Systems Engineer for Nexcess, a Liquid Web Brand, on problem-solving, finding joy in helping others, and developing skills that will last you a career.
Systems Engineer Amy Moruzzi was born in Amsterdam. "We lived in the Netherlands until I was five," she says. "At that time, my parents were sort of hippies who lived on a houseboat." This beginning and a somewhat nomadic childhood may explain why, in adulthood, Moruzzi is most at peace outdoors in Michigan, where she has now lived longer than anywhere else. "I love hiking, kayaking, and just sitting around a campfire at night with family and friends. Those are my favorite ways to spend a day."
Once she completed school, Moruzzi took a product engineering job for an automotive company until she left the workforce for some time to care for her young children. "When I wanted to get back into work, I was looking for something part-time that I could do from home so that it wouldn't interrupt my family life too much. I saw a job ad for a hosting company looking for support techs. I could work second shift, just a few days a week, from home, so it seemed like a good temporary gig that would allow me to still be with my kids most of the time." She never expected it to turn into an actual career.
Moruzzi had an engineering degree, but knew little about Linux, so she had a lot of on-the-job learning. "There is nothing like getting phone calls from clients asking a million random questions to help encourage you to develop a new skill set!" After a few years of part-time level-1 support, she went full-time, was promoted, and began working her way up the support ranks.
Now Moruzzi works as a Systems Engineer in the Nexcess SysOps Team, part of the broader Liquid Web Engineering Team. The team works on a variety of projects relating to areas like configuration management, backups, security, new product development, and automating existing systems.
Problem-solving is the aspect of the work she loves most. "I can get into a flow, and time flies by. It's great to figure something out and get it working. There is never any shortage of work, so there's no sitting around being bored." It was also fantastic, she says, to genuinely help people out. "When I first started and was working front-level support, I loved being able to take a business owner's call and save the day for them. Now, working with other teams and keeping our internal systems running, I still get to help those clients from behind the scenes. It's gratifying."
Moruzzi is proud of the strides she's made as an engineer, going from level-1 support and knowing very little about Linux, to where she is now with Nexcess. "This took time, work, a certain amount of stubbornness, and sometimes a desire to avoid doing the same thing too many times, which helped me learn some more scripting and programming." She's also happy with her choice to go into engineering in the first place. In high school, a guidance counselor brushed off her ambitions when she mentioned wanting to be an engineer. He suggested she consider another route, that girls don't go into engineering, and that those who did usually dropped out after a semester. "My response was pretty much, 'Don't tell me what I can or can't handle, thank you very much.'"
There have been encouragers for her along the way, specifically her advisor at the University of Arizona. "I'd taken a job after grad school before completing my thesis, and she tracked me down and forced me to finish it. She wouldn't let me get distracted, and she helped me break down the remaining work into steps and keep me on schedule to complete those steps. Thanks to her, I was able to fly back to defend my thesis and get it done."
She continues to work this way, breaking up big projects into manageable bits of problem-solving. Moruzzi loves digging into tough puzzles and finding the right answer. "If no one wants to touch an issue with a ten-foot pole, dig into it and try to learn it because otherwise, it'll come back to haunt you one way or another."
Her greatest inspiration, she says, is her family, including her husband and four children, ranging in age from 2 to 16. "They motivate everything I do."
Moruzzi hopes that young women whose interests draw them to tech will feel excited by the field. "My teenage daughters are interested in other things so far, which is totally fine—though one of them just took a computer science class and liked it, so maybe there's still hope! But if young women are looking for a career that can be flexible, and allows you to be lifelong learners and offers a good living, tech is a great fit." She encourages anyone new to the field not to be intimidated. "In the beginning, you're going to be surrounded by brilliant people who know way more than you do. Just try to learn from them. Try to absorb how they approach problems. Specific skills needed and issues that arise in this business are always shifting, but troubleshooting and problem-solving skills will last for your entire career."