Meet Alexandra, Data Center Architect

Alexandra is a Data Center Architect based in Dublin, Ireland. She joined AWS in September, 2017.

HereAtAWS: Tell us about your career journey. What brought you to your current role at AWS?

Alexandra: I completed my Master’s and Architect training in the UK when the recession hit in 2008, and I lost my job in an architectural practice - a story that many in my generation can relate to.

I ended-up moving back home to Frankfurt and completing my work remotely. I worked my way through a number of different practices in Frankfurt as a rookie architect such as industrial real-estate developers, a small interior architectural practice, three medium-sized architectural practices where I was working on data centers, and finally, I was working for an Irish M&E contractor building data centers in Frankfurt.

Having accumulated four years of data center experience gave me the confidence to interview with AWS for the role of a DC Architect. I had married recently (Irish husband who I met on one of the DC Sites) when I decided to take the job.

Within few weeks of accepting the role, I found myself at DUB12 surrounded by new colleagues and people who I had worked with in the past as an Architect. It was a nice mix of new and familiar faces.

To be honest, I didn’t know exactly what I was signing up for when I took the job with AWS, but three years later I am thankful for the opportunity I was given back in 2017. The role forced me to grow, go beyond my comfort zone and it challenges me every day to learn and broaden my knowledge.

HereAtAWS: Can you explain in simple terms: your role, who your customers are, and how you help them?

Alexandra: As a DC Architect I act as more a Design Manager than what the job title itself would suggest in a traditional sense. I manage external design consultants to deliver a design to the AWS construction team and ensure the project obtains a building permit. My direct customers are the AWS Construction Management Team (CM) as well as the Operations team (OPS) who will take over and manage the DC facility once it is handed over.

Once the design is complete and handed over to the AWS CM team to build, we engage in a Construction Administration Role (with the external design consultants) to provide support to the AWS CM team and their General Contractor (GC) during the construction period. We respond to queries from the GC they have on the design and ensure that the building complies with the building permit. Once the construction phases near completion, we ensure that we obtain an operational permit from the Local Authority having Jurisdiction (AHJ) to allow the operation of the site to commence.

HereAtAWS: What technical and/or soft skills do you need to succeed in your role?

Alexandra: Having been trained as an architect gives me a slight advantage, with the skills required to get your head around the different permitting approaches across the EMEA Region; which can vary from being rather straight forward to a little more complex than one would like. There are design elements to the role where being an architect comes in handy when it comes to the developing of floor plans (where we have to deviate from our basis of design due to local requirements for instance) or developing technical details. The role also requires you to keep an oversight of every moving part on the job. Managing teams and people is a skill that you not only learn in architectural training but it is also a soft skill. It is important to be able to bring a number of people or teams together to come to a solution for the benefit of the project.

HereAtAWS: Have you had to learn any specific new skills (technical or soft) for your role?

Alexandra: I don’t think there has been a day in the last three years where I have not learned something new about systems, strategies and basic M&E principles. Having a few years of DC experience prior to joining the team is an advantage without a doubt; however, it does not mean that it is enough. Every day I am challenged to think big, think different and get a better understanding of how our systems work and to be able to provide the best (built) environment for them and our customers.

HereAtAWS: How does your work with customers help to make a positive impact on society?

Alexandra: What I’ve noticed during my work commute pre-COVID-19 is that about ¾ of the people on the Dublin Bus are on their mobile phones - whether this is texting, checking e-mails, watching Netflix or using social media. All of these interactions require data to be hosted somewhere; these are the more banal examples but if I consider that we facilitate hospitals and other more critical customers (whether government entities or financial providers) it is a great to know that we (as a team) provide platforms for people worldwide to house and access their data.

HereAtAWS: What’s the most exciting part of your job?

Alexandra: Working with intelligent and like-minded people.

HereAtAWS: What advice would you give people joining AWS?

Alexandra: Be Curious. AWS is a great place to be curious, reach out and have as many 1:1 in the first few weeks of starting your job as possible and engage with people on your team but also engage with other stakeholders outside of your Org.

HereAtAWS: What three words would you use to describe workdays at AWS?

Alexandra: Intense, fast and engaging.

HereAtAWS: Is there anything else you would like to add about your personal journey?

Alexandra: Keep an open mind. I came from a professional background that had very little exposure to the inside life of tech companies. Sometimes you forget where you are until you hear people in the lift speaking about Alexa as if she were a human! - That is when you are reminded of where you stand within the big machinery that is so much bigger than one is.


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