Creating the Australia of tomorrow

A future-ready Australia requires skills, big ideas and bravery

Amazon Web Services

Australia is at an inflection point. Emboldened by the success we see around us, we are thinking bigger than we’ve ever thought before.

This is providing “exceptional opportunities for us as Australians,” Amazon Web Services’ A/NZ Managing Director Paul Migliorini says.

But it also raises a key question: what are the most important things we should do to achieve our vision of the future – and to create the Australia of tomorrow?

There are three things we need to do:

  • Invest in ourselves and those around us to develop skills for the future
  • Get better at batting back the naysayers
  • Be brave enough to follow through on our biggest ideas

If we follow through, we stand the best chance of producing the kinds of world-beating companies and products that will drive our economy forward.


Be a builder (and train your people as builders, too)

According to Migliorini, “skills are our force multiplier”.

“We can empirically prove that success is extremely strongly correlated to the quality and availability of skills,” he says. “Skills will make the difference between breakout success and mediocrity.”

AWS skills are not the only ones needed to drive innovation forward, but they are critical to the innovation plans of many Australian organisations, from NAB and Qantas to Atlassian, Carsales and Baraja.

“We’re really proud that in A/NZ over the last eight years, we’ve trained well over 150,000 people. This year alone we hope to train 60,000 people,” Migliorini says.

“Our mission over the next five years is to train the next half a million builders, and I think if we work together it’s not a stretch to think about training the next million builders.

“These are the builders – the bold thinkers – that will create tomorrow. Our job is to give them the support and the tools to get there.”

NAB is in the process of training thousands of its people in AWS skills. Through its Cloud Guild, the bank trains about 24 people a week, of which half become certified. In just one year, 506 people have achieved certification, accounting for 7 percent all AWS certified people in A/NZ.

By offering its staff skills and education in AWS cloud, Engineer Manager Paul Silver has seen two force multipliers. Starting hiring conversations is easier, and experimentation levels are through the roof.

“From a hiring perspective, I go to meetups quite often, and as a bank when you go to meetups and you say ‘we’re hiring’ it’s almost like a laugh, ‘I don’t want to work for a bank’,” he says. “I had that an awful lot, until we started the Guild. Once we started the Guild, now if I say ‘NAB’s hiring’ and I put my hand up, I’ve got 15-16 people come over and want to have a conversation about the technology we’re using.

“We may not hire them all but they’ve got a real interest in what NAB’s doing. It’s been great.

“So from a talent and acquisition perspective, we’ve really lifted our game by having the Cloud Guild.

“The number of experimentation accounts we’ve created has also increased. It’s really important to be able to experiment more with this technology.”

Build a new generation of workers

AWS is focused on educating and exciting a new generation of big thinkers – primary and secondary students from across Australia.

Through AWS Educate, 10,000 students consume learning materials; in AWS Academy, over 30 tertiary institutions Australia-wide collaborate with AWS to prepare the workforce of the future.

And, demonstrating students’ excitement at the future provided by cloud, over 500 high school students attended the AWS Summit in Sydney.

Momentum is a powerful enabler. Australian industry leaders need a continuous pipeline of excited and engaged workers coming through the ranks to come up with new ideas and to continue innovating. The resulting innovation then excites more students to take up technology career paths.

Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce is glad to be “in an industry that excites kids like that, that kids want to work for [and] want to come up with ideas. That’s our future.”

Joyce’s excitement is contagious. “It’s really important in our industry that we have inspirational people who get kids excited about their own careers in this industry,” AWS Worldwide Lead Solutions Architect Glenn Gore says.

And that’s a lesson for all organisations: if you’re excited about the future, others will want to join you on that journey.

“It’s really important in our industry that we have inspirational people who get kids excited about their own careers in this industry,” Glenn Gore, Worldwide Lead, Solutions Architect, AWS

Be brave

For Australia to win, its big thinkers must get better at deflecting the naysayers, backing themselves and their ideas, and staying the course.

“When you think about big ideas what you need is a little bit of bravery, because while you have these big ideas – and you may have experienced this already within your own teams – people will tell you it is impossible, that it can’t be done, and that you’re wrong,” AWS’ Glenn Gore says.

“It’s quite hard to stand in the face of that and push forward – to say, ‘I believe in it, if I can achieve this it’s going to do something amazing.’”

Even the biggest executives face these kinds of challenges. “It happens in all of our businesses – you have a lot of backseat commentators that say, ‘whatever you do is wrong’,” Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce says.

Amazon itself isn’t immune. Vice President of Global Marketing, Prime & Engagement, Neil Lindsay says Amazon Prime – its highly-successful subscription delivery and media business – had to fight through criticism to succeed.

“When you have a big idea, it’s quite common to get a lot of no’s,” Lindsay says. “Naysayers are common with big ideas, and it’s really important to work hard to get to ‘yes’. Frankly, people thought we were nuts. The good news is customers showed they loved Prime.”

Amazon, according to Gore, is “willing to be misunderstood for long periods of time” if it means going in a direction it strongly believes in. “If you believe in that change, and you’ve got the data points and connect it to the customer’s needs, it doesn’t matter what other people think,” he says.

For Qantas CEO Alan Joyce, the only question to ask yourself is whether your big ideas go far enough.

“I might worry sometimes that a lot of the stuff we all do – I know Amazon does – can be very successful, but are you taking enough risk, are you having enough failures?” Joyce says.

“To survive, you have to be more dynamic than ever, you have to be creating more things and you have to be disrupting yourself before anyone else does it.”

Be your own biggest backer

Australia isn’t short of exceptionally talented, ambitious big thinkers, but not everyone has the confidence to back themselves.

“We do not have a talent problem in Australia,” Square Peg Capital and SEEK co-founder Paul Bassat says.

“The issue in Australia is not one of competence – our bigger issue is one of confidence. Can you be the best in the world at what you do?”

Bassat sees growing evidence of Australian companies achieving “best in the world” status – and not a moment too soon.

“The future of the Australian economy depends on us producing a lot of global winners,” he says.

Graphic design template start-up Canva is proof that Australia can produce global winners.

“Many people told us when we were setting up in Sydney that Australia doesn’t have enough world class talent, that we wouldn’t be able to attract the international talent that we needed, and that our team would not be diverse enough,” Group Lead for Growth Lisa Miller says.

“Those are all myths, and I think Canva’s success in building our start-up in Sydney has proven them to be so. This year we’re around 350 people in Sydney and we’re looking to double that over the next 12 months.”

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