Amazon Web Services has been front and center amid the federal shift to cloud computing. We caught up with AWS Head of Federal Systems Integrators and Solutions Christian Hoff to talk about systems modernization and a GovCon’s role in spurring federal innovation.
How does AWS approach innovation with federal customers?
Our federal systems integrators team approaches support for federal customers and partners with the three Ms in mind: mission, modernization and migration. We work backward from our customers’ goals to help them modernize technologies, processes and infrastructure.
By eliminating the undifferentiated heavy lifting of the underlying IT infrastructure, federal agencies can focus on what is most important: their missions.
How do you help drive innovation around security in particular? How are you moving the needle on security in the federal space?
At AWS, security is and will always be our top priority. We like to say it is “job zero.” Everything we build is built with security by design, and AWS has been architected to be the most flexible and secure cloud computing environment available today.
AWS has long driven innovation around security in the federal space. We’ve been a proven partner for the federal government for years, and government agencies trust us to handle their most sensitive workloads. We’ve launched two AWS GovCloud Regions, which are designed to allow U.S. government agencies and contractors to move sensitive workloads into the cloud by addressing their specific regulatory and compliance requirements.
We’ve also launched a secret region, which operates workloads up to the secret U.S. security classification level, and a top secret region.
In general, what gets in the way of federal efforts to innovate, and how do you help to keep innovation moving forward?
The pandemic has highlighted why technology modernization matters for public service. Agencies were forced to adapt to security challenges and remote work environments, and many found that they could move faster than they previously thought possible. The past year has shown that putting the right IT foundations in place can position agencies to move quickly and adapt to changing needs.
Workforce development can also be a challenge among federal agencies and systems integrators alike. Helping your workforce stay ahead of the technology learning curve can remove barriers to innovation. At AWS, we work backward from our customers to support upskilling. One example is our AWS Government Executive Education program, which is a four-day MBA-style course for government leaders that shares insights from previous government transformations.
Let’s talk about the impact of partnerships, for example, your recent milCloud 2.0 announcement with GDIT. How does Amazon work with other GovCons in support of federal needs?
We work with systems integrators and independent software vendors on a daily basis to bring leading cloud services to federal agencies. By working with our partners, AWS can deliver solutions to help federal agencies drive efficiencies, reduce costs and innovate. Our recent milCloud 2.0 announcement is an exciting example.
By partnering with GDIT, Defense Department agencies have easier access to AWS services in areas such as analytics, artificial intelligence and machine learning, migration, networking, 5G, space and security. Another example is our work with Deloitte to provide a training virtual environment for the U.S. Navy that provides a scalable, accessible and adaptable learning environment to train its sailors.
We are proud to work with an array of partners, from large SIs and ISVs to small businesses, in order to support federal agency customers.
How do you keep your workforce current? What’s your approach to workforce development and upskilling?
We are committed to helping build a pipeline of talent to address the needs of a 21st-century workforce. At re:Invent 2020, we announced that by 2025, AWS will help 29 million people globally grow their technical skills with free cloud computing skills training.
We’ll provide training opportunities through existing AWS-designed programs, as well as develop new courses to meet a variety of schedules and learning goals. The training ranges from self-paced online courses designed to help people update their technical skills to intensive upskilling programs that can lead to new jobs in the technology industry.
In addition, AWS is committed to hiring our military veterans and their spouses. We find that many of the qualities that are foundational to military service align well with our Amazon culture. There are more than 40,000 veterans and military spouses employed at Amazon across the United States, surpassing our pledge to hire more than 25,000 by May 2021.
We are also progressing in our commitment to provide AWS training to 10,000 active duty service members, military veterans and spouses through the AWS Educate program.
On a personal note, what makes this work satisfying/fun/meaningful for you?
I was raised in a military family and retired from the Army, so I understand many of the challenges faced by our service men and women. My continued commitment to public service led me to work at AWS, where we work backward from the mission to support federal customers and partners.