Huge Failure Into Huge Success

Jun 17 / Robert Christiansen
In 2013, I failed the Amazon Web Services (AWS) Solution Architect exam and did a face-plant in the AWS ProServe interview, which was the best thing that could have happened to me.

At the time, I was recovering from a poor financial decision and climbing my way out of $150,000 in debt. I wanted the job at AWS - no, I needed the job. Life was not on my side (as I saw it), and I needed a win.  

I had deep experience on the AWS cloud platform, knew I could contribute at a high level, and felt the position was perfect for AWS and me.

The AWS ProServe team was small, and they were hyper-picky. I passed the screening and technical assessments and had a plane ticket to Seattle to meet the team. The interview process was called "the loop" and included face-to-face interviews with the infamous "bar raisers."


At the same time, AWS re:Invent was a few days away in Las Vegas. It was the second year of the infamous tradeshow, which was not well known at the time. Unlike today, AWS re:Invent was a small event attended by early adopters of the new technology platform.

Cloud Nation, my small company built on AWS, was in the process of being sold, which meant I could only take money once the deal went through.

I gambled and put the AWS re:Invent ticket on a credit card, which I could only pay if the company's purchase went through.

I knew having an AWS cert would improve my chances of being hired, and I decided to take the AWS Solutions Architect exam while at the show. Slamdunk.

I failed the exam! WTF! Ugh!

The failure crushed me! How could I have failed an exam? I know the platform inside and out and built a company on the technology.  

I was so down on myself. I sat in my hotel room, cursing my stupidity, wondering what I would do. Darkness surrounded me, and I lost my positive mindset. For a few minutes, I didn’t believe I had value or worth anything.

It was a brutal, rocky world.

I decided I needed a break, went to the show, and walked the expo floor.

The conference was packed. Crowds filled the aisles, and everyone was talking, but no one was listening. It sounded like a party at 11.

I slowly weaved through the crowds when Chris Greendale, one of the founders of Cloud Technology Partners Inc., stepped in front of me and said, "What do you do, young man?"

I smiled at the ‘young man’ greeting and responded, "Nothing. I sold my company, which used AWS." I waved my fingers in a circle, pointing to the show. "I am looking for my next gig."

Chris smiled, handed me his card, and said, "Call me."

For some reason, Chris’s card was the only card I kept from the show. I’d collected others, but his card was still with me.

I called.

Fast forward:

The bar raisers gave me a thumbs down, not surprisingly.

I did not get the AWS ProServe position despite the partitions of the hiring manager and several team members.

Chris GreenDale, Bruce Coughlin, and the CTP team hired me that week. I didn’t have to ask cultural questions during the interview. The culture was fully displayed with each team member I met during the interviews.

I found a home when I needed it the most.

Hewlett Packard Enterprise was purchased in 2018 and changed my life forever.

We never know why things happen the way they do.

I was devastated when AWS turned me down, but it was the best thing that could have happened to me.

You may be in a similar boat.

Stay focused. Do the next right thing. The future may appear dark, unforgiving, and without purpose. However, it is within our control to feed hope, no matter how small, and grow it until it stands on its own.

Hope is within each of us.
Created with