AWS touts investing in people as key element of success

The cloud giant's chief evangelist spoke with ZDNet about the importance of up-skilling staff and providing a forum for individuals to come together and share experiences.

Amazon Web Services (AWS) boasts hundreds of thousands of active customers within Australia, running the gamut of 65 of 70 top enterprises, including the likes of the National Australia Bank (NAB) and Qantas, and 49 of the top 50 startups such as Atlassian and Canva.

"We see ourselves in Australia as really helping organisations to grow and succeed," AWS chief evangelist Jeff Barr told ZDNet.

"They love us for the scale, they love the fact that we can help them go global with a presence all around the world ... today's startups are going to grow into probably tomorrow's enterprises and we think the future is going to depend on all the innovation, this ability to move fast, and to be technology-enabled so we want to help that to come to pass."

According to Barr, the level of innovation and creativity his organisation experiences in Australia is equal to that anywhere in the world.

Barr spoke with ZDNet while in Australia to deliver the keynote at AWS Community Day in Melbourne.

AWS Community Day is a global series of events, run by members of the community, that brings together local speakers, innovators, and "influencers" for attendees to learn about AWS topics such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, containers, and serverless computing.

See also: Cloud computing strategies, in-demand programming skills, and cybersecurity concerns: Research round-up

Barr said the tech-focused discussions and labs all have a huge focus on education.

"One of the things I noticed was this idea of up-skilling and making sure that people have the right skills in order to make sure they're very, very well prepared for the future," Barr said.

"A lot of it is about networking and it's always good for people to meet others that are undergoing -- that are on the same cloud journey as they are. They can compare notes, they can talk about best practices, they can make some business contacts, they can learn something new."

The idea of customers connecting with one another is also breaking down the traditional proposition of a business keeping its cards close and not sharing the details of its secret sauce. It's something Barr said has happened as a side effect of the cloud proposition.

"It's a popular platform that's being used by a lot of different people in a lot of different ways, and then the knowledge that one person gains as they master some aspects of that platform and they decide to use it for let's say a particular application area, maybe for IoT or for doing some kind of simulation, once they learn something new, they say this is of value to my peers as well, and they feel it's a worthwhile thing to do to go about and share it," he explained.

In Australia, AWS has partnerships with a handful of organisations, such as RMIT Online and NAB, that focus on up-skilling individuals.

See more: NAB doubles down on value of data and analytics with new in-house guilds

"There's a perception that our customers, and our potential customers, they just want to move into the future really fast because they're looking at the benefits of the cloud," Barr said.

"Customers are saying we've got to get there really, really, really fast, and they're saying let's do everything possible to get our workforces educated."

Discussing the benefits of educating or up-skilling existing staff, Barr suggested it's a good idea to invest in people already a part of an organisation.

"In a lot of cases the existing staff are the ones with the business expertise and the knowledge, and they understand their particular domains," he said. "From a purely human interest point of view, it's a lot better to take the people you've already hired and that you've trained over the course of years and say, 'Let's help you to move into the future' than not do anything about development and find someone else who has developed their career elsewhere."

He said it's a lot more generous and fair to take existing employees and invest in their future.

"I think the employees recognise that and are going to appreciate that too -- it's got to help with long term retention of employees, when their employer is investing in them and making sure that they've got the right skills," Barr continued.

"Just talking to people [at AWS Community Day], the sense that they absolutely honed in on education being the key to their future prosperity -- that's a really neat thing to see."

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