Meet Farhin, Sr Database Sales Specialist

Farhin is a Sr Database Sales Specialist based in London, United Kingdom. She joined AWS in October, 2019.

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

Farhin:  I have a background in tech and an Honours degree in Business Information Systems. I started my career as a SQL Server Engineer ten years ago working as a dedicated consultant/engineer supporting UK’s largest customers in the financial services industry. This background really helped me expand my technical skills and paved my way to my next role as a Data, Analytics and AI Technical solution specialist.

As a Data & AI tech solution specialist – I was industry aligned, owned the strategy for the entire professional services and legal industry.

My role was to understand digital transformation drivers for my customers, industry trends, and effectively help customers innovate through the right innovative Data Solutions, thereby increasing the market adoption of the relevant cloud data services. It was also important that I had enough technical understanding of the end to end database, analytics and AI portfolio of services.

After spending ten years at the same company, I was afraid of getting “too comfortable” in my role and that my knowledge of cloud solutions was limited to just one provider.

I am passionate about learning new technology, constantly pushing myself to ensure I stay current to the market trends so I can effectively help my customers, so I decided to move and AWS was my number one choice. AWS has always been the pioneer in cloud computing and for me it was my aim to be a part of such an innovative organisation.

When the opportunity presented itself, I joined AWS in October 2019 as a Database & Analytics Go to Market Specialist which was a new role that was created as part of the worldwide GTM specialist team. My previous experiences were completely in line with the roles & responsibilities of this role.

Because AWS provides a choice of so many different database services to our customers, it was crucial that someone in this role is an expert in these areas and therefore the role was changed to just focusing on Database speciality.

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

Farhin:  The official title is Sr Database Go-to-Market Sales Specialist.

I am industry aligned and my customers are very large UK enterprises within Manufacturing, Automobiles, Energy Power Utilities, Hospitality and Travel & Tourism.

In simple terms, I own the AWS database revenue and responsible to drive market adoption and revenue growth of these services within some of the largest enterprise accounts in the UK.

It is all about ensuring I help my enterprise customers save costs, help with large Data Center migrations from on-prem to cloud by really understanding the key industry trends for them to help focus on new innovative use-cases for their industry.

I own the go to market database strategy for these customers, being the owner and single point of contact for database projects helping with discovery, assessment of workloads and creating a compelling business case/ TCO for migration.

While on one side there are Business Development Managers, on the other side I also work closely with the technical teams anddevelopers of these enterprises, helping them understand the value proposition of our cloud native database engines.

I also work very closely with the AWS Partner ecosystem to ensure our customers get the right resources needed to support and drive these large migrations.

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

Farhin:  Technical skills – Understanding of AWS relational database services (AWS RDS) and detailed understanding of the cloud native AWS databases like Aurora, DynamoDB, Elasticache, Neptune, QLDB, Timesteam, Amazon Keyspaces. A good understanding of micro services approach, building cloud native application. In addition, the technical acumen for identifying industry-specific use-cases for each of these database services.

When it comes to soft skills, I would say the most important thing is customer obsession, one of our most important Leadership Principles.

You also need the ability to think strategically and analytically about your customers’ business, AWS database portfolio of services, and technical challenges, to build and convey compelling value propositions, and work cross-organizationally to build consensus. A keen sense of ownership, drive, and ‘scrappiness’ is a must.

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

Farhin: I would definitely say the whole culture/habit of writing narratives using Amazon’s peculiar mechanism of writing PRFAQ’s / six pagers etc. has been such a tremendously useful skill to have learnt. Quality writing in the workplace isn’t a luxury at Amazon — it’s a cultural necessity.

This may sound very basic and simple but it is very unique to our culture. There's probably no technology company that values the written word and produces written output quite as much as Amazon.

Applying this writing mechanisms that Amazon uses to run their business to my own career development and planning has been super effective. Imagine writing a press release for yourself! Time travel into the future – no matter whether that is your aspiration for what you will learn and accomplish this next year or over a longer period of time, and capture that future state in a press release. Imagine being able to define the outcomes and contributions that you have made, along with quotes from peers, mentors, and managers about your impact on the team and the business.

How we write what we know is a direct correlation to how well we know our customers and our business, and it is a muscle that we all must develop and practice as Amazonians.

Writing narratives and practicing the writing muscle is a skill that is required for each of us to be our best. Not just this but it has truly helped me be a better professional irrespective of the role I am in now or will be in the future.

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

Farhin:  I have the privilege of working with a diverse set of customers to help make a positive impact. I help the transformation of power & utilities by supporting decarbonisation and smart billing/metering initiatives, improving customer satisfaction and expanding clean energy. One of my customers is an energy technology pioneer and the UK's latest ‘tech unicorn’. It built its cloud-based energy technology platform entirely on Amazon Web Services (AWS) and using AWS purpose-built Database services. This platform supports operational efficiency and is designed to support a smarter grid by providing customers access to cheaper electricity when renewable energy is abundant. One of my key customers in Travel is one of the world’s largest travel companies, comprising tour operators, travel agencies, online portals, five airlines, over 400 hotels, and 17 cruise liners.  The customer moved quickly to adapt their technology to the challenges of COVID-19. We have worked with them to help support the building of a new one data platform thereby improving the customer experience and providing personalised experience with significant cost savings realised by the customer.

HereAtAWS: At work, are you involved in any activities outside of your role?

Farhin: I am extremely passionate about diversity & inclusion at workplace in general and a strong advocate for increasing women representation in STEM & Tech. I aim to do as much as I can to inspire and support the next generation of young women to get into tech.

At AWS, I support this cause in. anumber of ways outside of my day to day rols.

I am the EMEA Lead of the Global Ambassadors Program for the Women in WorldWide Commercial Operations Affinity Group (sub chapter of the wider Women@ group). As the EMEA global ambassador I work towards organising various events and activities that aim to contribute to building a gender diverse technology talent pipeline for the future, offer programs that propel career development for existing women Amazonians.

I am also part of the Women at AWS UK Core Events Team and the Women@AWS UK affinity group. As part of this group we own the “events” organising and delivery in the UK focused on Coffee Morning sessions covering various topics that maybe of interest to the chapter members like Inclusion, promotion, Male Allyship, career progression and mentoring etc.

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

Farhin: The most exciting part of my job are my customers and the flexibility afforded to drive innovative thinking! I have the privilege of working with some renowned brands and enterprises from the travel & tourism, hospitality, automobiles, manufacturing and energy utilities segment. This has enabled me to be a part of some really interesting business critical opportunities and innovative projects. It is extremely refreshing that no two working days are the same. Because I support a diverse set of customers from multiple industries, I am constantly learning new things, and constantly being challenged to think differently as the situation demands. But most importantly really learning about the industry trends and how I can adapt AWS Database value proposition to ensure I make it specific to my customers problem statement is very fulfilling.

Let’s just say the creative spark never dulls because I am truly empowered to think big & act like a leader every single day!

HereAtAWS:  What initially interested you in working for AWS?

Farhin:  I was in complete awe and inspired by three main things about AWS. Customer Obsession, the peculiar culture I read and heard so much about, and the pursuit for continuous innovation. It is no secret that AWS has been a pioneer in cloud computing but what many people may not know, as I do now, is that it is the cultural elements that make it the perfect place for cultivating innovation. The company lives and breathes the ‘Day One’ mentality and truly focuses on inventing on behalf of the customers, which was very succinctly highlighted in Jeff Bezos’s letter to shareholders.

The company believes that one should invent frequently and be willing to fail. Much of what we build at AWS is based on listening to customers. It’s critical to ask customers what they want, listen carefully to their answers, and figure out a plan to provide it thoughtfully and quickly (speed matters in business!).

No business could thrive without that kind of customer obsession. But it’s also not enough. The biggest needle movers will be things that customers don’t know to ask for. AWS strongly believes that we must invent on their behalf. We have to challenge our own imagination about what’s possible.

A mentality like this truly drives a culture of moon-shot thinking, innovation and empowerment with imbedded customer centricity. “To innovate and invent, we have to experiment.  If we know in advance that our experiments are going to work, they are not an experiment.  Failure and invention are inseparable twins.” (Wise words from Jeff Bezos).

For me AWS came across as blue-sky thinkers where nothing is off limits, and I really wanted to work in an atmosphere like that.

I am a firm believer in the quote by Albert Einstein - Imagination is more important than knowledge because knowledge is limited. And that is what drives Innovation!!!!!

HereAtAWS: What were you excited to see AWS working on when you first got here?

Farhin: I joined AWS in October 2019, and two months later AWS hosted its annual cloud conference where new releases are officially announced, so within three months of joining the company, I had the tremendous insight into some super innovative releases that made headlines and were going to really benefit our customers. I was most excited to see AWS work on two key releases that really bring us closer to the Scifi worlds: Amazon Braket – two words - Quantum Computing!! Yep… a service for exploring and evaluating quantum computing (how cool is that?!). AWS makes it easy for scientists, researchers, and developers to build, test, and run quantum computing algorithms. Amazon Braket helps you get started learning about quantum computing by providing a development environment to build quantum algorithms, test them on simulated quantum computers, and run them on your choice of different quantum hardware technologies. I mean think about having a managed quantum computing environment to play around with! And AWS Wavelength – yet another super cool release helping developers, enterprises and customers in delivering ultra-low latency applications for 5G. Combining high bandwidth and single-digit millisecond latency of 5G networks with AWS compute and storage services to enable developers to build new kinds of apps.

While there were many more that I could go on about in the Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning space (remember how I mentioned earlier that AWS doesn’t stop innovating), those two in particular were ground-breaking for me.

HereAtAWS: What products or solutions have you worked on? What have been your favourites and why?

As a database specialist I have worked on a wide variety of use-cases ranging from supporting complex migration from commercial relational engines like Oracle & SQL Server -> RDS to helping customers build modern cloud native applications leveraging our portfolio of purpose built databases like Aurora (MySQL and Postgres Compatible db built by AWS), DynamoDB (key-value and document database), DocumentDB (mongodb workloads), Elasticache (in memory), Timestream (IOT data), Neptune (Graph Database), Quantum ledger (ledger db) and Keyspaces for Cassandra workloads.

My personal favourite is not just the technology or the service but more our messaging around the use of these databases services; which is to ensure we innovate and our customers have the “right tool for the right job” and that “one size fits all approach doesn’t work”. Therefore at AWS we have a vast portfolio of db engines to choose from and this entire mentality of being use-case driven rather than tech driven is my personal favourite.

HereAtAWS:  What’s one of your greatest accomplishments since joining AWS?

Farhin:  I am passionate about driving the mission of women in tech and in ensuring as an AWS employee I do my part in helping other women in their career path.

I was on a panel representing AWS for a Women in Cloud - Database virtual event that was broadcasted live and advertised on LinkedIn. This experience enabled me to reach a lot of professionals who joined virtually to learn more about AWS but most importantly also hear about the current trends in the cloud world from a career perspective, what does the future look like, how to prepare for a role in tech etc.

I was able to share my journey in the tech industry and my experience of working at AWS. I was also able to provide insights/guidance/tips for the viewers on forging their own career path in the field of cloud computing. This was a very proud moment for me and a very interactive session with live questions. Following the live broadcast there were quite a few women professionals who reached out to me personally to share feedback on how the talk inspired them to consider AWS as a go-to choice for their career path!

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

Farhin:  Empowering, innovative and inclusive.

HereAtAWS: What do you love to do outside work?

Farhin:  I am a fitness enthusiast and I am extremely passionate about health and wellbeing. I’m obsessed with lifting weights, working out and constantly pushing myself to reach new targets. I have also recently partnered with my friend on a passion project of launching a high-end gym apparel line for women who are into ‘modest’ gym wear.

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

Farhin:  Reflecting back on my time at AWS, I have experienced a significant development journey both from a soft skills and leadership skills perspective. I feel my career/personality/character has advanced. At AWS we live and breathe the 14 Leadership Principles (which I do recommend those reading familiarise themselves with), the learnings from these has helped me with that “imposter syndrome” at work.

When you are encouraged to think and act like a leader, in an environment that strongly encourages this behaviour every single day, you start to notice these small changes in your attitude and confidence which can have a big impact on how you perceive yourself and your personal brand.

In addition, at AWS there are multiple resources for training and development, opportunity to cross pollinate and switch roles, strong established mentoring process and a supportive leadership that encourages your growth. The annual performance review process is different to everything I have experienced previously and strongly focuses on ones strengths and super powers. AWS has also provided me numerous opportunities to explore initiatives that I am personally passionate about like Women in Tech and Diversity & Inclusion and has various internal programs/avenues where employees can not only be a part of but also learn from the experience.

I also want to tell my people, especially people early in their careers – you can achieve your goals! If I can do it, so can you!

I wanted to share my personal journey as I see this as a humbling opportunity to share this with the next generation of young women from all around the world!Even if I am able to motivate one person to follow their dream, that for me is enough contribution!

Being very candid, I was born and brought up in Mumbai (India), belonged to a family with little to no financial means and grew up on the streets in a hut for many years of my childhood (up until my GCSE’s) while my single mother who worked multiple jobs in people’s homes and selling pickles etc. to save enough money to support our daily livelihood for me and my sister.

Having never had the access to education herself, her mission was to ensure her little girls do not miss out on gaining basic education. There was just one goal – to ensure we get the foundational knowledge so her two little girls can grow up to follow their dreams and be financially self-independent, no matter what.

This continued hard work from a woman who could hardly even speak in English, someone who showed true grit…. she brought up two daughters to be financially independent, thriving young professionals.

Fast forward to 2016 through the support of various mentors and academic scholarships and financial funding I was able to secure admission under a scholarship for studying in the UK when I was 17 years old, which really opened the door to the other side of the world for me! It was more than a dream come true…  but with consistent hard work and helping hands of well-wishers and mentors along the way I was fortunate to survive ten years in this country (UK) and move up the career ladder. This country which has been my new home.

Throughout this personal journey of mine, I learnt a very important lesson along the way, which is that we all owe a duty. We all need to be advocates in order to ensure the next generation of young professionals and students thrive. The tech industry has immense opportunities for advancement and career growth. Technology has true power to impact the society and industries at large. It is our responsibility to empower the next generation of women and young children, influence their minds, get them excited about the impact and potential of technology.

It is important we provide support through mentorship in every way possible, maybe individually or via local schools, help them plan their career path. We need to help contribute to the society so this world can be a better and more inclusive place for the next. I take immense pride in the fact that I work for Amazon where Inclusivity matters and there are avenues for me to support various programs as volunteers to help further this mission and help out in any way I can.

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