The FocusGTS Guide To Great AWS Talent

August 4, 2022
The FocusGTS Guide To Great AWS Talent

The AWS talent market is a competitive and in-demand pool of skilled operators


But what makes a job-ready, genuinely effective AWS engineer?



As our in-house AWS hiring specialist Jon King noted in a blog he wrote 4 AWS Hiring Challenges You Should Account For, “AWS cloud platform provides nearly 200 services ranging from database storage to content delivery globally. Government agencies, startups, and various other companies have been using the cloud platform to improve business operations”.

This all means the talent that underpins this vital, vast digital architecture needs to be of incredibly high technical quality.

Finding those people is no easy feat.

The slim pool of AWS talent available

Indeed, the pathways into AWS associate and solutions specialisms are highly rigorous, and there are very favorable salary packages that accompany AWS cloud careers (of which we wrote a guide, which you can read here).

However, for all the pros of the job, and for all the necessity of cloud operations in modern enterprise operations, there is only a small in-demand talent pool of AWS specialists available to employers. Those potential employees are in work, well remunerated, and will be difficult to prize away from employers who will be desperate to keep hold of them.

But that shouldn’t put off any employers on the hunt for AWS talent. Because understanding the pathways into an AWS cloud service career – and knowing what skills make for great AWS talent – goes a long way to building effective hiring strategies that will attract the very best AWS workers to your brand.

What are the pathways into an AWS Engineering and Solutions career?

As reported by Cloud Academy, there are 11 AWS certifications in total: “a foundational certification, three associate-level certifications, two professional-level certifications, and five speciality certifications”. These certifications are:

  • Foundational
    • AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner
  • Associate
    • AWS Certified Solutions Architect
    • AWS Certified Developer
    • AWS Certified SysOps Administrator
  • Professional
    • AWS Certified Solutions Architect
    • AWS Certified DevOps Engineer
  • Speciality
    • AWS Certified Machine Learning
    • AWS Certified Advanced Networking
    • AWS Certified Data Analytics
    • AWS Certified Security Specialty
    • AWS Certified Database
    • Certified SAP on AWS – Specialty

Amazon provides clear instruction on how to learn everything to do with the AWS ecosystem and offers their Training and Certification in-house.

They offer AWS training via digital training or classroom training and provide access to L&D events to bolster skills and development (most of which are free).

They also link to self-paced external courses, known as Training Partner courses.

What is the average pay for an AWS engineer?

AWS engineers are incredibly well remunerated, and employers need to be aware that certifications AWS candidates will command a competitive salary from day one.

  • Entry Level/Cloud Practitioner – $112,715 per year (source).
  • AWS Engineer – up to $139,664 per year (source).
  • AWS Certified Solutions Architect – $159,033 per year (source).

The average annual pay for an AWS Cloud Engineer Job in the USA is $129,883, according to ZipRecruiter.

What sort of tech-focused hard skills make for great AWS tech specialists?

Coding: a vital skill required by all AWS tech specialists, including scripting languages such as Python, Java, or C#, plus how code interacts and integrates with the AWS Software Development Kits.

Networking: DNS, TCP/IP, HTTP, CDN, VPN, Cloud Front, VPC – these should all be familiar terms to AWS engineers. A solid understanding of cloud network fundamentals is non-negotiable.

Security: Security state methodologies need to be second nature to AWS talent, as is an understanding of ​​Identity and Access Management, alongside an awareness of emerging threats in the cyber security space.

Cloud best practice: AWS is one of many well-known and increasingly competitive cloud service providers. Understanding the strengths, efficiencies, costs and effectiveness of AWS in the context of a competitive cloud market is vital sales and service provision knowledge – this sort of strategic oversight is necessary, especially at senior level and across business consultancy projects

Virtualization: from supporting fault tolerance to understanding dependencies on hardware, another critical skill for AWS talent to have is a command of virtualization methodology.

Focus GTS Top Tip

Skills testing within the recruitment process is a must-have for employers looking to test their job applicant knowledge. However, our advice is don’t wait to test your candidates – leverage a simple skills test early on in the recruitment process (literally before the first interview!) and don’t rest on your laurels – strike fast!

The last thing candidates want is a slow recruitment process.

What are the sort of soft skills AWS tech specialists need to thrive in the modern workplace?

Communication: one of, if not the, most important soft skills across the technological landscape, good, clear comms is essential for any AWS engineer. Explaining application design or the nuances of an API takes skill, especially across disparate teams and for non-tech stakeholders

Problem-solving: AWS specialists have to always be solutions-minded in everything they do. Problem-solving is more than finding a fix for a bug – it means taking a holistic view of entire systems and making them foolproof.

Strategic focus: Amazon never rest on their laurels. With upwards of 50 new products launched a year, and now with 200 AWS products on the market, AWS engineers and architects need to be cognizant of trend movements and the constant stream of AWS innovation to remain ahead of the game.

Creativity: what is an AWS architect if not an artist? Having the creative headspace to envisage a product’s end-state, or the benefit certain cloud functionality gives to a customer is central to a role within AWS, and having some idea of the end result of your hard work makes the job that much more satisfying – that takes strategic vision and passion for the work.

Focus GTS Top Tip

Test for soft skill application. It’s easy for a candidate to say “I’m a team player!” – but can they prove it?

It’s imperative employers take the time to assess soft skills during an interview. Build lines of questioning around leading questions, and encourage candidates to explain the context of their behaviors.

“You cannot continuously improve interdependent systems and processes until you progressively perfect interdependent, interpersonal relationships.” – Stephen Covey, author

Need help filling an open AWS cloud position? Speak with one of our specialized recruiters today.  

Align yourself with an expert at Focus GTS.