Landing your early cloud career role: Blog #2 – Solidifying your technical toolkit for your interview
Authors’ notes: This article is ideal for recent college and university graduates or early career professionals interested in applying to technical cloud roles, including associate solutions architect, associate technical trainer, associate technical account manager, associate customer solutions manager, and associate professional services consultant at AWS.
In our last blog, we introduced you to the technical roles at AWS and some of the qualifications for each. Now that you’ve learned a little bit more about the different roles, this second blog in our three-part series will dive into the technical topics you should be well versed in to qualify for the cloud role(s) you’re pursuing and how to prepare yourself for interviews: assessing your technical skills, Amazon Leadership Principles, the STAR format for answering interview questions, and stories to validate your experience.
Foundational technical areas to understand as an early cloud professional
At this point, you’re likely familiar with AWS services, but it may seem daunting to know how to use each of the over 200 services and diverse areas of technology offered. It’s important to remember that toward the beginning of your career, you may not be specialized in any one area, like databases or machine learning. Non-specialized roles—or generalist roles—are a common first step in your professional journey and a great way to learn about the many different areas. Using this experience, you may select a domain that especially piques your interest as a specialty. We want to reassure you that at this stage in your career, it’s okay if you don’t know everything.
For the most part, the roles we outlined in our previous blog require knowledge of the following technical areas. To ensure you understand each, ask yourself: If I were to teach someone the basics of the following topics, what would I tell them?
Practice answering the following questions out loud. If you’re less confident in certain domains, that’s okay. AWS Training and Certification has more than 500 free digital courses, from foundational to advanced, so you can brush up on any of these topics.
- How is information transmitted from digital bits to an end user?
- How does the internet work (hint: what is the underlying hardware/software)?
- How do you send and receive messages from your computer to another computer?
- What are the different types of storage and their distinctions?
- Why would you use one storage option over another?
- What type of data can be stored in what type of storage?
Database and data analytics
- What are the components of a database?
- What are the different types of databases and their distinctions?
- When would you use each one?
- Do you prepare your data set for analysis? If so how?
- How do you analyze a data set?
- What are some common security threats?
- What are some traditional security procedures?
- How do we mitigate or prevent these threats from happening?
- What are some examples of cyberattacks?
Operating systems (OS)
- What is the purpose of an operating system?
- What are the fundamental components of an operating system?
- What is the distinction between different operating systems and how they work?
- How do you increase your operating system efficiency?
- What are the traditional tiers of an application?
- Have you developed an app before?
- What were the components of the app you developed?
- What are some challenges you might face while developing an app?
- What programming language are you most familiar with?
- What are some basic concepts about this language?
- What makes it different from other languages?
- When would you use it?
- What is the difference between time and space complexities?
- What are some sorting algorithms and their complexities?
Your experiences matter: How to prepare for technical, experience-based questions
Now that you’re feeling confident in your technical knowledge, it’s time to think about preparing for your AWS interviews. You’ll want to mine your memory of past jobs and projects to recall an exhaustive list of all your experiences. Some of the experiences may include past internships, part-time jobs, group projects, research, design teams, and hackathons. Even if you’re not sure it’s applicable to the role, write it down.
Next, think about these experiences in the context of Amazon’s Leadership Principles. These are important principles that every Amazon employee demonstrates every day in their work. Align specific experiences to each of these principles and practice describing how you demonstrated the behavior using the STAR format. Your stories should have a beginning (situation/task), a middle (actions), and an ending (results). This is the recommended approach for sharing your experience while interviewing with Amazon. Ideally, identify two examples per Leadership Principle.
Write down as many details of your experiences as you can, using these questions to guide your recall:
- What did I learn during this experience (soft skills and technical skills)?
- Who did I work with (a team, external customers, contractors, etc.)?
- What were some challenges that I faced with different people I worked with, and how did I overcome them?
- What technical tools did I use?
- How did I solve challenges to deliver results?
- What were some of my biggest accomplishments during the experience?
- Was the project successful? How do I know?
- What results did I achieve? How did I measure success for this project?
- What would I have improved or changed if I could do it all over again?
Example: Internship at AnyCompany
- I developed an application to streamline inventory purchases for a warehouse.
- I worked with a small team—a product manager, UX designer and another intern.
- The UX designer and product manager had different priorities and there was a tight deadline of four weeks to complete the project.
- I learned how to use Github as a repository and learned some CI/CD best practices.
- I used a PostgreSQL database and Amazon DynamoDB.
- I received recognition for usability and durability of the application upon launch. It’s also being scaled for use at multiple warehouses for the company.
- I would have scoped the project out earlier and coordinated team meetings to sync on the project. The project was stalled for a while because of security issues. I should have met with the security engineers sooner and kept security as one of the first priorities.
It may seem excessive to go through this exercise for a dozen or more separate experience examples, but you’ll be thankful you took the time to be thorough. By doing so, you’ll increase your ability to respond to a range of questions qualifying your experience and technical acumen. Practice describing your role and outcomes from each of these scenarios. Continue practicing to build your confidence in your technical expertise and your presentation skills while speaking about your work.
In the next blog, we’ll talk about how to present yourself in your interview through dedicated practice of technical topics to a technical and nontechnical audience. See you in the next blog!