Damian the high school Cloud Architect

Student wins industry standard skills alongside schoolwork.
Apr 26, 2022
Laying IT career foundations early is possible through industry certifications.

Damian Sandy-Hayes, a 15-year-old high school student is already putting in the groundwork for a career in and around IT and is influencing the way his school does IT teaching at the same time.

Damian began with AWS’s Cloud Foundations training, a free 13.5-hour course, and completed his first Cloud Practitioner certification within a month, he is now completing his Solutions Architect Associate Certification with AWS.

He has been actively spreading the word about what he has gained through the extra study with AWS among his school mates.

“At school, not many people are aware of cloud computing or cloud technology, how it works and how it shapes our daily lives. As I was doing the AWS course, I would talk about the things I was learning and started discussions on cloud technology in my business studies class. I’ve also talked to my teachers about how we can bring in free short courses on the cloud, to help students learn about its importance before they graduate and look at uni degrees.

“One of AWS’ dedicated trainers, Navi Kaur, has now become my mentor – she also runs after-hours courses in her spare time. I have been attending these sessions and can attest to how much more insight you can get from instructor-led (remote) training from someone who is truly passionate about their subject matter. I’ve also had conversations with our principal about the benefits of the cloud computing training that I have done, which can be integrated, and improve, the school’s IT curriculum.

“As I progress with my AWS certification and we have more conversations at school, I think more students will realize that having industry recognised certification under your belt by the time you finish school is an amazing advantage, available to everyone.”

Damian has always been interested in tech, influenced by his IT professional Dad who has been running his own cloud technology company, Wolk Technology, since 2017.

“During the lockdowns, when he was working from home and I was doing school remotely, I saw him doing these different technology certifications. He talked me through them, and I found it really interesting. We’ve had conversations about the benefits of cloud technology and how it’s used everywhere. I’m not sure what I want to do when I finish school, so Dad encouraged me to try a few free short courses in the cloud space to see what I liked.”

While his school teaches IT, the courses are more general and don’t really investigate how IT is integrated into every part of the workplace.

“At high school, they teach you a few computing skills, but they don’t go too deep on specific technologies or how they’re used in businesses. So, I knew I needed to start with something pretty straightforward, before getting into more complex courses.

“AWS took the different components of cloud computing and broke it down into simple and digestible scenarios that I could understand. After undertaking the course, I am confident to say that I now understand cloud computing more,” he says.

The coursework for the AWS certification coordinated well with Damian’s regular school workload and he found it relatively easy to take on both. His school allowing time for students to investigate their own areas of interest has also been helpful.

“It took me two weeks’ worth of study spread over about a month to complete my AWS Cloud Foundations training. This was the first industry exam I have ever done, and I’m very glad that I now have the AWS Cloud Practitioner certification. The training was quite manageable for me to coordinate with regular schoolwork, especially as I have time during normal school hours as part of Design Futures which is one of my subjects in year 10.

“I am very happy that my school offers Design Futures as an option. It is essentially a supervised / structured study period in whatever interests you, together with structured sessions around Systems Thinking. Systems Thinking is the same for all students who take Design Futures – it’s essentially trying to teach the students how to think critically about everything. This could be something in IT, running a small business, or even work experience in any field of your choosing. It allows students the opportunity to explore subject matters outside of a normal school curriculum. In my case, I have two hours per week that I can utilise to further my studies towards my AWS Solutions Architect Associate, in which I occasionally fill up with one-on-one sessions with my mentor.

“Dad has completed several AWS courses over the years, so he was a great coach and helped me when I had questions. The AWS training was also beneficial with school as it enhanced my knowledge for some of the IT and business-focused subjects that I am taking at school, such as Design Futures and Business Management studies,” he says.

Damian says that the first step towards gaining a certification is having the self-belief that you can complete one of these courses and identifying an area of interest.

“Don’t doubt your abilities. Start a free short course on a tech skill you’re curious about and see where it takes you. I feel that if you complete these courses and get certified, you have a significant advantage over others when looking for employment or studying at university.”

It's early days yet and Damian is keeping his options open and gaining industry levels skills while he pins down exactly the career path he intends to follow.

“Although I’m not yet sure what I want to do after school, I’m continuing to do additional AWS certifications because knowledge about the cloud is useful to have, no matter which career path I choose. The cloud is used in every industry, whether it’s medicine, financial services, or manufacturing, and having a basic understanding of cloud computing really opens doors. I’m finding myself increasingly interested in the area, and it’s great because there are hundreds of relevant courses that I can take to keep learning. I’m actually now completing a Solutions Architect Associate Certification with AWS and expect to have that completed before the end of this year. The ultimate goal is to complete the Solutions Architect Professional Certification before I finish school.”

Given the plethora of industry certifications available, a student might pursue a set of industry based qualifications and enter a career that way but Damian is keeping his options open.

“Whether through university, short courses or on-the-job training, I am interested in creating industry-relevant skills that relate to cloud computing. AWS’s new research shows that there is an urgency for digital skills knowledge and that the ability to use cloud-based tools is projected to be the most in-demand skill required by employers by 2025. Given the demand for cloud is increasing so quickly, I am excited to continue my AWS training in this field. The current plan is to do some form of business degree to compliment my cloud certification which will give me the best possible chance at success in the modern workplace,” he says.

Iain Rouse, Director and Country Leader for AWS Public Sector in Australia and New Zealand says, “AWS recently released new research regarding digital skills which found that there is an urgent need for both organisations and employees to increase knowledge on digital skills to make the most of the benefits that technology brings. These digital skills can be acquired through micro-credentials, which AWS embraces through programs such as AWS re/Start. With these short courses, the aim is to help people obtain valuable cloud computing skills, regardless of whether they are beginners or experienced professionals.”