The finalists for WashingtonExec’s Pinnacle Awards were announced Oct. 13, and we’ll be highlighting some of them until the event takes place virtually Dec. 8.
Next is Cloud Industry Executive of the Year (Public Company) finalist Dave Levy, who’s vice president for U.S. government, nonprofit and nonprofit health care businesses at Amazon Web Services. Here, he talks key achievements, shaping the next generation of industry leaders, career advice and more.
What key achievements did you have in 2020/2021?
During 2020 and 2021, I have been proud to lead teams at AWS that are helping federal government agencies, nonprofits and health care providers navigate the pandemic. It has been a difficult and unpredictable time, and I’m proud that our team has been able to help our customers stand up critical government programs and keep public services running for people in need.
For example, our team helped the Small Business Administration with providing an additional cloud-based portal to process loans administered through the Paycheck Protection Program. With the support of AWS and its partners, the SBA portal allowed more lenders to submit their loans to the agency for the federal guarantee, which provided financial support to small businesses to keep workers on payroll and open for business.
What has made you successful in your current role?
At AWS, our success comes from working backwards from our customers and their missions. We listen to our customers and look for ways to reinvent and deliver solutions for them.
Sometimes. this requires us to read between the lines — we like to say that 90% of what we build is driven by what customers tell us matters, and the other 10% are things we try to invent on their behalf based on their feedback.
I’m also proud to lead a team of builders. Regardless of the position that people hold, my team consistently looks for ways to improve and reinvent customer experiences. Hiring builders allows us to cultivate a community that is constantly looking to innovate.
What are you most proud of having been a part of in your current organization?
When AWS first launched its public sector business, few people understood the cloud and the potential it held. Over time, we’ve earned trust in the government and nonprofit communities, and have demonstrated how the cloud can empower public sector organizations to deliver their missions.
We’ve seen that a lot of the biggest challenges to move to the cloud aren’t technical — they’re about people and culture. Over the past few years, I’m proud of the culture shifts we’ve seen in federal agencies, and how cloud has helped them modernize and transform their mission delivery.
What are your primary focuses going forward, and why are those so important to the future of the nation?
Within the public sector, we’re focused on helping our customers harness data in more sophisticated ways. Federal agencies and nonprofits alike are looking at ways to leverage the cloud for machine learning and artificial intelligence insights that can drive innovation — especially when it comes to critical missions. Advancing their use of data will help civilian, defense and national security communities serve citizens and protect the country.
How do you help shape the next generation of government leaders/industry leaders?
A significant challenge facing government and industry leaders is developing and upskilling their workforces. To keep up with the changes in technology, it’s important to build an IT workforce that understands new technologies and help them stay ahead of the technology learning curve.
That’s why AWS has committed to helping 29 million people globally grow their technical skills with free cloud computing skills training by 2025. We are investing hundreds of millions of dollars to provide free cloud computing skills training to people from all walks of life and all levels of knowledge, in more than 200 countries and territories.
We also offer Cloud Learning Pathways, which are learning tracks made up of curriculum across job families like Cloud Architect and Software Developer. For example, the National Institutes of Health used a learning pathway for researchers as part of their Science and Technology Research Infrastructure for Discovery, Experimentation, and Sustainability (STRIDES) Initiative.
Additionally, we created the AWS Government Executive Education program, a 4-day MBA-style course for government leaders that shares insights from previous government transformations.
What’s your best career advice for those who want to follow in your footsteps?
I’d encourage anyone considering a career in technology, particularly focused on supporting the public sector, to dive in. You won’t find a more exciting and transformative industry, and you’ll be working to improve the lives of people around the world.
It’s also important to note that technology is about more than just engineering skills — we need talented professionals in areas like marketing, recruiting, law and public policy to ensure that our technology serves diverse needs.