Margo joined AWS in 2017 as a Senior Solutions Architect in Zurich, Switzerland.
HereAtAWS: Tell us about your career journey. What brought you to your current role at AWS?
Margo: I studied Information Systems in Trinity College Dublin, and from there I naturally moved into IT. I have always worked in IT and even during difficult spells in my career, I have never wanted to work in a different discipline. I enjoy both the quantitative mathematical element of this job and the need to balance that with people and teams. I worked as a professional services consultant for a software company, and with that job I started travelling a lot, and ended up settling in Switzerland some 15 years ago now. My career naturally evolved over time into enterprise architecture for large FSIs (Financial Services Industries) and while I still loved IT and my job, I started to find it too theoretical, and I missed the hand-on element. I wanted to build, to be a “do-er” and to be around like-minded people. This was the reasoning that led me to become an AWS Solutions Architect in January 2017.
HereAtAWS: Can you explain in simple terms: your role, who your customers are, and how you help them?
Margo: As a Solutions Architect for FSI in Switzerland, I take customers’ business capabilities, enterprise architectural blueprints, and translate them into architectures for the cloud. I balance that against the restraints they may have like timeframe, cost, data residency, people skills, how “cloud native” they can be. I focus on security a lot in my job. I address any concerns they may have, the governance milestones they have related to risk and compliance and technical questions they might have about services.
HereAtAWS: What technical and/or soft skills do you need to succeed in your role?
Margo: The biggest skill you will need is curiosity. At AWS you have to be happy to be continuously learning and to trying to find ways to apply that knowledge.
HereAtAWS: Have you had to learn any specific new skills (technical or soft) for your role?
Margo: Coding and development had not been my core competencies (or requirement) as an enterprise architect, and while it is not a must as a Solutions Achitect, I have enjoyed learning Python and applying that in my day to day job.
HereAtAWS: At work, are you involved in any activities outside of your role?
Margo: In AWS and in Switzerland I am very involved with Women in Tech groups & meet-ups. I speak at quite a few events on this topic. Also, as one of the AWS Swiss Bar Raisers I am very involved and passionate about hiring and the work that goes into hiring the best teams.
HereAtAWS: What’s the most exciting part of your job?
Margo: Here in Switzerland and across the world I work with some clever people that I admire greatly. You can find yourself in meetings with not only experts on a topic but the inventor themselves. It’s very humbling. Interestingly, with so many services across a variety of diverse disciplines they too are continuously learning and are often beginners in something else themselves.
HereAtAWS: What’s the most challenging part of your job?
Margo: AWS is always releasing new services and features, it can happen that I am working on something that AWS will then release a service or solution for. As we are passionate about security and work at such as fast rate, I sometimes find out at the same time as the customer! For example, this year I was working on a native asymmetric key encryption solution for a customer, the morning I was on-site AWS released the feature in that region. I sat down and tested the feature side by side with the customer and we compared it with what we were going to build.
HereAtAWS: What three words would you use to describe workdays at AWS?
Margo: Encouraging, Enlightening, Humbling.
HereAtAWS: Do you have any needs or commitment that require flexibility in your role?
Margo: I’m a mum, I have 3 daughters of primary school age. I have a lot of autonomy and flexibility to manage my work calendar and find work-life balance therefore very achievable, more so than in previous jobs. I was pleasantly surprised joining AWS how many people have families of all ages, and the flexibility needed to be a working parent is understood.
HereAtAWS: What do you love to do outside work?
Margo: I love Irish dancing; I dance with the Rohan Irish Dance Academy in Switzerland. My Irish dancing would probably get more points for enthusiasm than technique, and River Dance on Broadway have not called yet (just checked mobile again, no not yet).
Interestingly, aside from the beautiful music and the great work out, Irish music and Irish dancing definitely requires an interest in mathematics. It is highly structured and mathematical. The geometry of the dance & dancers, the dancers’ forms, and our positions on the floor is critical. Also, the relationship of the rhythm to the beats in the bar and on what beat you dance on is very important. It can look a bit chaotic to the untrained eye but is actually highly structured.
HereAtAWS: Is there anything else you would like to add about your personal journey?
Margo: In August 2010 my daughter was born, I wanted an unusual name that the Swiss and Irish would have no issues with. I picked “Alexa”, at the time, which was rarely used or heard of. Six months later Amazon Web Services – a company I was closely following – launched a virtual assistance AI (chat bot) service called “Alexa”. I remember holding my new born daughter Alexa and thinking “I wonder if that service will take off?” :)
Now at school my daughter does get (gently) teased about her name with kids shouting at her “Alexa, what’s the weather today?” and she always shouts proudly back “Be quiet, my mammy works for Amazon”. She frequently takes my AWS stickers from my stash to distribute in the school yard!