A Conversation with AWS’ Sandy Carter, One of the Busiest Women in Tech

Episode Summary

Sandy Carter is VP of Partners and Programs at Amazon Web Services. In her spare time, she also serves as an adjunct professor at Carnegie Mellon University Silicon Valley, an advisory board member for the IoT Community, a strategic advisor for SmartVizX and Betagig, and Chairman of the Board for Girls in Tech, Inc. Prior to wearing this many hats at once, Sandy served as a General Manager and CMO at IBM, Chief Sales Officer & Evangelist at Lotus Software, and CEO at Silicon Blitz. Join Corey and Sandy as they discuss the journey that led Sandy from running AWS’ Windows operations to becoming VP of Public Sector Partners and Programs, how AWS’ customer-centricity drives the company forward, the day Michael Jordan and Stacey King combined to score 70 points, the secret sauce that leads to AWS products being adopted rapidly, how satisfying it is to help large companies migrate from legacy infrastructure to the “new world” of the cloud, why Sandy loves mentoring women in tech, the importance of diversity and inclusion and what it really means, and more.

Episode Show Notes & Transcript

About Sandy Carter
Sandy Carter is the AWS Vice President, Public Sector Partners and Programs. In her new role, she is responsible for driving next-generation partnering. Her responsibilities include evolving partner models to intensify partner innovation, AWS cloud adoption and creation of mission critical cloud solutions with partners across public sector.  Her impact will be growing the partner ecosystem as a major driver for public sector and contributing significantly to the success of Public Sector customers.

Prior to this role, Sandy built an enterprise workload team as the Vice President of Windows and Enterprise Workloads at Amazon Web Services (AWS) focused on helping companies innovate using their current technology and assets with migration and modernization through containers and serverless. She led the team to overall growth with AWS now hosting nearly two times as many Windows Server instances in the cloud as Microsoft, per IDC. She led her engineering team to optimize SQL Server on AWS which exhibited 2X+ better price/ performance than Azure per ZK Research. For her leadership on the VMware Cloud on AWS business, she led the team to deliver results of 4x the number of customers year over year, with those customers having deployed 9x the number of VMs now vs 1 year ago.  Finally, she grew the number of competency partners by 3x and the number of ISV validated solutions by 4x in the last year.

She is the author of Extreme Innovation: Three Superpowers for Purpose and Profit, built on her research with Carnegie Mellon.  Sandy was named Lifetime Achievement Winner, 'Excellence in Cloud Achievement' for 2019, AI Innovator of the Year Nominee in 2019, Top 10 AI Influencers for 2019, Top 10 Cloud Computing Influencer, Top 39 Engineers by Business Insider 2018, Top 50 AI influencer by Onalytica 2018, Top 10 Future of Work influencer in 2018, and Top 10 Women in Technology by CNN. 

Sandy is the Chairman of the Board of Girls in Tech, and an adjunct professor at Carnegie Mellon University Silicon Valley. Last year,  Girls in Tech had over 125K women participate in their “Hacking for Humanity” initiative, and trained over 90K women globally on coding through boot camps, and workshops. She was honored two times with the AIT United Nations Member of the Year award for helping developing countries with technology. She is an Advisor to startups in AI, IoT, and AR/VR.

Links Referenced


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Welcome to Screaming in the Cloud. I’m Corey Quinn. I’m joined this week by AWS’s VP of Partners and Programs. Sandy Carter. Sandy, welcome to the show.

Sandy Carter: Thank you, Corey. I’ve been so excited about joining the show, so, I appreciate your having me on.

Corey Quinn: Of course. So, when we first started speaking, you were effectively running AWS’s Windows operations. And then when your bio came through, it said that you’re now the VP of Public Sector Partners and Programs, which, okay, I guess that might be Windows-oriented, sort of if you squint hard enough, but what’s the story behind that?

Sandy Carter: Yeah, so I came into AWS about three years ago to run enterprise workloads. And so I focused on our Windows business because obviously lots of enterprise workloads run Windows, as well as VMware Cloud on AWS. A lot of our enterprise clients today run VMware. SAP as well as Salesforce, and now IBM Flash Red Hat. So, I really honed and focused on those workloads. And then I was asked to come over and broaden the perspective, so not just those five workloads, but what could we focus on globally from a partner perspective? And so we’re now looking at public sector, in not just the government but state and local, education, healthcare, a lot of healthcares are nonprofits, outside the US, a lot of telecommunications, a lot of transportations, and then, in several regions of the world like the Middle East and some in Asia, the entire country, essentially is public sector, and a lot of that growth and a lot of that scale will come through our partners. So, I am super excited to take that Microsoft role, VMware, SAP, etc, and expand it out and about, across the globe.

Corey Quinn: What’s fascinating about your background to me is you come from pretty much the exact opposite of everything I’ve ever done in my career, for lack of a better term. You come from extremely large companies, big e-Enterprise style approaches, and I come from a small business world where, to my mind, a big company has 200 people. So, I assume that’s roughly how big AWS is. So, it’s, “Oh, you work at AWS? Do you know Jordan?” And the answer is always “No.” It turns out you folks do have more than a couple hundred people working there. Who knew? It’s just a different mindset, and it’s really its own skill. Unfortunately, it seems to be one that I lack, more often than not. How have you found that, I guess, transitioning from some of the largest companies in the world to, I guess, AWS in its, I guess, practically small team mentality, is really—I guess, what's that been like? Has it been a change? Has it been more or less the same?

Sandy Carter: Well, here’s the way I would think about it. So, I was at IBM, and I was actually running our partner ecosystem for the Cloud, IoT, and machine learning, and AI. I was asked to move out to California—which I love, the valley is just so energetic around tech—and to go out there and really develop that ecosystem. When I made the decision to leave IBM, I decided, I had been working with all of these startups, and when you’re in the valley, you get the startup bug. So, when I left IBM, which is this huge company, I went and started my own company. We were working on some research about how a company’s culture needs to match what they’re doing and innovation. So, Corey, I would see all of these huge companies and countries come into Silicon Valley. They would spend six months to a year, and they would learn everything about how all the top innovative companies there did business. And then they would take it and they try to take it back to their country or their company, and it would literally fail. So, what I worked on as my startup, is I worked on the ability to do kind of a Myers-Briggs for a company and match innovation tactics. So, needless to say, it was very small. So, I went from big, big, big IBM to really small; my own company. And that actually eased the transition into Amazon. So, once I had built my MVP, I had done some work with Carnegie Mellon, Silicon Valley, on a piece of research, I was able to sell that—those assets off because I only had done an MVP, so I can’t even say product. I was presented with an opportunity to come to Amazon. And so when I came, I had kind of already transitioned to being my own assistant, doing my own two slides and narratives and documents and thinking differently, being very scrappy. And I think that that transition really helped me a lot as I came into Amazon because as you know, Amazon’s a bunch of two-pizza teams. So, you are working in a start-up when you enter AWS. 

Corey Quinn: That’s always been the sense I’ve gotten. It’s—I’ve never been the type of person that would ever fit in any large company. But of any large company that I’ve ever spoken to, it seemed that AWS was the closest to the startup mentality that I tend to deal with, without some of the problematic parts that, generally, startup culture in San Francisco is best known for.

Sandy Carter: Yeah, I would say, I’ll just give you one quick example. When I started, an intern that worked for me came up with this idea. He did a six-page narrative which, of course, you know we do at AWS. He brought it in to me, I was like, this is a magnificent idea. We had, you know, of course, a team of people sitting reading the document in silence and then evaluating it. And so, I went to my boss and I said, “This is a great idea. How do we get this going?” And he’s like, “Well, you go. Just take your team and you just do it.” Which was very different from every other company I’d worked at. And so we did it, and it’s grown to be a sizable business, an idea that came out of an intern, which is typically a story that you would hear at a startup in the valley. And I have many stories like that from Amazon. So, it’s quite a fun place, and a very innovative place, and a very much of a small feel. I really love it.

Corey Quinn: Changing gears slightly, something that’s been very interesting is watching, I guess, almost a transition in what AWS has been focusing on and speaking on. At re:Invent last year, one of the things that was very notable throughout the course of the keynotes and the releases was an emphasis on the idea of hybrid. There’s always been some options, Direct Connect, or the Snowball Edge with the computer variant as well, but this was the first time that we really saw more or less the entire theme of the conversation revolving around hybrid. Things like VMware Cloud for AWS, Outposts being released, it really felt like it was a change in tone. Is that an accurate assessment? Or is that just, from where I sit, I’m just starting to notice things I didn’t used to notice before?

Sandy Carter: Well, I would say this. You know, I came in with VMware Cloud on AWS being one of my big missions, and that is hybrid cloud. So, we’ve been speaking a hybrid, if you would, for quite some time, but kind of with different motions. And what we were doing is, as we looked at our VMware Cloud on AWS offering—great offering by the way, if you are a VMware shop today, you want to get to the Cloud, it really helps you quickly migrate, integrates networking, both NSX-T with Direct Connect or vSAN storage with our EBS, it’s a great solution, and a great way for customers to kind of get to the Cloud, but in a hybrid way. And also, many of our customers love the fact that they can VMotion applications back and forth as well. As we started understanding that solution, we started listening to a lot of our customer feedback, which is what we’re known for, right? Working backwards from the customer. So, I think what AWS has done on hybrid cloud is really amped up the messaging, amped up the product portfolio. I mean, Outposts is an amazing offering, that gives you not something like AWS, but gives you AWS on-prem and has that ability to enable customers to now leverage hybrid in a way that you haven’t been able to before. Same with Wavelength or our Far Zones concept. It’s just an incredible way to take this to the next level. So, I would say we’ve been talking about hybrid computing for different segments of customers. I think what Amazon released, and Andy talked about a lot at re:Invent, was really fulfilling more promises, working backwards from our customers.

Corey Quinn: That’s one of the things that always struck me as being a truism about AWS, and Amazon in a larger context, and that people like to say, “Oh, it’s a corporate talking point.” And I’ll be perfectly honest, I used to think the same thing. But increasingly, every time I would wind up having a conversation with someone at AWS about something, it doesn’t matter how ridiculous my ask was, or what I wanted to do—if it was part of the setup for one of my ridiculous ideas, like using Route 53 as a database—the answer is always the same. “Interesting, can you tell me more about your use case?” And sometimes that use case was ridiculous, and other times it was, “Oh, well, you might not think of it that way. What about if you use another service or offering?” But I’ve never yet been made to feel dumb when talking to someone from AWS, despite the fact that oftentimes I was being extraordinarily dumb.

Sandy Carter: You know, it’s really interesting, because when I came into AWS, and when I developed—I had an engineering team and product management—when we developed our first—my first service, I will say that, Corey, I talked to 141 customers myself, got all kinds of use cases, and no question or comment was dumb. In fact, it all played into, you know, working backwards for the customer. You know, we always say 90 percent of what AWS builds is what AWS customers ask for. The other 10 percent, of course, is strategic interpretation of that need. I think that that is really where the power is, is listening to customers, you know, having builders talk to builders and really understanding. In fact, I kicked off one of my sessions once with a quote from Stacey King. I don’t know if you like basketball, but I’m a big basketball fan. And Stacy King was a rookie, and he played with Michael Jordan who, in my mind, was the best all-time basketball player ever, and he said, “I’ll always remember this day as the day that Michael Jordan and I combined to score 70 points.” And Stacey King scored one point. 

Corey Quinn: Excellent.

Sandy Carter: Whenever I see us announce something, I always give credit back to the customers. I say, “I scored the one point because I engineered and did the product management on it. But you customers, you did that 69 points because you gave us the ideas. You gave us the nuances, you gave us the use cases that enabled us to build something new and something that works for you.” And that’s why we have such fast adoption. In fact, that service I told you about was License Manager, which is now used by thousands and thousands of customers, and was only announced less than a year ago. And the reason the adoption is so fast is because we do listen to our customers.

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Corey Quinn: So, let’s pick a fight for a minute. [laughing]. I have a privilege of seeing you speak at a couple of summits last year. And one of the things you said, both times—and I figure if you say it on stage in front of the world, it’s a fair thing to ask questions about—and what you said was that AWS was the best platform for Windows workloads. Fair enough. I’m not going to dispute it, but I will ask why?

Sandy Carter: Well, first of all, AWS has run Windows for over a decade. We host nearly two times as many Windows server instances in the Cloud, as does Microsoft. So, you’re like, “Okay, so what?” Well, if you have all that experience, you know them Andy Jassy quote that says, “There is no compression algorithm for experience.” It’s really true. Our experience running Windows workloads has earned us our customers’ trust. We have tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of customers bringing their workloads over. So, whether it’s Autodesk who’s been running Windows on AWS for 10 years, or Salesforce, who has over 10,000 Windows instances, they run it on us. So, the question then is why, right? Why is that the case? And I would tell you, there are I think three or four core reasons. One is, we continue to innovate. So, whether it’s you know, Windows Server with things like License Manager I just talked to you about, which enables you to manage your licenses. Or SQL Server, being able to innovate with insights for SQL using machine learning, we can help you debug SQL application bugs on AWS faster, or .NET support. We were some of the very first support Lambda for .NET, and use of machine learning with .NET, or application modernization, we just innovate faster and have that agility that enables our customers to move quickly. It could also be in innovation and optimization. So, right now, the performance of running SQL Server on AWS is two to three times faster than running SQL Server on Azure. And that’s because we’ve taken the time to optimize our networking and our storage to make that happen. The second big reason is reliability. And some people are like, ah… but reliability matters. A lot of the Windows workloads are mission-critical. And reliability really begins with our global infrastructure, of which underpins all of those Microsoft services. We have 61 availability zones, 20 geographic regions around the world and the latest—it’s only from 2018, but they published it—it said that the next largest cloud provider had seven times more downtime hours than us. So, we get a lot of customers coming to us saying, “Hey, I tried running my Windows workloads on Azure. It’s just not reliable enough, I can’t count on it, so I need something better.” And I would say the third big reason is security. Our security, as Andy likes to say, is our priority zero because it’s so important that we prioritize it above everything else. And just one example is, if you look at FedRAMP, which is really important, not just for the government, but for regulated industries, we have over 90 Solutions today that are FedRAMP authorized, and that is four times more than Google and Microsoft combined. So, we take this stuff very seriously, and it’s because of our innovation and our reliability, our performance, our security, that people are choosing us and it’s in the numbers. It’s not a debatable thing. It’s definitely in the numbers, Corey.

Corey Quinn: There’s a lot in there to unpack. And I’m sure that some people are going to be sitting up there taking angry issue with almost everything you said, in which case, cool. Email you, not me. But one thing I have noticed is that Microsoft’s cloud offering is one of the, to my understanding, the only major cloud provider that offers an SLA around individual instances. Which, first, is terrifying about what it says about those workloads. Windows workloads have a tendency to be, shall we say, tetchy, but it does speak to the idea that this single pet of an instance can’t die, and that is something that I know that I’ve spoken with customers where that idea resonates. As much as we love talking about the idea of, “Oh, there should be no single points of failure in your environment.” Well, here in the real world, we’re often nowhere near lucky enough.

Sandy Carter: That is true. And I would say that, you know, as you look at our customers, there are different use cases for each customer as they’re deploying, and based on what their needs are, we really try to make sure that they’ve got the right level of security, reliability, performance. So, for example, one of the things that we announced most recently is FSx for Windows, which is a fully managed native compatibility with Windows, the SMB protocol, the industry standard. And, you know, a lot of people were like, “Well, why are you doing that?” It’s Windows native, it’s built on Windows Server, but who’s going to really use it? We had such uptick in the use of that even though it was really about performance and cost primarily, we thought, in the media industry, but then we had customers like Neiman Marcus, Ancestry, Cube Research really take advantage of using this feature that drives wicked fast performance with lower TCO. So, I think that you can find a use case or something that fits every different customer scenario, and that’s one of the things that Amazon is so good at is trying to figure out what does each customer need? What is the level of security? What is the level of performance? What are they really looking for? And trying to fill that need.

Corey Quinn: There’s definitely a value in meeting customers where they are. Back when EFS, and then it’s Windows equivalents came out, I was fairly harsh to the idea, because from my perspective, if you’re building something net new greenfield, you don’t necessarily want to use a shared file system in a cloud environment, more or less the effective way of doing these things, object stores, etc, etc. And I sat here in my ivory architecture tower, and I wound up getting some feedback from the GM of that product—Hi Wayne—and the entire point was, “Okay, you can take that position if you’d like. But understand that not everyone has the option of throwing everything that they’ve built away, and starting over from scratch.” That seems like it is the, from my perspective, the San Francisco startup disease of anything older than 18 months is ready to be thrown away. But that’s just not how the business works, it’s not how the world works. And if you’ve got to run NFS or the SMB/CIFS equivalent in a cloud environment, there’s no better way to do it. And I started digging into the services and realized, yeah, I really should have had a more informed take on that when it first came out. There’s something to be said from learning from our customers.

Sandy Carter: Absolutely. And, can I pick up on another point, Corey? 

Corey Quinn: Please.

Sandy Carter: That you said that you can’t throw everything out and start over. I mean, those are the customers that I’ve been working with for the last three years. They’re enterprise customers, so they don’t have the luxury of being a cloud-native startup, which has advantage because they’re beginning with native cloud services on Linux. And that’s also why I’m so excited about another announcement that we made, which was BYOL on Dedicated Host, and making that more cloud-like, right? Because we have so many customers today who are still running Windows Server. And they need a way to get that to the Cloud. And instead of telling them they have to just throw it out and get rid of it, we took a different approach, and the approach we took was, you want to continue to bring those licenses to AWS but a dedicated host is kind of a non-cloud-like experience, right? You have to have a dedicated machine to run that application on. So, how could we take away you know, that physical server that’s dedicated to the single use of the customer, and make it appear or seem like it was running an EC2 instance. So, that’s what we did. We enabled our customers to be able to create a BYOL instance just like they do any other instance. They can do that in the command line, it can do that in the GUI. To me, this was one of the most exciting announcements, again, leveraging what you were just talking about. I can’t throw everything away, how do I get that to the Cloud so I can start my experiments?

Corey Quinn: That’s—it’s always easy to sit here and tear things down that are existing. What are you doing with that ancient piece of crap? Oh, about eight billion dollars a year in revenue, why do you ask? It feels like there’s an aversion in tech to anything legacy, by which we mean it makes money. There’s a lot of pushback in from the quote-unquote “thought leaders” of the world who are, “Oh, this is now the way to do it, the way and the light, and here’s our beautiful whiteboard architecture.” I’ve never yet seen one of those that was a realistic representation. Production, the real world, it’s always messy. There’s no way around that, and my biggest concern now is when people—one of them, there are many concerns—is that when people see these things on a stage somewhere at a conference, they’re convinced, rightly or wrongly, that, “Oh, this company has it all figured out, whereas ours is garbage.” But I’ve been sitting in conference halls where someone from a company is talking about their migration or their beautiful architecture. And I turn to the person next to me and say, “I’d love to work someplace like that.” And the person next to me says, “Yeah, I would too,” and they work at the speaker’s company. It’s conference-wear for lack of a better term. We all tell stories that get to a point, but nothing is perfect. Nothing is idealized and the world is messy, and I think accepting that is important.

Sandy Carter: I agree with you, I love that—conference-wear. You know, and these are the companies that like I said, I’ve been working with for the last three years. Great companies, great IT shops that are looking to, you know, mix that legacy with the new world, and so I was just so excited to work with them, not just because they’re big companies, you know, like Capital One, but because they have this need, and they really want to get to the new world, and they’re developing training programs and education to get there. And I would tell you another great idea that came up from one of those companies was single sign-on. So, most of our—most companies overall, not just most of our companies—they use Active Directory. And so one of the things they kept asking us is, “Look, you launched single sign-on and we can work with our existing AD on-prem, but because we use AD, we need to also be able to interface with Active Directory on Azure, because every Office 365 needs that, so how can you help us? So, one of my other favorite announcements, again, came from this need of leveraging that legacy. We provide support for Azure Active Directory. And you can do that through standard protocols, so you don’t have to get locked into anybody, gives you more flexibility in your overall cloud. But we also added in flexibility and multi-factor authentication so you could use Google Authenticator or Microsoft Authenticator. And then we integrated it into the command line, to make it easier for someone to sign in and stay in securely without having to change, and with an automated short term credentials to eliminate the hassle of staying secure, and freeing up that time for the developer, yada, yada, yada, all those great things. So, this is one of the reasons I really love my job, because my job was to help those legacy companies, and even more so now, help those companies figure out how to move and get there. And they want to get there, and we’re seeing them get there, and I think that’s probably one of the most, you know, exciting things. Other than seeing the CEO of Goldman Sachs DJ, at re:Invent last year. [laughing].

Corey Quinn: Yeah, that was definitely something. I heard the story, I knew that he effectively did that in his spare time. I did not expect to see him doing it on stage and that was fantastic. 

Sandy Carter: I agree.

Corey Quinn: I will ask you about the re:Invent keynote, though. It’s one of my recurring jokes has been that the head of Amazon’s product strategy is a post-it note that says “yes” on it. And that is never more true than during the three-hour barrage of Andy standing on stage, talking about new services and features. So, we’ve long since passed the point where I can talk incredibly convincingly about services that don’t really exist, but no one at AWS would dare question it, because maybe it’s just not in their group. Maybe they haven’t heard of it yet. So, I promise not to do that. But I will ask you, what were some of your favorite releases that came out?

Sandy Carter: Oh, wow. So, I would tell you that one of my very favorites wasn’t in my group, but the IDK for machine learning. So, part of my passion—when I went to college way back when, I majored in computer science and math, and one of my minors was in artificial intelligence, which has changed a lot. And then I told you about my career at IBM where I spent time developing training modules for Watson, which is IBM’s AI. So, this was so exciting to me that we now have SageMaker, which is essentially now a true IDK. So, I just thought that that was a neat announcement to make, as a coder. You know, one of my favorite quotes is that programming is the closest to magic that you’ll ever have. And for me, that is so incredibly true because coding, you can create anything, you can really drive anything, and now with SageMaker, I’m just thinking, you know, SageMaker Studio that enables everything to be integrated for machine learning; or Notebooks, that gives you that notebook experience with a Quick Start; or the Experiments, enabling you to organize and track all of your experiments that you want to run; Debugger; the Model Monitor, which I love, because I love creating models, detecting the quality of your model and helping you to take corrective action. Really excited about that entire announcement, which I thought was amazingly cool. And then if I switch back to my Windows hat—I guess Windows and Linux hat—another one of my super cool announcements that I love was Image Builder. I don’t know if you caught that, but when I first started at AWS, the number one complaint my customers gave me is I have to build a compliant Windows or Linux image for AWS. And when I do that, I have all this work, right? I have to create it, I have to manage it, I have to deploy it, I have to keep it in compliance. And so, my team started working on this, really thinking about it, because it is hard. So, what we were able to release is Image Builder that automatically produces that new image and distributes it to AWS Regions after you validate the test on it. And your test could be your test, could be some of the Amazon best practices, it helps you reduce—the ability to build those compliant and up to date images. It was really one of my very favorite announcements. I got to do that announcement on stage. And when I did that, I think it got the most applause, and I even had a couple people stand up, which was super cool because we worked on it for so long. And it enables both Windows and Linux, we started building it just for Windows, but we made it for Linux as well. It enables customers to save so many different things. And I would say, my last one, I know I have a lot here but the last one that I really loved, and I don’t know how many caught it was, again for our Windows users, was the ability now to take Windows Server 2003 and 2008, and enable them to move up to the next version, but to encapsulate those 2003, 2008 API’s, move that up to 2006 or 2009, without refactoring. 

Corey Quinn: Yes.

Sandy Carter: And we do that through a program, but also through some code as well.

Corey Quinn: When you say a program, I assume that is not in the sense of, it’s a bunch of code that compiles, and we hand it to you. The program as in a organized system of people.

Sandy Carter: That’s right, you got it. We announced some partners who are able to perform that, like Smartronix and Accenture, that we also announced—I think it’s important that it’s not just a marketing program. It’s actually technology that enables you to package these legacy apps up, so they can run on new versions of Windows Server without having to refactor.

Corey Quinn: That struck me as being something that is going to be transformative for an awful lot of companies because it—technical debt of—sorry, the term sounds derogatory, but let’s not even talk about in that sense—the problem of having workloads that are not current or haven’t been touched in a long time, is the people who built them are often gone. No one knows all the edge cases of it. I mean, the worst programmer I ever met, heck, was myself six months ago, when I do git blame and find out what moron wrote this, and I’m said moron, it’s, “Well, that tracks.” It winds up being a terrible problem, and how do you wind up solving this? If you don’t have to tear an entire application apart and rebuild it just to move it, suddenly that unlocks an awful lot of opportunity. I would further agree with you, with what you say about the EC2 Image Builder. In hindsight, I should have seen it coming, I think is probably the best way to frame that. But the easy way to figure out of what AWS is likely to do is, when I was back doing engineering work, and I was transitioning jobs every year or two, because my primary employee skill set is getting fired, what is one of the first things I would always have to do when showing up in a new environment? It’s, you set up certain things like the SFTP endpoint that then copies files to S3. That came out a year ago, which I was super thrilled about. Now you also set up something with Packer equivalent, an entire build pipeline to generate the Golden AMI that you’re going to use to spin things up in your environment. It’s the same undifferentiated work, that—it shouldn’t require a three-day project with bringing in a whole bunch of external dependencies to do that. So, that is one of those things I’m very thrilled to see come out and for better or worse—it’s a little late for me just because A) I’m not doing engineering anymore, and B) I have jumped on board the serverless train, which means that I don’t have to run computers anymore, or so they tell me. But, man, is that transformative for an awful lot of shops.

Sandy Carter: I have to tell you, I had so many customers come up to me and say, “Thank you so much.” I mean, literally thanking me for doing that, and talking to me about how many people that was going to save for them. I just think that that was, it was one of my very favorite announcements, for sure, as we talked about it, just because it’s not sexy, right? It’s not ML, because that was where I started. It’s not that sexy announcement, but it’s a real valuable announcement because it saves customers time, and then they can put that time and those people into other things that are a little bit sexier, but it enables them to do their jobs better. And that’s what really makes me happy is that personal connection, and being able to help our customers do things at lightspeed, if you would.

Corey Quinn: It’s the sort of thing that never makes a headline, and never makes the front page of the keynote, but it’s always worth looking at. One last thing I wanted to ask you about, you’ve been a passionate supporter of women in tech projects and movements for a long time. Can you tell me a little bit about that?

Sandy Carter: Yes, I would love to talk about that. So, I believe and AWS believes that—we’re all about innovation, and the way that you innovate is you bring in diverse ideas. And if your employees look like your customer, you’re going to be able to come out with more innovations that are right for them. So, first of all, I’ll just say that diversity and working with women in tech and girls in tech, it shouldn’t be just a nice to do, it really needs to be viewed as the business case of diversity. There is value in your innovation. There is value in just the different ideas that are generated. I’ll just give you one case in point. If you look at data that comes out around diversity, companies who have a diverse leadership team, are 45 percent more likely to grow their market share, and 70 percent more likely to capture a new market. And that’s directly from a McKinsey report. So, the data is there to support the value of diversity. One of the reasons that I’m really passionate about it is one of my mentors, Corey, always told me, when you make it, and everybody makes it every day of their lives, you have to reach back and pull someone along. So, part of my mission has been, how can I help women who are already in tech? How can I help them do more? How can I help girls who are exploring tech? How can I help them get really excited about the potential of technology? So, for example, one of the things that we had looked at, at our recent conference was a drone show that was led by an all-female drone team from Intel. And they were supporting girls in tech. Girls need role models, and here’s an all-female drone team that did—I don’t know if you saw it, but the spectacular drone show that was there at our conference. So providing not only funding and money to get them into coding school and classes, but setting that great example. So, I’m really passionate, very excited about helping others to see the value in technology and the fun of it too. It’s super fun, right?

Corey Quinn: It really is. It’s also important to be as inclusive as possible. It’s—there’s no value in having people who all look and think alike in the same room trying to build products. At that point, you wind up with hilarious misfires. The more voices, the better. And I think that there are problems in this space that are significant. We’re starting to see some advancement on there, but oh, there’s so much work yet to be done.

Sandy Carter: I agree. And I don’t want anybody to think I’m just talking about gender diversity. I think there’s diversity across the board. So, one of the interesting new facts I found was that more than one in three new businesses today are started by someone over the age of 50. So, you know, it’s generational. It’s cultural. It’s everything. In fact, one of our teams—I have to tell you this story. One of our teams was not innovating as fast as possible. And if you looked at them, you’re like, wow, it’s culturally diverse, it’s generational diverse, it’s gender diverse, what’s going on? And we found out that they all graduated from the same school. So, their frameworks and their mental model had all been trained by one school. So, diversity is really about diversity of thought, just so you can gravitate to hearing all those ideas that you talked about.

Corey Quinn: That’s, I think, where a lot of the work remains to be done. There’s—it’s a complicated series of issues. And it’s one of those things that I regretfully suspect that we’re not going to solve this in my lifetime, but I think we can definitely make strides and get far further than we have.

Sandy Carter: I completely agree. And I must say, if I could just kind of add one thing, too, that I think is so powerful, it’s another just thought about helping others, Corey. One of the things I also love about Amazon—and I know we saw some of this, we’ve seen it a lot—but one of the reasons why I love Amazon Web Services, as an example is, we have this—in my new role, we have this whole nonprofit group, and yesterday we were just reviewing some of the impact. You know, it’s not just about making money, it’s also about doing good. I really believe in tech for good. And we just went through yesterday, how Amazon technology is helping to identify human trafficking rings and child exploitation that’s going on. We saw yesterday a video from a skin disease called EB, which I had never heard of, and how Amazon is using machine learning and AI to help discover patterns and trends to help, hopefully, one day cure this disease. So, we’ve talked about a lot of things today. I think the bottom line, though, is that as you’re starting the New Year out, you’ve got to think about technology as a great enabler. It does allow you to do magic, but you should share that magic not just with your company, for earning money, but get your company to support diversity inclusion. Some of these other things that are tech for good—like what I love that you did at last year’s re:Invent conference with the shirts—you raised, how much money for St. Jude’s right?

Corey Quinn: $18,000 last year, yeah.

Sandy Carter: $18,000, which is so—

Corey Quinn: It’s surprisingly challenging to find a charitable cause that no one is on the other side of, except complete monsters. There’s always going to be someone who said, “Why this cause and not the other cause?” “Well, that one is a good cause, but is it good enough?” But kids with cancer is one of those things where it’s hard to find something more serious, and it’s hard to find something that everyone can get behind in quite the same way. There are options, but it’s always—it’s one of those slam dunk things that I personally feel passionately about. So, it was one of those things that just sort of tied together across a whole variety of box-checking, as well as a cause that I’m, again, profoundly passionate about.

Sandy Carter: Yeah, and if we jointly, Corey, could leave one message—I know everybody listening is all about tech—I think what I would challenge you to do, you probably already set your New Year’s resolutions but set one to do something, like what you did at our conference, where you just said, “Hey, buy a shirt and we’re gonna give the money here,” or Coding for America, or joining one of these efforts for helping human trafficking or curing disease. It’s really about giving back. So I would hope that everybody listening would also take a challenge in 2020 to do something good. To do hashtag #techforgood.

Corey Quinn: Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me today, Sandy, I appreciate it.

Sandy Carter: It’s always cool. I wish we had a picture, though, that we could both open our mouths really wide, right? [laughing]

Corey Quinn: Oh, we can probably make that happen one of these days. If people want to learn more about what you have to say on this and many other topics, where can they find you?

Sandy Carter: Well, I would love for them to go to either Twitter: it’s @Sandy_Carter. I’m there with Corey almost every day. LinkedIn is another great way to catch up with me. It’s just Sandy Carter. I’m also on Instagram and Facebook, and I will also give my email out; it’s [email protected], if you’ve got a great suggestion for something on Windows, or a new partner thing, or just anything, your tech for good idea, email me as well. I’ll be happy to get back with you and chat with you as well. And Corey, I’m really honored to be on here, really appreciate all the great work that you’re doing, both on tech for good as well as just teaching tech and educating as well. So, thank you for having me.

Corey Quinn: Of course, thank you once again, Sandy Carter, VP of Partners and Programs at AWS. I’m Corey Quinn, and this is Screaming in the Cloud. If you’ve enjoyed this podcast, please leave a five-star review on iTunes. If you’ve hated this podcast, please leave a five-star review on iTunes and a fun comment.

Announcer: This has been this week’s episode of Screaming in the Cloud. You can also find more Corey at ScreamingintheCloud.com or wherever fine snark is sold.

This has been a HumblePod production. Stay humble.
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