Lou joined AWS in 2020 as a Data Center Technician based in Dublin, Ireland.
HereAtAWS: Tell us about your career journey. What brought you to your current role at AWS?
Lou: From the age of 17, I was homeless and spent periods of time sleeping rough. I dropped out of school at the age of 13, and lost hope of going to college like everyone else. After 4 years of being on and off the streets, I had found a community college course willing to take me in! From there, I attended as many days as I could manage with my housing situation. That year, we worked on a project where we helped launch a mini data center within the school, little did I know that wouldn’t be the last time I worked on servers.
I became CompTIA A+ certified through my course, which led to being scouted by a company who worked with AWS to find talent for contract roles. During my first month as a contractor, I would alternate between buying lunch some days and eating the free fruit on site, I didn’t want anyone to know I was homeless. I worked every ticket I could, researched every resolve on my site and created my own troubleshooting mind-set from that. Eventually, I was able to interview for a full time Data Center Technician role!
HereAtAWS: Can you explain in simple terms: your role, who your customers are, and how you help them?
Lou: My role as a Data Center Technician is to maintain servers and networking devices, which empower how much capacity we can offer our customers. We also do constant monitoring for any business impacting events, 24/7 365 days a week. Our customers are both internal, and external. Every device we work on contributes to the overall capacity we offer our customers.
HereAtAWS: What technical and/or soft skills do you need to succeed in your role?
Lou: To be a great Data Center Technician, you would need strong knowledge in both Hardware and Networking. While most of our daily work is on hardware in servers, a large portion of our customer impacting events are related to Networking. While the role is technical, the ability to problem solve and work under pressure goes hand in hand with being a DCO. We can go from a quiet day to a large scale event within minutes.
HereAtAWS: Have you had to learn any specific new skills (technical or soft) for your role?
Lou: I’m always learning and growing my technical skills at AWS. You will think you have seen it all, and then a ticket will come in unrelated to anything you’ve worked on before. The most challenging soft skill I struggled with when I started here was time management. When I was a new hire, I would spend 6-7 hours in the pods at a time! As I gained more experience, I was able to reduce that time, knowing what to prioritize and what to work on over a few days was important to my productivity.
HereAtAWS: How does your work with customers help to make a positive impact on society?
Lou: Our work in the Data Center space is essential to a lot of customers. A great local example of impacting society through our work was during COVID-19. Caredoc (an out of hours GP service) was overwhelmed with call volumes from concerned citizens, and their processes were all manual. Within a week, AWS was able to build a cloud-based app that streamlined the processing of patients. This new process helped Caredoc resolve patient calls 30 percent faster than before, which improves the patient experience and frees up time to help others in need.
HereAtAWS: At work, are you involved in any activities outside of your role?
Lou: I am a member of Glamazon - a group for LGBTQ+ employees, Women@Amazon – a group dedicated to empowering women in Amazon/AWS, Women@DUBDCs – a localized group within Dublin for Women in Dublin Data Center spaces, and I am also launching PwD Dublin, the first People with Disabilities affinity group in Ireland!
HereAtAWS: What’s the most challenging part of your job?
Lou: We work 12 hour shift patterns that rotate between nights and days every two weeks. Data centers need constant monitoring around the clock to ensure they stay online and available for our customers. It was difficult at first to adjust, and at times it can be a challenging thing to work with, but I enjoy doing the night shifts because it can be a quiet time to study or catch up on things.
HereAtAWS: What initially interested you in working for AWS?
Lou: The possibility for growth. When I first joined as a contractor, I had only visually looked inside a computer. I fully immersed myself in our tickets, and I started to figure out how to diagnose and fix devices. With that, I saw how fast I grew my troubleshooting mindset in a couple of months alone! The idea of being able to grow even further made me want to get a job as a DCO here.
HereAtAWS: What were you excited to see AWS working on when you first got here?
Lou: There are a lot of services we have launched since I joined, but the first thing that comes to mind is inclusivity. There was only one other woman on my team when I joined in 2019. With our leadership pushing for more gender diverse hires, growth in that sector has created a community of women in Infrastructure Operations who strive to promote gender diversity.
HereAtAWS: What’s one of your greatest accomplishments since joining AWS?
Lou: For my personal accomplishments, I would say that moving from having no roof over my head to being the primary on-call for 5 data centers is my biggest achievement.
HereAtAWS: What advice would you give people joining AWS?
Lou: Take some time to really learn your role and environment. Sometimes we have new hires that come in, and are eager to get to work. While that passion is great, in order to really understand how everything works in the data center, slowing down and taking everything in is really important! You’re only expected to learn when you start, you can demonstrate your skills after you settle into the role.
HereAtAWS: What three words would you use to describe workdays at AWS?
Lou: Lively, unpredictable, and warm (my site runs warm, so I get to wear t-shirts all year around!)
HereAtAWS: Do you have any needs or commitment that require flexibility in your role?
Lou: With my affinity group work, I have a lot of meetings and different types of work to plan around the two weeks I’m available on day shift. My manager is always supportive of anything I need, and always accommodates my commitments!
HereAtAWS: What do you love to do outside work?
Lou: Being neurodivergent, I have special interests in tech that I could talk for hours about. Deep diving into our AWS Wiki pages and previous large scale event tickets is very interesting! I really enjoy learning new things about InfraOps and what each team does.
HereAtAWS: Is there anything else you would like to add about your personal journey?
Lou: It doesn’t matter where you come from at AWS. I’ve interviewed people from all backgrounds, there was even one tech we hired that was a butcher for 20 years before he joined us. You can create your own career path, and with locations across the globe, you can work anywhere you’d like. There are limitless opportunities in AWS as we expand, and we actively work to make our spaces diverse and inclusive.