The Blog

Hey AWS, You’re Missing Forrest for the Trees

Calendar Icon 09.01.2021
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The cloud wars are getting a lot more interesting this week.

A Cloud Guru’s senior director of content and community, AWS Serverless Hero, and friend of this newsletter (“Aaaah! DON’T CALL ME THAT! DON’T EVER CALL ME THAT!”) Forrest Brazeal has announced that he’s accepted a role as Google Cloud’s head of content.

This has left me with a swirling cacophony of feelings, thoughts, and abrasive Twitter opinions that I wasn’t entirely sure what to do with. My solution is to write this post, which contains three distinct messages for three different parties.

A message for Forrest Brazeal

Forrest, I’m not sure you fully grasp the extent of your impact on this industry. Allow me to temporarily don the Mantle of Thought Leadership. That quiet voice we all have in the back of our minds from time to time, whispering that we don’t deserve the good things that happen to us, is absolutely lying to you.

Forrest, you’re a strong voice in the community. What some quarters don’t fully understand is that “community” in this context isn’t just a bunch of developers in their early 20s. It includes execs at large companies, a surprisingly broad analyst community, and a bunch of folks who round to “the final authority on buy decisions.”

There aren’t a lot of people who are instantly recognizable personalities in this industry. Google Cloud has clearly not offered this role to you based simply on the expectation of the great things you’re undoubtedly going to do in the future. Instead, it’s based upon the recognition of excellent work that you’ve already done. You deserve this.

A message for Google Cloud

I am actively more interested in Google Cloud than I was a week ago as a direct result of Forrest heading up your content division.

It takes a fairly large leap of faith to offer a role like this to someone who has no production experience with Google Cloud — who has instead spent his engineering career entrenched firmly within the AWS ecosystem. Forrest is (well, was) an AWS Serverless Hero. Forrest’s in-depth knowledge of the Amazon cloud platform and its idiosyncrasies isn’t that far off from mine.

I mentioned on Twitter that Forrest was on my list of the top three people who could sustain their own cloud industry business built around their own personalities. It’s worth noting that as of this writing, Google is the only company that’s reached out to ask, effectively, “So … who are the others?”

Google, you clearly have both a vision and a plan. One of the best things you’ve done to demonstrate you’re serious about the cloud space is sign public 10-year deals with large banks and other enterprises. A veritable tie to that decision is hiring Forrest.

A message for AWS

AWS, I cannot fathom how you failed to create and offer a similar role to Forrest as he’s gone through this process.

That conversation should have gone roughly like this:

“Hi, Forrest here — hello? What’s that awful racket?””Hi, AWS here! That’s the sound of a dump truck dropping a bunch of gold bars in your driveway.”

He already knows the platform, the people building and selling it, and, most critically, the customers. Did you forget that Forrest was never an AWS employee, so you can’t bully him with a non-compete lawsuit? Did you assume that “community” simply meant a bunch of internet randos on Twitter and not anyone who influences buying decisions?

Look, I know that there have been discussions internally at AWS that included the phrase “we should hire Corey, except.” Forrest Brazeal is pretty damned close to “Corey without the except.” Plus he can sing, play music, and draw.

What got AWS to this point won’t get you where you want to go next. Forrest cut through the noise and distilled into coherent sound bites what the latest AWS release meant to customers in a way that’s refreshingly candid, yet largely devoid of my trademark snark.

By letting Forrest slip away to Google Cloud, the light of the AWS zeitgeist is that much dimmer this week. It’s a loss to the AWS community and a tremendous long-term gain for a very serious competitor to AWS.

My concern here, AWS, is that you either don’t understand the incredible force for customers that is Forrest, or that you don’t care. Both represent significant gaps in the understanding of your own community and, by extension, your own market. Unlike a lot of companies whose “community” rounds to “free users you hope to sell things to one day,” your community is entirely composed of paying customers. You dismiss their desires and content preferences at your own peril.

In conclusion: Congrats, well done, and facepalm

Forrest, congratulations. No one deserves this more than you. Google Cloud, excellently done. You’ve brought a fresh central voice to what has historically been a fairly diffuse content production team. It will be viewed as a seminal moment in the story of your platform. AWS, I’m worried that you’re handwaving away everything I’ve just written, convinced that you know best. Take it as an article of faith: You don’t. In this matter, you are wrong, a lot.

When I write posts, I always wonder how they’ll have aged when I look back on them in five years. I’m betting this will be one of my most prophetic.

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