Author Archives: Tasha Penwell

Earlier this month, there was an interesting news story on LinkedIn for career changers titled Making a pivot? Leverage these skills.

The subject was primarily focused on transferable skills. As new opportunities and individuals go through different stages in life, it is not uncommon for career changes to take place. Pivot points can occur for many reasons. These include: transitioning to empty nesters with fewer familial responsibilities, relocation, and other situations.

"Changing careers can offer increased skillset, responsibility, career advancement, improved working environment, and increased compensation." So leverage your soft skills and hard skills.

Soft skills, also known as “Power skills”, are essential for career changes. These skills, such as communication, problem-solving, and organization, can be used in many industries. 

In the LinkedIn conversation, Manual Kirchman, IT Manager at Canon Business Panamá, stated that The technology industry always evolving, and employees must be able to adapt to new technologies and ways of working. While technical skills are crucial, having great soft skills can help employees be more successful, work better in groups, and develop stronger relationships with clients and coworkers.

In my AWS classes, it is not uncommon to have learners from unconventional backgrounds enrolled to learn cloud skills. Most of my learners are working to pivot their careers. Their backgrounds range from manual labor, and nursing, to practicing law.

Despite a seeming lack of technical backgrounds, these learners are often some of the strongest and most engaged learners in the classroom. They brought their power skills to the table as they start on a new career path. Learning, problem-solving, and listening are essential for success in any field. These skills will help them wherever they decide to venture. 

Non-Tech Soft Skills Needed in a Tech World

Soft skills are essential for career success. They are behavioral and personal attributes. A Forbes article titled 7 Soft Skills You Should Master To Advance Your Career explains this in detail.

The technology industry always evolving, and employees must be able to adapt to new technologies and ways of working. While technical skills are crucial, having great soft skills can help employees be more successful, work better in groups, and develop stronger relationships with clients and coworkers.

Manual Kirchman, IT Manager at Canon Business Panamá

I discussed the importance of soft skills with my class. Jokingly, I described soft skills as their ability to “play well with others”. It is well known that people in technical fields are usually more introverted than extroverted. I have had students in my class who had great technical skills but had difficulty working with others or communicating.

According to Forbes, the 7 Soft Skills needed are 

  1. Self-awareness
  2. Feedback
  3. Emotional Intelligence
  4. Listening 
  5. Inclusive Leadership
  6. Coaching 
  7. Virtual Presence

Hard skills can be learned with a dedication to studies and practice. My AWS classes focus on building hard skills related to AWS services. We use the given curriculum and other resources, like AWS documentation, AWS Educate, AWS Skillbuilder, Figma, and more. Soft skills can, somewhat ironically, be more difficult to learn.

As William Arruda from CareerBlast.TV describes soft skills as something that is hard-won. It takes effort and leaving your comfort zone to develop these skills – especially interpersonal skills.

AI and ML are making advances to reduce monotony in our lives. However, the ability to think creatively, innovate, influence, and inspire is what gives people the skills to succeed. This applies to any industry.

Considering a career change? Unsure how your non-tech background can help you in the tech field? I highly encourage you to look into AWS and cloud computing. Tech Reformers offers virtual classes from experienced AWS Accredited Instructors. This could be a great way to propel your career and put your soft skills to use in ways you never thought of for an exciting new adventure.

Tasha Penwell photo. She write about cloud and Artificial Intelligence.

Tasha Penwell is an AWS Educator, Authorized Instructor, and a Certified Solutions Architect. She is also a subject matter expert (SME) in web development, cloud security, and cloud computing. As a speaker, she talks about AWS education and AR technologies.

cpu types

When I was studying for my Bachelor’s Degree in Information Technology at the University of Rio Grande I had in-person classes and I recall us visiting server rooms in the college to see in person what we were learning about in class. Seeing something tangible in person can help improve engagement and understanding of the topics. This can help with cloud architecture as well.

When teaching (and learning) about concepts related to cloud computing, an area of struggle is not having that tangibility factor when we are learning about concepts such as Regions, Availability Zones, Subnets, and IP addresses as fundamentals. Learning about cloud computing concepts requires a lot of analytical processes. In my classes, we use multiple resources such as documentation, labs, blogs, podcasts, etc. I believe that even in highly analytical areas, there’s a place for creative learners who learn best via visual representation and creation.

Options for the Visual Learners

AWS documentation and labs provide schematics to give a visual aid of how VPCs provide AWS customers a segmented portion of the AWS cloud services to build in. To develop a good understanding (and not just regurgitation) of the relationship between these foundational topics I have my learners draw out the schematics using pen and paper. We go through the process of drawing out and labeling (labeling is important) the structure in the schematic. 

A great example of this can be found in AWS Educate.  The short video below describes how I have my learners spend time developing an understanding of the infrastructure they will be building in a lab assignment. If you don’t have an AWS Educate yet and aren’t sure how to start, check out our article Create an AWS Educate account in 10 Minutes.

Reviewing Schematics to Improve Understanding – Watch Video

Drawing out the infrastructure by hand is great for building cognitive skills and understanding of concepts. Using digital drawing tools can take the visual learning experience to a new level.

How to Create a Digital Drawing of Cloud Architecture

After practicing manually drawing out the schematics, I encourage my learners to check out digital platforms such as Figma to draw out the schematics using AWS icons to build cloud architectures. There are a variety of other platforms that learners can select from at AWS Architecture Icons

The advantages of utilizing these digital platforms go beyond understanding the virtual infrastructure. In addition to developing and improving cognitive, using these platforms can provide the following benefits:

  1. Familiarity with the icons when they are not labeled. Larger infrastructure maps may not label all services.
  2. Creating layouts that can be used in presentations when communicating with others.
  3. A creative outlet to build use cases of services on services (sample shown below)
Sketch of CloudWatch alarm using SNS to send messages to subscribers. Created using Figma.

If you are new to cloud architecture, I recommend spending a little time before the lab reviewing the schematic (if provided). Review it, draw it out, label it, and build connections and relationships in the services. Pen and paper are great to start with, then challenge yourself by creating a use-case scenario and using Figma (or a similar service) to create a diagram using appropriate services.

Tasha Penwell photo. She write about cloud and Artificial Intelligence.

Tasha Penwell is an AWS Educator, Authorized Instructor, and a Certified Solutions Architect. She is also a subject matter expert (SME) in web development, cloud security, and cloud computing. As a speaker, she talks about AWS education and AR technologies.


Cloud computing is quickly becoming one of the most in-demand skills in today’s workplace. While this may not be a surprise, you may be surprised to learn that one of the reasons for the demand is the versatility of the skills related to cloud computing and all the facets it touches. 

Four in-demand roles that can utilize cloud computing experience are project managers, financial managers, legal assistants, and top executives like chief information officers. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, these careers are growing on their own merit. Adding AWS skills and certifications can add versatility and additional opportunities for these career paths.

Two women discussing business goals.

1. Project Managers

Cloud Project Managers are responsible for identifying the goals and ensuring the scope is defined and controlled based on the client’s needs. Even if the PM is not directly involved with the development, understanding the different resources and use cases can help manage the assignment of activities, data collection, and what resources and dependencies are needed. Being knowledgeable about cloud computing fundamentals can help create a plan to develop specific availability and disaster recovery plans.

In addition to understanding the resources to deliver high availability and disaster recovery solutions, AWS’s Cloud Adoption Framework (CAF) can help project managers have more effective conversations with individual stakeholders in the project. 

Project Management Specialist Median Pay$94,500 annually
Job outlook for Project Management Specialist7% (as faster as average)

2. Financial Manager

Cloud Financial Managers need to understand the financial impact decisions related to decisions on what services to use, how to maintain a high availability, and appropriate disaster recovery plans. Financial managers need to understand that despite offloading the management of the infrastructure and some services to AWS, there are costs associated with maintaining and training personnel. 

Financial managers will spend a large amount of their time viewing the budget tools and cost exploration tools to identify any resources that are created but not effectively managed or left running accidentally.

Cloud financial management is part of the Governance perspective in AWS’s Cloud Adoption Framework. The focus is planning, measuring, and optimizing cloud spending and taking advantage of the agility and ability to dispose of services based on needs. Understanding cloud fundamentals can also help lead conversations with stakeholders including the Chief Financial Officer. 

Understanding services like AWS Organizations and CloudCheckr can help financial managers make recommendations to take advantage of volume discounts while maintaining the separation of accounts.

Financial Manager Median Pay$131,710 annually
Job Outlook for Financial Managers17% (much faster than average)

3. Legal Assistants

Legal assistants and paralegals can help organizations understand the requirements for managing and organizing documents and data needed for an organization. Cloud computing can be used to store documents, while data solutions and analytic tools can be used for case management. In addition to being able to use cloud technologies, legal assistants can provide some insights on laws and governance that need to be maintained based on regional laws and industry compliance. Understanding these laws can help with maintaining the appropriate data lifecycle policy and data destruction processes.

Paralegals and Legal Assistants Median pay$56,230 annually
Job Outlook for Paralegals and Legals Assistants14% (much faster than average)

4. Chief Information Officers

Chief Information Officers (CIO’s) can help an organization meet its goals based on technology choices. While CIO’s are considered top executives and may not have as much of a hands-on role as other tech managers, having an understanding of services used, cost-optimization strategies, and identifying how microservice models can help improve organizational processes. Providing organizational agility and flexibility and developing a strategy to perform a root cause analysis can help with aligning with the CAF’s Operations Perspective

Computer and Information Systems Manager Median Pay$159,010 annually
Job Outlook for Computer and Information Systems Manager16% (much faster than average)

Tech Reformers provides training to help individuals with different backgrounds and career paths to learn how to effectively use AWS cloud technology. Program graduates can take the skills learned from the program to provide better value to their clients and meet professional goals.

Learn more about the different training opportunities at our AWS Training Overview, which includes options for instructor-led training or digital self-paced training.

Tasha Penwell photo. She write about cloud and Artificial Intelligence.

Tasha Penwell is an AWS Educator, Authorized Instructor, and a Certified Solutions Architect. She is also a subject matter expert (SME) in web development, cloud security, and cloud computing. As a speaker, she talks about AWS education and AR technologies.

woman interviewing

When wrapping up a course on cloud computing we spend some time discussing how to prepare for the interview. I think we can all agree that interviews can be stressful experiences. We freeze up on questions or are so concerned about having an answer that we do not hear the question entirely. A big part of an interview is preparation. This goes beyond researching the company and role but also utilizing the STAR technique. 

Photo by Edmond Dantès:

STAR is an acronym for Situation, Task, Action, and Result and can provide guidance on how to rehearse a response so that you are able to answer questions clearly and confidently. Utilizing this technique can help the interviewer better identify what experiences you bring with you. 

With the STAR technique, you will create a story that shows a clear conflict and resolution that focuses specifically on your contribution.

The breakdown of STAR technique is as follows:


Describe the story or situation. Be careful to not tell a novel. Share two to three important details relevant. This situation can be from a previous employer, volunteer project, sports team, or a project when you were in school. 


Describe what your responsibility and role were during this situation. Teamwork is important and this can be mentioned as part of the Situation, but you want to highlight your specific role. Select one or two points to share that are relevant to the action and result.


Explain what you did. Many times, using pronouns such as “we”, “us”, and “our” can be beneficial to emphasize teamwork but this is not one of those times. The interviewer wants to hear about what your responsibilities were and the actions you took. Be careful to avoid blame on team members if an outcome is unfavorable. You can address any complications and how you handled them. Spend some more time on this section describing what you did.


What was the outcome? This is something you want to explain whether it was positive or negative. Select two to three points to share regarding the result and, most importantly, what you learned from them. Whether the end result is positive or negative, there is almost always a learning opportunity that can be associated with it. This can be a process improvement, identifying problem indicators early on, or maybe an improvement of a hard skill such as using Amazon S3 or AWS Lambda

Photo by George Milton:

Spend some time coming up with two to three scenarios based on your past experiences that are relevant to the role you are applying for. For each scenario, create a storyline using the STAR method with most of the details and time spent on the Action and Result steps. The Situation and Task steps should build up to those final two steps. 

Google’s Interview Warmup

Google released this AI-enabled tool in June 2022 to help professionals gain confidence and practice interview techniques. Google’s Interview Warmup tool will transcribe answers that you type or speak into. This tool was created to align with Google’s short-term certifications but it can be used by anyone. 

To get started with this tool.

  1. Go to 
  2. Choose from one of the provided fields (Data Analytics, E-Commerce, IT Support, Project Management, UX Design, General)
  3. Google Interview Warmup will present five questions based on the field you selected. The questions can be based on your background, situational experiences, or technical skills. Below you will see some of the questions for the IT Support field.

With Interview Warmup, your answers are transcribed in real-time so you can review what you said. You’ll also see insights as patterns detected by machine learning that can help you discover things about your answers, like the job-related terms you use and the words you say most often. It can even highlight the different talking points you cover in each answer, so you can see how much time you spend talking about areas like your experience, skills, and goals. Your responses aren’t graded or judged and you can answer questions as many times as you want. It’s your own private space to practice, prepare and get comfortable.

Google Interview Warmup
Interview Warmup Options

Google Interview Warmup Interview Questions

Questions are based on background, situational experiences or technical skills

Leadership Skills

In addition to spending time using the STAR method and interview skills, it can be beneficial to research various leadership principles. 

Amazon has 16 leadership principles. They are discussed in more detail on the Leadership Principles page but below is the list of the 16 principles.

  1. Customer obsession
  2. Ownership
  3. Invent and simplify
  4. Are right, a lot
  5. Learn and be curious
  6. Hire and develop the best
  7. Invest in the highest standards
  8. Think big
  9. Bias for action
  10. Frugality
  11. Earn trust
  12. Dive deep
  13. Have backbone; disagree and commit
  14. Deliver results
  15. Strive to be the Earth’s best employer
  16. Success and scale bring broad responsibility 

In class, we spend time covering these leadership principles from Amazon. I open up the floor for the learners to share any organizations or individual leadership principles they admire and try to adopt as their own. For me, I add my own from Richard Branson, and Steve Jobs and end with a favorite quote of mine from Marissa Mayer I always did something I was a little not ready to do. I think that’s how you grow. When there’s that moment of “Wow, I’m not really sure I can do this, “ and you push through those moments, that’s when you have a breakthrough.

Marissa Mayer

I have this quote in my office and whenever I face a new challenge I think of this quote and encourage my learners to do the same as they start their new careers in cloud computing because sometimes you just have to trust the process and experience those breakthroughs. Check out Tech Reformers openings.

Tasha Penwell photo. She write about cloud and Artificial Intelligence.

Tasha Penwell is an AWS Educator, Authorized Instructor, and a Certified Solutions Architect. She is also a subject matter expert (SME) in web development, cloud security, and cloud computing. As a speaker, she talks about AWS education and AR technologies.

AI text gen icon

ChatGPT and generative AI is having a significant impact on multiple industries and how people are learning. Generative AI is a subset of machine learning. Machine learning models power ChatGPT and include large learning models (LLMs) and multi-modal models that can include text, images, video, and audio.

Artificial Intelligence in action on a laptop
Photo by Matheus Bertelli:

To begin, note that Artificial intelligence (AI) is nothing new with Amazon Web Services. Examples of AI/ML models include Alexa, Amazon’s Just Walk Out, and Amazon Prime. Tech Reformers uses AI/ML in its document processing solution. OpenAI released ChatGPT to the public in November 2022. Within two months, it reached 100 million monthly active users. Researchers and those working on Neural Linguistic Programming (NLP) projects use ChatGPT. In sum, AI can be used for different tasks and is well-trained on data from textbooks, articles, and websites.

What is Amazon Bedrock

Natural-language processing has been around for a while at AWS. Years ago, AWS introduced Amazon Comprehend, an NLP service that uses machine learning to find insights and connections in text. Just recently, Amazon launched Amazon Bedrock in its AI/ML services. Amazon Bedrock is an easy way to build and scale generative Artificial Intelligence applications with foundation models (FMs). Foundation models are AI neural networks that are trained on raw data and can be adapted to accomplish a wide range of tasks. Bedrock provides the flexibility to choose from a wide range of foundational models built by AI startups and Amazon itself. Therefore, this allows Bedrock customers to select the best model for their needs and goals.

In true cloud computing fashion, Bedrock is a serverless service. Accordingly, it can allow customers to get started quickly. They can customize foundation models with their own data, and integrate them into applications. In short, all this can be done without having to manage any of the infrastructure.

The foundation models that Bedrock supports are Jurassic-2, Claude, Stable Diffusion, and Amazon Titan. Data scientists train Amazon Titan FMs on large datasets. Ultimately, this makes them powerful, general-purpose models that can be used as-is or by customers privately with their own data.

Use cases for Amazon Bedrock are:

  • Text generation
  • Chatbots
  • Search
  • Text Summarization
  • Image generation
  • Personalization

Get started with key use cases quickly

Text Generation icon
Text generation

Create new pieces of original content, such as short stories, essays, social media posts, and webpage copy.

Chatbots icon

Build conversational interfaces such as chatbots and virtual assistants to enhance the user experience for your customers.

Search icon

Search, find, and synthesize information to answer questions from a large corpus of data.

Text Summarization icon
Text summarization

Get a summary of textual content, such as articles, blog posts, books, and documents, to get the gist without having to read the full content.

Image Generation icon
Image generation

Create realistic and artistic images of various subjects, environments, and scenes from language prompts.

Image Classification icon

Help customers find what they’re looking for with more relevant and contextual product recommendations than word matching.

To sign up for this new service, complete this short form at

Tasha Penwell photo. She write about cloud and Artificial Intelligence.

Tasha Penwell is an AWS Educator, Authorized Instructor, and a Certified Solutions Architect. She is also a subject matter expert (SME) in web development, cloud security, and cloud computing. As a speaker, she talks about AWS education and AR technologies.

aws educate sign-up form

In 2022, AWS Educate transitioned from a platform for high school and college students to one open to anyone. It allows individuals who are beginning their cloud careers to learn cloud computing skills at their own pace for free. You can learn more about AWS Educate in our article How Can AWS Educate Help Me Start My Cloud Career?

Creating an AWS Educate is free and relatively simple but sometimes, learners in my classes do not receive the email to finish creating the account. In this article, I’ll walk you step-by-step through how to create an AWS Educate account so you can start learning in a lab environment in 10 minutes or less. 

Follow the steps provided below or watch the video to create your free AWS Educate, complete with training, labs, and earning digital badges. 

progressive gif showing AWS Educate classes

Create an AWS Educate Account in 7 Steps

AWS sign-up graphic
AWS Educate registration form
  1. Go to 
  2. Click on the Register Now button
  3. Complete the short form
  4. You will receive an email to Verify Your Email. (Check your spam if you don’t see it) You will go to a page confirming your email was verified.
  5. Go back to, but this time click on Sign in to AWS Educate.
  6. Enter the email you used to sign-up and click “Forgot Password”. This will trigger a password reset.
  7. You will receive an email to reset your password. Follow the steps and create a new password.

You’re in! Explore the courses and labs.


How to Create Your Free AWS Educate Account – Watch Video

key frame for AWS Educate sign up

Not sure where to begin? My recommended training plan if you are new to AWS cloud computing is

  • Introduction to Cloud 101 (Labs)
  • Getting Started with Storage (Lab)
  • Getting Started with Cloud Operations (Lab)
intro to cloud 101
Introduction to Cloud 101 (Labs)
getting started with storage
Getting Started with Storage (Lab)
getting started with cloud ops
Getting Started with Cloud Operations (Lab)
Tasha Penwell photo. She write about cloud and Artificial Intelligence.

Tasha Penwell is an AWS Educator, Authorized Instructor, and a Certified Solutions Architect. She is also a subject matter expert (SME) in web development, cloud security, and cloud computing. As a speaker, she talks about AWS education and AR technologies.

cloud market graph showing AWS with highest market share

Cloud computing is one of the fastest-growing tech industries in today’s job market. Synergy Research Group reported AWS still continues to hold steady as the market leader in cloud computing services. These services are Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), and private cloud models.

Cloud Infrastructure Services Market

As an AWS Educator, I often try to prepare my learners that learning cloud computing skills is not a “one-and-done” learning experience. In fact, as I go through the orientation of resources and expectations, I ask my class to raise their hand if they are a lifelong learner. If they don’t raise their hand – they are in the wrong class and need to reconsider their career choice. Thankfully, the response is typically one where they all raise their hands and affirm they are in the class to start their learning journey with the cloud – but not end it there. 

Lifelong learning is where you take personal responsibility for your own continued education. As my sons decided what their subsequent paths would be after high school, I reminded them that it is up to them to go beyond what they learn in the classroom. I was a college instructor for eight years. I understand the challenges of what can be taught in the classroom. This is especially true in rapidly growing fields like technology. There are limits to time and resources that require learners to take more responsibility for their own educational experiences outside the classroom. A mentality to embrace lifelong learning is not optional in today’s day and age. 

AWS, not surprisingly, is well aware of the need for opportunities to help these lifelong learners. AWS is educating as many people as possible to become AWS cloud professionals. That is why resources such as AWS Skillbuilder and AWS Educate exist. 

What is AWS Educate?

AWS Educate was formed in 2015. The goal was to provide resources and hands-on lab experiences to high school and college students who wouldn’t have had access to the lab experiences otherwise. Initially, it was limited to individuals 13 and older who were in high school or college. This limited access required an application and verification process. 

In March 2022, AWS announced that AWS Education was going to be accessible to the general public, which I was thrilled to see. This expansion has allowed me to include this as a supplemental resource when teaching AWS Academy or AWS re/Start courses. AWS Educate continues to provide resources to help learners get started on their cloud journey without providing a credit card as you would need to with an AWS account. (It is important to note that the labs in AWS Educate are temporarily provisioned, which means work is lost and resources are terminated.) 

What are the Benefits of AWS Educate?

In addition to the coursework and hands-on lab experiences, AWS Educate also provides the following benefits:

  • Learners can explore recommended courses based on seven different topics: Analytics, Cloud Computing, Development, Machine Learning & AI, Network & Infrastructure, Professional Skills, Security
  • Learners can choose at what level they want to learn: Foundational, Intermediate, or Advanced
  • Learners only need an email address to begin using the AWS Management Console. 
  • An Explore option on the homepage features supplementary content, such as new courses, Twitch videos, blogs, and white papers.
  • Learners will be able to access a job board for AWS Educate learners

What are AWS Educate Badges?

One of my favorite features that I encourage my learners to utilize to start building their professional profile today is the badge opportunities. AWS Educate badges are not a new concept for the platform. They had them when it was exclusive for high schools and colleges, and I had many students who were motivated to go beyond the assignment simply because they wanted to collect the badges. This was when the Pokemon “gotta catch them all” game was popular, and they compared it to the same motivation. 

In 2022, when AWS Educate became offered as a public learning resource and not limited to targeted demographics of 14 – 24, the platform adopted a new look – which is what we see today. With the new look have come new badges to showcase. 

AWS Educate has seven different courses that, after successful completion, will award the learner with a badge to share this accomplishment on platforms like LinkedIn or with your current employer as evidence that you are focused and investing in your own education to grow in your career. 

The labs and badges available are diverse and include the following:

  • Getting Started with Databases
  • Getting Started with Cloud Operations
  • Getting Started with Networking
  • Getting Started with Compute
  • Getting Started with Storage
    • AWS DeepRacer Primer
  • Introduction to Cloud 101

You can see from the above list that the fundamentals of AWS cloud computing (Databases, Networking, Compute, and Storage) are provided. These are also specific lesson modules in AWS Academy’s Cloud Foundations course to prepare learners for their AWS Cloud Practitioner certification. To provide a more well-rounded educational experience and additional learning opportunities, I assign these labs to complete and encourage them to share their badges on their social media platforms (specifically LinkedIn and Twitter) and, if appropriate, provide a copy of the badge verification to their human resources departments and supervisor. 

While the ultimate goal is to prepare and earn their AWS Cloud Practitioner certification, smaller achievements along the way can help continue to motivate the learner to continue on their journey. Motivation tactics such as these badges can help propel the learners to continue on their journey as things get more challenging (because they do) when learning about the AWeSome world of AWS. 

Tasha Penwell is an AWS Educator and a Certified Solutions Architect. She is also a subject matter expert (SME) in web development, cloud security, and cloud computing. As a speaker, she talks about AWS education and AR technologies.