Breaking the Bias – Women at AWS Developer Relations

Today for International Women’s Day we’re joined by a special guest writer, Rashmi Nambiar. She’s here to share her conversations with a few other members of the AWS Developer Relations team, talking about their work and experience as women in tech. Enjoy!

– The AWS News Blog Team

When I was contemplating joining AWS, many warned me about boarding the “rocket ship.” But I took the leap of faith. It has been four years since then. Now when I look back, the growth trajectory is something that I am proud of, from starting my AWS journey with a regional role in India to going global and now driving the Worldwide Developer Marketing Strategy. #HereatAWS, I get to choose the direction of my career and prioritize my time between family and work.

At AWS, we believe that the future of technology is accessible, flexible, and inclusive. So we take it very seriously when we say, “All Builders Welcome.” As a woman in tech, I have felt that strong sense of belonging with the team and acceptance for who I am.

Being part of the AWS Developer Relations (DevRel) team, I get to meet and work with awesome builders within and outside of the organization who are changing the status quo and pushing technological boundaries. This International Women’s Day, I took the opportunity to talk to some of the women at AWS DevRel about their role as tech/dev advocates.

Headshot of Veliswa Boya

Veliswa Boya, Senior Developer Advocate

What is it that you like about being a developer advocate at AWS?
“Becoming a developer advocate is something I didn’t even dare to dream about. Some of us go through life and at some point admit that some dreams are just not meant for us. That today I am a developer advocate at AWS working with the builder community of sub-Saharan Africa and beyond is one of the most fulfilling and exciting roles I can recall throughout my entire tech career. I especially enjoy working with those new to AWS and new to tech in general, so my role spans technical content creation and delivery all the way to the mentoring of community members. I enjoy working for an organization that’s at the forefront of innovation, but at the same time not innovating for the sake of innovating, but always being customer obsessed and innovating on behalf of the customer.”

You are an icon of possibilities with many titles. How did the transition from AWS Hero to AWS employee work out for you?
“I became an AWS Hero in May 2020, and with that, I became the first woman out of Africa to ever be named an AWS Hero. I have always enjoyed sharing knowledge. Every little bit I learn, I always make sure to share. I believe that this—and more—led to my nomination. Joining AWS as a developer advocate is awesome. I continue to live the passion that led to me being a Hero, sharing knowledge with others and at the same time learning from both the community and my wonderful peers.”

Headshot photo of Antje Barth

Antje Barth, Principal Developer Advocate – AI/ML

What do you like about your role as an AI/ML specialist on the AWS Developer Relations Team?
“I’ve always been excited about technology and the speed of innovation in this field. What I like most about my role as a principal developer advocate for AI/ML is that I get to share this passion and enable customers, developers, and students to build amazing things. I recently organized a hackathon asking participants to think about creative ways of using machine learning to improve disaster response. And I was simply blown away by all the ideas the teams came up with.”

You have authored books like Data Science on AWS. What is your guidance for someone planning to get on the publishing path?
“The piece of advice I would give anyone interested in becoming a book author: Find the topic you are really passionate about, dive into the topic, and start developing content—whether it’s blog posts, code samples, or videos. Become a subject matter expert and make yourself visible. Speak at meetups, submit a talk to a conference. Grow your network. Find peers, discuss your ideas, ask for feedback, make sure the topic is relevant for a large audience group. And eventually, reach out to publishers, share your content ideas and collected feedback, and put together a book proposal.”

Headshot photo of Lena Hall

Lena Hall, Head of Developer Relations – North America

What excites you about AWS Developer Relations?
“I love it because AWS culture empowers anyone at AWS, including developer advocates, to always advocate for the customer and the community. While doing that, no matter how hard it is or how much friction you run into, you can be confident in doing the right thing for our customers and community. This translates to our ability to influence internally across the company, using strong data and logical narratives to support our improvement proposals.”

You have recently joined the team as the DevRel Head for North America. What does it take to lead a team of builders?
“It is important to recognize that people on your team have unique strengths and superpowers. I found it valuable to identify those early on and offer paths to develop them even more. In many cases, it leads to a bigger impact and improved motivation. It is also crucial to listen to your team, be supportive and welcoming of ideas, and protective of their time.”

Headshot photo of Rohini Gaonkar

Rohini Gaonkar, Senior Developer Advocate

You have been with AWS for over eight years. What attracted you to developer advocacy?
“As a developer advocate, I love being autonomous, and I have the freedom to pick the tech of my choice. The other fun part is to work closely with the community—my efforts, however small, help someone in their career, and that is the most satisfying part of my work.”

You have worked in customer support, solutions architect, and technical evangelist roles. What’s your tip on developing multiple technical skills?
“Skills are like flowers in your bouquet; you should keep adding beautiful colors to it. Sometimes it takes months to years to develop a skill, so keep an eye on your next thing and start adding the skills for it today. Interestingly, at AWS, the ‘Learn and be curious’ leadership principle encourages us to always find ways to improve ourselves, to explore new possibilities and act on them.”

Headshot photo of Jenna Pederson

Jenna Pederson, Senior Developer Advocate

What is your reason for taking up a developer advocate role at AWS?
“I like being a developer advocate at AWS because it lets me scale my impact. I get to work with and help so many more builders gain knowledge, level up their skills, and bring their ideas to life through technology.”

It is such a delight to watch your presentations and demo at events and other programs. What is your advice to people who want to get into public speaking?
“If you’re a new speaker, talk about what you’re learning, even if you think everyone is talking about the same thing. You will have a fresh perspective on whatever it is.”

Headshot photo of Kris Howard

Kris Howard, DevRel Manager

Why did you join the Developer Relations Team?
“I joined DevRel because I love being on stage and sharing my creativity and passion for tech with others. The most rewarding part is when someone tells you that you inspired them to learn a new skill, or change their career, or stretch themselves to reach a new goal.”

Since you have worked in different geographies, what would you say to someone who is exploring working in different countries?
“The last two years have really emphasized that if you want to see the world, you should take advantage of every opportunity you get. That’s one of the benefits of Amazon: that there are so many career paths available to you in lots of different places! As a hiring manager, I was always excited to get applications from internal transfers, and in 2020 I got the chance to experience it from the other side when I moved with my partner from Sydney to Munich. It was a challenging time to relocate, but in retrospect, I’m so glad we did.”

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