William is an Electrical Design Engineer based in Dublin, Ireland. He joined AWS in July, 2019.
HereAtAWS: Tell us about your career journey. What brought you to your current role at AWS?
William: My first ever job in the electrical industry was as an electrical apprentice working in a pharmaceutical plant in Dublin, where I got exposure to heavy industrial works like containment, cable pulling and commissioning of transformers, UPSs and generators. At the time, I thought I had the coolest job ever. That kind of work is really varied though, so while you might be working on something cool for a few months, after a while that can change. When I was a qualified electrician, I eventually worked my way into a site supervision role, which I enjoyed but I knew I could do more.
Fast forward to 2010, and the recession had hit my industry hard to the point that I was laid off from my job. Like others I had three choices; 1. Try to find another job in another industry, 2. Emigrate or 3. Go back to college at home until the recession ended. I chose the latter.
Upon graduating, I found a design role at an M&E consultancy in Dublin. The work there was varied, from office fit-outs, hotels, apartments and those kinds of heavy industry projects, such as pharmaceutical and data center projects that I loved working on when I was still “on my tools” years before. I gravitated towards the data center design projects and did everything I could to make sure I was involved. I managed to get a few years of design experience under my belt in this role. Similar to my early career path, projects vary so I was never guaranteed to be working full time on a data center project, and similarly, I also had a feeling I had more to offer, and certainly more to learn.
I came across a role with AWS, which immediately got my attention. The position was based in Dublin, would allow me to work on projects across Europe, the Middle East and Africa, but also allowed me to be part of a Global Design Engineering team. It really got me thinking about where my career was going.
HereAtAWS: Can you explain in simple terms: your role, who your customers are, and how you help them?
William: My main customers would be the Construction team and Data Center Engineering Operations. During the design period on a project, I need to ensure I have the correct design information included in my submissions, and ensure they meet the needs of the particular project and its location, to enable the construction team to complete the build. I need to ensure my design is maintainable for the Operations team, is safe, and where new switchgear or UPSs are added the components can be removed and replaced from its location during its lifetime as part of ongoing maintenance.
HereAtAWS: What technical and/or soft skills do you need to succeed in your role?
William: On the technical side, what enabled me to get a position with AWS was a broad level of knowledge of electrical infrastructure and components, specifically in relation to data centers. In terms of soft skills, I had good experience of working as part of a design team; I could communicate electrical design requirements to that team in terms of how my design may influence architectural, civil & structural or mechanical layouts and design. I also had a willingness to learn how other design team members’ requirements may affect my design.
HereAtAWS: Have you had to learn any specific new skills (technical or soft) for your role?
William: Both. Technically, having a broad knowledge definitely helps but given the role I’m in, and how much more detailed our design packs would be in comparison to my previous experience, I’ve had plenty of opportunities to add depth to what I’d consider to be a broad knowledge base. It’s been a great opportunity to learn more and grow professionally, particularly on the technical side. I am also exposed to more and more teams that work on data centers than I would have been in the past. For example, as part of my project I get to interact with environmental and planning teams, which is interesting as it provides an insight into varying requirements on projects not only from country to country, but also between jurisdictions within a country. An example of the interactions I would have with these teams early in a project would be noise and emissions requirements related to generators on a project.
HereAtAWS: How does your work with customers help to make a positive impact on society?
William: Our data centers typically have a very low PUE, which is a metric to measure how efficient they are in their use of power. In alignment with Amazon’s commitment to renewable projects in Ireland, namely wind farms, means that more and more of the energy we are using in our data centers is renewable.
HereAtAWS: What’s the most exciting part of your job?
William: Given that I work as part of a global design team, I’m very close to new initiatives that are forming our basis of designs. The designers of these new initiatives are accessible, what I mean by that is I can reach out to these designers on our team for insights on it. The pace of AWS is really something worth seeing, it doesn’t matter what level you’re at or what your role is, if there’s something you think could be done better or cheaper for a customer, it will be considered. If there’s a process you think could be implemented to help streamline work flows or help your team or perhaps multiple teams, you can own it and make it happen.
HereAtAWS: What advice would you give people joining AWS?
William: Someone joining my team is most likely coming from a consultancy background so what I’d say is, enjoy it. You’ll learn something new every day and every day is different. Also, don’t be afraid by the size of the whole thing. It took me a while to get used to the fact that I was part of a global team, which was an odd concept for me coming from a consultancy where I was in a small team, but that alone provides learning opportunities in terms how/why your team mates in another region do what do.
HereAtAWS: What three words would you use to describe workdays at AWS?
William: Different. Insightful. Collaborative.
HereAtAWS: Is there anything else you would like to add about your personal journey?
William: Only to say that I’m lucky to be here. I almost didn’t apply, I thought “It’s Amazon, these guys hire the best and I know I have a lot to learn”. The interview process is robust and I did not want to go through it, only to not get it. I was thinking that way at the time. I thought about applying for weeks, and during that time, I had plenty of opportunities to talk myself out of it. The best decision I made was to just take the initial leap and apply, get the process started. My advice to anyone working in design who wants to make the move specifically into the data center industry, I’d say go for it, apply for the role.