Episode 32: Christophe Troessaert: Go From IT Novice to Freelance Cloud Expert

By Cedric D´Harveng

We have two new faces on this episode! 

We welcome Cédric D´Harveng for his debut episode as host, with Christophe Troessaert, a seasoned cloud consultant, now Azure specialist, with over a decade of experience.  

Christophe shares his remarkable journey from his first IT role to becoming a leading freelance expert in cloud technology. Christophe reflects on his transition from traditional employment to freelance consultancy, emphasizing the pivotal role of hands-on training and real-world experience. 

From his early days troubleshooting support tickets to mastering the intricacies of cloud infrastructure, Christophe's story is inspiring and informative. 

Learn about the opportunities in cloud computing, including the latest trends and challenges shaping the industry.  Gain expert advice on leveraging cloud technology to carve out a successful freelance career, and explore the essential skills and certifications needed to thrive in this dynamic field. 

Whether you're a budding IT enthusiast or an experienced professional looking to make the leap into freelance consultancy, this episode offers invaluable guidance and inspiration to chart your course towards success in the cloud. 

An insightful conversation with an industry expert paving the way for the next generation of cloud professionals. 

Watch the episode below with French or Dutch Subtitles


Please note, that this transcript is automated and may have errors

Why this silly decision, Christophe, to have chosen this very specific and mysterious environment? 

Yeah. And it's a good question. And it comes back from my childhood. So basically when I was like 13, 14, like many kids, there were video games, computers, was getting to something. It was the beginning of the internet with better connectivity and so on. And, it was still not good for playing with your friends, you know? 

So you felt directly, immediately, I would say, an attraction to this universe, or was it like you wanted to take some information before? 

No, actually, it was not as easy as taking your Nintendo cartridge and just putting it there and you can play, you had to do so many things before I was like. There is not only the game you have to do things, or you have to figure it out what it is, how it works. So, you start bringing your PC to your friend and then you start like, how can you make them talk to each other? So, you take a cable and then you start figuring it out. Okay. But do we have how to connect them and then you don't even play. 

Do you think non-it guys see you IT guys from outside the same as the TV show?

Where you have those guys in the basement and they just, put them there because they are not social, and so on? This is evolving. But I think there is still that aspect of you know, IT people in the corner. 

Stereotypes, you mean? Yeah, exactly. 


Yeah, exactly. Only computer lovers. 

Yeah. They don't talk to each other or they don't talk to people. They talk to computers. 

Are you still used to it with some people? Like talking to you when you meet some of them. And I mean, outside this universe. 

Yeah. So, I've been a consultant for, 16 years this year, and, I saw some of those examples. So, as a consultant, you come to a customer for, sometimes a long period, sometimes for a short period, and, for a short period. Sometimes, I saw people, like, in their office, you know, they just do their job, okay? They are very likely that kind of person is very good at it. But they are so in their work that the social aspect is not there. So even for me, even if we speak the same language, let's say, to be able to get the information from those people sometimes is a little bit challenging. Well, let's say they're just they're passionate about their job. They want to be disciplined and to deliver as best as possible. Yeah. Correct. But if they get, for example, some, uh, some, some needs from someone from the outside, they are still a little bit hesitant to share the problem because, as someone who is I'm very passionate. So, if you admit that you have a problem and you need someone. It's also something that you have to work on to be able to share the problem with someone and get help from someone. 

You spoke about just hesitation right now. And it gives. Maybe you would like to share for I don't know junior IT people willing to maybe start a new career in it. Any tips you would share right now? 

Yeah. Things are evolving very, very quickly. So, you have to always, never, never stop learning. That's the tip, number one. It's even more these days. You can't really say I'm learning. I'm getting a degree, and then I'm good to go. For five years, ten years, 15 years. So the tip is, if you don't like learning daily, on a weekly basis, that's not going to fly for me. 

And would you say as an IT guy now, a professional for 16 years, as you mentioned, that it's about learning or because you're living really from your passion today? 

Do you have the feeling you learn every day or you work, if I may say, every day? 

That's what I usually say to some recruiter, uh, or to some company, uh, because, yeah, it's not because I'm, I'm a freelancer that I'm not doing some interviews sometimes with recruiters or companies. Um. I'm always going to pick up a customer or a company if I like it if it's almost like a game. So I need to be comfortable that they have good challenges. That we share the same challenge. So, I'm always going to work or to customers for some things because I like it and it becomes a kind of game. So let's say it's like you have to achieve to you have to, to get to a point and you find the right way to get to the point. 

And I imagine just before reaching that point, you need a background, you need some training formation, let's say. Would you maybe explain to us where you did your studies, for example, what kind of university you attended if you went to a university or any tips for people listening to us right now? 

Yeah. So I have a very special school. Path. I did like many, many Belgium people, I did the general courses. Okay. And then due to the story of starting playing with computers, around 14, or 15, I was not enjoying school as much as before, and I wanted to find something more computer-related. Back then, it was not that easy. Okay. Unfortunately, at that time, you had to complete until 17, or 18 and start doing your degree or a master's bachelor. Whatever. In a more specific field, there was nothing. There was not much at that time around 16, 17. but still, I was lucky to find the last two years, it was an IT technician. And basically, you learn about network operating systems, logic, and algorithms. You do a little bit of development. So everything around, how to build a computer, how to troubleshoot the computer. That was like, that's what I want to do. 

And so how what do you think your parents thought in the past when you told them. What do you think it as an image was representing for them? 

Yeah. So at that time, there was quite some good discussion. And it was like, you have to be an engineer. And that's something very important. It's no longer required to have an engineering degree. Even if we call a system engineer or AI engineer. It's a non-official title or a non-academic title. But you can be in it without a degree. And for the people who say that's not true, I am the proof of it. There is a way, not an easy way. It's. There is a lot of sacrifice, but there is a way. 

Okay. Because you just mentioned the importance of having a degree. Well, let's be honest. Some clients today nowadays still want, uh, let's say good quality profile because yeah, it happens. And how do you position yourself with this kind of client? 

So, to be honest, when I started to apply at the beginning of my career, I did like many people, I sent hundreds of CVS every day. And, when you start, you know, filling those web pages with, your first name, last name, degree, degree comes in and, you can see on the public sector, they require a degree because you are, let's say, the dot on a specific matrix. Yeah. And there is no way out. So I took the decision not to go within the public sector. I was like, okay, private sector. 

So we talk about 2008, 2009. Um, around that time, the concept of you can be a self-learner. It was it was the beginning of that area. I just went all for it. spend my evening. Spend my weekend, studying, studying, studying. I came to a point, for example, 700 pages of a technical book per week. 

One per week. Wow. that's a lot. 

That's a lot. But the sacrifice was worth it. At that time, I wouldn't do it anymore. Now after 16 years. 

Would you think that still today, if, for example, you would like to reply to one of these public client sectors, you would still be not considered because you haven't done any? Do you think so? 

Yeah. And the funny thing is, for some customers that I applied to, I came back as a consultant. Okay. So, I still have, let's say, some personal pride, uh, to be able to be called as an expert from a company who didn't wanted to invest in me as an employee back then. Okay. Well, so it's like a personal achievement. So you are a Microsoft specialist. Could you maybe, if I may say, explain in a simple way as possible, what are you doing if if it's if it makes sense? Of course. If it's possible for you. So based on the study and what I did back then, I like the, the different program that Microsoft was doing and, When I was on the job, I did a certification and learning about Windows Server, then on messaging, and just keep going on. So in the end, I can be called a Microsoft expert because as a consultant, you jump from A to B to C to D very rapidly, and that becomes, let's say the the real job is to be able to go quickly and deeper on a subject. So. For many, many years.  I could be called for many different things around the Microsoft, product. But mainly on what it's called the infrastructure side. So basically it could be providing computers to people, but mass deployment of thousands of hundreds of thousands of computers to companies.

So really go into all those aspects of the enterprise management of it. Not on the development software, because that's called a developer. So I really kept all those products like databases, SQL, Windows Server, Active Directory and so on. But then the cloud area comes in. 

Can you maybe tell us a bit what's, you know, in cloud and maybe what you would like in a perfect world to know more about? 

Yeah. So. Cloud came in like, yeah, almost seven, eight years ago. And, it was a big change in the IT field. There was a lot of debate about. Yeah, but cloud will take the job of many people, and, it took some years before, some feedback came in about this, this statement. And it actually changed the way we work. So if you remember, 20 or 30 years ago, some jobs do no longer exist, and new job comes in. And it's the same with cloud. If I just take an example, if you try to find, a messaging, an email specialist, 5 to 10 years ago, you had plenty of them. Now that no longer exist. 

I just had a conversation with, some colleagues. If I had to call someone on that area of expertise, I'm almost by myself. I only maybe know 1 or 2 people, and Cloud is actually, making that shift. New profile, new new demand, new, new skill sets. Back then, it was more, that you had to know one software or one skill more. That's great. Yeah. But these days, doing cloud, for example, I think I have to know something like 15 or 20 different, products or services in a cloud provider. 

I'm still always amazed when some customer says, I want to have someone that knows full of Azure. Yeah. Don't you think it's just to challenge maybe you guys, in a way, to see where you can go as deep as possible? I don't know, maybe, if that's the case, it's for me a bad way to to do it. And I still remember this customer asking me about the knowing all of Azure. And, I just told him, just honestly, I will not even know the half of it, okay. Not even 25%. And he was actually shocked. 

Really? But you said, I am sure I'm ready to learn, but is that sufficient sometimes for a customer this gap to to to fill in when you say this like that or. 

It depends because actually, cloud now created this very thin layer, between the, the job area. You could be network, you were infrastructure, you were a developer. It was silos. These days, if I talk about myself, I'm doing security, I'm doing identity, I'm doing networking, I'm doing, data. I'm doing a little bit of AI. Yeah, containers. And it just keeps going. This is a never ending story. And the evolution of the technology. Push us to to also evolve. Yeah. 

And so in terms of evolution, speaking about that, any idea maybe it's a silly question. I'm sorry. Where do you want to see yourself in five years, where do you think you will be? What do you want to achieve in five years time?

 If I go back 15 years ago, you ask me the same question. I knew where to go in five years. 


Due to the cloud and due to. It's no longer you. You want to do something tomorrow, so things go very quickly. Things have to be done, even for yesterday. So you cannot easily project yourself, in five years, and, have the question to myself. It's it's a tricky one. I'm a freelancer, so basically, I don't any longer think about the techniques and in which technology to invest my time. Not only, I have to think about other skills as well. Yeah, but you. Certainly have some wishes, maybe dreams you want to to have in it. I'm pretty sure you have it like everyone. Yeah, but it goes a little bit more, it gets expanded in the entrepreneur world. Okay. I'm not even thinking. I'm trying to do it, right now. I'm trying to expand a little bit, try to get, not especially employee, but to be able to work with other colleagues that were colleagues back then with other professionals, to actually team up and be able to provide, to customers better services. In the IT world, you don't only have the big names, you can also rely on freelancers or groups of freelancers. And that's what I'm trying also to achieve is, one customer could call one one freelancer, and in the end, get up with a list of highly recommended people. 

Okay. And but because here you just mentioned all the stuff about the hard skills. What about the soft skills? Chris, if you had to make just a list, what would be the advice, your advice for the young IT people willing to launch a career like this? What's important to have? 

Yeah, as an aptitude, I would say, even if the job might be, different, like an employee or a consultant or a freelancer,, the social skills, I do believe, communication is something that was against the old it, back in the days, so I think, to to to improve the how an it looks like in an enterprise, the social skills. I think I do see some changes. So the new guys coming now in the market, they are in the internet area, the gen, Gen Y, Gen Z, and so on. They are younger. They are somehow more social. So the the social code are not the same.

What would you say about the future generation, if I may say, because you just mentioned it, they're really into the IT world every day. We just focusing on this. We seeing every evolution happening every day. It's crazy. How would you see them do they have like advance in uh for example on you compared in comparison to your generation? 

So funny one because actually, my, nephew, we talk about virtual machines last week. Guess what? 

Your nephew. How old is he? 

He's seven. 

Crazy. What? There is no age. 

No, no, no. Exactly. So, it's really interesting because. Because it is something common. A laptop, a phone, so many, commodities these days, that you are in it no matter what you are in the tech field somehow. So for me, for that young age, you can, earlier in the time. You can easily find and discover jobs very likely even jobs that do no longer exist or might not even exist. So it's very difficult to go in a specific direction for them. But they have so many things, coming. So cloud was a milestone, but AI is the new, 2324 milestone, but the door is not even open. 

So you just mentioned the direction for these guys. We spoke about your, educational background. What would be the, let's say, the required information these guys must have in their possession before, let's say, starting to dream about an IT career? 

This is actually something I'm a little bit, sad about how the courses in it looks like right now, and other degrees are actually, not are have have solved the problem. I do believe train, not training, but, spending time in companies. So internships, internship, internship. I do believe internships are important. So, if you talk about teachers, from the first year, they do internships, even if it's a few days. And to me, this is something to get the student a view not only about the enterprise, the world of the enterprise. Because you have small business, medium, and large, they have different code of conduct. They, they have different, way to speak, way to interact. So I believe there would be something very useful for them to be able to, get an internship or to be able, even if it's for a holiday period, to get a sense, a little bit of introduction of the, professional world. I was going. To ask, do you think these guys know from what you know, are well informed after uni or during uni about the opportunities, in the market for, I mean, because there are massive opportunities, as you know, the demand is so high. There's a scarcity of of course, candidates as we know, do you think they have enough information to know where to go when they're out of university? 

I don't think so. Because in the end, school is meant to give you a logic, some theoretical background, but you really get to work when you get a job. So in the end, for me, I think it's pretty difficult to get them prepared and. Not to do some promotion, but in my own path. Um, I decided to go in a more hands-on kind of training. So I'm in favor of those 3 to 6 months or sometimes even a year, training provided by real professionals. So outside or in parallel of school. You do have those companies, a little bit around in Belgium that are having those. Agenda with the what you really see in the companies to be really the closest as possible from what you may expect in a job. And I do believe this is also a parallel track. Okay. And in the end, and I'm not sure how it can be possible, there should be kind of merging together or having. Some information or some experience taken from each other. 

Yeah. And, well, because that's another thing I would like to ask from you is after the educational background, after the first internship, when, for example, they pick up their first job, the real job, let's say practice experience. What would be your advice in terms of the first role, you know, to be able to explore? Because we have seen on the market we have, candidates, starting with project management immediately. So I would say non-tech people, we have, some IT managers, system administrators, we have support. What would be your advice just to explore the market and to know what you like and what you don't like? 

Yeah. People might argue, the point, but, I do believe the helpdesk kind of role is, quite useful, because you get very social. Everybody will call you, you get to know the tech because basically, it could be. Yes, a keyboard, could be a printer, could be a server, could be an account, could be support level.

Level one. Yeah. Okay. 

Especially level one depending on the need. But a company where you might do a lot of support, um. And in the end, that gives you also some flavors about, different areas. Or, you may have something like the network is not working, so maybe you would get some interest on the network side. There is some security incident. So maybe you would be interested in that. Maybe there is a software not working. It's an internal software from the company. So maybe you will have to take a look, or you will have to, rely on the developer team. 

Is it something you experience by yourself? 

Yeah. So, my first job was actually in IT services, hosting, a little bit of, servers and, and software and, we were managing hundreds of customers, principally, small and medium. Okay. And, we were getting phone calls, like, my account is locked. I cannot print. Yeah, but the cartridge is empty. So, you know, the classic, but in the end, it was first remote. And then sometimes for the printer, you have to be there. So you go on-site, and then you start talking to people, and then you start evolving a little bit. So that's where you learn everything and you discover about your passion. Yeah. After. Exactly. 

In terms of technology, what do you think is the most trendiest on the market right now? 


Okay. But then the next question would be public. Private. And something aside, we hear a lot about AI.

Well, yeah. So, these. Days, indeed. I think the two main trends are somehow opposite and somehow they go together. Security. Cybersecurity as well as AI, cyber security, if you think about it, even as a as a consumer, as a, as an individual, we have to face scamming, receiving spam, getting fake messages. So, for me, cybersecurity is a passionate kind of field. And it's just a top word inside of it. You have so many jobs, you can be a pen tester or you can be an incident handler, there are so many, sub jobs within the cybersecurity field. 

Um, and linking it to AI. AI is the new big trend and it's just the opening of that area. 

Something you're exploring as well, I imagine. 

Yeah. Yeah, yeah. Correct. It becomes a copilot, daily. 

And, where that data is going, who uses them? You are not sometimes scared about what you can do. I mean, see from there what's possible to do right now that everyone has access to everything. When you think about it, when you can a bit manipulate machines, let's say everything is possible. 

Yeah, correct. Let's say a funny story because, that's the most, interesting one that I got, these days, during the exams, for the students. So they have, 17, 18 years old. We already got it last June 2023. The first, the end of your courses, fully done by an AI. And the guy just at the beginning said, okay, I used, ChatGPT to write my essay and so on, and we were like, okay, it's gonna be good. 

It was good, but the guy was not especially good. 

Wow. It's so scary. 

Yeah. And I think this is the main topic these days is, that AI will be a fantastic copilot and very likely will spin up a lot of things. But the people that are only relying on this, if you don't interact with them. You might not get what they were sending you from an email, or from a document. So you may have a gap between the real person and what the person can achieve. Mm. This is something to watch to follow these days, and I'm sure we will learn a lot about it very soon because it's a very interesting, important topic. 

Something I would like to clarify a bit more. You said that you started as an employee, as everyone, and it's been four years. You are a freelancer. Could you maybe share some advice, tips, things to prepare before doing the merge from employee to freelance? 

Yeah. Um, so freelancer was something a lot of people told me to do. So the Belgium market is full of freelancers, and, it took me some time. It Took me, 12 years before thinking about it, considering it. Um, I was actually an employee, and, I started to do, all around Windows 10 migration coming from XP from Windows 7. And I did that for four years. I traveled across Europe. I was helping a lot of big names in Europe, and it was very nice. But when all the people migrated to Windows 10, I started to get my workload, almost going back to zero. So, my company, was also getting the same statement, and I was like, okay, that's already the time to get to something else or to maybe train on something. And, I was like, okay, let's go back to something which is trending. 

So you bet on sometimes on certain technology or some product. Um, but let's say I took something I was quite convinced. I went to Microsoft Azure and as a, former infra specialist doing identity and virtualization and so on, I was like, okay, I can just, easily recycle my knowledge and convert it to the cloud concept. So, I invested my time, for one year in, in Azure Recycling, doing the, the latest certification on it. And, um, my company didn't had any jobs on Azure, so I was like, okay, let's see what, the, the, the opportunity, comes and suddenly to one of my customer with just having a coffee. So the social aspect and, Working, of course. Yeah. And it worked pretty well because it ended up with we are looking for someone, but it has to be a freelancer. Okay. Let me, take some, some phone calls. 

Was it the first time you were confronted to freelancing, or did you already do this in your mind before? 

Uh, let's say I had, companies, let's say, wanted to hire me, but I had to be a contractor or a freelancer. I didn't had really the match between the opportunity and the right timing, but here it was more concrete. Uh, so, I was like, I think it's maybe the moment, the right opportunity because I like the customer. It was closer to home. It was within the technology that I wanted to do. 

So you had to go for an accountant. 

Yeah, let's think about all those typical stuff which are sometimes could seem that scary. How did you manage all of this? 

In a very speedy way. In a way, in a very social way. I called other freelancers. So that's why the social aspect, again, is quite important. Okay. so, I was almost the last one in my IT field or, with my former colleagues and so on. They were all already freelancers. So I did indeed. Two phone calls. First to an accountant and the second to one of my friends, which is, also I'm working with, who gives me all the numbers and all the steps, on how to start. And I honestly did a copy-paste of this, project plan and, financials and so on. And four years after. Here we are. 

It's crazy what we can get out of just networking. Just talking to people. 

Yeah, just feeding yourself from experience. Well, we spoke a lot about it here, Chris. How would you describe yourself? Uh, let's say in the non IT if I may say. 

Well, I like being relaxed on my, personal side, and, I like traveling. I like, going to, music concerts. Traveling is actually a big thing, because, in my previous life, I was traveling on a weekly basis, all around Europe. And, there are so many things, that I'm even trying not to go to the same places, twice. And, the best is also to have someone to share that passion. So my wife is also following, and, we, we, we both come up with different ideas and we are spending quite some time actually on, travel planning and, getting ideas. 

Do you like sports, for example? Do you like to do activities to empty your mind? 

So I try to recover from, all the time I invested back then, evening weekends and so on. Now I try to spend as much time as possible with my family, walking down the dog for one hour. Two hours. We go on almost, dog weekends. So, we plan something, or we go to the garden or to a place, and we try to spend time together. We walk down the dog and we have, yeah, good memories of, walking down the forest or something. 

Well, taking some fresh air. Just doing something else, I think. Something sometimes it's very healthy. 

Maybe you have a last word for just people willing to know more about IT and to launch a new career. What would be your last word for them right now? 

Always keep learning. 

Thank you very much, Chris. This is the last word. And, thanks for everyone to, to have listened to us and, maybe see you next time. 

Thank you sir. Thank you. Bye.