Obsessed with technology, products & people.
In 2004, I was eager for a challenge. I embarked on an adventure of completing a Computer Science Bachelors degree. Fast forward to today and the adventure continues. I’ve been building products for 12 years for a variety of industries from finance to ecommerce, retail, real estate, hospitality and more.
Although my roles were not focused on the technical implementation of the products (aka “platforms”), the Computer Science degree taught me a valuable ever-lasting lesson. This was to appreciate the technical complexities and unknowns that could arise during software development. From working in the industry, the biggest lesson for me was that change is the only constant.
Thus, it’s critical to keep a finger on the pulse with market changes, technology advances, forces in complimentary markets that can impact yours and the continuous evolution of customer behaviour.
“94% of enterprises already use a cloud service”
Cloud adoption by businesses has been accelerating at a rapid pace and is here to stay. With this in mind, I decided to deepen my knowledge about cloud technologies. “94% of enterprises already use a cloud service” and “50% of enterprises spend more than $1.2 million on cloud services annually”.
Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Cloud Platform (GCP) and Microsoft Azure are currently the top players in the cloud computing space. AWS is in the lead with a 32% market share. This made it an easy decision to start with Amazon and becoming an AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner.
In this article, I’ll share three main reasons for getting this certification. Although my collection of experiences are only one of many, my aim is to inspire others (eg. product managers, engineers, developers, business analysts, designers, etc) to push their individual learning and professional boundaries in order to create new opportunities for themselves beyond their imagination.
The title of your position doesn’t define your contributions to an organization; it’s your actions such as ability to solve complex problems, think critically and deliver business value.
Having “a seat” equates to having “a voice” in making decisions and influencing. This requires that you have a point of view, specifically an informed point of view. And for this to matter, it needs to shaped with both knowledge and market insights.
In the tech industry, there’s an unwritten rule that one needs to keep up with technology advancements and market changes to stay relevant. This is regardless of your role but especially true if you’re looking to be seen as a thought leader in your area of work (eg. product management, engineering, etc).
When it comes to product management, this is essential because one of our key responsibilities is to build products that are both commercially viable for the business and delivers customer value. “A fully optimised product manager could increase company profits by 34.2%.” There are both hard and soft skills that determine how successful you are at the role. Knowledge about cloud computing services falls into the hard skills category. But getting yourself “a seat at the table” requires soft skills.
For example, I wanted to learn the problems that artificial intelligence (AI) could solve so that I was more capable at recommending the technology where relevant. However, the self-learning by reading online content wasn’t quite enough.
This led me to take two different courses, Udacity’s AI Product Manager Nanodegree and Stanford’s Product Management in the Artificial intelligence Era, which significantly helped to build my credibility when talking about AI in business conversations. With the AWS Cloud Practitioner certification, the deeper understanding gained has enabled me to improve my business acumen, as well as increased engagement during conversations.
A 2019 study found that product management roles in the US alone have grown an astounding 32% over the past two years. With the increasing supply of product management talent in the market, I started to think about what might differentiate me from the rest of the product managers. This incentivised me to explore new ways to stand out from the crowd.
And the result was two broad goals: (1) To have more productive conversations and (2) To update my knowledge about cloud technologies so that I know what’s possible when it comes to innovating. Putting on my product manager hat, these essentially turn into two objectives which I need to define key results for. One of the key results was to get become an AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner.
As I was studying for the certification, I was already seeing benefits. I was speaking with an Infrastructure Lead who was impressed with my ability to follow along and immediately contribute to the conversation. Having this knowledge also helped me to know where my boundaries were and when to redirect the question.
On another occasion in a series of conversations about software modernisation, I was able to focus on asking business-focused questions and discussing business benefits rather than playing catch up on the architecture concepts. Now that I’m AWS certified, one of the benefits that I didn’t foresee (but to my advantage) is that it’s much easier to assess the strengths and weaknesses of different cloud providers, in addition to what was comparable.
Essentially, staying competitive is about always having a competitive advantage and one must do this by continuously learning. In a way, we are no different to “products”. Products get old and “out of fashion” and so do we as product managers, engineers, etc. So, what do you do to stay “in fashion”?
The atmosphere in which we build products is often chaotic, full of ambiguity and constantly moving. The ability to juggle numerous activities and competing priorities whilst building trust requires a certain level of competence. Each time an individual’s competence is recognised, it builds their credibility.
This builds trust and thus boosts the individuals confidence as well as of those around you. These are all necessary for effective communication, making informed decisions and building relationships with cross-functional teams and stakeholders. Both during and upon completion of the AWS certification, I’ve already enjoyed the benefits of strengthening my competence.
For example, having a deeper understanding of AWS cloud services has enabled me to help sales in business development discussions about the benefit of using cloud over legacy systems, as well as contribute to drafting proposals for large projects. Additionally, I’ve been able to ask better questions, help avoid unnecessary cycles of work and build stronger consensus when gaps in understanding arose between different teams and departments.
And unexpectedly in a good way, the knowledge gained from the AWS Cloud training has helped to accelerate my learning. I participated in Google’s Next OnAir and I was able to watch certain sessions without pressing the pause button every few minutes to look up what they were talking about.
Competence is also a contributing factor to getting “a seat at the table” and staying competitive. As you can see, there are many compelling benefits of becoming an AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner. Dare I call it “killing three birds with one stone”?
The purpose of sharing my story is that you need to “make a job” for yourself. It’s up to you, and only you, to craft your unique skills and chase after the professional experiences you seek to have. Fortunately, product management is a broad practice with a lot of opportunity so the options are endless to shape a collection of skills and experience that make you stand out from the crowd.
From my experience and observations though, it’s mandatory that product managers have a thorough understanding of cloud technologies in order to have “a voice” and have their perspectives heard when innovating and creating commercially viable products.
In summary, my reasons for becoming an AWS Certified Cloud Practicioner were to:
I personally strive to be well-informed and educated when going into any conversation so that I can increase the frequency of my contributions and positive impacts. This certification was yet another reinforcement to continuously be informed and educate yourself. Whilst I’m speaking about this in a professional sense, it applies personally too.
What impact would you like to make? How might you uniquely shape your professional abilities to attract attention and have “a voice”?
Friendly reminder: Do not underestimate the effort and skill required to stay at the forefront of your profession.
Thanks for reading!
Lead Photo by Eugenio Mazzone