AWS Public Sector Blog

How AWS supports state of Virginia and US veterans: new impact study highlights collaboration’s success

In 2016, Amazon made a public commitment to hire and train military veterans and spouses. Our training and apprenticeship programs—in collaboration with state and federal government, veterans’ organizations, and educational institutions—help transitioning service members and spouses develop skills to prepare them for AWS software development, support, and data center operations roles. Amazon currently employs more than 40,000 veterans and military spouses across multiple businesses, including operations, sustainability, Alexa, and Amazon Web Services (AWS), exceeding our 2016 goal of hiring 25,000 by 2021. In July, we made a new commitment to hire over 100,000 U.S. veterans and military spouses by 2024.

Virginia is home to one of the densest populations of veterans. In 2019, according to the US Census Bureau, more than 10% of Virginia residents were veterans. Even before the construction of Amazon’s Arlington, VA Headquarters (HQ2), Amazon has a long history in Virginia. In fact, the AWS story begins in Virginia, where in 2006, we began offering IT infrastructure services to businesses in the form of web services. This week, we rolled out our 10-year economic impact study, highlighting how successful the collaboration between Virginia and AWS has been for both. Since 2011, AWS has invested $35 billion into the state through our infrastructure investments—and in 2020 alone, the construction and operation of AWS data centers generated $1.3 billion in gross domestic product for Virginia and supported more than 13,500 jobs.

As both a Virginian and an Amazonian, what I’m most proud of is the civic programs and workforce development we’ve created with Virginia to enhance the lives of citizens with our presence. The world’s first Amazon Think Big Space opened at River Oaks Elementary in Woodbridge, Virginia. AWS works with universities and educational institutions in Virginia to prepare the workforce of tomorrow and address the high demand for workers with cloud computing skills in Virginia. Amazon’s Veteran Technical Apprenticeship program launched at Northern Virginia Community College in 2017.

Terry Dickerson, a practice manager at AWS and US Army veteran, is an illustration of the success we’ve realized with Amazon’s Veteran Technical Apprenticeship, who in 2017 took a chance on us and the state of Virginia because of the program. We’re delighted to have him share his story of how our partnership with the higher education system in Virginia has opened the door to a career he sought out:


In the late 80s early 90s, MacGyver and the A-Team were two of the popular shows in my grandparents’ home. I would spend countless hours imagining that I had the skills to take seemingly random components and invent a simple solution to get out of a tight jam.

One day, I came across a junk computer while visiting my relatives. I was immediately hooked. It had everything—wiring, circuitry, and other components that I couldn’t name at the time. I looked at those components and saw a world of possibility.

When I graduated from high school, I joined the US Army and served multiple tours of duty. During that time, I would ask, “How can technology could help me and my fellow soldiers?” I would tinker to find the answer. At one point, I built an internet café by assembling a satellite receiver in a bunker in Baghdad, so that soldiers could stay connected to our families back home.

When I left the military, I knew I wanted a career in technology. I had watched a number of documentaries about starting an IT career, and the plan seemed clear: I had to get myself to Silicon Valley, to find a job and a mentor who could help me build a career. So, I started shopping for an RV. I budgeted for six to eight months of living in the RV. I hoped that by then, I would have my foot in the door. It was daunting to being leaving the military, but I assumed I had to close that chapter of my life to start the next one. I was wrong

Before I hit the road to California, two Amazon recruiters visited the base where I was stationed. I told them my plan. They asked if I had heard of Amazon’s Veteran Technical Apprenticeship program that was launching at Northern Virginia Community College. For the first time, I saw that someone wanted me to bring my military experience to the table—not leave it behind. I moved to Virginia and enrolled in the program in 2017. It was more than a class. In addition to learning the technology, I learned how to be a civilian. Our instructors from the school were former military too. They understood how we veterans react when we’re frustrated, when we’re inspired, and when we’re confused and need more help.

Just as important, I learned that there is a whole sector of Amazon that is based here in Virginia that supports government customers. And we’re part of an entire technology industry in Virginia that is dedicated to serving customers like the US military. Just knowing that I can still do the things that are close to my heart is something I never expected. For years, I’ve kept a notebook of all the improvements that could be made for men and women in the military. I thought I would have to give that up to start a technology career. But being in Virginia, it is a central part of my job. A while back, I was telling my mentor about some challenges I knew soldiers faced at my old base. I thought technology could help. My mentor encouraged me to write up a plan, which I then presented on behalf of Amazon to the US Army. As a result of that meeting, we eventually held a briefing with a four-star general about the work we do.

One of my biggest takeaways from my entire journey is that not enough people know about the possibilities here in Virginia. How many other people think that you have to go to California to start your IT career? I’m so excited that Amazon has created opportunities for veterans like me right here in a community I’m proud to call my home.


Read the Virginia economic impact study here.

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Shannon Kellogg

Shannon Kellogg

Shannon Kellogg is vice president of public policy at Amazon, where he leads the company’s public policy efforts in support of the Amazon Web Services (AWS) business in the Americas. In this role, he manages government affairs professionals in Canada, US (federal and state levels), and Latin America, and focuses on issues such as artificial intelligence, cloud computing, cyber security, IT modernization, procurement policy, workforce development, and renewable energy.

Terry Dickerson

Terry Dickerson

Terry Dickerson is a practice manager at Amazon Web Services (AWS) and US Army veteran.