We caught up with four recent alumni to discuss their experiences, new careers and plans for the future.
Nazar, Taslima, Javeriyah and Byron are excited to be back in the busy canteen of Amazon Web Services’ London office for the first time since completing AWS re/Start.
The 12-week programme, reported on in this article in the Evening Standard, blends theory and practical work with soft skills and employability development to prepare learners to start a career in cloud computing. Participants complete technical training and work towards the industry-recognised AWS Cloud Practitioner certification.
With support from AWS re/Start, these young learners have swapped part-time work or study for full-time careers at household names like The Financial Times, Cancer Research UK, and Direct Line.
Phil Walters is the now-legendary QA Consulting instructor who played a key role in developing their technical and personal skills.
“Phil was always friendly, patient, and he could explain complex topics in a simple way,” explains Javeriyah, who now works as a Systems Engineer for Direct Line thanks to AWS re/Start. “There were no such things as mistakes or stupid questions when we worked with him. He helped to create an environment where we could learn through trial and error.”
Working with Generation, The Prince’s Trust, QA Consulting and the Ministry of Defence, AWS re/Start brings together a range of organisations to offer a unique opportunity for people of all backgrounds, including young people and military veterans, to transition into cloud computing.
Alongside technical training, the programme also prepares participants for the culture of the workplace, with training on employability skills such as communication, time management and teamwork.
Taslima Hekim, who now works as a Systems Administrator for Cancer Research UK, feels she benefited from the focus on soft skills. “In the first week we had a series of workshops that were about being persistent and proactive. We used role plays to act out challenging scenarios and would present our ideas back to the class. Learning those skills in a safe, fun environment was invaluable.”
Byron O’Connor, who has since taken up a role with software solutions provider Infinity Works, feels the experience helped him to think bigger: “Even when I saw the office for the first time, I knew I had to raise my game!”
Byron flourished when given the freedom to solve problems creatively. “I really enjoyed the practical work. We might be working on a terminal, which provides a text-based interface for command instructions, or we would use a sandbox environment, which gives you a blank canvas to test and experiment with code. In my day-to-day work, when faced with a certain challenges, I’ll remember something from the course, which helps me to approach it. That’s the benefit of troubleshooting real-world problems – you learn by doing.”
He’s now focused on gathering as much experience as possible so his skills can benefit international development and emerging markets.
That’s why my grandparents came here from Jamaica – to give their family new opportunities, so I want to give back.
Nazar Razak had always been in love with computing from a young age – in fact he had been trading stocks online at home before applying for the programme. But he felt that was an unstable future and wanted to look for a long-term career.
He now works for The Financial Times, where the agile workspace gives him autonomy to make decisions and find solutions. The experience has been very different from the “corporate, suit and tie” culture he expected.
Nazar has excelled in Python coding and he’s also interested in developing skills in other areas.
I have the opportunity to talk to colleagues in other teams to learn about the different paths within tech. It’s helping me think about where I might be able to take my career in future. That technique of asking the right questions is something I learned from AWS re/Start.
These alumni all credit the programme’s Employer Insight Days as a ‘eureka moment’, when they realised the breadth of opportunity in the tech sector. Employer Insight Days involve face-to-face contact with potential employers, including Q&As and mock interviews.
Javeriyah feels these days “helped to wash away some of those preconceptions about life in a large business. We could ask simple questions about what a typical work day looks like, what the job involves, what your colleagues are like.”
Before AWS re/Start Javeriyah had been unable to find a suitable placement when applying for other jobs and apprenticeship schemes – despite holding a degree, a scholarship and first-class honours in Creative Computing.
“When you see young people like me struggling for employment, you start to ask: is it a skills gap, or an opportunity gap? There are so many talented young people out there who are continuously overlooked, so I really appreciate employers who choose to participate in programmes like this and give young people a chance.”
AWS re/Start deliberately builds an environment that is diverse, inclusive and varied. It sets a positive example that collectively we can change opinions, and dare I say, the world. Don't underestimate young people - they will surprise you.
Applications for the third AWS re/Start training course in London are now open. You can apply online now at the Generation website.
Learn more about AWS re/Start