AWS Training and Certification Blog

Bouncing back: shifting from hospitality to cloud

Almost everyone has pivoted in some way because of the global COVID-19 pandemic. For Antonio O’Donnell, that moment came abruptly. A decade after he came to the United States from his native Peru, he built a solid career as a manager for major hotel brands—then, in late 2020, his position was eliminated. With a young family, he sought a way to turn that challenge to his advantage.

Antonio enrolled in Amazon Web Services (AWS) re/Start—a full-time, classroom-based skills training program that prepares professionals for cloud-based careers. He used that experience to orient himself in an industry he’d known about but never worked in, to make valuable connections, and to earn his AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner and AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate certifications. Along with his certifications came the confidence and credibility he sought at the start of a brand-new career.

Soon after, he landed his first cloud job as a cloud enablement associate consultant with Slalom, a consulting firm in the US, UK, and Canada that focuses on strategy, technology, and business transformation. Today, as part of Slalom’s cloud enablement team, he’s able to help new clients take on challenges of their own.

This blog will share highlights from Antonio’s story, in his own words.

Embarking on a new career via AWS re/Start

AWS re/Start graduate, Antonio O'Donnell, his wife, Cheryle, son, Mateo, and daughter, Alessandra.I knew the hospitality industry would take a long time to recover, so it was time for me to make a change. I always liked technology, and when I researched it, I saw there was a lot of growth happening. I also saw there were many resources available for someone who wants to learn cloud. You can get certifications. But it was hard to get a job. I wanted a program that would help a beginner like me make connections with employers. AWS re/Start offered this feature, making it a stand out from other cloud training programs.  

Timing was a big part of this. My wife, who is American, was working as a teacher in Peru when we met. Now she teaches in the public school system in Freehold, New Jersey near where we live. It’s the nature of her job that opened a window for me to enroll in the re/Start training, because her summer vacation corresponded with the dates of the re/Start cohort in my area.  She was able to be with our kids, who are now 4 and 7, while I was in class during the day. At another time of year, I wouldn’t have been able to enroll.

Starting my AWS Training was a big emotional shift from the previous eight or nine months, when she was teaching and I was home helping our kids with their own virtual school. I felt a lot of pressure and I needed a turning point.

When expectations are exceeded

It was a big challenge to go into another industry and start over. AWS re/Start helped a lot. I hadn’t participated in a program like this before, and I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was excited and curious. I was in a group of about 20 people, many of whom come from different backgrounds. I was happy to build relationships with others in my cohort. A few of us even got together after graduating from the program to study for the AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate certification.

The course was very interactive—we were assigned tasks and labs and worked in groups. Our instructors were helpful and patient. They didn’t just assign things; they worked with us. I would say the AWS Training provided the centerpiece of my career transition. I also did a lot of training on my own at night, and AWS gave me a foundation to pave the way.

Finding a network of fellow cloud learners

There was a Slack channel for Latinos in technology called Techqueria, and that’s where I first heard about Slalom. I found the ability to connect with others—become part of a community—was really an important source of support, and we still call on one another. When I went in for the interview, I already had the AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate certification, and they were very impressed. I started with Slalom at the beginning of 2022, and now I’m working toward my AWS Certified Developer – Associate certification. I want to keep my momentum going.

Making the leap from learner to professional

Because I was starting with no technical background, I had to work harder to gain credibility amongst my peers and potential employers. Having the AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate certification boosted my confidence, helped me stand out from the crowd, and made a difference when I went to secure a job in this technical field. The team at Slalom were very pleased to find I had this certification already—usually new hires start by training to earn this certification, and I already had it this under my belt.

I’m still ramping up here at Slalom, and right now I’m focused on getting settled and establishing myself. This feels like a place where I can be myself, and I’m very happy and eager to get started.

My advice to others in a similar position? AWS re/Start is a great program to get you up to speed if you are interested in cloud. For me, it was a stepping stone to a clean slate. Just know that it requires a commitment. This is the beginning of a journey. The work doesn’t end when the program does. But I also hope people can see from my example that this effort is worth it—changing careers is difficult and challenging, but taking charge of your future this way can open a new world of opportunities. Don’t give up.

Learn more about AWS re/Start and AWS Cloud Education Programs

AWS Education Programs are preparing graduates for cloud roles in cities and towns around the world. We designed our curriculum by working backwards from employer requirements, ensuring that graduates are qualified and prepared with the skills needed. If you’re interested in participating in or hiring from AWS Education Programs, you can learn more about Amazon’s workforce programs for the public and our commitment to provide free cloud skills training to 29 million people around the world by 2025. Learn more about AWS Training and Certification.