Posted: 22 Feb. 2021 10 min. read

Lightning round with... Brian, AWS Architect

Brian from our Cloud Engineering team breaks down the role of an AWS Architect. Spoiler alert: there's no 'typical day'

What does your role entail?

There are many pillars to my role, and it can be split into tasks that are client facing and those that are internal support. Due to the variety in my role, there is no such thing as a typical day - it is more like a typical month. My workday has three constants however, which are Amazon Web Services (AWS), tea (I don’t drink coffee) and lunch.

My client work is split into activities that are pre-sales and those that are post-sales (client project delivery). My pre-sales activities provide technical support to our leaders in discussions with clients. Each client is different, and their cloud maturity varies significantly. For some clients who might be dipping their toes in AWS for the first time, I might lead workshops with their technical staff to explain AWS concepts and best practices. For others, I might work with colleagues to design and implement a demo that showcases the benefit of Deloitte and AWS together to solve a client’s particular use-case. With the rate at which AWS release new products, services and updates, I might be discussing with clients how best to leverage these within their existing environment.

My involvement in client projects is usually short-term rather than long-term, which means I get to work with a lot of clients over the course of a year on a range of projects. I’m one of a few people in Deloitte that are certified to conduct Well Architected Reviews on behalf of AWS. These engagements involve reviewing a client’s environment against the five pillars of the Well Architected Framework and suggesting improvements or enhancements. The follow-on work from this might be assisting the client to implement the improvements or enhancements.

I also get involved in the design and build of applications on AWS for clients. Upon completion of these projects I work with the project team to hand-over to the client’s support team or Deloitte’s own Cloud Managed Services Team.  My main client project at the moment involves helping an Irish organisation leverage Amazon Connect, a cloud-based contact centre. We are helping the client improve their customer engagement through the creation of omni-channel presence.

Within Deloitte itself, I’m part of a team that is tasked with building upon our existing AWS capabilities across EMEA. This may involve developing solutions and accelerators powered by AWS to help our clients. Another part of this role is working with AWS to provide training and certification opportunities to staff. Before I joined Deloitte Ireland, I worked in Australia and was very fortunate to have excellent mentors who provided me with the support required to get started in my career. I now have the opportunity to give others the same chance I received back when I started in my IT career.

The last part of this role is working closely with AWS staff to be an ambassador for AWS within Deloitte. This involves building relationships between AWS and Deloitte both in Ireland and across EMEA. It can involve running webinars, making people aware of the capabilities of AWS or just answering questions. I am currently working on expanding the AWS Technical Community within Deloitte so that have we have representatives from every country in EMEA.

Brian at the Deloitte stand during the 2019 AWS conference

 

How did you start out in the Consulting industry and how have you developed since?

I'm very lucky in that I thoroughly enjoy what I do. Growing up, I was always fascinated by how things work. We got our first PC when I was sixteen and knew instantly that a career in IT was for me. IT is a career that can take you across the world, and I have experienced that. In 2012, I got the opportunity to move to Australia to live and work.

I joined Deloitte in 2019 having returned to Ireland after 6 years overseas. The majority of my time in Australia was spent in IT Consultancy, and a variety of opportunities is one of the differentiators that I look for in an employer. Deloitte, with its global reputation, was the logical step when I was looking for a job after returning. It was somewhere that I felt my previous cloud experience from Australia would be beneficial and offer growth opportunities.

AWS is constantly evolving and changing, so learning and expanding our technical knowledge never stops. A day does not go by without learning something new. The variety of projects ensures that we always get to work on areas that we enjoy and ones that we need to develop.

In my previous roles, mentoring was usually just a small part of what I did. In Deloitte a big emphasis is put on mentoring our future leaders. The necessary supports are made available so that we can be effective mentors. When my mentees succeed in life inside and out of Deloitte, it is very rewarding to have contributed in a minute way to their success.

I have also been given the opportunity to speak publicly on topics that interest me. It is a long-term goal of mine to be able to speak with a client about a project that we have delivered, on stage at AWS’s annual conference re:Invent. In 2019, the last in-person re:Invent conference attracted over 50,000 attendees.  

I'm very lucky in that I thoroughly enjoy what I do. Growing up, I was always fascinated by how things work. We got our first PC when I was sixteen and knew instantly that a career in IT was for me. 

 

What is the most interesting or challenging project you’ve worked on? 

Over the years I have been involved in many projects. I don’t believe there has been a project that has not been interesting or challenging. Every project that I have been involved in only adds to the well of experience that I can draw upon to help my clients, colleagues and society.  I’m a firm believer in knowledge and feel we should always be improving ourselves.

Every project I have been involved in has contributed to my career progression. Several projects that I was involved in Ireland are what ultimately offered me the chance to go live and work in Australia. On the flip side, there are two projects that I was involved in during my time in Australia that are primarily responsible for where I am today (a massive thanks to all involved!) If I were to try and list all those that had an impact, I would be here forever.

The first project was Foxtel Go. Foxtel GO is a live streaming platform for cable and satellite television subscribers in Australia. It streams live television channels to mobile devices. At a later date we added Foxtel Now which expanded live streaming to smart televisions and gaming consoles. For somebody who came it from an IT infrastructure background it was fascinating to see how we could combine the various IT components to deliver a broadcasting service via the internet. The key takeaways for me from this involvement was a deep understanding of how the internet actually works and the scale required to deliver such a service.

The second project that I want to call out is a cloud project for one of the big four banks in Australia. I was brought in to help deliver a part of the project due to my expertise in a specific area. When I started on the project I had only a small amount of experience with AWS through personal projects. Within the first two weeks of the project assignment I quickly realised that I needed to expand my knowledge of AWS to add value to the client. I had a chat with a number of the project team on the best way to proceed. After taking in a bit of what they all said, I took my first giant steps into everything AWS. I instantly saw the benefits that AWS could offer clients and my involvement with AWS has grown from there.

How has the past year changed the way you and your team work?

The actual work I do on a daily basis has not really changed in the past year; we are still advising and delivering cloud projects for clients. The difference is that more clients are looking to accelerate their journey to cloud, and as a result we are seeing a greater demand for the services we offer.

From my perspective, the biggest challenge is that we haven’t been able to have those in-person interactions with clients. It’s possible to get a lot done in a face-to-face meeting, and decisions can be made in timely manner – whereas with video calls, decisions can take longer. With clients that we’ve worked with previously, virtual engagements are fine as there is an existing relationship and the trust has already been built. For new clients it can take a while to build that relationship in some cases. While the collaboration tools have improved dramatically in the past few months, they are unable to replicate the in-person collaboration.

One thing I miss about not being in the office is the whiteboard sessions. These are sessions where we would just take an idea and try figure how out we would design and implement a solution to match the idea. Drawing on a screen with a mouse in a virtual meeting room just does not have the same impact and I’m not very good at it. 

Outside of being a techie at Deloitte, what can we typically find you doing?

I very much like to be outdoors when I’m not at work. Rugby, white-water kayaking and canoeing are my ways of disconnecting completely. Injuries to my knees over the years have taken their toll and I’m unable to play rugby anymore, so I have switched to refereeing. In September 2020 I started the process as a trial referee with Leinster Rugby. It has been a worthwhile journey so far and there are some lessons from rugby that I have been able to bring to my role in Deloitte.

As I’m going to get wet while kayaking and canoeing anyway, rain is not an issue for me so this is not just confined to a summer activity. I have kayaked in Ireland, Australia and New Zealand so far. Normally I would be out most weekends on some river, lake or occasionally the sea. It is a great way to get off the beaten track and just take a break from the pressures of the world. 

I think these pastimes appeal to me as there is no technology involved. On a daily basis I’m involved in tech and constantly surrounded by it. Once restrictions lift, I will either be found on the rugby pitches in Leinster or probably upside down in one of the rivers in Ireland. Definitely looking forward to those days again.

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About the author

Brian Madden

Brian Madden

Manager, Core Business Operations, Consulting

Brian is the NSE AWS Solution Architect Lead at Deloitte Ireland, and is based in our Cloud Engineering team in Consulting. His focus is on leading and delivering commercially pertinent and scalable solutions for clients at varying stages of their Cloud journey.