A communicator’s path to earning an AWS Certification
Editor’s note: This blog highlights one learner’s journey to an AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner certification. Jenn Kaufer, an AWS Communications Program Manager, shares her experience preparing for and taking the exam and explains the benefits of earning this certification, even for those in non-technical roles.
Employment anniversaries at Amazon are called “Amaversaries”, and they’re an important time for Amazonians to pause, and reflect on our careers. My first Amaversary happens to be today, which has me in an introspective mood. The thought that is front and center for me is how my career tracjectory has rocketed to a new level thanks to the decision I made to earn my Amazon Web Services (AWS) Cloud Practitioner certification in my first three months working for AWS’ Training and Certification (AWS T&C) organization. This isn’t hyperbole!
My journey to AWS
If my penchant for prose hasn’t given me away yet, I’m in the communications field—firmly in the “non-tech” category in our human resources system. I didn’t study to be a communicator, but came to it by way of the Great Recession in 2010, when jobs were scarce for a 20-year old whose only professional experience was bagging groceries. I had to get scrappy, and ultimately found a job as an administrative assistant answering phones and writing correspondence for an executive of a small environmental non-profit.
I got my Master’s degree in Public Policy in 2013. I job hopped for eleven years, helping non-profits and military components communicate to their employees and members. I felt like my career was progressing, I was promoted in 2019, and I was beginning to enter the world of people management. Then the global pandemic hit, and that came crashing down overnight.
My career progression plans were put on hold, and I lost my career advocates to the stress and uncertainty that the pandemic wrought. They couldn’t see what the future held, and truthfully neither could I.
In spring of 2021, it became clear to me it that if I wanted to keep growing I needed to change my perspective and find a new job. So, I joined the millions of workers who were leaning in to the Great Resignation to find work that better aligned to their needs and values. This is where AWS Training and Certification entered the picture for me. Thanks to a referral from my partner, Carly, I got a phone interview for a Senior Executive Communications Manager position, which progressed to the final round of Amazon’s interview process.
When I received my job offer, it was for a different position at a level lower than I had interviewed for. It was a blow to my ego, but the job description excited me; I liked the hiring manager and the job was on the same team; I decided to trust the process; I accepted the offer; my start date was July 26, 2021.
I share all of this because it provides insight into my mindset on my first day at AWS. New hire jitters were mixed with excitement, an overwhelming sense of change, and a desire to prove myself. But how? “Become AWS Cloud Practitioner Certified in your first six months,” my onboarding plan stated. Like Babe Ruth, the famous New York Yankees slugger, I pointed my metaphorical bat and called my shot—I was going to be certified in three.
Preparing for the AWS Cloud Practitioner Certification
This wasn’t an easy task. As someone who isn’t a “techie”, wrapping my head around the concept of cloud computing was hard. I decided to use Amazon’s famous working backwards method, which requires you start from your customer’s perspective, to teach myself about the AWS Cloud.
I read dozens of customers stories and learned how the AWS Cloud benefited their businesses, and people’s lives. Hospital systems were digitizing medical records to improve health outcomes, a non-profit was building and monitoring water systems in rural communities around the world to provide clean drinking water; the list goes on. The AWS Cloud makes a difference.
These stories helped me understand the core benefit of the AWS Cloud from a non-technical perspective—the cloud provides computing power to people, organizations, and enterprises without them needing to invest in hardware. They in turn can focus on their work, rather than maintaining servers.
I wanted to know more. How did someone get started in the cloud? What other customer challenges could the AWS Cloud help solve? I turned next to the AWS Cloud Essentials courses to dive deep. I gained access to hours of self-paced digital courses and labs that I could take at a pace that worked for me. Job roles in the cloud, the Well-Architected Framework, AWS service offerings, and pricing options—all of these things slowly began making sense.
The weeks before the exam were filled with pop quizzes given to me by my partner. Nothing was safe. Date nights, morning walks, trips to the pool—a pop quiz could be right around the corner. My favorite was when she asked, “What is AWS Snowcone?” while I was eating an Italian ice out on our screened patio. From cherry ice stained lips, I replied, “That provides customers with edge computing capabilities in remote areas. 8 terabytes of storage too!”
Just weeks before I couldn’t have told you what edge computing meant. Now, I could explain a lot of different concepts to myself, my partner, and my colleagues. I could see the bigger picture; I was ready for the exam. And I was. On September 3, 2021, I took the exam and passed, almost two months ahead of my goal.
It’s hard to draw a straight line from my certification to my current role as an executive communications manager for the director of T&C Products and Services, but to me it’s the obvious starting point of my growth at AWS. I was able to speak confidently in meetings about AWS’ service offerings, I understood our customers’ needs, and the fundamentals of our business. This in turn allowed me to earn trust with those that I work with, who valued my insights as a communicator, and I was invited to support special projects. I could feel my career growing again.
Then, this past May, my manager asked if I wanted to take on executive communications for T&C Products and Services. She believed I was capable of taking on the role I had originally interviewed for. I immediately said yes. The rest of my story is still unfolding, but the momentum started with my certification.
My story may seem unique, but it doesn’t have to be. Are you in a non-technical role supporting tech teams working in the AWS Cloud? Getting your AWS Cloud Practitioner Certification can help you build the understanding you need to excel at your work.
- Set a clear certification goal with a deadline and then work backwards from there
- Read AWS customer stories to understand how the AWS Cloud empowers them
- Check out AWS Skill Builder and search “AWS Cloud Essentials” – take the coursework
- Take advantage of the Cloud Practitioner Certification Challenge, which offers exam discounts
I wish you the best of luck on your cloud career adventure. The path may not be a direct one, but I know you can do it!
Please take a few minutes to share your experience with the AWS Training and Certification Blog in this survey. We’ll use your feedback to create content aligned with your and our readers’ preferences.