Meet Markus, Principal ML & IoT Engineer

Markus joined AWS in 2017 as a Principal ML & IoT Engineer and is based in Zurich, Switzerland.

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

Markus: After finishing my PhD in computer science, and prior to joining AWS, I worked in various roles (Software Architect, Product Manager, Platform Head) for the market leader in smart metering systems. I helped deploy tens of millions of smart meters, which essentially are IoT devices. A friend, who already worked for AWS, referred me to a position as an IoT Business Development Manager in 2017 and so I moved from leading a multi-site development organisation to being an individual contributor at AWS. Six Months into the role, I moved from Business Development into the Solutions Architect organisation and was promoted after less than two years.

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

Markus: I am responsible for Prototyping in DACH (Germany, Austria, Switzerland), parts of Central Eastern Europe and Israel. Prototyping is a unique program where AWS invests into a customer’s mission-critical use case by embedding subject matter experts into the development team of the customer for two-to-six weeks. This hands-on development collaboration helps customers gain knowledge with emerging technologies such as analytics, machine learning, IoT, VR/AR, containers etc. while building their use case so they can deploy it in production more quickly. I lead these engagements with all customers from the above countries, whether that is with large enterprises like or start-ups. This means, I qualify the engagements by shaping visions with management – often C-Level - stakeholders, define the scope of engagements by designing technical goals and solution approaches. Alongside this I run the engagement together with a prototyping architect, the account team, specialist solutions architects and service teams. After the closure, I also have to ensure that the results are handed over to the account team and that there is a path to production for the prototype.

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

Markus: On the technical side, I need to be very broad and always keep learning about the latest services/features as these are the ones particularly relevant to prototyping customers. At the same time, prototyping engagements are hands-on development work on innovative customer projects which often test the boundaries of our services. This means that I need to have a deep understanding of many services from within the focus areas of prototyping such as IoT, ML or analytics. This is why I am part of the TFCs (technical field community) for Machine Learning and Internet of Things. I regularly write blog posts about such topics and do technical presentations at Summits or re:Invent. On the soft skills side, I have to be able to translate business to technology as every prototype needs management stakeholders or business representatives which are often not technical or have no knowledge about cloud/IT. This can sometimes be challenging as I need to quickly understand the business of the customer to make well-reasoned technology suggestions and communicate these to the stakeholders in a way that is understandable to them. Furthermore, when we embed people into customer development teams, the prototyping team is always an external party that quickly needs to get productive with the customer team. This means I have to facilitate the team-building process in a short amount of time to ensure that all parts of the temporary development team are contributing to the overall solution.

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

Markus: I had to learn from my first day at AWS and I have not stopped. While the translation of business to technical language is quite natural for me as I had to do it in my pre-AWS job too, I was relatively inexperienced with regards to cloud computing. The result of this is reflected by me being part of a rather small group of currently 52 Amazonians that hold all the AWS certifications.

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

Markus: Every prototype we built is essentially a product serving customers or society “in the making” and they often solve very challenging problems for customers that would not be able to solve them without us. Just to mention one example: I executed a prototyping engagement with SOLshare ME which is a company that sells a solar-power micro-grid solution in developing countries like Bangladesh. We built a prototype of a box that allows SOLshare customers to connect their solar panels, batteries etc. so that they can share electricity with their neighbours (Bangladesh has a high number of homes/huts with small solar panels). This solution is often the only source of electricity and helps overcoming the issues in areas where no centralised power grid is available. For instance, if a Bangladeshi needs to heat food at night, but has used all of their battery power during the day, they can exchange energy using this box with their neighbour who may have some energy left in its battery.

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

Markus: I contribute to AWS certifications by writing exam content and I am part of the Machine Learning and IoT expert groups at Amazon which allows me to exchange ideas with other experts in these areas.

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

Markus: Getting to understand an extremely diverse set of customer challenges and their businesses every day, as well as building the solutions that solve these challenges. I get to see real production uses of emerging AWS services and often get to try out the “latest and greatest”.

HereAtAWS:  What advice would you give people joining AWS?

Markus: First, be ready to learn a lot. The company moves at such a high pace, that you need to adapt quickly and also take in a lot of new things. Second, don’t expect to be the smartest person in the room ever as there are a lot of smart people working for AWS. Third, expect to encounter customer obsession in its rawest form. All companies claim to be customer-oriented in one way or another, but new joiners are often very surprised when they see that AWS will spend money for a prototype that cuts the revenue AWS makes with that customer significantly.

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

Markus: Growth, building, food-for-thought.

HereAtAWS:  What do you love to do outside work?

Markus: I run about 50km per week as a way of relaxing, play chess & various board games and I climb mountains (I have climbed all 48 4000m peaks in Switzerland at least once!).

HereAtAWS: Is there anything else you would like to add about your personal journey?

Markus: I have been “messing around” with computers since I was about seven years old. I started writing code and building programs as a teenager and decided when I was 12 that I wanted to study computer science. Being at the epicentre of a revolution of how to build IT systems every day is an honour and I truly count myself as one of the few people that look forward to Mondays after having a great weekend.

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