Lenon is an Applied Scientist based in Tübingen, Germany. He joined AWS in February 2020.
HereAtAWS:Tell us about your career journey. What brought you to your current role at AWS?
Lenon: After studying mathematics at both the University of Stuttgart and Oxford, I was looking for a new challenge to put my education into practice. I was born and raised in Stuttgart, and I was interested when the so-called ‘Cyber Valley’ was founded in Tübingen, with highly innovative companies setting up there to drive research and development at a high pace.
After finishing my PhD, I started my journey at AWS with a six-month internship in the Causality team –which looks at the question of how are subjects in our world influenced by each other.
From day one I was fascinated by the deep research, and the problems the team wants to solve and turn into value-adding products. With my academic background, understanding this new field came fairly naturally to me, but it was not yet my expertise. The dedicated and highly motivated team, and the overall supporting work culture at AWS helped me on-board quickly. After the internship I joined the team full time.
HereAtAWS:Can you explain in simple terms: your role, who your customers are, and how you help them?
Lenon: Causality is important to understand in many fields of business, such as how a company's revenue behaves over time, or how sales of different products influence one another. As a next step, it becomes more and more important to understand how mechanical systems interact with each other in this way, and how this understanding might be used to drive business for a variety of customers.
HereAtAWS: What technical and/or soft skills do you need to succeed in your role?
Lenon: For the role of an Applied Scientist in our team you need a strong theoretical background in mathematics and analytical thinking. It is also vital to have the ability to fully focus on problem solving over a long period of time, or under pressure. For connecting the dots, creative thinking is also a crucial part of our work, as well as being able to translate the customers' needs into clear mathematical terms, and vice versa, when presenting a solution.
HereAtAWS: Have you had to learn any specific new skills (technical or soft) for your role?
Lenon: During my time at AWS, I have definitely extended my coding skills. Coming from a highly theoretical field of mathematics, I enjoy the high degree of teamwork and have developed my skills in this area a lot too.
HereAtAWS: How does your work with customers help to make a positive impact on society?
Lenon: In general, scientific research in this field helps to better understand the world, how things are related and how they influence each other. We are striving to answer questions such as "what would have happened if ... what would have been different?". Applying these insights to business or the economy consequently helps society to understand the effect of decisions. Since machine learning is becoming an increasing part of our everyday life, it is of high importance to understand and look into the black boxes of ML decision making.
HereAtAWS: At work, are you involved in any activities outside of your role?
Lenon: Working in an AWS research team includes way more than coding. For example, I am involved in the mentoring of interns across different groups, and I take part in collaborative research activities with universities to foster an ongoing exchange.
HereAtAWS: What’s the most exciting part of your job?
Lenon: Combining research in a very young field with the development of robust products for real customers. We don’t' stop with the theoretical explanation, but translate customer needs into products that are implemented right away. As a result, we see almost immediately the success of our work in a real-life environment and can work on continuous improvement.
HereAtAWS: What’s the most challenging part of your job?
Lenon: Investigating the often-underlying needs of many customer requests, to translate them into a scientific setting. Another challenge is the need to quickly adapt to changing requirements during the course of a project, which is clearly different from the usual theoretical desk research.
HereAtAWS: What advice would you give people joining AWS?
Lenon: Learn and be curious. Here you have the chance to, combine the latest scientific insights with real-world problems. The people working here have a tremendous pool of knowledge, expertise and talent. Be open and reach out to them and you will take away precious experiences and develop your skills and personality every day.
HereAtAWS:What three words would you use to describe workdays at AWS?
Lenon: It’s always Day One - take every day as a chance to learn something new, question the status quo and be open to your own development.
HereAtAWS: What do you love to do outside work?
Lenon: My passion, outside of ML of course, is Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, which is a field of martial arts. It is often compared to judo or wrestling. Although many might think martial arts are all about power and fighting, it requires a lot of creativity and strategy to develop new techniques and your own style. As a coach and trainer, it is also vital to have analytical skills and objectiveness to spot any mistakes and correct strategies. Finally, it is all about dedication to the sport, to maintain a healthy lifestyle and continuously work on your abilities.
HereAtAWS: Is there anything else you would like to add about your personal journey?
Lenon: The Amazon Leadership Principles that guide our work are much more than a nicely written mission statement. They are a mind-set and attitude that push you every day to leave your comfort zone and tap your full potential. Some days it might be challenging but it will definitely pay off when you look back and recognise that every single day you have learned something new.