Storytelling and Relationship-Building in Tech with Colleen Coll

Episode Summary

Colleen Coll, Account Executive at The Duckbill Group, joins Corey on Screaming in the Cloud to discuss her journey of breaking into tech and why it’s so important to make your presence known. Colleen explains how she wound up working for The Duckbill Group after taking the initiative to go and meet Corey at a networking event, and what motivates her to take risks and do things that might feel intimidating in order to advance her career. Colleen and Corey also discuss the power of influencer marketing, as well as the focus The Duckbill Group has on setting a high standard for employee onboarding and culture.

Episode Show Notes & Transcript

About Colleen

Colleen Coll is a native of Pittsburgh and wannabe tech geek working in tech media sales, events, writing and marketing. She’s an advocate for women and underrepresented communities in tech and is extremely proud of her efforts to learn coding languages and engage and connect diversity in the open source circle! When she’s not geeking out and traveling the globe (and virtually) producing/ hosting tech podcasts and livestreams, she enjoys trips to local wineries, binging sci-fi, and hosting bolognese dinner parties.

Links Referenced:


Announcer: Hello, and welcome to Screaming in the Cloud with your host, Chief Cloud Economist at The Duckbill Group, Corey Quinn. This weekly show features conversations with people doing interesting work in the world of cloud, thoughtful commentary on the state of the technical world, and ridiculous titles for which Corey refuses to apologize. This is Screaming in the Cloud.

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Corey: Welcome to Screaming in the Cloud. I’m Corey Quinn. Every once in a while, I like to do a bit of a behind-the-scenes episode where I talk to one of the people here at The Duckbill Group that makes the whole thing run. Because I’ve got to be honest, there’s a certain audience and public perception that everyone on our team's page more or less just sits around and claps as I do all the work. And that’s not true, at least, you know, 80% of the time. My guest today is a relatively new hire here at Duckbill. Colleen Coll is our account executive in media here at The Duckbill Group. Colleen, thank you for joining me, both in an employment sense and on the podcast.

Colleen: [laugh]. Thanks for having me, Corey. This is an honor and privilege [laugh].

Corey: You say that now we’ll see how you feel by the end of this conversation. There’s always that. So, I find when you’re trying to tell a story, one of the best places to begin is the beginning. And we look at people in the space who are doing things that are aspirational or admirable and we have this tendency to believe that they were always this way as if they were formed fully and sprung live from the forehead of some ancient god. And that isn’t how it works. Where do you come from? How do you find yourself now? And where did you start before getting here?

Colleen: I come from a long line—well, possibly a short line—of people who wanted to be a journalist. They wanted to be the All the President’s Men, and that’s what I grew up with. And I took the journalistic ethics classes for it and that’s what I wanted to do. I wanted to be hard-hitting. And then after I graduated, I found that it did not pay well at all, and [laugh] it was a hard jobs to get. It was just hard to get in. So, I had to figure out a plan. And somehow I went through nonprofits, hospitals, and all kinds of marketing gigs, and then I ended up in tech and I still don’t know how I got here. I think it was a dare basically. It was basically a dare [laugh].

Corey: Something that you didn’t do post-journalism that, as best I can tell, is the path that so many, I don’t want to use the term ‘fallen journalist,’ so I won’t, but so many folks who have gone through journalism decide to drift into is in many cases PR and corporate comms. And, on some level, we’ve now hit a point where I think there’s two or three PR professionals for every working journalist, at least. And that ratio is even more skewed in tech. You didn’t go in that direction. Was that not something that appealed? Did it not exist in the timeframe that you were making that transition in the same numbers that it does these days? What was it that wound up, I guess, making that not a path you went on?

Colleen: Actually Corey, I did.

Corey: Oh, wonderful.

Colleen: Yeah, for a short time. I went in as communications, doing a little bit of PR work. Not a lot because that’s not what my focus was. But because—this is what I found out—because you had that writing specialty that you could go into PR, somehow be dropped into it, but then it will lead you to other things like speech writing for whomever VP or C-level. Because I found that a lot of people with Business Economics degrees did not really know how to write or spell for that matter [laugh]. And so, I was sort of used from the bottom once they knew that I had these writing abilities to help in that manner. And that’s-I dropped into PR. It was okay, but I love being engaged in the community more, so they put me into events.

Corey: I did not realize that. And I apologize. It turns out that we don’t do the in-depth, totally invasive style of background check that it seems is becoming more and more common in some places. Imagine that. No, it’s one of those weird areas just because it’s—I deal with so many PR types in different ways and, on some level, it’s easy to fall into the trap of forming a dim view based upon the worst examples because those are the ones that stick in your minds.

But a lot of folks have serious challenges in the corporate comms space and communicating authentically and effectively to the audience, which in many cases is something that, as you said, you take it in a slightly different direction. You do know how to write, you know how to spell, and that sounds like I’m being incredibly sarcastic, like, “Yay, and you can tie your shoes. Triple threat, baby,” but no, it’s not. It is a vanishingly rare skill set in this space, and I see that and get frustrated with it every week when I try and put my newsletter together. And, “What am I going to link to?” I see promising titles that look like it’s going to be germane and if I can’t get through the first paragraph without facepalming, just based upon how poorly it’s written, I don’t want to inflict that on the audience.

People lose sight of the fact that we’re going to record a podcast or we’re going to write blog posts, we’re going to send out an email newsletter. How do we get the best production value for all of this without focusing on the most important part, which is, what are we going to talk about? How are we going to get people to care about it? And that’s the thing that I think gets overlooked the most is the audiences will forgive all kinds of weird production-style issues. It’s okay, this was filmed on your iPhone or it was just posted in plain text on a web dumped somewhere. People will read it if it’s compelling. If it’s not, it doesn’t matter how big the production budget was, it’s not interesting. And if it’s not interesting, no one’s going to care.

Colleen: And I think that’s where I’m sort of a professional in a sense where—and sort of, I’d like to say gifted in a way because I thought it was natural, I still think I’m a natural in storytelling. Regardless of where you are, it’s how you tell your story where people would listen is very, very important. Whether you’re doing a sales pitch or whether you’re trying to sell a bride—from my event management background—just tell the story of how this is going to be successful and to try to sell her the 12-top instead of something else. So yeah, you have to just make it compelling and try to—I like to call myself a kick-ass storyteller, and that’s what’s gotten me here so far, and will get me to where I need to be in the future.

Corey: I would agree with that. You’ve always had a fascinating curiosity, I think is the best approach to this. I still remember the first time we met. It was over a year ago at Monitorama where I threw the annual drink-up—or basically, the drink-up I throw whenever I’m in town somewhere, otherwise, people get annoyed that I didn’t remember to hang out with them personally. And then well, I’ll be there for six weeks. That’s how many lunches I need to book.

And you showed up and introduce yourself, and it was glorious. It was, wow, someone wants to have an actual conversation about things I said on the internet. And for once, I don’t think they’re about to punch me right in my snarky face. Like, this is amazing. How do we get more people like this showing up? And when you applied to work here it was, “Oh, wait is Colleen? Colleen, Colleen?” And that definitely raised eyebrows.

Colleen: Yeah. It was so weird. I love telling that story because it’s a great story to tell because I heard about you where I was before, in the tech industry. And I started following him, like, this guy is… he’s crazy [laugh]. I want to know more.

Corey: Undoubtedly.

Colleen: Exactly. And you were so tech-heavy, but you made it to a point where it was just, like, some kind of the humor and people got you, and I was just so—even though I didn’t understand—I will admit, I don’t understand half the stuff you’re talking about, but the engagement that you had, I was just it was just so compelling, I’m just so interested in that. Because in any kind of work, you want to see, when somebody says something and people respond, and a lot of people respond whether it’s bad or, “Good,” quote-unquote, but I was like, “I got to meet this guy.” And then one time, you were in Portland. Who knew? I thought you’d be somewhere else, and I was, “Like he’s at Momo’s.” Which I live in Portland; it’s right down the street.

I was like, I’m going to—I was on the couch, just laying down [laugh], doing nothing. I got dressed up, put on my eyelashes for you, Corey, and I went to the bar [laugh]. And I said, “You know what?” I was still nervous, I was [unintelligible 00:08:42], but you know what? I’m going to just say, “Hey, Corey. I’m Colleen. I work here. Nice to meet you finally.” So. It was so weird, you and Mike and everybody were just so nice and I just ended up having a—and I got the photo with your mouth open. So, that was awesome.

Corey: Well, that’s the important part. People walk up like I’m the mascot. Like, “Can I get a photo with you? Is that weird?” It’s like, “Yes, it’s extremely weird and you would not be the even fifth hundredth person to ask me for that this year. So sure, by all means.” My face has more or less become a cautionary tale to small children. “You know they say your face is going to freeze like this if you hold it?” “Yeah.”

Colleen: It got me so much street cred though. I was so happy. Like, I didn’t have that many followers in tech and then, soon as I put that picture and I tagged you in it, like, “Oh, my God. You met Corey.”

I was like, “Shut up.” So it’s, thank you. And then how we got here, I have no idea. Again, on Twitter. So [laugh].

Corey: One thing leads to another leads to another. And I have to ask, as someone who is explicitly bad at this, namely, approaching someone I don’t know and striking up a conversation, I have uniformly been terrible at this my entire life, I was bad at dating and honestly, it’s the reason I became a conference speaker because once you give a talk, everyone starts the conversation with you and you’re golden. Was it intimidating for you to come up to someone who you only knew is a loudmouth on Twitter who snarked about everything? And if so, what made you decide to do it anyway?

Colleen: Yes, it was intimidating, I’m not going to lie. Your presence and how you talk and your directness and I didn’t know who you were, I just knew your presence on social media. But you had a lot of followers. But you were here. And I was like, if I don’t take this opportunity, then screw it.

What made me do it is I had to do it for the women and the minorities who always wanted to be in tech and just let them know that you got to do it to make your presence, and you just get up and do it. It’s not that hard. And that’s how it started with me in tech in the first place. Somebody—it was a dare that I take a, I take [laugh] a Python class. And I didn’t—I was like, okay, we’ll do it. It should be easy.

And I did. And I got into it. And that’s how I learned the culture. So, when that opportunity arose and I came up to you, my heart was pounding so fast. I thought you would just like, “Oh, hey. You know, whatever.” And you were just, like, so engaging, and nice and you smiled, and I was like, “Wow. This is it. This is what I want to tell to people.” Even though it might seem hard, it really isn’t once you give your all and just do it and take that chance. I know it sounds very cliche, but that’s what happened.

Corey: It’s an interesting problem, just because the upside feels limited and the downside feels vast. And for me, I’ve gone through an awakening over the last few years as my Twitter audience got to a point where the baseline baked-in assumption I had no longer applied which was, when I started this company, I had less than 1500 followers. And no—all of them had seen me or knew who I was from conferences, so I always assumed that the people who are reading this know who I am, they know what I’m about. And I didn’t really think of the use case of this is someone’s only exposure to me. And I found out a few years back that I was inadvertently causing people pain, which is not what I set out to do, with the singular exception of Larry Ellison, who is not a person, nor does he feel pain.

But as for everyone else, it’s a, I’m not here to make your day actively worse. I’m here to advocate on behalf of, in most cases, customers of which I am one usually, and trying to make tomorrow’s experience better than it is today, and as a part of that, to send the elevator back down. And I realized I was abdicating some of that responsibility, so it started an intentional shift toward being more mindful about how things I say can resonate. And I still get it wrong a lot. And I spent more time apologizing, but that’s something that is going to be a lot more nuanced, tricky, and delicate than I think people give it credit for. And it turns out an apology is not just saying you’re sorry. You actually have to change the behavior.

Colleen: Hmm.

Corey: More people should be aware of that one.

Colleen: Yeah. Well, I think that’s part of the attraction is that you own up to it [laugh]. So.

Corey: I do try.

Colleen: Yeah.

Corey: During the interview process, you redistinguished yourself again and again. Like, one of my personal favorite memories of that was you asked about, I believe it was our event strategy of what do we do at events? And I said, “Yeah, that doesn’t work because the people that buy sponsorships are generally not the same people at the events physically.” And you had the politest framing I can remember of, “Oh, you sweet summer child.” I forget the exact phrasing that you used, but it was simultaneously clear that you did not agree with what I just said in the least, were willing to challenge me on it, but also weren’t going to come lunging across the table with, “Now, you listen here,” all of which I have seen before.

It was the perfect mix of, “Ah, yeah, you just said something that’s complete bullshit, but I’m just going to say something that lets you figure that out for yourself rather than leading you by hand down the journey of discovery of what a dumbass you’re being.” And lo and behold, you were absolutely right. That’s one of the more useful and also irritating aspects is when you have people who come in who are better in than you are at the job you hired them to do. It’s a constant humbling process of hey, I thought I knew what I was doing, and guess what? I absolutely did not. And now I just step out of the way and hope I don’t wind up causing problems accidentally.

Colleen: Well, you’re welcome [laugh]. It’s my pleasure.

Corey: It’s worked out rather well.

Colleen: [laugh]. Yes, yes. Yeah, I am glad that I had the opportunity to enlighten you and couple other people in the staff at the Duckbill Group. So yes, I definitely—I will definitely fall—what do you call it? A fall on the sword [laugh] or die on a hill that particular topic: event management, sales, community, it all works.

Corey: Before this, you spent a few years at The New Stack and that was honestly one of our biggest internal fears. We’re a big fan of Alex and what he’s been able to build over there. It’s like, is he going to hate us if we extend an offer to you? And of course, we could not ask him that question in advance because it’s, “So, one of your employees is interviewing and we’d like to make them an offer. Is this going to cause a problem for you?”

Yeah, that’s called how you potentially just absolutely gut someone who took a chance on talking to you. Confidentiality in those things is required because you never know the actual story. And there’s a power imbalance in the job interview process of, “Hey, do you mind if I talk to your current boss about bringing you aboard?” And what did they going to say? “Please don’t?” Because, oh, that’s going to potentially ring hollow. And there’s nothing nefarious in it, but we knew there was no way we could ask it. So it’s, well, we’ll send him a lovely fruit basket and an apology note. Which I still need to get out. If you’re listening to this, Alex, my apologies. It’s on my backlog.

Colleen: [laugh]. Yes, that’s awesome. Now, that was a difficult decision. I wasn’t even looking. I was on Twitter and I saw the opportunity. And I love being in the company of journalists for the first time. It’s funny, I started off as a journalist, like, post-college and just writing a few things as a freelancer, and I ended up in corporate world.

And then somehow I finally got back to working with journalists at The New Stack. I mean, these are writers talking about tech and writing about tech. And it was fantastic and I got to be a part of that. But when you get to phase where I am, my age [laugh], my experience, I wanted to do more. And when I saw that opportunity—and the opportunity to work with your brand because I met you last year—I was like, you know what? Well, we’ll see. It’s who’ll know—who—you know, we’ll see what happens. And I ended up having this won—

Corey: You meet me for 30 seconds, you’re like, “Well, I already had a perfect answer to ‘so why didn’t it work out?’” It’s like, “Have you met that jackhole? There we go.” No one is going to have a follow-up to that. You’re always going to be assured that yep, that one is not going to come back on you.

Colleen: Yeah. The New Stack is a wonderful place to start if you want to go into tech media, and just—and it’s not a niche market like we have here, but it’s just all around what’s going on and the trends. And the people there taught me so much. So, I think that’s kind of why I had the opportunity here. If I didn’t have that opportunity at The New Stack, I don’t think I would have had this opportunity to have these conversations with you, this team. So, yeah.

Corey: I have to wonder, on some level, though, there’s a this is niche upon niche because not only is it, we wind up focusing exclusively on the AWS market, but not only that, we also are incredibly sarcastic and generally make fun of you. Would you like to buy a sponsorship? I always thought that that was a ridiculous pitch that was never going to work, but sponsors have come in repeatedly and they still talk to us and still asked to give us money, which is frankly, somewhat surprising to me. And to my understanding that is no longer the exact pitch we give verbatim—because it’s not strictly true—but it does feel like it’s a harder conversation, then. “So, what do you do?” “We’re a news site.” “What do you do there?” “We report the news.” “How do I sponsor?” “You give us money, and we put banner ads on the website, and possibly sponsored content. The end.” This feels like it’s much more nuanced and as a result is probably a harder sales conversation.

Colleen: You think so? I’ve noticed just by being in the know of tech and going into and reading everything about media and everything, people are—especially when it comes to buying—people are more apt—and you know this—to buy from influencers and customers than the actual company. And when you have somebody that’s constantly in the know, tech-heavy like yourself or somebody with another product, whether it’s nail polish or something like that, and they used it, they gave this wonderful review or gave a bad review, they’re more apt to buy or not buy. I think that’s why, that’s the connection with the company, to somebody, the big company to purchase what we have to offer here at Last Week in AWS is because you’re buying sort of an influence, and you have the audience of customers who believe in you and believe most of the things that you say [laugh] when you’re not shitposting. And [laugh]—

Corey: Wait, when am I not shitposting?

Colleen: [laugh]. Exactly. And so, people a—I think that that’s what these sponsors are buying. They want to buy the influence in the customers’ view because they know that they’ll get more buy-in. So, I think that whole buy this product because I am Heinz ketchup, that whole generation is gone. It’s, buy the Heinz ketchup because what his name is using it on his hot dog all the time and he just absolutely loves it and Tik Toks about it all the time. I’m so I think that’s why, I think it’s a—I don’t want to say it’s an easy sell; everything’s not that easy, but it’s a fun and more compelling sell here.

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Corey: I want to be very clear a nuance here that I’m not sure it’s fully understood, in that years ago, I made a very intentional choice of severing myself almost completely from the sponsor sales process here. And the reason is, is that I never wanted to find myself in a position of writing the weekly news and, I don’t know, let’s pick on a former sponsor, for example, Google Cloud does something that I’m about to dunk on. But oh, it turns out that Google is also sponsoring this issue so I probably shouldn’t do that. I built my own version of an editorial firewall so I did not have that conflict. So, I say what I want, I don’t find out who’s sponsoring something until afterwards and to be very clear, to this day, I have never had a single complaint or piece of pushback on anything I’ve written from a sponsor who is sponsoring that issue, which is, frankly, tells me that it’s sort of unnecessary from an external perspective, but it makes it work better for me.

So, I don’t know what a lot of the sales conversations look like. People reach out, “Hey, can I sponsor your stuff?” And it’s, “Have you met Colleen?” And I get the hell out of that critical path as fast as possible. Also because I’m bad at email. And that just means that I’m more or less have a mystery box that I throw all of those things into and then sponsors come out the other side. And, lovely, I’ll take it.

Colleen: Yeah, that’s—I mean… should you? You should get updates on who wants to buy and why, but most of the time, it’s the audience. They want to connect to the audience that you have created, well, the company has created. And basically they’ll know about this, I mean, eventually, they’ll know about the services we provide, whether it’s consulting, and then of course, the opportunities for ad placements at Last Week in WSat AWS. Oh, God, I need to really improve that [laugh].

But it’s the audience. So, why if you would shitpost something or say something that might make them uncomfortable, why they would buy it anyway, I mean, that’s a conversation that maybe we should keep having. But I think the answer is clear. I mean, it’s the audience who believe in you and believe in what you have to say and believe in our brand. So, they want to get close to it in order to sell their product. And they have the money and means to do so. So, I don’t question it too much.

Corey: No. It’s similar to the whole approach that I always take is I don’t think too hard about what keeps the airplane in the air when I’m mid-flight because if I do, it might stop working. Similar here. It’s like, I don’t know why these people keep showing up and listening to what I have to say and caring about it. I’m not going to look too closely at it because then the magic might break. But that is probably at this point not the most helpful instinct I could have.

Colleen: Yeah. That’s good point, yeah. I think what you’re doing is actually really great and it’s keeping tech media interesting.

Corey: I try anyway. To turn it around slightly, though, I have to ask you if you knew my public persona for probably entirely too long and then you got to actually work inside the sausage factory, and—which is a polite way of saying abattoir—and as you move aside as someone’s, like, shoving a cow into a food processor behind you or whatnot, I have to ask, what’s caught you by surprise once you got here that you did not know or expect before you joined?

Colleen: I think what caught me by surprise is two things. The onboarding was, for such a small company, was immaculate. I didn’t have to ask too many questions; things were there. And the questions that I asked were answered. So, the culture was so open to a point with feedback and how we do things that I didn’t have to do most of the work and info gathering when you’re going from 30, 60, to 90 days. So, I was shocked by that because usually in my past [laugh], I’m usually just, “Hey, got a job. Figure it out.” [laugh]. So, I went in that way, but it was just, it was fantastic.

Then I’m not used to this, especially when you’re the only… when people don’t look like you [laugh] and you’re usually the only one—especially when it comes to CEOs and founders—the amount of openness, friendliness, and direct feedback that wasn’t as condescending—because this is what we expect most of the time—was just fantastic. It was just friendly and I can do my job without having to be attacked or attack any other mindsets that they might have some stereotypes of how—who I am and how I got here. It was just, you were just so professionally, “Colleen, this is what we expect. How do you feel about this?” The, how do you feel about this? Do you have any other ways or feedback that this could be better?

And I know this sounds so corny, but when it comes to people like me, we don’t always get that opportunity before—like, so fast, before we have to prove ourselves. I know, that’s a long-winded way of saying that [laugh]. And so far, it’s been a delight to a point where I sort of have a little bit of PTSD because I’m, like, how do I operate in this non-toxic [laugh] environment?

Corey: And I don’t know if you recall this, but you made the observation that in many places, there is an undercurrent of bias, be it conscious or otherwise, that causes people to out of hand reject proposals or ideas that come from people who do not look like the traditional person you would expect in that role to be framing those ideas. And how much of that would you encounter here? And that I thought was a poignant question that deserves a great answer. And my answer then remains as it is now, which is, “I don’t know. I don’t believe that we have that type of culture here.”

But again, I wouldn’t believe that we have that type of culture here, even if it were rampant. So, I would consider it a personal favor if you see elements of that to please let someone you trust here know that because it is certainly not our intent, it is certainly not who we aspire to be, but societal and systemic patterns are incredibly hard to break. And I don’t know what a good answer to that would be. I know the bad answers are obvious of, “Oh, we don’t hire anyone like that.” Or, “Nope, that’s not a problem.” Or the worst, I suppose is, “How dare someone who doesn’t look like me ask me that question,” which I’m pretty sure gets the high score for terrible answers. But I don’t know what the good answer to that is, other than we’re always learning and trying.

Colleen: And that’s basically how you did respond. And it was eye-opening. And it’s not an easy question to ask. I’m like, “Will you have a problem with someone like me giving you feedback on something like this? Will you have a problem that someone that looks like me working this and doing this, and you know, just trying to do the job, or do I have to make you feel comfortable first?”

And I’m at a point in my life where I don’t have time to do that. I would rather just go on, let me do my work without, you know, making other people feel uncomfortable or feel comfortable. So, I will tell you, it’s almost been two months. This is the first time I haven’t had that feeling of trying to make people feel comfortable before I can actually do my job. And I am not kissing ass because you know, I’m really direct in that approach because—

Corey: I have not known you to ever kiss ass—

Colleen: [laugh].

Corey: Which is probably a good thing, and also, some of them may be disturbing, but I don’t know. It’s like, “Oh, you’re not authorized to fire me. It’s fine.” Which I’m in fact not, so… cool, by all means. But no, it is refreshing. It really is.

Colleen: It is. It’s very refreshing. I want to—if I can even tell people out there that there are places like that you don’t always have to use 50% of your time attacking stereotypes and you can actually do your job. They do exist out there. And this position so far has been living proof. And I do appreciate it.

But I also want them to make sure that they know that I worked hard at this to get here and it’s good to be appreciated, but it’s also good to be respected and valued. And I do believe that you, that’s why you hired me is because you saw what I was capable of and you valued my input, my feedback, and it’s still going on, and we keep having these conversations. And I did not expect this interview, which I was like, “Is he serious?” I mean really. Why [laugh]?

So, this is just another, like, example of how that—what I just talked about is being respected and valued, and regardless of if I don’t look like you. And one of the funniest parts of our interview is when you said that whole manel description of how if you were asked to be on a panel, but it was a bunch of white males, and you refer to it as a manel, I’ve never heard of that [laugh] before, so I u—

Corey: It’s not my term. I don’t want to claim credit for it at all. I heard from some wit on Twitter years ago that is lost to the mysteries of time. But it’s a perfect description.

Colleen: So, I use it. I steal it. It’s awesome.

Corey: It seems like one of those weird areas, too, where it’s a—like, we’re going to get stuff wrong. That is human nature. The question is, is when it’s pointed out, how do you react? Do you get hyper-defensive? Do you just, like, turn that into a cudgel to beat other people with? Or do you take the lesson? Do you pass it forward to folks in a way that is constructive and helpful?

And I believe one of the rejoinders I asked to you was, if you have an idea, we are absolutely going to hear it out, but there are going to be cases where… like, in the consulting side of our business, whenever I describe that we fix the AWS bill for our clients, I explain that to an engineer, and they think hard on that for two-and-a-half seconds and then they say the same thing in almost every case, which is, “You should charge a percentage of savings,” to a point where now my default reflexive response is, “Holy shit. I never thought of that. This is going to change everything.” Now, there are a variety of reasons that that doesn’t work, but it is an obvious line of inquiry. And the only concern I had was, understand that there are things like that scattered throughout the business that things are like they are for a reason.

And I’m thrilled to reevaluate and reexamine a bunch of those, but are you going to take the response of, “Well, this is why it is the way that it is,” as shutting down the line of inquiry? And your response was incredibly reassuring. You said, “No, that is strictly a business discussion. That’s fine. I just want to be heard.”

And I can’t commit to always agreeing with ideas you have. I can’t even give it to that to my business partner. In fact, correcting him is my favorite part of any given hour for me, but I can at least guarantee you’ll be heard or you’ll be—or I will hear you out on any of these concerns that you raise or ideas that you have. And I’d like to think that almost three months in, that we’ve lived up to that. And if not, please let us know. You don’t need to actually call me out on it now if you don’t want to. I realize, like, yeah, well, that’s the right time to ask someone for harsh feedback, at a point where they cannot possibly give it to you other than that a really flattering way. Go for it. You need not respond.

Colleen: [laugh]. No, I will keep that in mind. And so far, so good. We are good [laugh].

Corey: I really want to thank you for taking the time to sit down and basically have to, I suppose justify after the fact why you accepted the job that we offered to you, which feels very strange, and yet here we are. If people want to learn more, where’s the best place for them to find you?

Colleen: Oh, where the best place to find me? Shall I mention Twitter [laugh]? Or [laugh]—

Corey: That’s always a bit of a dicey thing these days.

Colleen: Well, Twitters, Threads, LinkedIn, wherever you, your heart’s desire, you can find me at Colleen Coll. It’s really easy.

Corey: We’ll put links to all of that in the [show notes 00:32:26].

Colleen: Yes. But you can also find me in Portland and sometimes in Europe, and always just being open. And I love to meet people. I know that sounds weird, but if I have the opportunity to network, it’s going to be—and please, if you ever see me at an event, just please walk up to me and say hello. And I—because I know that I would do the same with you. I did that with Corey [laugh].

Corey: Or there’s always the guaranteed way to make sure that you see something and that is to fill out the form at There’s a little self-interest behind that one I absolutely am aware of and I’m putting that in there.

Colleen: Nice.

Corey: Thank you again for your time. I appreciate it.

Colleen: No, thank you, Corey. And have fun with the squirrels and FedEx.

Corey: I’ll do my best. Colleen Coll, account executive here at The Duckbill Group. I’m Cloud Economist Corey Quinn, and this is Screaming in the Cloud. If you’ve enjoyed this podcast, please leave a five-star review on your podcast platform of choice, whereas if you’ve hated this podcast, please leave a five-star review on your podcast platform of choice, along with an angry comment complaining about the episode disparaging the value of writing clearly and journalism is particular, and of course failing to have anything remotely resembling a coherent sentence structure while you do.

Corey: If your AWS bill keeps rising and your blood pressure is doing the same, then you need The Duckbill Group. We help companies fix their AWS bill by making it smaller and less horrifying. The Duckbill Group works for you, not AWS. We tailor recommendations to your business and we get to the point. Visit to get started.
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