didn't want to be on call anymore. I wanted to start being smart about how I work.

I didn't want to wake up at 2:00 AM. I was like, how can we avoid that 2:00 AM phone call, how there's gotta be a way if other people can do it, why can't we do it? And that's when I discovered cloud, because the company that I was working for, I won't name the company cause, confidentiality. 

Jonaed Iqbal: [00:25:29] Yeah

Antoni Tzavelas: [00:25:29] Didn't want to go Amazon. So I was like, "Fine, let's, let's do Azure. Let's do Microsoft." So started filling in Microsoft. I was there, you know, there I was. 

Jonaed Iqbal: [00:25:38] Okay. 

Antoni Tzavelas: [00:25:39] Diving into into the cloud platform, and I was like, "This is cool, this can work." And I saw the potential. I saw the light at the end of the tunnel. That's when they had canned me. 

Jonaed Iqbal: [00:25:52] Oh man. 

Antoni Tzavelas: [00:25:53] I know. But everything, I truly believe that everything happens for a reason.

They actually did me a favor. You know? It was then where I, where I truly realize that cloud technologies were going to play a big part in the coming years. Now that I have so many certifications and I understand cloud technologies, there's still people that I used to work with that aren't in cloud. I dunno how it's gonna end up for them.

Jonaed Iqbal: [00:26:25] What would you recommend if someone's early on in their career, right? 

Antoni Tzavelas: [00:26:29] Yeah. 

Jonaed Iqbal: [00:26:29] Let's say they're high school or, or just, you know, first job, what certifications would you really recommend or it really depends which direction they want to go? 

Antoni Tzavelas: [00:26:38] It does depend on the direction that they want to go. You know, you can go different routes. You can go security. 

Jonaed Iqbal: [00:26:44] Yeah 

Antoni Tzavelas: [00:26:44] Can go networking. Or you can go basic infrastructure. You could also go in the development or- So it all depends on which way you want to go, but I mean, if, if you want to just get into cloud, the AWS solutions architect associate is the, is the perfect way to get in. And for those of you who don't even know cloud.

The AWS cloud practitioner exam is like a perfect, getting to know cloud. Like why cloud? It goes through everything. You get the certification. I'll be honest, the certification is great if you're like a sales guy or if you're in recruiting, but when you get your solutions architect associate, that starts to show a little bit more competency and you start to really understand what cloud is and the resources that are available. And then it allows you to expand on your learnings. It allows you to do more proof of concepts. I was going to say, play with more labs, more white papers that are on the next, and there's just code that's available that you can just download and try it yourself. You don't even have to necessarily do any of the code. You just run it and see what it does and then you pick it apart. 

Jonaed Iqbal: [00:28:12] Were there any certifications that you got that you felt didn't really help you? And if they didn't help you, why was that the case? Was it more that use that route or the certification itself wasn't helpful?

Antoni Tzavelas: [00:28:26] Well, the cloud practitioner was definitely not really helpful. I mean, then I had, when I went to write it it- I had three associate level certifications and two professional certifications. A colleague of mine actually dared me and he was like, let's see who can write it the fastest and the most accurate. [Laughs] I was like "Challenge accepted". I ended up finishing it in 12 minutes within 96% 

Jonaed Iqbal: [00:28:57] Wow. But that one was the one that wasn't helpful. 

Antoni Tzavelas: [00:29:02] No, it wasn't helpful at all. 

Jonaed Iqbal: [00:29:03] How fast does your colleague finish? 

Antoni Tzavelas: [00:29:05] He finished in seven minutes. 

Jonaed Iqbal: [00:29:07] What was his percentage? 

Antoni Tzavelas: [00:29:09] His percentage was 98 

Jonaed Iqbal: [00:29:10] Oh man. 

Antoni Tzavelas: [00:29:11] He got one question wrong.

Jonaed Iqbal: [00:29:13] That's cra--  You got like two?

Antoni Tzavelas: [00:29:15] Yeah. 

Jonaed Iqbal: [00:29:16] Wow, that's crazy. 

Antoni Tzavelas: [00:29:17] I know. But it was, it was a fun challenge, but as well, I mean, after I started going down the route of cloud, I became a DevOps Engineer. That's where I really started to, to really want to dive deep and start to understand the technologies better. And that's where I started doing more and more certifications. Bringing it back to cloud practitioner, I really enjoyed going and getting these certifications that it got to the point where people were asking me, "Antoni, how did you do it? What did you study? What should I study? How did you study? What things are you doing different than everyone else doing?" Doing the cloud practitioner actually gave me insight into what people should study for when they're just starting to break in the cloud.

And for those people who are a little bit more advanced, I can give them insight into any other certifications. And so that's where I really found a passion for teaching cause I love, I dunno what it was, I just love seeing people grow and be successful. And you know the smiles on their faces when they pass the exam, they'd like come running in the next day. "Antoni, I passed!" I was like, "Yes! That's amazing." It was just so much fun for me and is really, I dunno. There was just a joy about it that I really loved. 

Jonaed Iqbal: [00:30:45] I find the same way. It's like when I can help someone find a job.  When I can help someone just, do something new that they don't necessarily, they can do or they can do well. You kind of just see, they're like, "Wow, thank you." And I was like, "Look, you know, yes, I played a part, but don't forget that you did the stuff. You did the challenge and you know, I was only a guide. "

Antoni Tzavelas: [00:31:05] Yes, exactly. Getting, tying back into what you asked me in the beginning was how did fashion tie into tech. In fashion I dealt with a lot of people. There was a lot of people skills involved. I had to talk to people in the factories, factory workers. I had to talk to factory owners. I had to talk to people doing fabric. I had to talk to sales people to talk to customers, people who did notions like zippers and buttons and stuff.

I came across a slew of different types of people. And each different type of person you had to know how to talk to them. I learned that over time. When it came to teaching people on how to get these certifications. Now I'm, I'm interacting with people again. So I'm like, "Ah, wait a second. I know this type of person."

And so I knew how to talk to them and so it all tie back together and I just became passionate again about people. People in general. Know, having one on one conversations, bonding using technologies. And it just got to that point where I realized that technology, any technology company, while a lot of them, I wouldn't say all of them, they're missing that. That people aspect whereby people are their first priority. The dollar is, is a, is what it's all about. I mean, you know, running a business, you've got to make money. But. If your employees aren't happy, then what's the point? So this made me dive into coaching, and so now I'm going back to school again to get my certification coaching, and I'm going to be doing executive coaching in the technology space.

Jonaed Iqbal: [00:32:59] Wow. Nice. I can definitely see you helping a lot of people in that. 

Antoni Tzavelas: [00:33:03] Yeah. So I want to help directors. I want to help them be able to talk to their people, be able to create a safe space whereby people don't have to feel lame or shame, you know, if they don't know something, they have the safety and the courage to, to just be open and say, "Hey, you know what? I don't know this. Can you please help me and somebody can help them." And that's the kind of culture that I want to build as well as, you know, the communication between team members. You know, it should all be like one big happy family. I always say that if you can't go out for a beer with the guy that you work with, then you shouldn't be working with them.

Jonaed Iqbal: [00:33:45] That's a good statement because you don't have to be best friends, but you know, I think you should be friendly. 

Antoni Tzavelas: [00:33:50] Yes, absolutely. 

Jonaed Iqbal: [00:33:52] We can tolerate each other. I'm going to ask you this specifically because you're a career, you know, you transitioned from such a different industry. People don't think fashion and technology--  What advice would you have for someone who wants to sort of make a career transition from something that's clearly different? I know you mentioned that communication is key. What were some other things that sort of helped you transition or what are some things to kind of be aware of when you do make the transition?

Antoni Tzavelas: [00:34:16] It's a great question. I think that, number one, you have to have a learning mindset. You have to be willing to, to be able to say, you know what? I don't know this, but I'm going to get to know it and have the courage and the humility to say, yeah, I'm going to go and learn and really buckle down. You know, sacrifice those Saturday night parties.

A night out drinking was your friends. Another thing is strategy. No, because I have for each career transition. I had a family, I had a mortgage. And so I had to be very strategic about what I did and how I did it. So when you have the learning mindset plus your strategy and that you add passion and drive to that, you've got a winning winning equation right there.

Jonaed Iqbal: [00:35:07] What were the characteristics of the people that you saw fail? Cause so many people I see, "Hey, I want to get into technology. I want to do this..." They just sort of, it doesn't work. And what kind of common characteristics do you see in those people? 

Antoni Tzavelas: [00:35:18] The people that you're talking about. I usually see them stray off from their angle because they're determining their success based on other people's success. And so they see themselves as "Ahhh, I'll never get there. Forget it." I'll just drop it. A lot of people don't want to, don't want to learn. Their egos, get in the way. Then there is people want to go all in. But they don't have a strategy. There's want to get there. When you get there, what's going to happen? How are you going to get there? And what happens if something gets thrown in the mix?

Then what? So strategy I think is very important. Um, even if you have to end up pivoting into doing something else. At least have a strategy in place for what you're doing. And again, have the mindset and have the drive knowing that you will do whatever it takes. Jonaed, I mean, I spent literally. Two hours a day studying on the subway because that was free time. I was like, how can I utilize this time when I'm just sitting in a chair or I'm standing and I used to download all these videos that allowed me to-- to get those certifications. It was, it was like my, all the knowledge that I needed. You know, are you willing to, to sacrifice that, that game that you want to play or, you know, listening to that new album, if it comes to a really good podcast that you love? [Laughs}

Jonaed Iqbal: [00:36:52] Well, now there're in technology podcasts. So--

Antoni Tzavelas: [00:36:54] [Laughs]

Jonaed Iqbal: [00:36:55] Right there's--So there's ways to keep up with tech news. 

Antoni Tzavelas: [00:36:58] True. yeah

Jonaed Iqbal: [00:36:59] So, there's so many ways to learn, especially, compared to before. Now they're online courses are free, you know, for free. 

Antoni Tzavelas: [00:37:06] Yeah. 

Jonaed Iqbal: [00:37:06] At least to gets started, but it's usually-- I usually find that the paid courses are a little bit better and they're, well-- 

Antoni Tzavelas: [00:37:12] Yes

Jonaed Iqbal: [00:37:12] A little better organized, But at least you could get started in the free route and then kind of see, "Hey, can I actually do this?" So that when you do start a paid course that you're just, you're not starting from zero. 

Antoni Tzavelas: [00:37:22] Absolutely. And a lot of these platforms like Udemy or whatever the case may be, they all have apps. 

Jonaed Iqbal: [00:37:31] Yeah. 

Antoni Tzavelas: [00:37:31] And they allow you to download their videos onto your phone, and so you don't need data to, to watch it. So you can be in the subway, you can be in the street car. You can even just be, even if you're not watching the video and you're just listening to it, you're still absorbing material. It's about how bad do you want it. Yeah. 

Jonaed Iqbal: [00:37:52] So you don't have the degree, and I know you-- Now, it's more common for people in technology to not have a degree. Was there ever a time that you were sort of turned down for an opportunity? Or someone asks a question, "you don't have a degree, why would we hire you?" Or how'd you sort of navigate it? Did it ever have-- caused an issue for you? 

Antoni Tzavelas: [00:38:10] I'll be honest. Half the people that I've met do not have a degree and are doing very well in technology. It's because they have that learning mindset. They have the, the drive and the passion and they're willing to do what it takes to get the job done. When you have that, it's-- It doesn't matter how many degrees you have, doesn't matter how many certifications you may have.

Like I said, I, I got my certifications not just to get me into a job, but it gave me a path for learning. Between each certification I was spending, I don't know, two months of learning and that journey of those two months gave me everything that I needed in order to level up. I encourage everyone else to do the same.

Jonaed Iqbal: [00:39:02] What are the next steps? Cause you know, you've grown so much where you know you're always in the learning mindset. So what are you-- I know you're getting this certification for the executive coaching. So what are sort of the next steps? The next technologies and what do you see the future going towards? You said you see cloud as a big thing. Are there any other things you see making big waves in the future? 

Antoni Tzavelas: [00:39:21] I see big data, ahh, machine learning and artificial intelligence. Those are really, really hot right now. I also see security is becoming a big thing. 

Jonaed Iqbal: [00:39:35] That's a big thing.

Antoni Tzavelas: [00:39:36] Yeah. I mean, security is a big thing. Don't get me wrong, but in cloud you have to have a different mindset. When it comes to doing security and cloud, having that mindset of understanding how security is in cloud will be a definite asset to any organization, especially if you're being proactive. What else? DevOps is now huge. I would always recommend, you know, getting into DevOps and understanding the methodologies.

So not just the tooling. But the methodologies behind why you do DevOps. That usually helps and that you can dive into tooling and dive into pipelines and stuff like that. So yeah, I would say security, DevOps Bid Data, even IOT, internet of things. 

Jonaed Iqbal: [00:40:26] Yeah that's pretty big. And then--

Antoni Tzavelas: [00:40:27] It's an--everything's connected. I mean, my whole home is connected.

I have cameras, the door locks. Smoke detectors, thermostats, light switches, light bulbs, they're all connected to each other. 

Jonaed Iqbal: [00:40:42] Even your coffee machine 

Antoni Tzavelas: [00:40:43] Even my coffee machine. So I know that at 6:00 AM when I get up, my coffee machine is already on warming up the boiler. I've timed it. So this way, by the time I get up, I get my son a bowl of yogurt. I go to the washroom, I come back, the boiler's hot. The pressure is perfect and it's ready for coffee, but it's all automated right? 

Jonaed Iqbal: [00:41:07] Technology. 

Antoni Tzavelas: [00:41:08] I know. 

Jonaed Iqbal: [00:41:09] Have you sewed recently? Anytime?

Antoni Tzavelas: [00:41:12] [Laughs] I haven't sewn in such a long time. I got rid of my sewing machine a long time ago. But like riding a bike, I could probably pick it up and do it again.

Jonaed Iqbal: [00:41:22] Okay. So let's start to wrap this up. Do you have any final things that you really want to tell people about technology, fashion, or whatever? 

Antoni Tzavelas: [00:41:30] I want to tell people that lately I've been, I've been helping people on LinkedIn. Okay. People who want to get into the technology industry or they're struggling to move from one position to another position.

The best advice that I can give to people is have that mindset of "you're able to do it." It doesn't matter if you don't have the talent. Or the certifications or it just, it doesn't matter. If you want to do it and you put your mind to it, you're capable of anything. Absolutely anything. I don't care what it is.

If you want to be a doctor, you can definitely, I mean, there's going to be a lot of studying [Laughs]

Jonaed Iqbal: [00:42:16] Yeah. 

Antoni Tzavelas: [00:42:16] But you can totally be a doctor. I mean if you want to be an auto mechanic. No problem. You have to have that mindset. You have to have that passion and that drive. But when, when you have that, anything is possible.

Absolutely anything, and these are the types of things that I run into. People don't have that mindset. They don't believe in themselves. They don't believe that they can do it. They want to do it, but they talk themselves out of it because it's scary because they're getting out of the comfort zone. But once you step out of your comfort zone, that's when all the good stuff happens.

Jonaed Iqbal: [00:42:48] Yeah. The magic is in outside the comfort zone. 

Antoni Tzavelas: [00:42:52] Exactly. 

Jonaed Iqbal: [00:42:53] And the beauty of it is, as you step out, so your side, your comfort zone, your comfort zone gets bigger. And what was once uncomfortable is now comfortable. 

Antoni Tzavelas: [00:43:03] Yeah. 

Jonaed Iqbal: [00:43:03] So how would someone get in contact with you? What's the best way to sort of reach out to you? If someone's interested in learning more about you? 

Antoni Tzavelas: [00:43:09] LinkedIn baby 

Jonaed Iqbal: [00:43:10] Then-- So I'll have a link to his LinkedIn on the show notes. Just send them a personalized requesting you heard them on the podcast and he'll accept you. 

Antoni Tzavelas: [00:43:19] Absolutely. I accept everyone. 

Jonaed Iqbal: [00:43:21] Thank you all for listening to this great episode. Thank you, Antoni, for the wonderful episode. I've actually met up with him several times and I look forward to seeing again. Thank you. And look into LinkedIn Lives with you. 

Antoni Tzavelas: [00:43:35] Absolutely. Have a great night.

Jonaed Iqbal: [00:43:37] You too.

Another great episode. Thank you for listening. Hopefully this information is valuable and you learned a lot. Stay tuned for the next episode. This show is sponsored by you. No degree wants to remain free from influence so that we can talk about this topics without bias. If you think this shows worth the dollar or two, please check out our Patreon Page at Any amount is appreciated and will go towards making future episodes even better.

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