Meet Chris, Consultant, WWPS Professional Services

HereAtAWS: What did you do in the military?/What was your last role in the Military?

Chris: I served for 12 years as a Regular soldier Infantry Officer in all of the places that one might expect. My last role was teaching the Lieutenants to Captains course, mentoring people as they transition from initial to middle management level within their units (around 500 people). They may be responsible for 30-50 and after this course transition to being accountable for 90-120.

I continue to serve as a Reservist and I’m currently an Instructor at an Officer Training Corps, continuing to help young people develop. During the height of the COVID pandemic in April and May, Amazon released me for Reserve service, the only question being ‘how can we support you in this?’ Amazon’s continued support for service, including an additional two weeks paid leave every year, is a real bonus for me.

HereAtAWS: What has been the biggest difference between military experience and AWS/civilian career?

Chris: First, variety. At Amazon Web Services Professional Services (AWS ProServe) I deal with different types of customers, each needing different things on a daily and sometimes hourly basis. There sometimes aren’t processes to help you with all of these interactions, although there is an awful lot of intellectual capital to lean on and some world renowned colleagues, who are always willing to help you out. I didn’t find this level of intellectual variety or range of topics and context in the military.

Second, continuous learning. Although we spend a lot of time in training in the military this tends to be quite ‘lumpy’ (a six week course here or a two day refresher there).  All new employees are provided with an on-boarding plan specific to their role.  At AWS the expectation is that we all exercise the ‘Learn and be Curious’ principle to be constantly learning and that learning is self-paced. There isn’t a set training pipeline for you to go down. This requires you to be both motivated and self-disciplined in making sure that you save some time in the week for learning. Knowledge, proven through the AWS certification program is an essential part of maintaining credibility with customers.

HereAtAWS: What transferrable skills from the military has helped you in your role with AWS?

Chris: The military have a natural bias for action. This links directly to one of our leadership principles. Dealing with a breadth of people (a Malik, a NATO Brigadier, an Afghan Colonel, British soldiers) on operations has helped me to consider multiple perspectives. I tried to think of each one of these as a customer of some description. Carrying this over into Amazon and AWS helps. My internal question when I interact with someone is ‘how can I help you to get where you would like to go?’ Seeing things through the customers eyes is essential for any Amazonian. Customer Obsession is our first leadership principle.

HereAtAWS: How did you find the recruitment process? Any advice for candidates?

Chris: Some will find this hard to believe but I really enjoyed it. I find Amazonians straightforward. They are data driven. When you understand that, and that the STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) framework is a great aid to answer the questions then the interviews become a lot less daunting. When you get to R (Result) I would try to give a tangible result (improved unit retention by 6%) and an intangible result (was invited to two of my Senior NCO’s weddings which I took to be a sign that my soldiers liked and respected me). This shows that you understand both the ‘hard’ data and the ‘soft’ context and that just because the numbers are going in the right way, it doesn’t necessarily mean everything is rosy.  

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