I recently accepted a new role as a ‘Technical Account Manager’ at AWS. In this article you will learn how I went from working in Aldi (with no IT experience) to landing a job at Amazon Web Services in just 12 months.
I have been through a few different career changes in my relatively short professional life. I started my higher education journey by studying Psychology, which I studied whilst working alongside many different service jobs (barista, shop assistant, etc.) and after that I moved into a career in sales.
It was in these roles where I started to build my primary set of career skills and where I first got a taste of what career progression felt like. However, the unfortunate truth was that like many other young professionals entering the job market, I never felt entirely fulfilled by my line of work, and I was quickly looking for an alternative profession.
Click the image above to watch the full interview with Neal and Jack
Where I Started
At the end of 2019 I found myself working in a sales role within the construction industry. My job involved speaking with lots of customers, understanding their needs and putting deals together – as you would expect. Whilst I really enjoyed certain aspects of my job, like the customer contact, managing relationships and building rapport with my customers, I always felt that something was missing. I needed something more from my work.
In my personal life, I have always been very technically minded. I have always been the sort to take things apart and put them together again, and to go deep into problems to find a logical and reasonable solution. This is something I realized that was missing in my professional life. The continual education that I really enjoy was lacking.
Naturally, I began thinking of ways I could resolve this problem. I considered going into a more technical sales role, going back to university, or moving to a different career altogether, but I didn’t know where to start. The question I had to ask myself was this: How can I make the best use of my skill set I have learned and apply it to something I am genuinely passionate about?’.
Through my research in different potential job markets to go into, I stumbled upon an immensely growing market, which had a massive skills shortage and was desperate for people looking to get involved.
This industry, I thought, would be perfect for someone who didn’t have any practical experience, who was looking to upskill themselves and dive into a new challenge – if these companies and this industry is growing so rapidly, surely, they are going to need entry level candidates?
What was this industry? It was the world of Cloud Computing.
My Journey Into Cloud
I was first introduced to Cloud Computing by learning about the biggest and first public cloud provider, Amazon Web Services (AWS).
At first I thought ‘Amazon? The same Amazon who delivers boxes full of goodies to my door?’ It seemed incomprehensible to me that there was a whole other side of the coin to this monolithic company, who had started AWS, and then subsequently used the cloud to change the world of technology forever.
As soon as I learned about what the Cloud was, I was hooked. It was so fascinating to me that I simply had to learn more. After some serious deliberation I decided to enroll in an academy program to learn some fundamentals and get AWS certified (alongside my full-time job role, raising a family and other day to day responsibilities!).
Whilst this was an investment in both my time and money, I weighed up the pros and cons and decided to take the plunge. I finally saw a way out of the career that I was no longer enjoying, into a limitless career in something that I really enjoyed!
My Day to Day Schedule
In the background, whilst I was deciding where to start on my cloud journey, I had been made redundant from my sales role, and had been left with no job to fall back on. This left me in the position where I needed to get a job, and fast – with a family dependent on me, I couldn’t be lazy! I went from working in a sales role, to working for Aldi to make ends meet. Alongside Aldi, I also delivered takeaway, and taught English online to get some extra money to ensure we remained afloat.
Whilst I was working at Aldi my days often looked something like this:
- 4am – wake up, get ready and go to work for 5am.
- Work in Aldi from 5am – 2pm, reading AWS books on my lunch break.
- 2pm till 6pm was family time, and catching up on any other errands, on some days teaching English for a few hours.
- After dinner, I would revise until late into the evening, or deliver takeaways till 11pm. Even when I was driving around, I would listen to the AWS podcast!
This process continued for three months, and it was really hard. Not only was I constantly sleep deprived, but I was painfully aware of how far away I was from achieving my dream. With the support of my family, and with a lot of hard work and determination I achieved the AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner certification! This made me start to feel confident that I could actually do something about my situation and upskill myself! This was my first big win.
Time Out From Work
Four months after taking the job at Aldi, I decided that with my family’s support, I would take some time out of full-time work and instead focus 100% of my time on learning, getting further certified and looking for an entry level job.
This process involved living primarily off our savings and doing the odd jobs which I could fit around my study schedule. This was a risky move, and whilst this was not a decision that we took lightly, we decided that for me to put as much as I could into breaking into a new career, it was a sacrifice we were willing to make.
Over the next three months, I made the most of my time by going above and beyond to try and land my first technical role. At this point in time, it had been approximately 6 months after deciding to become AWS certified and change my career, and I had made some tangible progress.
It did however become clear to me during this time, that to stand out ahead of the pack, and to become a candidate in whom a company would want to invest, I would have to do two things:
- Gain the AWS Certified Solutions Architect Associate Certification, and learn as much as I could about AWS and IT in general.
- Do more extra-curricular activities which would show my potential to prospective employers.
So, I put a plan of action in place. Over the next few months, I enrolled in another 6-week course to learn more about Networking, Cloud fundamentals and many other things to bolster my learning on the AWS academy program.
I also started studying up to 7 hours a day for the AWS Solutions Architect Associate and writing daily blog posts about different AWS services – a series I called #100daysofAWS (which is still going to this day! I don’t have time to write it daily anymore!).
In conjunction with this I did a lot of hands-on labs in the AWS console. This would make it clear to employers that I couldn’t just talk the talk, that I could walk the walk also when it came to AWS. This included creating a website out of my CV running on Amazon S3 and doing some YouTube videos presenting hands-on labs in AWS.
This extracurricular effort is one of the things that ultimately put me above and beyond the competition. Shortly after passing the AWS Certified Solutions Architect Associate exam, with a collection of blog posts and other items of interest to show, I started applying for jobs.
Applying For My First Cloud Job
At first, I wasn’t successful, for a few reasons.
I was applying exclusively for hands-on technical roles, which I obviously didn’t have experience for. Secondly, my CV wasn’t that good! After a revamp, and after highlighting my key transferable skills that I had learned in my previous roles, I started to apply for other cloud roles (Cloud Consultant, Account Manager etc). Something was working, and I started to get my first interviews trickle through, with at this point, ZERO formal experience in the cloud.
Interviewing is hard – there is no doubt about it, and this is more so the case if you have no experience in the field you are applying for. So make sure you are well prepared. With the roles I applied for, I leaned heavily on my previous experience in sales, and my sheer enthusiasm for AWS and technology in general. My extra-curricular work backed up my talk of passion and determination, and eventually this hard work paid off, and I received multiple job offers!
I accepted the one which I thought was the most beneficial to me, and that was it!
My First Job!
My first AWS related job was a technical pre-sales role for a large multinational software company. In this role I became the go-to consultant in my organization when it came to answering questions about how my companies’ products are hosted on AWS. This would be about architecture, security, and other questions about how the cloud works in general.
This role gave me a lot of confidence and validation that my learning in fact did pay off, and I am indeed capable of working in the world of cloud.
During this time, I continued to write blog posts, I did a lot more YouTube videos and hobby projects, and I even passed my AWS Certified SysOps Administrator Associate exam! Not to mention we also had our second child!
At this point I was 3x AWS certified, and I also started teaching students in the AWS academy on a weekly basis. This is something I highly recommend, as it not only catapulted my learning to an entirely new level, but it also shows great enthusiasm and a desire to help others too.
At the time of writing this article, I have been working my current role for 4 months, and I have handed in my notice to start my new role at AWS! How on earth did that happen?
How I landed the AWS Technical Account Manager Job
It was not an easy process – the application process was almost like a job itself!
I decided to apply for the role of AWS Technical Account Manager, as this would be the perfect blend of using skills from my previous job roles, and applying my more recently learned technical knowledge, in a role in which the sky is the limit in terms of career progression.
An AWS Technical Account Manager (TAM) is a customer advocate, who communicates regularly with dedicated customers to help them make the best use of AWS to achieve their business goals. For me, this would be a dream come true.
The biggest tip I would give to anyone applying for Amazon AWS jobs is to be humble. Know what you know, and most importantly know what you don’t know – apply your knowledge in the context of the leadership principles, and you will be on your way to getting your dream job.
After 4 rounds of questions about my previous experience, as well as my technical knowledge I finally woke up one day to an email:
“Congratulations, we would like to offer you the role of a Technical Account Manager!”
I couldn’t believe it. In fact, I still can’t believe it, and with less than a month to go before my start date I am absolutely over the moon.
I now intend to continue learning, growing, and developing myself into the best AWS Technical Account Manager I can be. This isn’t the end for me, but a whole new beginning working for my dream company!
Take Home Points
Here’s a review of key points to take away, to ensure that you can follow in my footsteps and get the cloud job of your dreams, with zero to very little experience!
- Do not give up. You will get there if you remain dedicated and optimistic!
- Do as much extracurricular activities as you can. Create blog posts, hobby projects and make sure you are getting yourself out there on LinkedIn also.
- Get certified. This shows employers you know your stuff, especially if you lack experience.
- Do not compromise on your family, or your health, but remove the unnecessary activities from your life. No one is going to give you a job for watching Netflix! While one may think that in order to achieve academic / professional success, one needs to sacrifice your family life – the reality is that this does not need to happen. In fact, I couldn’t have done what I did alone, and the strength and support that my family provided me has ensured I got to where I wanted to go.
- Read around the subject, and when you are going into job interviews make sure you know about the company you are applying for.
- Teach others. This will make your knowledge that much deeper.
- Apply – Even if you do not match all the job specifications! To win the lottery, you must buy a ticket.
- Don’t just apply for strictly technical roles – there is nothing wrong with choosing a cloud role with no hands-on requirements for your first job.
- Be prepared to start in junior / entry level jobs such as AWS Cloud Support Associate or AWS Cloud Engineer rather than more senior jobs like an AWS Solutions Architect.
- You will get a lot of rejections – plough on anyway.
- Get excited about your future cloud career and be obsessed with your goals. Listen to podcasts, read, write, watch, and learn in any way you can!
In conclusion if I can go from a non-technical background to a job as an AWS Technical Account Manager – anyone can. It’s all a matter of how badly you want to achieve it.
About the Author
This article was written by Jack Lavelle. Jack is an AWS enthusiast, with a passion for helping people pivot into a career in cloud. Follow him on LinkedIn for more tips on how to break into Cloud.
What else can I do to score my dream cloud job?
Check out other articles that will help you advance your cloud career goals:
- 10 Tips on How to Enter the Cloud Computing Industry
- 5 Cloud Skills you (may) already have
- Preparing For AWS Interview Questions
- How to Create a CV Website on Amazon S3
- Top-Paying Cloud Certifications and Jobs
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