As part of Amazon Future Engineer, many of our employees take up opportunities to mentor, support and share their experiences with the next generation of builders, inventors, and innovators.
Amazon Future Engineer is our comprehensive childhood-to-career programme designed to inspire, educate, and enable children and young adults to try computer science. The programme includes activities like the Amazon Longitude Explorer Prize and Amazon Class Chats, our career talks to school children, plus the Techspert programme which pairs Amazon employees with TeachFirst trainee computer science teachers.
Supporting young learners and trainee teachers can be a game-changing experience for all participants. By pairing young people with an older peer to act as a positive role model or to host talks and workshops, we can build confidence, raise aspirations, while also introducing specific skills and knowledge.
Our employees also benefit by giving back to their community, thinking about their own skills and career in a new light, being energised by new ideas and enthusiasm – and sometimes they even learn a thing or two from their students!
We spoke to Amazon employees who have been supporting young learners around the country to find out more about the impact of Amazon Future Engineer – and why everybody should be excited for the next generation of tech talent.
Luiza Stefanova – Programme Manager, Community Operations
I’ve been supporting school students through Amazon Class Chats, a fantastic programme which gave me the opportunity to engage with over 190 secondary school students around the country. The Class Chats programme provides opportunities for Amazon employees and students to meet, share experiences, and to help young people understand more about the breadth and depth of roles available in the technology sector.
It’s been a fantastic and unique experience. I loved seeing students so engaged in our presentations, covering everything from life in Amazon logistics to why working in tech and logistics is a brilliant career choice. They ask smart, incisive questions, and care deeply about the future.
Connecting with children from under-served and under-represented communities is a great privilege. Every minute spent talking about their school experience and future career paths felt like an invaluable opportunity to inspire young people and demonstrate that they are in control of their future. I hope they pursue the countless opportunities available to them!
I’ve experienced what it feels to be an outsider at times, and I worked hard to overcome barriers I had built for myself. Through those experiences, I learned an invaluable lesson: that being your authentic self is your best self. When you embrace your authentic self, the sense of empowerment, energy and joy can be mind-blowing.That’s the impact I wanted to have for these young people, so being able to share my journey to overcome doubts and challenges was brilliant – I know many students were able to relate, and they followed up with questions to find out more.
Mark Evans – Business Development Manager, Security & Compliance Leader, AWS
I’ve been busy assessing team submissions and giving my assessment to the judging panel for the Amazon Longitude Explorer Prize, part of Amazon Future Engineer, and I’m involved with the Class Chats programme.
On the Techsperts programme of Amazon Future Engineer, I’ve also been working directly with a computer science teacher in training as they switch from life as a software developer to the classroom, and I’ve delivered sessions for Years 10 and 12 about technology careers, the cloud and cybersecurity.
My own route into a tech career wasn’t straight-forward. I took a few changes of direction and started my career as an Officer in the Royal Navy. My experiences, along with key lessons learned along the way, I hope has helped these students to develop self-confidence to pursue their own goals, to embrace change, and to never give up.
One memorable ‘light bulb moment’ for the students came when I talked through the many different routes into a tech career beyond the traditional route of higher education degrees – apprenticeship schemes, internships, bursaries, degree apprenticeships and much more.
Our industry faces a skills shortage, so we must engage school students and encourage the next generation to consider a career in tech. We need to break unhelpful stereotypes and appeal to a range of young people, so we have a diverse workforce with a full array of skills and capabilities.
I was lucky to have inspirational people in my life – firstly my parents, my father lived his life to the full despite renal failure and many years of kidney dialysis. They taught my brother and I to never give up, to learn and adapt to your situation so you can achieve your goals.
Getting positive feedback from mentees is so rewarding because it’s my way of giving back, and a way to show gratitude for others who helped me along the way. It’s also great fun! You never know what question or challenge will come next.
Laura Verghote – Associate Technical Trainer, AWS
I’ve been mentoring students as part of the Amazon Longitude Explorer Prize, which involved weekly calls with teams of students about their ideas, their prototypes, business planning and product roadmap.
In those meetings I gave feedback on their ideas and plans, gave advice about their next steps, shared my technical and business knowledge – and of course I acknowledged how great they were doing!
It’s important to learn that we can all make a difference in our society, and we can do that by showing that their ideas will be taken seriously and other people will listen.
These students have learned vital skills for their future around product development, time management, teamwork and presentation skills. Having somebody to help motivate you, give you advice, support you when necessary and somebody you can look up to may mean they pursue STEM in the future.
I’ve just finished my master’s degree in engineering, and frankly I could see the lack of diversity in lecture halls and talks. I’m very passionate about motivating more young people to consider STEM careers, so programmes like the Amazon Longitude Explorer Prize are a brilliant way to stimulate and inspire the next generation from an early point in their lives.
Joash Johnson – Technical Product Manager
I’ve been working with students competing in the Amazon Longitude Explorer Prize, helping them identify issues with their solution and walking them through the options they have. This involved weekly one-to-one sessions with the team, I would also review documents like their business planning and product roadmap and helped them to find new ways to develop their ideas even further.
One team had an app idea to help customers understand their carbon footprint and to make better choices for the environment. I remember the moment on the first day when I was able to find and share research data about global carbon problems, and how big the problem was – they realised that people around the world care about this issue too!
The experience led me to reflect on my own education – as a young boy at school in India, one teacher said that I would never amount to anything in life. Later in my school life two incredible teachers showed their belief in me – and managers and mentors have also boosted my self-belief. Knowing someone believes in you can make the difference between perusing something or giving up. I wanted these students to understand that someone will always believe in them.
I remember one quote from an old mentor, who said you need a mentor or advisor to avoid making the same mistakes as they did, so you can reach your destination faster and with fewer mistakes.
As the world changes quickly, technology can democratise our ability to make a difference by providing opportunities for many more people to be creative and innovative. Widening access to learning opportunities, mentors, role models and new ways of thinking is vital to ensure nobody is left behind. These students can help to build a better world, so it was a privilege to work with them.
Find out more about Amazon Future Engineer.