UPDATED 16:05 EDT / DECEMBER 16 2020


Vaccines and work-life harmony prevail in public sector agenda for AWS’ Teresa Carlson

Amazon Web Services Inc. had been in business for only four years when Teresa Carlson (pictured) signed on in 2010 to build a public sector practice for the aspirant cloud provider. The signature moment for her, and perhaps for the cloud industry as a whole, came nearly three years later when AWS and the Central Intelligence Agency signed a landmark $600 million cloud deal in 2013.

The business world took notice. If the cloud was safe enough for the CIA, it was probably going to be safe enough for industry.

The public sector business for AWS has grown significantly since then, to the point where analysts believe it is significantly outpacing the growth of AWS overall. In September, Carlson’s role as vice president of worldwide public sector and industries was expanded to include AWS sales in regulated verticals, including financial services, telecommunications, and energy, in addition to the firm’s aerospace and satellite venture announced earlier in the year.

“It’s been amazing building this public sector business,” Carlson said. “When my teams go into a country today, we generally have to work with all of these groups. It seems so natural.”

Carlson spoke with John Furrier, host of theCUBE, SiliconANGLE Media’s livestreaming studio, during AWS re:Invent. They discussed the central themes covered by Carlson in her re:Invent keynote, AWS initiatives to address the impact of COVID-19 in the workplace, closing the skills gap in the cloud computing industry, and the company’s pursuit of innovation for a wide range of regulated sectors. (* Disclosure below.)

Merging scientific data

Carlson’s keynote at this month’s re:Invent focused on twin themes of leadership and data. Both are intertwined when it comes to the central topic of the year: combatting a global pandemic.

Speaking at an AWS event earlier in the year, Carlson noted that COVID-19 was driving many federal agencies to dramatically accelerate migration to the cloud. At the core of that urgency was a need to gather and exchange critical research and health data from agencies across the world.

“During COVID we have seen the use of data go up like crazy,” Carlson said. “Think about economic data and health data, and putting those datasets together in a way to have deeper understanding of what’s happening within communities and states. We’ve seen a merging of data in a big way.”

In early April, AWS made a public COVID-19 data lake available as a centralized repository for global health researchers to use and analyze. It was part of an effort to support the rapid development of a viable vaccine, which is beginning to be deployed globally this month.

“Research has always been held tightly, and now we’re seeing them start to open up and share that data so we can move much faster,” Carlson said. “If you think about the [COVID-19] vaccinations, it would not have been possible to move this fast without the use of scalable compute, processing and analytics in a way like no one has ever seen.”

Impact in the workplace

The global pandemic has reshaped the workplace dynamic and one outcome has been a child-care crisis that significantly impacted women. According to a recent report jointly prepared by The Century Foundation and The Center for American Progress, four times as many women as men dropped out of the U.S. labor force in September.

The latest data underscored how the pandemic has exposed the lack of a child-care infrastructure or workplace policies that allow mothers to care for their children while continuing to be employed.

“Just in September, over 800,000 women left the workplace,” Carlson said. “That is a trend that we do not want and we cannot sustain. We want to make these programs fit for whatever the individual needs.”

The pandemic’s impact on the workforce has brought further attention to the number of open positions currently available in the technology industry. Carlson described how just before a recent television interview with a national media outlet, she checked a database and found 100,000 open cloud jobs in New York alone.

Earlier this month, Amazon announced a new program to train 29 million people globally in cloud skills by 2025.

“This announcement was about going into 200 countries and territories, training 29 million people by 2025 for free, and making that available through multiple different programs,” Carlson said. “We’ve merged so that we have a model where we can teach and train around the world in a much more scalable way. We’ll take the programs we have and scale those up much more rapidly.”

Filling industry jobs

One of those programs is AWS Educate, an initiative to offer free cloud skills training for students under the age of 18. In August, AWS formed a partnership with Instructure Inc. to leverage resources for educators to teach cloud concepts in the classroom.

“Near and dear to my heart has always been AWS Educate, which we started for ages 14 and up at the high school level to bring on those cloud skills,” Carlson said. “Then we added badging and credentialing onto that. From there you can go into our academy, where you can get certifications as a solution architect.”

AWS has also committed to an effort for retraining unemployed and underemployed individuals in cloud skills. The AWS re/Start program now has cohort locations in 18 cities across six countries, including regions in North America, Europe and Asia Pacific.

One example of the re/Start program’s impact involved a man in New England who pivoted away from his dream of starting a fitness studio into a fully employed cloud career while homeschooling his nine-year-old son.

“He went through our 12-week re/Start training program and now has a job with a company in Boston,” Carlson said. “I just love those kinds of stories where you know that you’re putting people to work.”

If there is a “north star” that has guided Carlson in her career at AWS, it is an unshakable faith in the power of cloud computing to be a significant agent for change. With the addition to her portfolio of telecommunications with its 5G initiatives; financial services, which is making a push into digital currencies; and the energy industry as it grapples with finding new resources for renewable platforms, Carlson’s drive to expand AWS’ public sector footprint will not lack opportunities.

“I believe cloud computing is the perfect step forward with all these industries for reinvention and innovation,” Carlson said. “It’s really perfect for cloud and what we offer.”

Here’s the complete video interview, part of SiliconANGLE’s and theCUBE’s coverage of AWS re:Invent. (* Disclosure: Amazon Web Services sponsored this segment of theCUBE. Neither AWS nor other sponsors have editorial control over content on theCUBE or SiliconANGLE.)

Photo: SiliconANGLE

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