2 AWS technicians confer

Is there an AWS skills shortage in Australia and New Zealand? We’ve checked in with Indeed Australia, a couple of AWS partners and a large AWS customer as well as a specialist AWS recruiter. Overall the answer was yes, with a number of different perspectives shared along the way. [Read: AWS job opportunities up 37%, outstripping supply of job seekers]

What’s an employer to do? This is the first in a series of three blog posts highlighting what three different employers are doing to mitigate the AWS skills shortage.

Sebastian Krueger, Director of Cloud Engineering and Co-Founder of NZ-based specialist Advanced Amazon Web Services consultancy API Talent, says the market is maturing in terms of usage of the AWS platform, so there is more and more demand for people with existing AWS experience. In Krueger’s view, there are plenty of potential employees in the IT market, but a shortage of experienced AWS resources.

API Talent has mitigated the skills shortage with a professional development program, a focus on culture and by ensuring its staff are given projects that let them focus on AWS. It’s about training people and retaining them.

1. The Training

The API Talent staff are supported through quite a bit of training, and are strongly incentivised to become certified, for three reasons.

  1. Career progression. If someone wants to be at the Principal level at API Talent, they need to prove not only that they can do it but also that they are committed. This involves ongoing education, which includes AWS training courses with Bespoke, following the AWS Learning Path to what Krueger refers to as AWS Mastery.
  2. Developing expertise befitting an AWS consultant. Says Krueger, if you are going to call yourself an AWS consultant then you should at least be AWS Certified.
  3. Fulfilling and exceeding AWS Partner Program requirements. API Talent needs certified people to maintain and improve upon its status as an AWS partner.

API Talent sponsors people to undertake the training courses, they give people time off to study for the certifications, they pay for the exams plus run internal study groups and curate a shared knowledge base, which includes training and study tools.

Management collaborates with staff members on their professional and career development plan, which includes expectation setting around training and certification preparation, a learning path with a schedule, performance expectations etc. The performance plan includes goals like pay rises and promotions, associated with meeting expectations and achieving certifications.

2. The Culture

Krueger says API Talent works hard to ensure a staff-first mentality. The company realises its employee have other options and are regularly approached by other companies and recruiters. Staff are valued and management puts a huge emphasis on culture, hiring and developing people who are are all geared towards wanting to work amongst other AWS experts.

API Talent inspires friendly competition among the staff with internal leader boards tracking number of certifications obtained. In addition to offering financial incentives, they celebrate each certification and show the staff that their effort has been appreciated and their skills are recognised.

3. The Work

It can’t all be about the pay range and the professional development program, according to Krueger. There must be interesting work to do and an environment that feeds passions and encourages people to be the best in their chosen technology and product space.

Some people join the company because they were working on AWS with larger vendors and their project finished – along with the AWS work – and they were assigned to something else. At API Talent, staff are guaranteed to work on AWS because they only do AWS.

A winning combination

If API Talent’s approach to dealing with the AWS skills shortage is one of training and retaining, it would seem it is a considerable success. Krueger confirms they have only very rarely lost staff in their three and a half years of operation, even though he knows his staff are approached extremely frequently.

Krueger references an old business or HR cartoon he once read as one of his current business mantras. In it, one person asks, “What if you train them and they leave?” and the other answers, “What if you don’t, and they stay?”