Dr Peter Stanski has always enjoyed taking on new challenges in his 27-year technology career. After starting out as a developer for Sega and Nintendo console games, his CV now includes teaching computer science at Monash University, mentoring architecture teams, and founding an IT consultancy.
“I definitely like to disrupt myself,” says Dr Pete, who’s currently a senior manager in solutions architecture at Amazon Web Services (AWS) in Melbourne, Australia. “But back in 2012 I’d reached the point where I was running out of things to reinvent.”
Fortunately, Dr Pete’s career dilemma didn’t last for long – he joined AWS in August of that year. “I’d always wanted to work for Amazon if it showed up in Australia. We’re the leader in cloud technology and we operate like a big start-up – we disrupt. Our architects can make fundamental changes to the entire IT landscape, and that really appeals to me,” says Dr Pete.
As an experienced architect himself, Dr Pete says Amazon’s attitude to his profession is unique. “At AWS our solutions architects are treated with a great deal of respect and admiration. We’re a true equal in the customer engagement lifecycle and revered by many of the sales teams.”
Among Dr Pete’s main objectives for the rest of this year, one stands out: recruitment. AWS needs more solutions architects (SAs) for jobs in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide, Auckland and Wellington.
While the vacancies are down under, AWS is open to international applications, especially from expat Australians and New Zealanders who want to return home after working in countries like the US and UK. “Our growth and success as a business continues and as such our needs for skilled SAs are never complete,” says Dr Pete. “Overseas candidates are typically very strong as they’ve worked outside their comfort zones and have exposure to diverse technologies. We also like recruiting SAs from the finance sector because they understand compliance and have a fantastic top-end view of complex organisations.”
If you join Amazon as an SA, you’ll need to bring business acumen to the job as well as technical skills. “For a long time architects worked in various tech silos, but the cloud cuts through these at AWS. Architecture has now become like a sport, which requires you to master a broad range of skills to perform well,” explains Dr Pete.
SAs working on cloud-based solutions must, for example, be able to converse with people at every level in every part of the business at AWS. “One moment the CFO is chatting to you about ‘cloudconomics’ – what we’re spending money on – and the next you’re talking to the head of innovation about big data and voice-enabled chatbots.”
AWS SAs have the unique role of evangelising cloud innovation internally across teams and then taking this knowledge and working directly with clients – from small businesses to large multi-nationals – to develop advanced, scalable and resilient cloud architectures.
“Amazon is completely customer obsessed, so our architects meet their customers face to face,” says Dr Pete. “Explaining how you’d migrate an organisation’s legacy IT operations onto the cloud, for example, can’t be done over the phone. You must be there in the room with a whiteboard marker and you must act respectfully as your client may well have built the system you now want to reinvent for the cloud.”
Solutions architects serve their own set of clients at AWS. “Our SAs have to articulate complex ideas to customers in a clear manner and help them understand our cloud best practices. To do this, they need great communication and relationship-building skills,” says Dr Pete.
Understanding customers’ “pain points, operational model and industry” is also crucial. “Our SAs don’t have sales targets – they use the cloud to deliver the best business outcomes for their clients,” he says. “And they work with colleagues across AWS to achieve this – they become catalysts who bring several teams together.”
Dr Pete describes SAs who can blend technical expertise with the client engagement skills as “purple unicorns”, partly because a lot of SAs haven’t managed their own clients before. “If you’ve only focused on technology, you’ll have to prove to us that you have the right soft skills to succeed here,” he says.
For those who do make the grade, Amazon offers SA jobs that are “redefining the cloud”. “This is where you come to work on a whole new scale – you deal in zettabytes, not terabytes. And this kind of work is now available in Australia and New Zealand – you can return home from overseas and boost your career in the process,” says Dr Pete.
“You also get more innovative things done more quickly here. For example, we’re at the forefront of DevSecOps – collaborative working that incorporates security – and we launch dozens of new cloud services every year,” he adds. “That’s why we want technically inquisitive people who thrive in a dynamic environment.”
Dr Pete says he personally enjoys the “non-hierarchical, agile” culture at AWS. “We set the bar high with our architect recruitment, so I’m working with the best of the best. And because we’re cloud pioneers with a diverse customer base, I’m learning something new every day, even after 27 years.”