Meet Hillary, Software Development Engineer

Hillary joined AWS as a Software Development Engineer in March 2021, and is based in Edinburgh, Scotland.

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

Hillary: I went to university in Seattle, where I was well aware of career opportunities at Amazon. Upon graduating, however, I worked at a smaller company. Years later, I decided to move from Seattle to Edinburgh, and was really pleased to find an Amazon office here! Being already familiar with the company and interview process, I was able to interview remotely (which, though common now, was a bit more unusual at the time). I got a job writing code for Amazon Advertising, which I really enjoyed. When my current position opened up working for the AWS Public Sector organization, it felt like a perfect fit for me and the right time for a change. It gave me an opportunity to learn more about software architecture and infrastructure, while working with very purpose-driven public sector customers.

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

Hillary: In my role, I work with public sector organizations to learn about problems they face, and create a production-ready proof-of-concept solution. My team works in short engagements with these customers (often 6-8 weeks). During that time, we learn all about their business challenges, and show them how AWS can help them build solutions.

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

Hillary: It’s important that I understand software at a fine-grained level (I can write, read, debug code, etc.) and also at a high level (I can draw out architecture diagrams, design infrastructure, etc.). It’s also important that I am able to communicate to colleagues and customers, and that I’m able to prioritize my work.

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

Hillary: I had to learn a lot about the specifics of AWS services for this role. Fortunately, there are many resources to help.

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

Hillary: Because we work with the public sector, we get to see real human impact of the systems we build. It’s one of my favourite parts about this job! For example, my team helped build a proof-of-concept tumor recognition system for the Munich Leukaemia Laboratory, which helps doctor’s process medical images.

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

Hillary: I am eagerly involved in many of our initiatives for gender equity in the tech industry. I facilitate knowledge, share sessions for Amazon Women in Engineering (AWE) UK, and I sat on our International Women’s Day Festival planning committee. I like to take part in recruitment to make the experience as positive as possible.

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

Hillary: I love our meetings with customers. I enjoy hearing about their challenges, and then seeing them get excited about our implemented solutions.

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

Hillary: AWS offers individuals a chance to have a big impact, but with that comes a big workload. There is no shortage of opportunities, projects you could take on, or work that you want to do. In order to be successful, one has to get comfortable saying no, deprioritizing tasks, and creating balance. It’s a tough balance to get right, and it’s constantly a work in progress for me.

HereAtAWS: What initially interested you in working for AWS?

Hillary: When I found this job listing at AWS, I was excited about it for two reasons. First, I thought it would help me grow professionally; I’m at a point in my software development journey that I want to take a more high-level approach to building systems, rather than small components within systems. Second, I thought it would be fulfilling personally; working with governments, health organizations, non-profits, etc. makes me feel like I’m doing work with genuine impact on people for the better.

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

Hillary: I’m excited about our continued offerings in the AI/ML space. With options like SageMaker, Rekognition, Polly, and more, we’re paving the way to make AI/ML more accessible to a variety of builders.

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

Hillary: Since I’m still rather new to AWS, I would count ramping up as a big accomplishment! There’s so much to learn, but that first code-commit or feature feels like such an achievement!

HereAtAWS: What advice would you give people joining AWS?

Hillary: Ask for help. My team has been fantastic about answering questions, providing context, and offering guidance, but they also aren’t mind-readers. I need to let them know when I’m stuck.

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

Hillary: Challenging, Engaging, Varied

HereAtAWS: Do you have any needs or commitment that require flexibility in your role?

Hillary: I live remotely from the rest of my team. My team is primarily based in London, but I live in Edinburgh. My team has been very accommodating, and I visit London on occasion.

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