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Rohini Gaonkar for AWS

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Life at AWS : 8th Anniversary

8 years ago, 7th January 2014, I joined Amazon Web Services (AWS) and this blog is a peek into the dream-come-true life I have had so far. These are some of the learnings, experiences and thoughts on life at AWS. If you are new to AWS or aspire to join us, read along!

Over the years, I have been a Cloud Support Engineer(CSE), a Solutions Architect(SA) and a Developer Advocate(DA) across South Africa, Singapore and India. I have moved with AWS to different geographies, and made friends globally. I got to work with hundreds of customers in different regions, and many more colleagues who have become really good friends. Meeting them in different countries has been pure joy!

Over the years, I have been a Cloud Support Engineer, a Solutions Architect and a Developer Advocate in South Africa, Singapore and India

While many organizations frown upon people leaving teams/projects, here at AWS we are encouraged to explore different roles. I could apply my tech skills as a Support Engineer while expanding my breadth and dive deeper into services. I used those learnings to help customers as a Solutions Architect(SA). As an SA I followed my passion of public speaking and worked with AWS community over the weekends, which led to eventually moving into Developer Advocacy.


A little history :

Before I joined AWS I was part of an R&D team that did Proof-of-Concepts (PoCs) on different cloud platforms we had back in 2010. Most of those public/private clouds do not exist today.

It was love at first sight, with AWS technology

I worked with AWS tech before launch of AWS Virtual Private Cloud (VPC) and AWS AutoScaling for Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2). It led to an idea and a working PoC which resulted into my first published IEEE paper. Interested? Read here.

In the years that followed, I had hands-on migrations experience of moving on-premise web applications to AWS - a highly coveted skill at that time.

The organization was acquired and its vision changed, but my love for AWS and my vision stayed strong. So, I applied to AWS, went through virtual interviews and did the unthinkable - moved to different continent - Cape Town, South Africa. In the middle of culture shock and home sickness, my tech skills soared higher every passing day.

"The growth that I see in myself personally and professionally, has been tremendous, and that is the biggest motivation for me at AWS - working together to build a better tomorrow."

Source : My feature in the AWS Employee Spotlight series.

Learnings :

While everyone talks about Leadership Principles, which we Amazonians imbibe in every aspect of our work, I wanted to shed some light on other aspects of working at AWS.

Something I tell new joiners, or people who even change roles/location internally - initially, it feels like a lot of information is sent your way and its only natural to feel overwhelmed. Drinking from the firehose. When you feel like it, remember what Dory said - just keep swimming. Trust me, it does get better.

Hence, don't rush through your ramp up time. There is a reason ramp up time is provided, use it well to learn the internal ways, do your certifications and most importantly shadow your colleagues in different roles. Everyone is busy, but if you need help - ASK! Find a buddy, or a mentor, it will help calm your nerves.

Most of us experience imposter syndrome It may feel overwhelming to be around so many smart individuals. AWS has a high hiring bar, if you made it through it, you are worth it.

If you want to be successful at AWS you have to take ownership of projects beyond your daily responsibilities. It is a great way to connect with the global AWS teams, customers and helps you build relationships. Over the years, I am proud having worked with some amazing teams here at AWS - from being part of the This is my Architecture, to managing 21 sessions across 3 theatres for Lightning talks in a physical AWS Summit India, to owning a T&C Twitch series, getting my customers speaking slots at re:Invent, building workshops, and many more.

One of the most important lessons of my life - Burnout is real. Some interviewees ask a question - is life at AWS too hectic? Well IT depends on what stresses you (and sometimes which team you are in). Here, we are not stressed by office politics, you are not worried of racing with your colleague to get that promotion. Here, everyone has more than enough work to showcase their skills. When you are so excited about the work you do, you may end up not realizing you are burning out. And it's important to pace it. There is a saying internally - it's a Marathon, not a sprint.

So, it's important to know your own limits, take breaks, talk to your managers if something is troubling you. There are multiple programs available to employees, and I have used them last year when our lives changed overnight. It has helped me tremendously!

Everyone works on schedules that make sense to them. You set your own boundaries. Saying NO is encouraged by leaders. You would find leaders saying - just because you saw an email from me that is out of business hours, doesn't mean you have to respond immediately.

All this would not have been possible without some amazing managers & leaders. A good manager is a blessing. They have always pushed me to speak up, to be a leader, motivated me when I doubted myself or just being a friend I can freely talk to. I have never hesitated to reach out to skip level or regional managers. It is never considered as an escalation, but a pure sharing of ideas and building relationships. Coming from a very hierarchical past this was the warmest welcome. Being an autonomous individual contributor has boosted my motivation and creativity.

β€œDuring my initial years here, when I was too shy to speak up and share my ideas in meetings, my managers always ensured I felt heard. Managers at AWS are more like approachable leaders than a typical boss.”

Source : My feature in the Women of AWS feature on Amazon Jobs website

Summary :

Life at AWS has had its ups and downs, a dream-come-true rollercoaster ride. It is AWSome because of all the amazing people I have met as colleagues, customers or community.

Hope this gives you an honest take of life at AWS! Feel free to DM me on LinkedIn, always happy to chat!

Follow me on LinkedIn, Twitter, GitHub, Youtube

Interested to grow with AWS? Check out following resources :

Discussion (18)

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jeremybradbury profile image
Jeremy Bradbury

I learned so much working with a young man who has probably been there about as long: James Loope.

If you don't know him personally, seek him out to pick his brain. It's a rare & valuable resource to have access to. Your shared tenure alone should merit an introduction.

Not many ever reach the title of Sith Lord or Jedi Master. Yet he had already before even starting at AWS.

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Harish Bennalli

Congratulations Rohini..Very Inspiring..

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Abhiramgc

Amazing

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Rohini Gaonkar Author

Thank you !!!

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sanket sonavane

Amazing and Inspiring. "It was love at first sight, with AWS technology" This line is so much relatable to me. I am in love with aws from my third year of college.

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Chandrashekar Y M

Amazing and inspiring journey...thank you for the write up.

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Rohini Gaonkar Author

Thank you for the kind words!

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Nirmal Chhodvadiya • Edited on

Fabulous article. Your journey is awesome and you have drafted this journey amazingly. I have recently joined aws as CSA and would like to have virtual chat πŸ™‚.

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Rohini Gaonkar Author

Sure sure! Ping me on slack or chime 😬
Thank you for the kind words!

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Jones Zachariah Noel • Edited on

Truly inspiring journey!! I bet this blog post would be inspiring more folks rather than just me. πŸ‘πŸ‘ and congratulations on your work anniversary and wishing for more success your way! πŸŽ‰

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Rohini Gaonkar Author

Thank you so much Jones! This coming from you means a lot to me!!! πŸ˜ŠπŸ™

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Avinash Dalvi

Really great and inspirational journey. All the best for more challenges. I looking forward to you will also become similar leaders who kept base for like us.

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Rohini Gaonkar Author

Thank you Avinash!! I know we have only met recently virtually through the AWS community but I will always thank you for being my cheer leader! Hope to meet you soon in person someday!

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Jenna Pederson

I love this, Rohini! Thank you for sharing your experience. And CONGRATS on 8 years! πŸŽ‰πŸ₯‚

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atechiethought

Congratulations on 8th work anniversary! Lot of inspiration from your journey. Thank you for sharing with all of us.

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Rohini Gaonkar Author

Thank you for the kind words!!!!

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DEBARSHI MONDAL

Truly Amazing πŸ‘

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Rohini Gaonkar Author

Thank you!!