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Chair’s Reception: Meet Darren Hardman, VP and General Manager for Amazon Web Services, UK & Ireland

Many companies claim to be customer-focussed but Amazon claims to be customer-obsessed. first launched in the US in 1994, and since this time, innovation and anticipating customer needs has been at the forefront of the company’s growth.

After over a decade of building and running the highly scalable web application,, the company realised that it had developed a core competency in operating massive scale technology infrastructure and data centres, and embarked on a much broader mission of serving a new customer segment—developers and businesses—with web services they can use to build sophisticated, scalable applications.  

Amazon Web Services (AWS), Amazon’s cloud computing business, first launched an infrastructure region in the UK in December 2016 and has gone on to help businesses of all sizes and across all industries to innovate, scale and transform using its range of cloud-based services. 

We were delighted to welcome Darren Hardman to speak at Manchester Digital’s Chair’s Reception to an exclusive audience of CTOs from across the North West on Thursday, March 31. The event was sponsored by Slalom and the Q&A was hosted by Catherine Wilks, senior director at Slalom. 

“As a business, we’re unusually customer-focused. A lot of companies say this. Very few walk that walk. Most are actually competitor-centric. We take a long-term approach to how we interact with our customers, focusing not just on what they want, but what they need,” said Darren.

Darren explained that AWS works alongside the customer to figure out where they want to be in the future - and then work backwards to achieve that ambition. This ‘Working Backwards’ approach formalises AWS’s customer focus and ensures that AWS is continuously thinking about how the customer will perceive what they do. 

Darren Hardman, VP and General Manager for Amazon Web Services, UK & Ireland, in conversation with Catherine Wilks of Slalom

The discussion also focused on the availability and accessibility of digital and cloud training in the UK. The recent AWS Global Digital Skills Study revealed that there is an acute skills training shortfall in the UK today, with an estimated 11.6 million Britons, or 35% of the country’s workforce, requiring digital skills training over the next year alone. Darren added, “Helping to address this skills gap is a huge focus for us, and our customers, over the coming years. We have committed to train 29 million people globally in cloud skills by 2025 and this training and development will be critical to closing the technical skills gap to enable many more businesses to utilise the value of the cloud.”

AWS has launched a number of learning and skills programmes in the UK such as AWS re/Start. This programme prepares learners from unemployed and underemployed populations for careers in the cloud – at no cost to the learner. The 12-week, skills-based training programme covers fundamental AWS Cloud skills, alongside practical career skills, such as communication, time management, collaboration, interviewing, and CV writing. It covers the cost and prepares participants for the AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner exam, validating their cloud skills with an industry-recognised qualification, and connects learners with potential employers. AWS re/Start graduates have secured jobs at organisations such as Cancer Research, BT, and the Financial Times. 

AWS also focuses on inspiring young students, especially girls, to consider a career in tech. AWS GetIT invites schools to take part in an inter-school competition to design an app which solves a real issue faced by their school or community. Darren said that “through AWS GetIT, we are inspiring girls, aged between 12 and 13, to become tomorrow’s tech innovators and leaders.”

Lastly, Darren touched on sustainability, which is huge priority for AWS, as well as for every one of their customers. He said, “At AWS, we are working hard to meet our goal of powering our operations with 100% renewable energy, and we’re on a path to achieving this by2025, five years ahead of our original 2030 target as outlined in The Climate Pledge”. 

Moving to the cloud is actually a low hanging fruit when it comes to a business’ ability to drive down carbon usage. A recent study by 451 Research found that AWS infrastructure is five times more energy efficient than the average European enterprise data centre. This means that businesses in Europe can reduce energy usage by nearly 80% when they run applications on the AWS cloud.

We hope that all of our guests found the discussion insightful and we look forward to hosting our next Chair’s Reception later this year. 

About our sponsor

Slalom is a modern consulting firm focused on strategy, technology, and business transformation.

They enjoy solving problems through collaboration; helping their clients to modernise, bring solutions to life and transform their culture. They put people at the centre of everything they do.

Find out more about Slalom here or for an informal chat, contact Paul Squire ( 

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