Our network of data centres power Amazon, and millions of AWS customers worldwide, including governments, large companies, charities, public health organisations, small businesses, and start-ups.
In March, our employees Neliswa from South Africa, Lou from Dublin, and Anna from Sweden told us more about what it’s like to work in data centres. This month, we spoke to some more of our data centre employees about the crucial role they play in supporting our customers, especially at this critical time.
Logistics Specialist (Bahrain)
Khadija joined AWS earlier this year as a Logistics Specialist, where she has a range of responsibilities including managing inbound and outbound deliveries, distributing critical spare parts, arranging transfers between sites, and managing end-to-end life cycle of inventory management.
“I find the openness to new ideas at Amazon so refreshing,” she says. “You can speak up no matter your seniority and without being afraid of getting it wrong. My manager actively supports my growth. That sounds simple, but it means a lot.”
“Looking ahead in my career, I’m interested in procurement as it would give me an opportunity to visit different places and to learn new areas of expertise. But right now, I’m focused on developing my skills towards earning a leadership position.”
Recently, Khadija was nominated and elected as co-chair of ICCAPP (Infrastructure Connections Communication & Action Planning Panel) in her local data center cluster. That means she’s a direct point of contact for colleagues to come forward with new ideas and suggestions.
“With the encouragement of my manager I decided to put my name for the new ICCAPP roster, little did I know that I would be elected as a co-chair. Now I’m in a position to return that trust and help others. This is particularly important during the current crisis, as we are all looking for ways to improve, to ensure social distancing and to change our behavior for the better.”
Outside of work, Khadija is passionate about growing and gardening. One upside of working from home is the extra time with her rooftop garden, where she is growing tomatoes, eggplants, jalapenos, zucchini, and much more.
“I took over our family’s rooftop garden two years ago. When I’m gardening, I’m moving at a different speed to life at work. It’s rewarding to be in nature’s presence, to watch seedlings grow and reap harvest. It’s part of my routine, it helps me unwind and switch off from work.”
Engineering Operation Technician (South Africa)
Sisamnkele first moved to Cape Town, South Africa, in 2014 to study for a university degree in electrical engineering, as she had always been interested in engineering and loved bringing new ideas to life.
In her current role, Sisamnkele’s priority is to “keep the facility alive” by ensuring all electrical components have power and by troubleshooting any issues. However, her team doesn’t just maintain existing operating levels – they also work to optimise and improve systems continuously. “In this industry, you never stop learning – and that’s a healthy place to be, in my opinion,” she says.
“I’m a big fan of taking ownership in my work”, Sisamnkele explains. “It’s important to understand what’s going on around you, not just on your team. You never know who might need support or approach you with a question. Even if it’s not my responsibility, I need to know what’s happening.”
For Sisamnkele, the current crisis has made her think more deeply about the way we work and live together. “It has helped me to understand how and why we need each other – everything is inter-related. That goes for us working in data centers, as well as other key workers like delivery drivers and cleaners. Everybody brings value, from doctors to drivers.”
Outside of work, Sisamnkele can usually be found hiking in the countryside around Cape Town: “This country is so beautiful,” she explains. “Time outdoors, the fresh air and landscape – it all helps me to switch off.”
Infrastructure Delivery Cluster Manager (South Africa)
Ivo explains how he has two big responsibilities: “To ensure the safety of my entire team at all times. I call my team ‘my family’ because that’s how I feel about them! And to ensure our customers are never impacted as we manage demand.”
Based in Cape Town, Ivo helped to launch the data centers he works in just before lockdown started in the country: “When this facility opened, we were already facing the reality of COVID-19 and we had a number of challenges to get these services up and running on time. Everybody here deserves credit for getting the job done in difficult circumstances.”
“My team looks after network scaling, so we ensure capacity is available for customers to come on board, and make sure that network capacity is not constrained for existing customers. Typically, we focus on projects looking at areas such as forecasting for capacity needs and regional needs across this cluster of data centers.”
Ivo takes particular pride in his role as a leader: “My management philosophy has always been to understand that my team are the clever people, and I just need to unblock any obstacles getting in their way.”
“I strongly believe in developing individuals. As a manager, you need to nurture talent that can both support and challenge your own work. When my team has a sense of control over their work and freedom to innovate, they’re happier, and more productive.”
Logistics Specialist (Italy)
Irene is based near Milan in northern Italy – one of the regions hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic.
“It has been a battle for the community here, but we can see a light at the end of the tunnel,” she says. “I feel really proud to be playing a role in keeping these services running for businesses and the public during this crisis.”
“I actally joined Amazon a few months ago, so I’m still new! In this role for the logistics department, my main task is to manage inbound and outbound processes. We manage all spare parts and highly valuable maintenance equipment, requiring a high level of care.”
“Our ‘customers’ are internal, mainly data technicians, so our goal is to guarantee them a fast and effective service. Satisfying customer requests has always been something that I enjoy. Data technicians use these parts to repair, maintain and upgrade all our equipment, so a close working relationship is key.”
Data Centre Facility Manager (Ireland)
“A data centre never switches off,” Martin explains, “so our responsibilities include maintaining a range of electrical and mechanical equipment within the facility. My job here is to keep the lights on – all day, every day.”
Before joining Amazon in 2013, Martin was an electrician by trade. Since then, he has been involved in the construction of several data centers in Ireland. Today he is a Data Centre Facility Manager in Dublin.
“One of the most exciting aspects of this job is to see innovation happen in real-time,” says Martin. “Amazon creates space for all employees to bring forward ideas and improvements. Our culture means we can innovate without fear of making mistakes.”
As a key worker, Martin understands the role his team is playing in the global response to coronavirus.
“A huge number of online services depend on AWS”, he explains. “If we can keep people under lockdown entertained with Amazon Prime Video, that’s great! But it’s not only about keeping people entertained – our data centers are playing a critical role in the response to coronavirus, from supporting digital services in healthcare, to powering research into developing better tests for the coronavirus, to helping millions of students continue their schooling remotely.”
In his spare time Martin has also been helping his wife, who leads a community-based nursing team, to source personal protective equipment (PPE) in the local area.
“My wife’s team had been redeployed at short notice, and they faced a shortage of equipment, especially for in-home carers. Together with the AWS InCommunities programme, I set up a crowdfunder, found a manufacturer, and eventually did a 500km round trip from Dublin to Donegal for the first batch.” “I didn’t even hesitate. In the current situation, we’re all doing what we can to help those in need.”
Logistics Specialist (Sweden)
Elsewhere in Sweden, Johanna is involved in running logistics for all packages, new orders, stored parts and more: “We are continuously updating our technology, replacing old parts with new ones and running maintenance, so there’s a constant flow of demand.”
“I started out in security,” she explains, “I became fascinated by data centers while working as a contractor. I jumped at the chance to get involved, and I’m six months into my career with Amazon now.”
“As a professional, it’s very exciting to be working with the very best tools, tech and ideas that exist right now. We’re all focused on making our work easier and more efficient by turning innovative ideas into real processes and tools.”
Data Centre Team Lead, Infrastructure Operations (Sweden)
Originally from North Macedonia, Toni says Sweden is his “dream country” and a place he now considers home. “It’s a place with a lot of start-ups and high-level technological capabilities, which meant my skills would be in demand and I had opportunities for career development. It’s also a huge, beautiful country for travel with endless possibilities to recharge your batteries.”
Based near Stockholm, Toni now leads his team as a senior technician, having been involving in the construction and development of data centers in Sweden since AWS first started operating in the country.
“I lead day-to-day operations within our team, I handle escalations, or I provide technical direction in ambiguous situations,” Toni explains. “I create daily work schedules and evaluate customer needs. This is especially important during the coronavirus crisis.”
Toni outlines the measures put in place to keep everybody on-site safe: “To address the challenges presented by coronavirus, we’re working closely with logistics and security to create specialized zones and reduce contact. For example, I’ve altered some of our delivery processes to minimize the number of people moving on and off site.”
“We have also updated our training on how to clean our tool stations and other work spaces at the end of a shift. Keeping our equipment clean is good practice whether we’re in a crisis or not, so this additional training is an example of a change that we will keep in the long-term.”
Infrastructure Delivery Network Technician (Bahrain)
Ghaith knew he wanted to be an engineer since was aged 10. “I loved breaking toys, taking the motors out and trying to make my own machines. I was lucky to have supportive parents who could always see that engineering was my future.”
“In the Infrastructure Delivery team, we build the data centre’s network infrastructure for all customers. For any new data center, we’re involved in the first phase of building. Later on, we’re also responsible for scaling the network as demand increases.”
“One of the most exciting aspects of this job is the scale and speed of innovation. Sometimes the technology we need doesn’t even exist yet, so we work with the brightest minds to find solutions. Our team knows what is required, so we’re the best people to work on innovation.”
Ghaith says it’s a great motivator to know the vital role he and his teammates play in maintaining essential services.
“Most of the governmental, educational, and health care systems in Bahrain are running on AWS. These types of services are critical for people’s day-to-day lives, especially in the current situation.”
Ghaith feels the culture at Amazon has kept his team powering through the crisis. “The Leadership Principles set a universal language, which bonds us across borders,” he explains. “The local culture between Bahrain and somewhere like Sweden might be different, but we all share the same values.”
Data Centre Security Manager (Germany)
Samantha is a Data Center Security Manager in Frankfurt, where she also acts as lead ambassador for the local AWS In Communities program, currently coordinating funds for food banks.“Due to restrictions, we can’t hold ‘in person‘ fund-raising or volunteering events,” she says. “So it’s been an interesting challenge to find new ways to raise money and awareness while also maintaining social distancing!”
Samantha brings years of military experience to her current role: “I was born in Frankfurt because my father was stationed there with the US army, and then part of my childhood was spent back in America.”
“I joined the army straight out of high school because I wanted to follow my Dad’s footsteps and serve my country. After at tour in Iraq and Kuwait, I was ready for a return to civilian life.”
In 2013, she moved back to Germany to be closer to her extended family and to discover the culture, language and a different way of life. When she was working for an AWS service partner, she developed an interest in data center security and later jumped at the chance to work for Amazon.
Her time in the army provides a huge range of transferable skills: “When you come through military training, working collaboratively becomes second nature. They instill a commitment to getting the job done. I was in the Signal Corp, so I had experience with communications and network engineering.”
“Every day is different in my current role, but our main responsibility is the physical security of the data center. We’re the main point of contact for access control, security systems and our contractors. Everything is about customer data protection.”
Samantha is active in a number of ‘extracurricular‘ areas, for example she is chair of the local area’s Warriors@ group, Amazon’s employee affinity network for ex-military personnel. “We work hard to recruit more veterans for this cluster of sites, using events, awareness raising, marketing and word of mouth to attract and recruit veterans,” she explains. Samantha is also an advocate for female empowerment and is involved with Women@Amazon and Amazon Women in Security.