CHARLESTON, S.C. A Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center (SSC) Atlantic employee completed a six-month fellowship at Amazon Web Services (AWS), a unit of Amazon that provides cloud computing services to private industry and government.
Brandon Simpkins, a lead network engineer, participated in the AWS program to gain technical expertise in the area of cloud computing as an opportunity to translate his learning in a way that could positively impact the fleet.
As a member of the first group of Department of Defense Cyber Information Technology Exchange Program (CITEP) selectees, he was assigned to AWS in Herndon, Virginia and embedded in the DoD Solutions Architecture team — the front line dealing with government customers as part of their sales activity.
Simpkins said he encountered people who were willing to help him and benefitted from the extreme collaboration AWS employees use to achieve goals.
“My teammates were highly technical and experts at discussing complex topics with potential customers in easy-to-understand language,” said Simpkins. “They were, hands down, the smartest people I’ve ever met in my life.”
Simpkins took advantage of a number of training opportunities during the fellowship. During the first month, he attended internal training courses, completed self-paced computer training, and pursued learning through commercial vendors to gain a better understanding of how various services worked.
Simpkins achieved the AWS Certified Associate Solutions Architect certification and was certified as a cloud practitioner.
As part of the fellowship, Simpkins also completed a monitored master builder project aimed at solving customer problems and engaging in mock interactions. He tailored his project to help address some of the challenges the Navy faces deploying software onto shipboard environments, which include limited bandwidth and slow upgrade schedules.
“The master builder project really helped cement the theory and gave me hands-on practical experience working in the cloud,” said Simpkins.
During the project, Simpkins analyzed problem sets and focused on several nontechnical solutions including containerization, micro services and DevOps, cost analysis and pricing. His work during this portion of the project helped to create an application prototype using modern technology that allowed applications to run detached or auto-scale in the cloud.
When it comes to the AWS fellowship opportunities, Simpkins said it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and participants get out of it what they choose to put into the program.
“Supporting the warfighter is a huge motivator for me,” said Simpkins. “The AWS fellowship was a great experience, and I’d encourage people to shoot for it.”
When he returned to SSC Atlantic, Simpkins integrated AWS techniques into his everyday work as a network engineer, a benefit that his supervisor, Scott Ainsworth, said is a boost for SSC Atlantic and the Navy.
“Programs he works on benefit from his in-depth, experiential cloud knowledge and the firsthand AWS perspective enables him to provide technical guidance that will expedite Navy cloud adoption,” said Ainsworth.