Rebuilding: From Earthquake Chaos to Launching Cloud Careers

On February 6th, 2023, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit southern and central Turkey and northern and western Syria, causing widespread damage. The massive earthquake caused people to lose their homes and livelihoods, with an estimated 1.5 million people left homeless, and at least 1.1 million people – primarily Turkish citizens – moving to different parts of the country.

Finding opportunity in uncertain times

In response, the AWS re/Start and AWS Social Responsibility and Impact teams collaborated with Yonetim Academy, a technology, education and finance solutions organisation, to initiate a reskilling program for individuals displaced from their homes. The program’s goal was to provide people with new skills to enter the tech industry and support their transition into new roles. This would enable those displaced to launch in-demand cloud careers in their new communities, or, given the remote nature of many tech roles, take up positions from wherever they resided until settled.

AWS re/Start is a free-to-the-learner, full-time workforce development program that helps jump-start careers in cloud computing. While no technology background is required, each learner must have resilience, determination, and a passion for self-improvement. The participants in the Turkey cohort exemplified these characteristics.

AWS re/Start Turkey cohort

Amidst the challenges and uncertainty of displacement, 34 learners graduated from the AWS re/Start cohort in October 2023. These individuals collectively embraced a forward-looking perspective and gathered to celebrate their achievements at an official ceremony at the US Counsel Residence in Istanbul. More than 100 people attended the event, including the Board Director from the American Chamber of Commerce, and representatives from major corporations that find value in hiring entry-level cloud talent, like Coca-Cola and Proctor & Gamble.

The outlook for this cohort is positive. To date, program graduates have launched new cloud careers in roles such as Technology Advisor, DevOps Engineer, and IT Management Trainee, at organizations including Agilis Teknoloji, Amadeus IT Group, and Garanti BBVA Bank Digital Corporation.

Huseyin Isik’s story

Meet Huseyin Isik, an AWS re/Start learner from this cohort who now works as an Artificial Intelligence Engineer at ASSA Teknoloji. He shares the impact of this experience in his own words:

“Before the earthquake, we were living with my family, mother, father, and six siblings, in the Bismil district of Diyarbakır. My military service started on February 5th. The next morning, I heard on television that there was an earthquake. At first we didn’t realize how big it was. When I tried to call my family, I couldn’t reach them. It scared me so much because the news was talking about buildings collapsing. Even though I reached them later, it was very challenging not being able to be with them.

My family was afraid, they stayed in the village with my aunt until the state checked the integrity of our home. The process was difficult for them because five families had to live together in a small village house.

We have now returned to our old house. There are small shakings from time to time. We all have trauma-sized fears. We have the whole family together. We will continue to stay there because it is our own home and it is solid. This experience made us all question life and brought awareness to the need to heal a big wound together.

Though my background was in electrical engineering, I was dreaming about exploring artificial intelligence and cloud, opportunities. My ultimate goal was to be a professional data scientist and I was following opportunities to reach this goal before the earthquake. AWS re/Start contributed greatly to recovery after the earthquake and helped me fill in the gaps in my cloud knowledge. Practicing the labs in a simulation environment and working with my group of friends was the most fun part for me. It was great to access AWS resources for free. As someone who is interested in data science, I am very happy to improve myself in the cloud field with AWS re/Start training. I earned my AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner certification and got a job after just two months at a technology enterprise.

In my current position as an Artificial Intelligence Engineer, I develop algorithms in a cloud environment. Thanks to the AWS re/Start training, I know how to achieve this. My job interview process started with my friend Emine EĞRİ, who is also an AWS re/Start graduate, recommending me. My interview process was comfortable because I was familiar with the project and knew AWS Cloud services. If I hadn’t attended the AWS re/Start training, I would have doubts about being able to do the cloud side of this business today and that could have affected my self confidence about the process. I also had great benefit from the soft skill trainings of AWS re/Start. Thanks to everyone for all the efforts put in.”

Hope for the future

Success stories like Huseyin’s wouldn’t be possible without the help of our collaborating organizations. Neslihan Kuzu, from Yonetim Academy, shares her perspective: “Like most local businesses, starting from the first day, we were at the field with emergency response teams. But we also wanted to provide a hope for the future. With economical losses at around 84 billion USD, the earthquake also very badly affected the unemployment level. This led us to the idea to work with AWS re/Start, with which we had robust experience. We managed to graduate 34 brave hearts in one cohort. Although the process was not easy, our experienced IT instructors, soft skills instructors, mentors, and the great passion of the learners, helped make this program a game changer for each and every learner.”

Employers also benefitted from the injection of new AWS Cloud talent in the region. “We had the pleasure of hiring one of the graduates of the AWS re/Start program for one of our multinational clients. It was a remarkable experience to find the right talented candidate who met the requirements and had the necessary technical knowledge and social ability to adapt to the company culture. It was very satisfying to position such a high profile candidate, who successfully contributes to the business processes of our customer, in a short period,” Neval Önen, Vice Chairwoman of the Board, Director of Human Resources and Administrative Affairs, Kafein Technology Solutions.

Looking forward to 2024 and beyond

As we dive into 2024, AWS re/Start will continue to support individuals who are determined to launch new careers in the cloud. Working closely with our collaborating organizations, we’ll embrace the Amazon Leadership Principle Success and Scale Brings Broad Responsibility and are determined to “make better, do better, and be better for our customers, employees, our partners, and the world at large” by offering no-cost pathways to promising cloud careers.

Connect with Talent from AWS Education Programs

AWS Education Programs are preparing graduates for cloud roles in cities and towns around the world. We designed our curriculum by working backward from employer requirements, ensuring that graduates are qualified and prepared with the skills needed. Find cloud-skilled talent to fill your open roles today.

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