Meet the team: behind-the-scenes at Amazon in Ireland
Amazon is expanding its footprint in Ireland with the announcement of plans to create 1,000 permanent jobs in the country over the next two years – bringing Amazon’s total permanent workforce in Ireland to 5,000 people.
The new, highly skilled roles will be based in locations across the company’s Cork and Dublin sites in Blanchardstown, Tallaght, the city centre, and north County Dublin. We are also planning a new campus for Amazon Web Services (AWS) at Charlemont Square, which will open in 2022.
These new roles will include software development engineers, network development engineers, systems development engineers, optical deployment engineers, database engineers, Dev Ops engineers, and support engineers, as well as data centre technicians and mechanical and electrical engineers, solutions architects, security specialists, big data specialists, technical and non-technical programme managers, and account managers.
We spoke to employees in range of roles – from Quality Assurance Engineers to UX Designers – to find out more about life working for Amazon and AWS in Ireland.
Kat Howie – Data Centre Operations Technical Project Manager, AWS
Kat is originally from Belfast and moved to Dublin in 2003 for college. “I fell in love with the atmosphere of the city, my friends moved here as well, I started to put down roots and never looked back. There’s a lot to do here – but you can’t beat a cup of coffee with friends.”
Her early career was spent working in the hospitality sector: “I did every job in hotels, apart from cooking!” But nearly a decade ago, she decided to follow her passion for computing, taking a number of courses to upskill herself. She joined Amazon seven years ago and now leads a team as Technical Project Manager in the AWS data centre network,where she ensures AWS services operate to the highest possible standards at all times.
“Every day is a little bit different”, Kat explains. “We focus on addressing issues in the Dublin area. For example, if we notice a hardware issue in one of the servers, we’ll organise a response with our escalation and hardware teams to source the parts we need and find a solution.”
“I really enjoy the challenge of solving problems. My top priority is to enable everybody else to do their job. Unblocking challenges for colleagues gives you a great sense of satisfaction. Right across the business, we all work as a team.”
One of Kat’s core tasks is to support and promote the culture of innovation: “A lot of great change comes from within at AWS. I work with a range of technical teams to understand what their challenges are and how we can improve. Some of the best innovations can come from the simplest idea that nobody has ever thought of, and any employee at any level of the business can come forward with that suggestion. When it’s a good idea, everything just clicks into place.”
One of Kat’s big ambitions is to help the next generation of girls get into technology through AWS GetIT. “When I did my first IT course at college, I was ‘warned’ that I would be the only girl in the class. That was my first real experience of gender-based preconceptions. I didn’t have any problem with being the only girl!”
As one of 20 women across AWS in Ireland who have volunteered be part of GetIT, set to launch in September, she says: “We are seeing a definite improvement in the gender split across the industry, but there’s always more to do. That’s why I want to use my experience to help others. If more young girls see people like me, we can help to break the cycle of those preconceptions.”
Kat is also active with AWS InCommunities, the company’s initiative to support local communities in the areas where it operates. She has recently worked on projects including refreshing the communal space at a centre for adults with learning difficulties, and a new family room on a hospital ward for palliative care. “Community outreach is a way for us to connect with people outside of work and show our values and principles as an organisation.”
Sunday Jimoh – Cloud Support Engineer, AWS
When he was growing up in Nigeria, Sunday admired his uncle, who worked as a chemical engineer in the country’s petroleum sector: “I wanted to be like him, but at the same time I was also interested in computing – and I never liked chemistry! Gaming was a big thing for me, and that set me on a path towards computing.”
He studied a five-year degree in Computer Engineering at the University of Benin in Nigeria and later moved to Ireland, where he completed a Master’s degree in Information and Network Security at the University of Limerick.
“I wanted to dive deeper into how networks work, most importantly cyber and data security. When I interviewed for AWS, a lot of the questions related back to what I had been studying.”
Sunday’s team supports “every flavour” of core database systems for AWS. “We help customers through any issues they may face, for example if they’re unable to perform certain tasks,” he explains. “We provide in-depth guidance and share insights into best practices. For example, if a customer encounters any issues while performing data migration from existing on-premise systems to AWS, we’ll help them every step of the way until the issue is resolved.”
“In my role, it’s important to have a passion for problem-solving. You have to be curious, not just about technology and processes, but about people too. Helping a customer by resolving an issue gives you a great sense of relief and satisfaction.”
Sunday matches his technical knowledge with ‘soft’ skills: “Growing up I always had an affinity with people – I could easily relate, communicate, and I learned how to lead. That translates into my work with customers today. Those are important skills in my other role as a Quality Champion here, where I help to raise the bar for customer interactions across my team.” He has also started to create video content for AWS, designed to provide users with practical tips, troubleshooting guides and FAQs.
“Overall, I love the pace of life in Dublin. People here are warm and welcoming. There is less rush and hustle. You’re very safe, and you can chat to strangers in public.
And how does the weather compare? “I actually prefer it here and don’t mind the rain! In Nigeria you’re always hot, looking for the air conditioning and always reaching for a bottle of cold water. So a bit of rain is like a holiday.”
Yuki Jiang – User Experience Designer, AWS
Originally from Beijing, China, Yuki first travelled to Ireland as part of an Erasmus exchange programme, when she came here to study at the University of Limerick. “I knew all about Ireland because I was big fan of Irish musicians, like U2 and Enya!”
After she graduated, Yuki won a scholarship to study a Master’s degree in Ireland in User Experience (UX) Design. Having worked in the high education and travel sectors as a UX Designer, she jumped at the chance to join AWS when they were hiring UX Designers in 2018.
As a UX Designer, Yuki’s expertise lies in bringing creative design together with engineering, to ensure software products from AWS are not just useful, but also beautiful and joyful to use.
Her job involves “a lot of creativity, lots of drawing”. She also holds creative workshops, “to identify customer pain points, bring people together to ideate various solutions and to create the best user experience for customers.” She’s passionate about promoting the importance of UX design, spreading her knowledge of design-thinking in this engineer-driven environment.
Yuki explains how her core skills includes technical aspects such as user experience design, user interface design and user research. However, she also needs to be a collaborator, a team player, a strong communicator and an influencer.
Her passion for creativity extends beyond her work – she also designs and creates her own clothes, drawing inspiration from the city of Dublin, the people around her, and her experience on the “beautiful campus” of Limerick.
“I would describe my experience in Ireland as culture shock compared to China – and that’s exactly what I wanted when I moved here. To speak a new language, meet new people, see new places and explore a new culture – that’s the fuel any creative person needs.”
Davin Rice, Senior Manager, EMEAI Backbone Network Development, AWS
Having lived and worked in Dublin most of his life, Davin has seen how the city provides “all the key ingredients for growth in the technology sector”, including a highly educated workforce, strong engineering expertise and an easy place to do business.
When it comes to work-life balance, he feels “lucky that I can work on a global scale for one of the most exciting organisations in any industry, while living in a place I love.”
Although COVID-19 has restricted his ability to travel for work, it has given him extra time with the family: “I have two young kids, including a new-born, so they keep me busy!”
Davin began his early career with a local telecoms engineering business, which saw him immersed in everything from product development, testing, project management, marketing and client relations. “You get incredible opportunities in a small business,” he explains, “but I was also looking for a more structured path, both for my skills and my career as a whole.”
Davin joined AWS in 2016 a role managing what’s called ‘metro fibre network development’, which he describes as the network ‘plumbing’ that connects data centres within an AWS Compute region. Over three years, he built and led this team from one colleague to a team of ten.
His current team is involved in planning and acquiring long-haul connectivity infrastructure, as well as project management, and problem-solving operations. “Let’s say a sub-sea cable is damaged by a fisherman’s anchor,” he explains. “We would work with suppliers to co-ordinate a repair and to identify if we need to reconfigure network pathways in the short-term.”
Davin adds that planning and acquiring connectivity across entire continents calls on a huge range of skills: backbone engineering, optical engineering, network design, contract negotiations, financial analysis, project management, knowledge of network operations and more. “Every day is different – it’s a very dynamic industry to work in.”
Nicaise Ishimwe – Quality Assurance Engineer, Alexa International
Born and raised in Rwanda, Nicaise’s formative years were influenced by the difficult situation in her home country – experiences that helped to shape her socially conscious attitude to technology.
“My parents always protected me, so as a child in Rwanda I didn’t always understand what was happening before the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. During the genocide, when we had to flee an area, you would meet other children who had lost both parents. Everybody would have lost someone or knew someone who did.”“Although Rwanda was safe by the time I left, that period had a long-term impact on the country. I saw the country reconstructing itself, pulling itself back up, and that influenced my thinking.”
Growing up, Nicaise became fascinated by some of the first mobile phones. “We knew this technology was coming,” she says, “but it wasn’t always accessible to us. I was so impressed… you can talk without a wire! I had never used or even held a mobile phone, but it inspired me.”
Nicaise has now worked on the Alexa team in Dublin for two years, focused on ensuring the highest possible standards for all users internationally. She feels that coming from another culture and speaking English as a second language makes it easier to think about international audiences and to put herself in their shoes.
“With quality assurance, we thoroughly test any new products before they launch, to ensure any issues are caught and resolved. We will plan and execute tests, review the results, analyse issues, liaise with developers to get them fixed. In the end we will make an assessment, and then work with the right teams to provide sign-off for device launches.”
“This means I get to dive into lots of different projects. There is always something new and exciting happening. When you see a need for a tool or a solution, you can create it. That motivates us all.”
“My dream with voice-activated devices and voice assistants is to help share important educational information with more people around the world, especially in remote places or developing countries. If we can do this in a wide range of languages, including lesser-spoken languages, we can support many different areas of economic, social, and health development.”
Nicaise is part of Women in Tech Africa, which provides a platform for aspiring women in tech, while empowering girls across Africa with career guidance, role models and local training. “We need to raise awareness about the opportunities and careers available to women,” she explains.
“All of my experiences and contacts help me to shape my long-term ambitions. Hopefully one day I can focus on finding social solutions and resources that support female tech entrepreneurs and the next generation of inventors.”
In her free time, Nicaise loves walking in the hills outside Dublin with her friends. “Walking is a great way to disconnect from work,” she says. “It sounds funny, but Ireland reminds me of Rwanda. The people here are so warm and welcoming. We call Rwanda the land of a thousand hills, and that’s true for Ireland too!”
Lorna Brady – Account Manager, Commercial Sales, AWS
Hailing from just outside Dublin, Lorna studied a Commerce degree as an undergraduate at the National University of Galway, in the west of Ireland. Before starting a Master’s degree in Strategic Management, she took some time to travel the world. “When I came back, I was more mature and ready for the next big challenge,” she says.“I am passionate about tech, and when it came to choosing an employer I always made a conscious decision to work for a technology company. At the start of my career, I worked in a mix of product and marketing roles. Ultimately, I wanted to get closer to my customers. I pivoted to a sales role 4 years ago and never looked back.”
As an Account Manager at AWS for just over a year, Lorna works with a range of customers that are at different stages of their cloud adoption. “We offer over 170 services, so naturally customers can find that daunting,” she explains. “My priority is to simplify things by working backwards from their problem to find the right solution. Once I understand a customer’s goal, I will navigate our organisation to find solutions and make introductions to specialists who can take it forward.”
“AWS customers in Ireland are innovating at pace and leading the way with their adoption of cutting-edge technology”, she continues. “If they want to launch a new product or service, they will look to leverage our expertise. Why build something from scratch if we have a solution, which can help them get to market quicker? Using AWS managed services lowers the total cost of ownership (TCO) and allows customers to focus on innovating, while AWS takes care of the undifferentiated heavy lifting.”
Lorna explains how being an active listener is vital in her role: “I have to listen closely to what our customers are saying, understand what they need, and engage creatively with the problem to find a solution. It’s about being technically-minded, while also building relationships and earning trust.”
“With so many products on offer, you will never know everything,” she adds. “You’re learning all the time, so it’s important to be comfortable with ambiguity and uncertainty. But when you ask questions to find out more, somebody will always support you.”
Later this year, Lorna will also be involved with the launch of AWS GetIT in Ireland, designed to encourage young girls to consider STEM. “There will always be more to do on gender equality,” she feels. “This programme is brilliant because it targets girls aged 12-13. The earlier we can reach them with positive messages, the better chance we have of getting that message across.”
Deepika Gargya, Senior Technical Project Manager, AWS
In her three years with AWS, Deepika has held two roles – she started out as a Data Centre Engineering Operations Cluster Manager, based near London, before moving back to Dublin for her current role as a Senior Technical Project Manager.
Deepika has been involved in overseeing a number of data centre builds around Dublin. “It’s a very busy, very technical role,” she explains. “I use my engineering knowledge from university, plus my project management skills developed while taking an MBA, as well as through my experiences at work.”
“I was first attracted to AWS due to its rapid growth and intensive focus on innovation. I had previously worked in the semiconductor industry, where level of growth and speed was good, but it couldn’t compare to AWS. That was a huge motivation for me.”
Deepika brings broad-ranging expertise to her work every day. For example, she might need to “dig down into the nitty gritty of schematics”, to identify and remediate the root cause of a problem that might impact the service. Although she is predominantly focused on infrastructure, Deepika also studied computer engineering at university, and took a Certified Data Centre Management Professional (CDCMP) training course after joining AWS.“You need to have a strong foundational knowledge in lots of different areas, in order to follow technical discussions. For example, How do back-up power systems work? How do you assess which pieces of hardware are redundant, and how do you replace them?”“However, I have also learned that you don’t need to know everything all the time in order to deliver results!”
Deepika adds that her motivation to keep learning is rooted in her upbringing: “My mum has a Master’s degree in Physics and was a lecturer, while my dad was a mechanical engineer. My parents say I was very pragmatic as a child. I loved maths and science, particularly physics and chemistry. Most of all, I loved solving problems.”
New Amazon Logistics Delivery Station opens in Ireland
We are excited to have opened our first delivery station in Dublin creating more than 20 permanent jobs at the 6,500 square metre delivery station. Amazon Logistics is helping independent local delivery companies to grow their businesses and adding capacity and flexibility to Amazon’s delivery network to meet increasing customer demand working alongside existing carrier partners who provide a valuable high-quality service.
In Dublin we are working with six independent delivery companies to provide the fast and reliable delivery Amazon customers love and trust. They have hired more than 150 drivers who will collect parcels from the delivery station and deliver them to Amazon customers in Dublin and the surrounding area.