AWS Training and Certification Blog

From Massage Therapist to Cloud Associate with AWS Academy

Hector Rodriguez never planned to work his way up to a job at a financial services company. But, years after coming to the United States from the Dominican Republic with little knowledge of English, he is now a public cloud associate at Morgan Stanley.

The road to this role was long and sometimes fraught with obstacles. However, the courses he took at Queensborough Community College (QCC) set him on his path to becoming a cloud associate. These courses were designed by AWS Academy, which provides higher education institutions with ready-to-teach cloud computing curriculum to prepare students for industry-recognized AWS Certifications and careers in the cloud.

A self-taught neighborhood IT repairman

Growing up in the Dominican Republic, Hector had a knack for teaching himself. He’d always been interested in computers, and learned how to repair discarded ones. As a boy, he became the unofficial IT repairman of his neighborhood.

Hector then came to the United States in 2009 with his mother and siblings to join his father, who had come to the country before Hector was born to try to find a better life for the family. When Hector arrived, he didn’t know much English and was held back to redo the 10th grade.

After graduating from high school, Hector took additional English courses at QCC, where he later returned to get a certification in massage therapy. He worked as a massage therapist from 2016 until his job shut down in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic.

An introduction to the cloud sparks interest…and opportunity

Losing his massage therapist job led to financial difficulties for Hector and his young family, especially with a second child on the way. As he worked odd jobs to keep his family afloat, Hector re-enrolled at QCC with the goal of earning some IT certifications to open more job opportunities. One of his first classes was a free coding class, where he fell in love with the subject matter. Recognizing talent when he saw it, one of Hector’s professors encouraged him to keep pushing himself to learn more in tech.

Taking this advice to heart, Hector kept going and landed his first internship soon after, where he learned about cloud computing for the first time. His interest in the cloud was piqued, and in 2021, Hector enrolled in an AWS Academy cloud architecting course through QCC. Hector noticed the course in an email about the college’s continuing education department, where QCC offers classes at no cost. After some online research into AWS Academy, Hector was excited to learn and get started. “Going into the cloud computing course, I saw all the components, all the moving parts, and it made sense to me,” says Hector. “I started liking it and it opened up a whole new world to me. I could practice cloud computing online from my house, and I didn’t have to pay a lot of money.”

With the course as a foundation, Hector worked up to more advanced cloud computing classes and earned his first AWS Certification, AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner, validating his foundational understanding of AWS concepts, services, and terminology. Though Hector went back to work as a massage therapist for a few months later in 2021, from then on, he knew that his passion was working in the cloud. To make his dreams a reality, Hector continued taking free college courses through the continuing education department and focused on completing more cloud-related internships to build up his résumé.

The hard work pays off

Over the next six months, Hector worked hard to expand his cloud computing knowledge with additional online training. Having the AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner certification under his belt gave him confidence and meant he was well-equipped with foundational cloud skills to build upon. All his hard work and perseverance paid off when he accepted his first full-time cloud role as a cloud associate with Morgan Stanley in February 2022.

Hector says his preparation through the AWS Academy courses at QCC helps him immensely in his job. “A big perk of taking the classes was that I got to learn about the cloud industry generally and how cloud providers work very similarly,” he says. “Now, I can work with things I have never heard of before and decipher them pretty fast. That was the best value I got out of the courses.”

Hector has come a long way from fixing his neighbors’ computers as a little boy in the Dominican Republic. Through AWS Academy curriculum, online training, internships, and a passion to learn, he has launched the start of what will surely be a successful cloud career. Hector plans to add to his knowledge by taking classes on machine learning and artificial intelligence. But for now, he says, “I’m grateful to have time to allocate to my family and to better myself personally and professionally. If you’re considering taking cloud training, my advice is to just do it.”

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