Ksenia joined AWS in May 2020 as a Senior Solutions Architect and is based in Zurich, Switzerland.
HereAtAWS: Tell us about your career journey. What brought you to your current role at AWS?
Ksenia: I’ve always had an analytical mind and had a leaning towards subjects like Maths and programming at school, so studying computer science was a natural choice for me. Originally from Russia, I studied at the University of Cape Town in South Africa, after which I came to Switzerland in to do my PhD. The most valuable skill I learnt during my PhD time was clear and effective communication, and with time I realised that conveying complex topics to people in a simple and relatable way was one of my key strengths.
Post-PhD, I spent about two years in consulting and then more than nine years working in various IT architecture roles at a large financial institution. During that time, I “climbed the career ladder” and went on to hold a senior enterprise architecture position and lead a global team of architects.
What led me to AWS was a strong desire to once again be closer to technology and focus more of my time on developing my technical skills. In my current role at AWS, I have the perfect opportunity to combine my leadership and consulting skills with deepening my expertise across a very wide range of modern technologies.
HereAtAWS: Can you explain in simple terms: your role, who your customers are, and how you help them?
Ksenia: Our team looks after customers who are large global financial institutions, including banks and insurances. As a Solutions Architect, my role is to be the technical expert and advisor for the customer when it comes to the AWS offering.
HereAtAWS: What technical and/or soft skills do you need to succeed in your role?
Ksenia: Technically, you need have a good fundamental understanding of cloud computing, including networking, security and distributed systems, but even more importantly, you should be able to continuously learn along as cloud technology develops at a very fast pace. Having said that, you are never alone as a Solutions Architect at AWS, as you can always lean into a large network of colleagues and specialists for areas you are not too familiar with.
In terms of soft skills, you need to have good communication skills, as you typically interact with various customer representatives, including more and less technical ones.
HereAtAWS: Have you had to learn any specific new skills (technical or soft) for your role?
Ksenia: I had not worked with cloud before joining AWS and had not done any hands-on technical work for many years, so I had to learn everything about the platform from scratch. Luckily AWS have a very generous onboarding program and there are plenty of training and certification resources that helped me to build up my cloud skills.
HereAtAWS: How does your work with customers help to make a positive impact on society?
Ksenia: We help our customers be more innovative. In insurance, for example, this could mean enabling quicker pay-outs of insurance claims using machine learning technology to process accident-related damage. Such types of solutions can have a very positive impact on society, especially if you think about the less affluent part of the population for whom quick pay-outs of insurance claims is critical.
HereAtAWS: At work, are you involved in any activities outside of your role?
Ksenia: I am a keen supporter of diversity and inclusion and I’m just starting to get engaged with the many AWS initiatives focusing on these topics.
HereAtAWS: What’s the most exciting part of your job?
Ksenia: Constantly learning new things and solving customer’s problems as a team.
HereAtAWS: What advice would you give people joining AWS?
Ksenia: You are not alone! It is easy to feel a bit overwhelmed when joining AWS, but given that the company is growing so fast and there are so many new joiners, we are all in the same boat. At AWS, people are extremely open to exchange and help each other, so make sure you build a network that can help you get onboarded.
HereAtAWS: What three words would you use to describe workdays at AWS?
Ksenia: Learning, dynamic, connected.
HereatAWS: Do you have any needs or commitment that require flexibility in your role?
Ksenia: I have two young children and have recently relocated my elderly parents from South Africa to Switzerland, so family commitments are very important to me and carrying them out does sometimes require flexibility. My role at AWS offers flexibility in terms of where I work and when I work, which is a great help in terms of being able to attend to private commitments.
HereAtAWS: What do you love to do outside work?
Ksenia: I typically enjoy the simple things in life; hanging out with my family, having a beer and a deep conversation with a friend or going to look for mushrooms in the forest. I’m also intrigued by human nature and like to learn about topics related to psychology and society.
HereAtAWS: Is there anything else you would like to add about your personal journey?
Ksenia: Don’t be afraid to try new things and to follow a path that might seem unusual to others. In today’s world, career is not a ladder anymore, you should absolutely consider to take career steps to the side or even those that may seem like a step back to some, but may open up a new world of opportunities for you. Before joining AWS, I got many sceptical reactions when I shared my intention to change to a single-contributor role that is more hands-on. I did not let this discourage me and I’m very happy with the decision I’ve made!