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07/12/2018

Software developer, cloud computing, problem solver and analyst, David Brown focused on becoming excellent in his field of expertise.

Nelson Mandela University alumnus, David Brown BCom Hons(2001) lives his passion for computer science and is now the Vice President, Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) at Amazon. He currently leads the various EC2 Compute, Networking and Load Balancing teams, building and maintaining cloud-based services used by several of the Internet's largest global domains, including many that are accessed by millions on a daily basis. He held numerous positions, including Director: Software Development and Software Development Manager and prior to that Brown was employed at Mosaic Software as a Software Development Manager and Senior Software Development Manager and Senior Developer in Cape Town.

“My first passion tied very closely to my career has been computer science and using computers to solve problems that began as a teenager when I started programming. I'm very analytical in the way I think and I started programming at a very early age and I spent every waking moment writing code. It was an obvious career choice for me to do computer science.

“I started off at Alexander Road High School under Keith Gibson who is an amazing computer science teacher, and then I went to university and did Computer Science.”

Brown explains that when you have a passion, you spend a lot of time doing it. As a teenager and the early part of his career, about five to 10 years, he was very focused on becoming excellent in computer programming and mastering the skill.

“Today I run an organisation of about 750 people worldwide so there is a large management component. Learning to lead and manage and what helped me there is that I did a B.Com degree and Computer Science and not a Bachelor of Science, which is very uncommon.  It was recommended to me by the Dean of the Faculty of Science Prof. de Kock. He said to me, 'Listen, if you want to do management one day do the B.Com and a Computer Science degree’ and I ended up majoring in Economics and Computer Science. I am always grateful for that advice. It set me up with the right subjects to lead a very large organisation and be responsible for hundreds and millions of dollars.”

While he was studying Brown ran his own computer business, selling computers, writing programmes doing  anything you need from a computer point of view, getting entrepreneurial experience while getting his degree.

Brown didn’t choose cloud computing, as it wasn’t really known 10 years ago. In 2005 Amazon said “if we can run these large websites, is there any way we can offer services that will allow other companies to run their services on top of the Amazon data centres? We know how to run data centres, we know how to run computers to scale, couldn't we offer that as a service?”

Amazon sent one of their employees, a South African, back to Cape Town in 2005 and opened a software  development centre in Constantia. No-one knew about it, it was a very small entity with 13 people in the team and from there developed cloud computing. The largest part of the ‘cloud' in terms of what Amazon invested in  was built and developed out of Cape Town. “The Cape Town team is still driving a lot of the development around what we call our 'elastic' computer cloud,  which is the service which allows you to have computer capacity. So that's how I got involved with cloud computing.

Brown’s advice to young people starting on a career path is to understand tech.

“Tech is everywhere and understanding tech is a requirement, it’s a good idea to have at least the basics - computer literacy, being able to use a computer and perhaps some basic computer programming so you can have a better idea of how a computer is programmed. Whatever you do today tech is such a fundamental part of it. What really helped me is do something that I’m passionate about. So many people either go after money or something else but if you really aren’t enjoying it, it is incredibly difficult to stay motivated. Passion is ultimately the reason for your success in your career. Have very clear, focused goals.”

Brown adds that although the going will be tough it's about having the grit to stay focused and push through as, people often push being comfortable rather than achieving their goals.

Ends

Contact information
Ms Zandile Mbabela
Media Manager
Tel: 0415042777
Zandile.Mbabela@mandela.ac.za