AWS Government, Education, & Nonprofits Blog

From the DoD to AWS: The AWS Military Fellowship

As part of our commitment to our military, we had the opportunity to sit down with our three AWS Military fellows during their first few months at AWS (learn more about this program in our post here). Last week you read our Q&A blog with Lieutenant Colonel Maria Schneider, U.S. Army Acquisition Officer, as she talked about her experience within the Department of Defense (DoD), her goals for her time at AWS, and what she has learned so far.

Our next interview is with Captain James Thomas (JT), U.S. Airforce Communications Officer.

How did you get involved in this program? What attracted you to the AWS Military Fellowship?

JT: My career field within the Air Force led me to look into the slots available within the IT portion of the program that would place me with AWS. Coming from a career in the military, I was interested in how innovation happened on the commercial side of the fence. My goal was to take this experience with industry and bring it back to the DoD. I applied in May, found out in December, and in the summer I packed my bags in England and moved here to start with Amazon in September as my new duty station. I hope to capitalize on this experience and use it at my next assignment to shape DoD’s adoption of commercial cloud services. The DoD is going through an education time with cloud and small pockets have adopted. With my interest and knowledge gained, I hope to help alleviate roadblocks wherever my next assignment takes me.

What are your focus areas here at AWS? What are your focus areas within the DoD?

JT: During my time here, I am focusing on entire aspects of the AWS Cloud and how to operate and deploy. I am working to learn the exact security policies that are behind it, key concerns, and compliance and acquisition requirements. Mainly, I want to understand what is happening on this side so that when I go back on the other side of the fence, I am able to help realize the benefits of the cloud for the DoD.  Before I arrived at AWS, I dealt with data center management and different network enclaves in the DoD network, which connected over into cloud. Now I am learning the specific tools needed for the secure operations of a commercial cloud.

What are some lessons learned at AWS that you are able to bring back to your role in the DoD?

JT:  I am amazed by the pace of innovation, and that can’t be copied. Everyone thinks they can do some innovative things, but not everyone can at the speed and pace that is done here. This pace of innovation coupled with the management framework, leads to success. This is similar to the military construct I am used to, but there is a lack of micromanagement here, which breeds innovation.  We are given the freedom to get the work done. And looking at Amazon’s Leadership Principle of “Think Big,” I plan to bring this mentality back with me.

What military values are you able to transfer to industry?

JT: The Air Force core values are integrity first, service before self, and excellence in all we do. These values ensure we deliver results, which is a key Leadership Principle at AWS. I hope to copy and paste this mentality, and continue to deliver results as best and as fast as we can.

Give an example of what has been your favorite part about your time at AWS?

JT: I enjoy learning about the technical set up and services, but my general excitement about working for AWS is that I am a part of something big, and I have the opportunity to contribute to something big. I see the benefits of this technology in the military every day, and I love being a part of it. I am inspired to do better work each day.

We are very appreciative for the fellows’ insights and for the time they took to share their experiences. Stay tuned for our third and final interview with Master Sergeant Kelly Butler, U.S Army Acquisition Non-Commissioned Officer, and more information about how to apply to become an AWS Military Fellow.