Bheki is a Global Expansion Engineer in London, United Kingdom. He joined AWS in April, 2019.
HereAtAWS: Tell us about your career journey. What brought you to your current role at AWS?
Bheki: I started my career in my home country of Botswana, and came to the UK to join a multi-national engineering, design and project management firm where I spent 12 years working in the Maritime and Aviation business domain as a Principal Electrical Engineer. I was based in the Peterborough office but worked in various international projects with a large focus on port engineering, design, port planning and project delivery for various clients whose projects ranged from container terminals, shipyards, ship building facilities, airports, and other maritime/marine structures.
Before joining AWS, my entire career was in the engineering consultancy industry. I needed a career change and was keen to learn about the Data Center industry. AWS seemed not only to have a significant and firm market but it also appeared to be scaling up at a fast pace, and I found this attractive as I felt this would provide the challenge that I needed to learn new skills and increasing the depth of my technical knowledge.
I consider cloud computing, with its power to store and process big data, as a game changer in the way businesses and the wider world work, especially with the advent of innovations and the digitalisation of processes and systems used by people in almost all aspects of their life. I therefore wanted to join this revolution, and this role could not have come at a better time.
HereAtAWS: Can you explain in simple terms: your role, who your customers are, and how you help them?
Bheki: I am a Global Expansion Engineer, responsible for engineering design and design management of AWS’ co-location sites and my goal is to support the AWS Business Development Team (BizDev) in delivering new capacity in the EMEA region. I assess the condition of the infrastructure and associated service supporting new and existing co-location sites, and advise their suitability or non-suitability to meet the capacity demand and AWS requirements. The assessments help BizDev to be better informed in their ‘GO/ NO-GO’ decision when it gets to contracting these sites, and help deliver additional capacity from existing sites.
HereAtAWS: What technical and/or soft skills do you need to succeed in your role?
Bheki: Power systems and HVAC engineering skills with a large emphasis on design of critical systems and services. Good analytical skills, creativity in problem solving in order to be fast, and efficient in delivery and providing support.
HereAtAWS: Have you had to learn any specific new skills (technical or soft) for your role?
Bheki: Yes, I have had to learn the different hardware deployed in a data center and the different electrical distribution topologies available to support the data center equipment and hardware. What I thought was the most resilient electrical and mechanical design based on my maritime industry experience (my previous career) is in most cases not adequate in a data center. I therefore had to learn new design approaches.
I have learnt to trust my instincts in problem-solving. That I should not be afraid to take calculated risks - as long as I act fast and deliver a solution which will make the customer happy. I have had several situations where I needed to make on the spot decisions, and gone ahead on the basis that I could always get back and reverse the decision after gathering more data. In most cases, such decisions ultimately proved to be the right ones and as such, beneficial to the projects’ delivery programme.
HereAtAWS: How does your work with customers help to make a positive impact on society? (directly or indirectly)
Bheki: My role involves the site selection, design engineering and delivery of data centers, and these provide a cloud computing platform which customers use to access applications and data from anywhere in the world as long as they have internet connectivity. These data centers therefore save customers the cost of building and maintaining them. They also provide computing power; which customers can use to digitise their operations. In addition, data centers provide data storage facilities, which customers use for their data backup and recovery.
HereAtAWS: At work, are you involved in any activities outside of your role?
Bheki: I am a volunteer mentor accredited by the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET). I mentor and support engineers in their application for professional registration with the IET e.g. to attain their Chartership with the IET.
HereAtAWS: What’s the most exciting part of your job?
Bheki: I get to meet and interact with smart people with different career backgrounds, with a variety of experiences and from different nationalities and cultures, and everyone I have worked with so far has been willing to listen and share their knowledge and experiences. This provides an opportunity to learn new things, ideas and skills, and to appreciate that people are different which is imperative for both career and personal growth.
HereAtAWS: What advice would you give people joining AWS?
Bheki: Joining AWS provides opportunities to interact with and learn from a large pool of smart people. The business is scaling up at a fast pace - new processes and innovations are continuously devised which provides opportunities to acquire knowledge and new skills. Apart from their technical expertise, one needs good analytical and organisational skills to keep up with the pace and they need to be conscious at all times that, speed matters when delivering quality solutions to the customer. The Amazon Leadership Principles provide good guidance on how one is expected to work at AWS, and in my opinion, these make Amazon a great place to work. I would therefore advise anyone joining AWS to get themselves acquainted with these principles, as they would act as a source of reference during their working life at AWS.
HereAtAWS: What three words would you use to describe workdays at AWS?
Bheki: Exciting, challenging and fulfilling.
HereAtAWS: Do you have any needs or commitment that require flexibility in your role?
Bheki: The type of job I do does not necessarily require me to be office based and AWS has been very flexible in allowing me to work from home. I have two kids, a boy (9yrs) and girl (7yrs) who attend primary school. Working for AWS has greatly helped me as the flexibility enables me to juggle my work with general parenting. This proved very beneficial during the COVID-19 lockdown where in between my work activities I have had to provide home schooling to my kids, and provide the family with the social and emotional support they needed to alleviate the stress associated with the lockdown restrictions. I have had to work out and discuss with my manager a structure, which suits my family commitments whilst making sure the roles, and responsibilities of my job are carried out.
For instance, I have had to share responsibilities with my colleagues if they had bandwidth to take more work. I organised my work activities into manageable chunks and whenever I was collaborating with teams in different countries.
I took advantage of the geographical time difference to better organise my day, for e.g. use afternoons to home school my kids or for family walks, exercises and sync at night with colleagues in for instance Seattle to discuss work or attend meetings. The flexibility means I am always there for the family but also able to fulfil the duties associated with my role.
HereAtAWS: What do you love to do outside work?
Bheki: I have recently bought myself a guitar and the intention is to get to learn how to play it through watching YouTube guitar playing tutorials!
HereAtAWS: Is there anything else you would like to add about your personal journey?
Bheki: My previous job prior to joining AWS was in the engineering consultancy industry. When I was offered a position to join AWS I was extremely anxious to accept it, and this anxiety grew even more after I had taken up the offer. Amongst other things, I felt I was leaving behind a career life I had so much invested in.
I wondered how I was going to start from scratch to build up relationships with new colleagues and teams of different backgrounds. Above all, I was concerned that I did not have any data center engineering background which ideally should be associated with the role, and that it would take a while for me to not only get acquainted with the new engineering principles but to learn the Amazon processes and culture as well.
Notwithstanding all this, I took it upon myself that I should take the role as a challenge. I challenged myself to use my past engineering experience and expertise as an advantage to learn new concepts and adapt to the new role. I was impressed by the support I received from my manager and team when I joined. I felt welcomed from day one. They appreciated that my data center background was minimal, and always found time to share knowledge and assist me whenever I asked for help, despite their busy schedules. I found the weekly one-to-one meetings with my manager very useful and these provide an opportunity for me to discuss and share anything from my day to day work activities, project progress, needs and any concerns I might have. I feel greatly valued by my manager and appreciated by my colleagues. All this support which I got assisted me in settling well in my new position, and alleviated all the anxiety I initially had!