If you’re looking to retrain into a technical role, our message is that retraining is not just for graduates and undergraduates. It’s never too late and there are plenty of opportunities to access new skills, no matter your age, gender or background.

Recent research from WISE, in partnership with Amazon, surveyed 1,000 women working in STEM and found that a 10 per cent increase of women in STEM careers would lead to a £3bn boost to the UK economy. The potential benefits of boosting gender parity in the tech industries are huge for employers and employees alike.

To find out more about technical retraining at Amazon, we spoke to Kate Koehn, a US-based Program Manager for Amazon Web Services (AWS).

 Kate Koehn head shot against green background

Tell us about your current role with AWS

As a Program Manager, I drive capacity management to scale the cloud and ensure we can always meet customer demand for data storage. It’s a job I love and enjoy immensely, as I’m able to help a wide range of engineers and specialists.

However, a few years ago I was working in a variety of different roles: waiting tables, answering phones at a motorbike repair shop and teaching English abroad. All of those roles taught me something new – interpersonal skills, technical knowledge, problem solving, professional networks.

Although I enjoyed the variety, more than anything I was passionate about maths and engineering. In fact, I used to do my friends’ maths tests for fun, and I re-built my own scooter engine. But I had always assumed that a career in tech or engineering was out of reach as I didn’t have the right degree or practical experience.

How did you access this opportunity to retrain?

Firstly, I maximised the additional skills developed during non-technical jobs. My ability to manage, communicate, delegate and build relationships were all essential.

Secondly, I was lucky to have a supportive employer at Amazon, which creates a range of both formal and informal training opportunities. I started out as a recruitment coordinator for Amazon, working closely with engineering teams to fulfil their resourcing needs. That meant I could develop my knowledge and networks.

Thirdly, I found the time to improve my skills and bridge that knowledge gap. I enrolled in courses for Computer Science and Python to give me the fundamentals in key areas, and again Amazon were supportive by allowing the flexibility I required.

Finally, I knew what I wanted. I had a clear idea in my mind of which role I wanted and I built my skills around that job specification. In a supportive work environment, I found it was totally acceptable to say: ‘I want to work for your team, but I don’t have the right credentials – how do I make this happen?’

Kate Koehn with her scooter
Photo by Kate Koehn

What other opportunities are there for technical retraining at Amazon?

Amazon also offers formal retraining opportunities, for example its new Amazon Amplify programme was launched to help further increase the number of women in tech and innovation roles across the UK business.

Amazon Amplify includes a degree apprenticeship programme, AWS Return to Work programme, in-work training and a new UK-wide interactive training programme designed to build confidence and personal skills. We also run AWS re:Start, a training and job placement programme to educate young adults – as well as military veterans, reservists and their spouses – on the latest software development and cloud computing technologies.

And there are constant opportunities to learn on the job, for example it’s common for colleagues to book in time with each other to share ideas or best practices in a specific area. It’s so exciting to be part of a culture focused on sharing ideas, supporting colleagues and creating flexible career pathways.

Outside of formal training, Amazon can also boost engagement among young people, particularly young girls, through activities like our Digital Careers Day.

Why is it important to boost gender parity in tech?

It’s great to see how governments, businesses and the education sector are working to create opportunities for women to enter STEM-related study and careers.

Having gone through that process myself, I can see how contact with positive female role models and inspirational business leaders from an early age can make a huge difference to a young person’s perception of STEM careers and their aspirations in the tech sector.

The economic case is clear, with Amazon’s research in partnership with WISE revealing that women working in innovation roles earn up to £11,000 more per year on average compared to other careers.

To find out more about careers at Amazon, please click here