Landing your early cloud career role: Blog #3 – Sharpening your presentation skills
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 this third and final blog of our series, we’re going to provide some best practices for interviewing successfully for a technical role from the perspective of your physical presence and presentation skills. We already talked about the qualifications for these roles (blog 1) and how to prepare yourself with ample experience examples for your interview (blog 2). Presentation skills are important for any professional role, especially for those who are customer-facing. In this case, all the AWS roles we’ve been discussing in this series include time working directly with customers. Let’s dive into channeling your inner Andy Jassy while interviewing.
Practicing your presentation skills for your interview
In your interview for any of these roles, you’ll be expected to present technical content encompassing a solution made up of services and their features. It’s important to be able to articulate your approach to often complex, technical topics in an effective manner through white-boarding or a presentation. You may also be asked to share personal-development experiences and new insights you’ve learned. Also, be prepared to describe your communication, organization, and time-management skills, which are all essential for success in your role.
In our last blog, we asked you to practice explaining your experience examples out loud. Now, we want you to practice sharing technical topics. Consider asking a family member, colleague, or friend to listen so you can practice and have another person provide feedback. If you’re alone, practice in the mirror. We recommend preparing in the following format:
Practice a 30-second elevator pitch about yourself, including:
- Your name.
- A brief highlight of your work and technical credential history.
- Something unique to make you stand out (e.g., you speak five languages or earned two AWS Certifications in the past six months).
- A question to continue the conversation past an introduction (e.g., what are you passionate about?).
Speak for two minutes on a technical topic that you’re really interested in. Make sure to:
- Provide a high-level introduction on the technical topic with a hook to gain the audience’s interest.
- Move into the body of the presentation, which includes three supporting points to further explain the topic.
- Wrap it up with a use case and next steps (e.g., where the audience can learn more).
Now, taking the same technical concept as above, explain it as you would to a friend or family member who lacks technical expertise. Increase the presentation to 15 to 20 minutes and try to use a diagram to explain the concept. This will help you understand how to present the core components of the topic to any technical audience, which is an important skill to have.
Practice with at least two different individuals so you can see which areas you need to further explain or simplify. Ask your audience which part was not clear or confusing so you can improve and tighten your presentation. Continue practicing until you feel confident you can explain the topic area to anyone regardless of their technology background. Make sure you time yourself so you know how long your presentation will be.
While working on the exercises above, think about your audience, the structure of your content, and your delivery of the presentation through speech and body language. Ask a friend for feedback:
- How clear, yet concise, is it? It’s important to repeat some key information that you’d like your listener to hear. But be careful—over-repetition can also lead to confusion.
How engaging is the content? Even though it may not be an interesting topic for everyone, think about how you can make it interesting or maintain your listener’s attention.
- Is the flow of the presentation easy to follow? It should have a clear introduction that leads into a logical flow of information and wraps up with a solid conclusion.
Does the overall presentation make sense? Consider using an analogy to help your audience understand, connect, and relate to your topic.
It’s also important to be conscious of the speed of your speech, tone of your voice, and your level of excitement, along with showing confidence with your body language. Some questions you can ask yourself include:
- How fast are you speaking? Ensure you’re enunciating and slowing down as necessary. Your practice audience, and eventually the person with whom you’ll interview, can only process your answer so quickly. Sometimes, when we’re excited or nervous (or both), we speak too fast. The remedy is to pause and take a breath. This is normal, and your audience will understand. Also, remember: quality over quantity.
- How is your quality of speech? Try to use business-professional language, but ensure it’s natural to who you are as a person, and speak with excitement about the topics you enjoy. Avoid words that may be colloquial. Make sure to explain any acronyms or potentially unfamiliar vocabulary.
- How do you display confidence? Think about the times you felt empowered and confident. Try to embody those moments. You can display your confidence throughout the interview by maintaining eye contact, smiling, and radiating positive energy.
The art of saying “I don’t know”
The goal of your interview is to get to know you better by asking questions to ensure you’re successful in your potential role. You may be great at computer security and have experience with databases but have never developed a web application. That’s okay! Don’t be discouraged if you aren’t able to answer every single question. Not everyone has the same breadth or depth of knowledge. Here are some tips when you’re unsure how to answer a question:
- Follow an “I don’t know” statement by telling the interviewer something you do know and ask them if it’s related to the topic they’re asking you about. You could say, “I’m not familiar with that topic, but is <fill in the blank> something I may tell you more about?”
- Don’t continuously tell them about how you’ll research the topic after the interview is done or how you’ve been meaning to look into the topic. We want to see and hear your excitement about learning, but it takes away from the interviewer’s time if you mention it after every question.
- Be concise with your answer. If you don’t know anything related, it’s better to say so and allow the interviewer to move onto another topic.
Finally, we recommend tackling the above exercises over the course of a few days or even weeks. As AWS’s CEO Andy Jassy says, “There’s no compression algorithm for experience.” It’s often better to pace your activities rather than cramming it all in the day before your interview. You may have school, work, and other responsibilities. You know yourself best, so prioritize your tasks and don’t skimp on practice.
Okay, there you have it, our best tips to prepare yourself for exciting, early technical cloud roles. We hope you’ve learned a thing or two from this blog series and encourage you to stay curious in your cloud learning, think big about your career opportunities, and be obsessed with what you can innovate next!