Summer Replay – Building and Maintaining Cultures of Innovation with Francessca Vasquez

Episode Summary

Relishing in your company’s current successes is important, but planning for the future of your business (and the wider industry) is equally vital. In this Summer Replay of Screaming in the Cloud, we’re taking you back to the post-pandemic climate of tech with the Global Vice President of the AWS Professional Services and GenAI Innovation Center Francessca Vasquez. With 20+ years of experience under her belt and thousands of customers, she knows a thing or two about thriving in the cloud. You’ll get Francessca’s insights into why companies struggle to maintain a cutting-edge work environment, the rapid pivot to the cloud amid a global pandemic, the importance of courting different backgrounds in your organization, and why the next generation of tech workers could spur unprecedented innovation. Even though COVID is seemingly in our rearview mirror, this discussion still holds weight in today.

Episode Video

Episode Show Notes & Transcript

Show Highlights: 
  • (0:00) Intro to episode
  • (0:49) Panoptica sponsor read
  • (1:30) Francessca’s role as AWS Vice President of Technology
  • (2:56) Challenges of shifting company culture
  • (5:38) Customer service and cloud adoption
  • (9:46) The importance of legacy companies as clients
  • (11:55) The pandemic’s role in cloud migration
  • (14:39) Finding “untapped talent” during the pandemic
  • (16:45) Courting people breaking into the industry
  • (20:19) Panoptica sponsor read
  • (20:42) Toxic gatekeeping in tech
  • (24:29) The “real world” versus the realities of tech
  • (26:43) Excitement for the next generation in tech
  • (29:15) Diversity, equity, and excellence
  • (32:20) How to communicate with your customers
  • (40:00) Where you can find Francessca

About Guest:
Francessca is the leader of the AWS Technology Worldwide Commercial Operations organization. She is recognized as a thought leader of business technology cloud transformations and digital innovation, advising thousands of startups, small-midsize businesses, and enterprises. She is also the co-founder of AWS workforce transformation initiatives that inspire inclusion, diversity, and equity to foster more careers in science and technology.

Links Referenced:

  • Panoptica:


Francessca Vasquez: [00:00:00] We can take what is

perceived as sort of traditional talent, you know, computer science. And we can skill a lot of people who have, again, non traditional tech backgrounds. I think that's the opportunity.

Corey Quinn: Welcome to Screaming in the Cloud. I'm Corey Quinn. It's pretty common for me to sit here and make fun of large cloud companies, and there's no cloud company that I make fun of more than AWS, given that that's where my business really is. Generally revolves around. I'm joined today by VP of Technology, Francesca Vasquez, who is apparently going to sit and take my slings and arrows in person.

Francesca, thank you for joining me.

Francessca Vasquez: Hi, Corey, and thanks for having me. I'm so excited to spend this time with you, snarking away. I'm thrilled.

Corey Quinn: This episode has been sponsored by our friends at Panoptica, part of Cisco. This is one of those real rarities where it's a security product that you can get started with [00:01:00] for free, but also scale to enterprise grade.

Take a look. In fact, you sign up for an enterprise account, they'll even throw you one of the limited, heavily discounted AWS skill builder licenses they got, because believe it or not, unlike so many companies out there, they do understand AWS. To learn more, please visit panoptica. app slash last week in AWS.

That's panoptica. app slash last week in AWS.

So we've met before, and at the time you were the head of solutions architecture and customer solutions management. Because apparently someone gets paid by every word they wind up shoving into a job title, and that's great. And I vaguely sort of understood what you did, but back in March of this year, you were promoted to Vice President of Technology, which is both impressive and largely nondescriptive when one works for a technology company.

What is it you'd say it is you do now? And congratulations, [00:02:00] by the way.

Francessca Vasquez: Thank you, I appreciate it. By the way, as a part of that, I also relocated to our second headquarter. So I'm broadcasting with you out of HQ2 or Arlington, Virginia. But my team, essentially, we're a customer facing organization. Corey, we work with thousands of customers all startups to enterprises.

And we ultimately try to ensure that they're making the right technology architecture decisions on AWS. We help them in driving, you know, people and culture transformation when they decide to migrate onto the cloud. And the last thing that we try to do is ensure that we're giving them tools so that they can build cultures of innovation within the places that they work.

And we do this for customers. Every day, 365 days a year, and that's what I do. And I've been doing this for over 20 years, so I'm having a blast.

Corey Quinn: It's interesting, because when I talk to customers who are [00:03:00] looking at what their cloud story is going to be, not just where it is, but where they're going, there's a shared delusion that they all participate in.

And I'm as guilty as anyone. I have this same, I guess, misapprehension as well. That after this next sprint concludes, I'm going to suddenly start making smart decisions. I'm going to pay off all of my technical debt. I'm going to stop doing the silly thing and start doing the smart thing. And so on and so forth.

And of course it's a myth. That technical debt is load bearing. It's there for a reason. But, foundationally, when talking to customers at different points along their paths, I often find that the conversation that I'm having with them is less around what they should be doing differently from a tactical and execution perspective and a lot more about changing the culture.

As a consultant, I've never found a way to successfully do that that sticks. If I could, I'd be in a vastly different, vastly more lucrative consulting business. But it seems like culture is one of those things that, in my experience, has to be driven from within. Do you find that there's a different story when you are speaking as AWS, where, yeah, [00:04:00] we're outsiders, but at the same time, you're going to be running production on us, which means you're our partner, whether you want to be or not, because you can't treat someone who owns production as a vendor anymore.

Does that position you better to shift culture?

Francessca Vasquez: I don't know if it positions us better, but I do think that many organizations, you know, all of them are looking at different business drivers, whether that be they want to move to more digital, especially since we're going through COVID 19 and coming out of it.

Many of them are looking at things like cost reduction, some, Organizations are going through merger and acquisitions. Right now, I can tell you new customer experiences, you know, driven by digital is pretty big. And I think what a lot of companies do, some of them want to be the North Star. Some of them aspire to be like other companies that they may see in or outside the industry.

And I think that sometimes we often get a brand as having this culture of innovation. And so organizations very much want to understand what does that look like? You know, what are the, ingredients on being able to build cultures of [00:05:00] innovation. And sometimes organizations take parts of what we've been able to do here at AWS.

And sometimes they look at pieces from other companies that they view as North Star. And I see this across multiple industries. And I think the one that is the toughest when you're trying to drive big change, even with moving to the cloud, oftentimes it's not the services or the tech. It's the culture, it's people, it's the governance and, and how do you get a rallied around that?

So yeah, we, we do spend some time just trying to offer our perspective and it doesn't always mean it's the right one, but it certainly has, it's worked for us.

Corey Quinn: On some level I've seen cloud adoptions stall in some scenarios by vendors being a little too honest with the customer, if that doesn't sound ridiculous.

Where it's, so they take customer, reasonable request, here's what we've built, here's how we want to migrate to the cloud, how will this work in your environment? And the overly honest answer from a certain provider, I'm not talking about you, I don't [00:06:00] feel the need to name at the moment, is, well, great, what you've written is actually really terrible, and if you were to write it better, with smarter engineers, it would run great in the clouds, so do that, then call us.

Surprisingly, that didn't win the deal, though it was, unfortunately, honest. There was a time. Where AWS offerings were very much aligned with that. And, and depending on how you wind up viewing what customers should be doing, it is gonna depend on what year it was. In the early days, there was no persistent storage on EC2

Francessca Vasquez: mm-Hmm.

Corey Quinn: So if you had a use case that required there to be a local disc that could survive a reboot, well that wasn't really the place for you to run. In time, it has changed and we're still seeing that evolution to the point where there are a bunch of services that come out on a consistent ongoing basis that the cloud native set will look at and say, Oh, that hasn't been written in the last 18 months on the latest MacBook and targeting the developer version of Chrome.

Then why would I ever care about that? Yeah, there's a bigger world than San Francisco. I'm sorry, but it's true. And there are solutions that [00:07:00] are aimed at customer segments that don't look anything like a San Francisco startup. And it's easy to look at those and say, Oh, well, why, why in the world would I wind up needing something like that?

And people point at the mainframe and say, Because of that thing, which, well, what does that ancient piece of crap do? Oh, billions a year in revenue. So maybe show some respect. Legacy, the condescending engineering term for it makes money.

Francessca Vasquez: Yeah, well, first off, I think that our approach today is you have to be able to meet customers where they are.

And there are some customers, I think, that are in a position where they've been able to build their business. at a far more advanced state cloud natively, whether that be through tools like Serverless or Lambda, et cetera. And then there are other organizations that it will take a little longer. And the reason for that is, is everyone has a different starting point.

Some of their starting points might be, you know, multiple years of on premise technology. To your point, you talked about tech debt [00:08:00] earlier that they've got to look at. And hundreds of applications that oftentimes when you're starting these journeys, You really have to have a good baseline of your application portfolio.

One of my favorite stories, and hopefully I can share this customer name, but one of my favorite stories has been our organization working with Nationwide, who sort of started their journey back in 2017, and they had a goal, a pretty aggressive one, but their goal was about 80 percent of their applications that they wanted to get migrated to the cloud, in like three to four years.

And this was like, 319 different migrations that we started with them. 80 or so production cutovers. And to your point, as a result of us doing this application portfolio review, we identified 63 new things that needed to be built. And those new things, we were able to develop jointly with them that were more cloud native.

Mainframe is another one that's still around and there's a lot of customers still working on the mainframe. We work with a very

Corey Quinn: AWS 400 yet. [00:09:00]

Francessca Vasquez: There's no AWS AS 400. But we do have a mainframe migration competency partners to help customers that do want to move into more I don't really prefer the term modernized, but more of a cloud native approach, and mostly because they want to deliver new capability, right, depending on what the industry is, and that normally happens through applications.

So, yeah, I think we have to meet customers where they are, and that's why we think about our customers in their stage of cloud adoption, you know, some that are business to consumer, more digital native based, you know, startups, of course, enterprises that tend to be global in nature, multinational, ISVs.

Independent software vendors. We just think about our customers differently.

Corey Quinn: Nationwide, such a great customer story. There was a whole press release, uh, Bonanza late last year, about how they selected AWS as their preferred cloud provider. Great. I like seeing stories like that because it's easy on some level.

Easy [00:10:00] to wind up having those modernized startups that are pure web properties and nothing more than that. But again, not to besmirch what customers do, but if you're a social media site or you're a streaming video company, etc., it feels differently than it does, oh yeah, you're a, you're a, Significantly advanced financial services and insurance company where you're part of the Fortune 100.

And yeah, when it turns out that the computers that calculate out your amortization tables don't do what you think they're going to do, those are the kinds of mistakes that show. It's a vote of confidence in being able to have a customer testimonial from a quote unquote more serious company. I wouldn't say it's about modernization.

I'd say it's about evolution more than anything else.

Francessca Vasquez: Yeah, I, I think you're spot on. And I also think we're starting to see more of this. You know, we've done work at places like GE. In Latin America, Itaewoo is the bank that I was just referring to on their mainframe digital transformation. Capital One, of course, who many of [00:11:00] the audience probably knows we've worked with for a long time.

And, you know, I think we're going to see more of this for a variety of reasons. Corey, I think that You know, definitely the pandemic has played some role in this digital, like, acceleration. I mean, it just has. There's nothing I can say about that. And then there are some other things that we're also starting to see, like, sustainability, quite frankly, is becoming of interest for a lot of our customers as well.

And as I mentioned earlier, uh, customer experience. So, we often tend to think of these migration cloud journeys is just moving to infrastructure. But in the first part of the pandemic, one of the interesting trends that we also saw was this push around contact centers wanting to differentiate their customer experience, which we saw a huge increase in Amazon Connect adoption as well.

So it's just another way to think about it.

Corey Quinn: What else have you seen shift during the pandemic? And now that we're, I guess you could call it post [00:12:00] pandemic because here in the U. S., at least at the time of this recording, things are definitely trending in the right direction. And then you take a step back and realize that globally we are nowhere near the end of this thing on a global stage.

How have you seen what customers are doing and how customers are thinking about things shift?

Francessca Vasquez: Yeah, it's such a great question. And I, and definitely so much has changed and it's bigger than just migrations. The pandemic, as you rightfully stated, we're. Certainly far more advanced in the US in terms of like the vaccine rollout.

But if you start looking at some of our other emerging markets in Asia, Pacific, Japan, or even EMEA, it's a slower rollout. I'll tell you what we've seen. We've seen that. Organizations are definitely focused on the shift in their company culture. We've also seen that digital will play a permanent fixture.

Just, that will be what it is, and we definitely saw a lot of growth in education, tech, and collaboration companies like Zoom here in the U. S. [00:13:00] You know, they ended up having to scale from 10 million daily users up to like 300. In Singapore, there is a, an all in company called Grab. They do a lot of different things, but in their top three delivery offerings, what they call GrabFood, GrabMart, and GrabExpress, they saw like an increase of a 30 percent user adoption during that time too.

So I think we're going to continue to see that. We're also going to continue to see non technical themes come into play, like inclusion, diversity, and equity, and talent, as people are thinking about how to change and evolve their workforce. I love that term you use. It's about an evolution. Workforce and skills is going to be pretty important.

And then globally, the need around stronger data privacy and governance, again, is something else that we've started to see in a post COVID kind of era. Thank you. So, all industries, there's no like one industry doing anything any different than the others. But this is just some observations from the [00:14:00] last, you know, 18 months.

Corey Quinn: In the early days of the pandemic, there was a great meme that was going around of who is the most responsible for your digital transformation, CIO, CTO, or COVID 19. And yeah, on some level, it's one of those necessity breeds innovation type of moments. And we're seeing a bunch of acceleration in the world of digital adoption.

And I don't think that you get to put the genie back in that particular bottle in a bunch of different respects. One area that we're seeing industry wide is talent discovering. Suddenly you can do a whole bunch of things that don't require you being in the same eight square miles of an earthquake zone in California.


The line that I heard once that really resonated with me was that talent is evenly distributed, opportunity is not. And it seems that when you see a bunch of companies opening up to working in new ways and new places, suddenly it taps a bunch of talent that previously was considered inaccessible.

Francessca Vasquez: That's right. And I think it's one of those [00:15:00] things where, I love the meme, you'll have to send me that meme by the way. But just by necessity, this has been brought to the forefront. And if you just think about, you know, the number of countries that sort of account for almost half the global population, there's only like, we'll say eight of them, right.

That at least represent, you know, close to 60 plus percent. I don't think that there's a company out there today that can really build a comprehensive, uh, strategy to drive, you know, business agility or to look at cost or any of those things digitally without having an equally determined workforce strategy.

And that workforce strategy, how that shows up with us is through, you know, having the right skills to be able to operate in the cloud, looking at the diversity of where your customer base is and making sure that you're driving. A workforce plan that looks at those markets. And then I think [00:16:00] the other great thing, and honestly, Corey, maybe why I even got into this business is.

Looking at also untapped talent, you know, technology is so pervasive right now. A lot of it's being designed where it's prescriptive, easier to use, accessible. And so I also think we're tapping into, you know, a global workforce that we can reskill, we train in all sorts of different facets, which just opens up the labor market even more.

And that's, I get really excited about that because. We can take what is perceived as sort of traditional talent, you know, computer science. And we can skill a lot of people who have, again, non traditional tech backgrounds. I think that's the opportunity.

Corey Quinn: Early on in my career, I was very interested in opening the door for people who looked a lot like me in terms of where their experience level was, what they'd done, because I come from a quote unquote non traditional background.

I don't even have a high school diploma at this point. And opening doors for folks [00:17:00] and teaching them to come up the way that I did made sense for a while. The problem that I ran into pretty quickly is that The world has moved on. It turns out that if you want to start working in cloud in 2021, the path I walked is closed.

You don't get to go be an email systems administrator. Who's really good at Unix and later Linux as your starting point, because those jobs don't exist the way that they once did before that. The help desk roles aren't really there the way that they once were either, and they've become much more systematized.

You don't have nearly as much opportunity to break the mold, because now there is a mold. It used to be that we were all these artisanally crafted bespoke technologists, and now there are training curriculums for this. So it leads to a recurring theme on this show of where, where does the next generation really wind up coming from?

Because trying to tell people to come up the way that I did is increasingly reminiscent of advice from our parents generation. Oh, go out and pound the bricks and have a firm handshake and hand your resume to the person at the front desk and you'll get a job today. Yeah, sure you will. How do you see it?

Francessca Vasquez: [00:18:00] You know, I see it where we have an opportunity to drive this talent long term in a variety of different places. First off, I think the personas around IT have shifted quite a bit where. Back in the day, you had a storage admin, a sysadmin, you know, maybe you had a Solaris. net Linux developer, but pretty straightforward.

I think now we've evolved these roles where the starting point can be in data. The starting point can be in architecture. The personas have shifted from my perspective, and I think you have more starting points. I also think our funnel has also changed. So for people that are going down the education route, and I'm a big proponent of that, I think we're trying to introduce more programs like AWS Educate, which allows you to go and Start helping students in universities really get a handle on cloud, the curriculum, all the components that make up the technology.

That's one. I think there are a lot of people that have [00:19:00] had career pivots, Corey, where maybe they've taken time out of the workforce. We disproportionately, by the way, see this from, you know, are female and women who identify coming back to the workforce, maybe after caring for parents or having children.

So we've got, there are different programs that we try to leverage for returners. My family and I, we've grown up all around the military veterans as well, and so we also look at when people come out of perhaps in the U. S. military status, how do we spend time re skilling those veterans? Who share some of the same, you know, principles around mission team, the things that are important to us for customers.

And then to your point, it's re skill, just non traditional backgrounds. I mean, a lot of these technologies, again, they're prescriptive. We were trying to find ways to make them certainly more accessible, right? Equitable. Sort of distribution of how you can get access to them, but. You know, anyone can start programming in things like Python now.

So reskill non traditional backgrounds, I don't think it's just one funnel, I think you have to tap into all these funnels. And that's [00:20:00] why, in addition to Being here in AWS, I also try to spend time on supporting and volunteering at non profit companies that really drive a focus on underserved based communities or non traditional communities as different pathways to tech.

So I think it's all of the above.

Corey Quinn: Few things are better for your career and your company than achieving more expertise in the cloud. Security improves, compensation goes up, employee retention skyrockets. Panoptica, a cloud security platform from Cisco, has created an academy of free courses just for you.

Head on over to academy. panoptica. app to get started.

Yeah, I have no patience left for what little I had at the beginning for gatekeeping. And so much of technical interviewing seems to be built around that, and in ways that are the obvious ones that need not even be called out, but then the ones that are a little bit more subtle.

For example, the software developer roles that have [00:21:00] the algorithm questions on a whiteboard. Well, great. You take a look at the average work of software development style work. You don't see those things coming up in day to day, usually. Like, implement quicksort. There's a library for that. Move on. So it turns out that bias is for folks who've recently had either a computer science formal education or a computer science formal alike education.

And that winds up in many ways weeding people out who've been in the workforce for a while. I take a look at some of the technical interviews I used to pass for grumpy Unix sysadmin jobs. I don't remember half of the terminology. I was looking through some of my old question lists of what I used to ask candidates, and it's, I don't remember how 90 percent of this stuff works.

I'd have to sit there and freshen up on it if I were to go and take a job interview. But it doesn't work in the same way. It's more pernicious than that, though, because I look at what I do and how I approach it, and it's, The skills you use in a job interview are orthogonal in many cases to the skills you'll need in the workforce.

How someone performs with their career on the [00:22:00] line at a whiteboard in front of a few very judgy judgy people is not representative of how they're going to perform in a collaborative technical environment trying to solve an interesting problem, at least in my experience.

Francessca Vasquez: Yeah, you know, it's interesting because in some of our programs, we have this conversation with a lot of the universities as well in their curriculums.

And I think ultimately what makes a good, whether you're a software developer or you're an architect or, you know, just in the field of tech and you're dealing with customers, I think you have to be, you know, You know, very good at things like problem solving and being able to work in teams. I have a mental model that, you know, many of the tech details, you can teach, right?

Those things are, are teachable.

Corey Quinn: Oh, you don't know what ports and protocol listens on. Oh, it's a shame you never able to learn that. You didn't know that in the interview off the top of your head, and there's no possible way you could learn that. It's an intrinsic piece of knowledge you're born with. No, it's not.

Francessca Vasquez: Yeah, [00:23:00] yeah, those are still things every now and then I have to go search for or I've written myself some nice little text draft, uh, scripts to go and search my handwritten notes for things. But yeah, so you, problem solving, being able to effectively communicate, you know, in our case, Writing has been a muscle that I've really had to work at, you know, hard since joining here.

I haven't done that in a while, so that is a skill that's come back. And I think the one that I see around software development is really teams. It's interesting because when you're going through some of the curriculums, a lot of the projects that are assigned to you are individual. And what happens when you get into the, the workplace is the projects become very team oriented, right?

And they're more than one people. We're all, you know, looking at how we publish code together to create a process. And I, I think that's one of the biggest surprises making the transition into the workforce is you will work in teams.

Corey Quinn: Oh dear lord, the group [00:24:00] project things that they do in schools is one of those great.

There's one person that's going to be diligent, which was, let's be clear, never me, and they're going to do 90 percent of the work on it, and everyone shares credit equally. The real world very rarely works that way, with that sense of one person carries the team, at least ideally. But on the other side of it too, if you don't wind up necessarily having to do these things alone, you don't have to wind up with dealing with those weird personal dynamics in small teams, for the most part.


setting people up with the expectation as students that this is how the real world works is radically different. One of the things that always surprised me was growing up was hearing teachers in middle school and occasionally beyond say things like, when you're in the real world. Always the real world.

It's an education, somehow not the real world. That, oh, your boss is never going to be okay with this or that or the other thing. And in hindsight, looking back at that almost 30 years later, it's, yeah, how would you know? You've been in academia your entire life. I'm sorry. But the workplace environment of a [00:25:00] public middle school and the workplace environment of a corporate entity are very culturally different.

And I'm, I feel confident admin job was at a university. It is a different universe entirely.

Francessca Vasquez: Yeah, it's an area where you have to be able to balance the academia component with practitioner. And by the way, we talk about this in our solutions architecture and our customer solutions team. That's a mouthful, uh, in our organization that How we like to differentiate our capabilities with customers is that we are users.

We are practitioners, you know, of the services. We have gone out and obtained certifications. We don't always just speak about it. We like to say that we've been in the empty chair with the customer and we've We've also done, so yeah, I think it's a huge balance, by the way, and I just hope that over the next [00:26:00] several years, Cori, that again, we start really shifting the landscape by tapping into what I think is an incredible global workforce and if users that we've just not inspired enough to go into these disciplines for STEM.

So I hope we do more of that, and I think our customers will benefit better from it You'll get more diversity in thought. You'll get different types of innovation for your solution set. And you'll maybe mirror the customer segments, you know, that you're responsible for serving. So I'm pretty bullish on this topic.

Corey Quinn: I think it's hard not to be, because, sure, things are a lot more complex now, technically. There, it's a broader world, and what's a tech company?

Well, every company, unless they are asleep at the wheel, is a tech company. And that, that can be awfully discouraging on some level, but the other side of it has really been, as I look at it, is the sheer I guess brilliance of the talent that's coming up.

I'm not talking [00:27:00] the, uh, the legend of industry that's been in the field for 30 years. I'm talking some of the folks I know who are barely out of high school. I'm talking very early career folks who just have such a drive and such an appetite for, for being able to look at how these things can solve problems.

The ability to start thinking in innovative ways that I never considered when I was that age. I look at this and I think that, yeah, we have massive challenges confronting us as people, as a society, etc. But the kids are alright, for lack of a better term, and I want to be clear as well, when we talk about new to tech, I'm not just talking new grads, I'm talking about people who are career changing, where they wound up working in healthcare, or some other field, for the first 10 years of their career, or 20 years, and then they want to move into tech.

Great! How do we throw those doors open? Not say, Well, have you considered going back and getting a degree and then taking a very entry level job? No! A lateral move. Find the niches between the skill you have and the skill you want to pick up and move into the field in half steps. It takes a little longer, sure, but it also means you're not [00:28:00] starting over from square one, you're making a lateral transition, which, because it's tech, generally comes with a sizable pay bump, too.

Francessca Vasquez: One of the biggest surprises that I've had since joining the organization, and you know, we have a very diverse, large global field organization. And if you look at our architecture teams, our customer solution teams, Even our product engineering teams, one of the things that might surprise many people is many of them have come from customers, you know, they've not come from what I would consider traditional, perhaps sales and marketing background.

And that's, you know, by design, they give us different perspective. They help us ensure that again, that what we're designing and building is applicable from an end user perspective, or even an industry, to your point, we have lots of different services now over 175 plus, maybe we've, we've clipped to 200 now, and there are some customers who want the freedom to be able to build in the, the various.

And then we have some customers [00:29:00] who need more help and want us to put it together as solutions. And so having that diversity in some of the folks that we've been able to hire from a customer or developer standpoint, or quite frankly, co founder standpoint, has really been amazing for us, so.

Corey Quinn: It's always interesting whenever I get the opportunity to talk to folks who don't look like me.

And I mean that across every axis you can imagine. People who didn't come up, well, first off, drowning in the privilege that I did. People who wound up coming at this from different industries. Coming at this from different, points of education, different career trajectories. And when people say, Oh yeah, well, look at our team page.

Everyone looks different from one another. Great. Now that is not the entirety of what diversity is. Yeah, but you all went to Stanford together. So let's be very realistic here. This idea that excellence isn't somehow situational. The story we see about, Oh, I get this from recruiters constantly, or people wanting to talk about their companies, where yes, founded by Google graduates is one of my personal [00:30:00] favorites.

Google has 140, 000 people, and they founded a company that currently has five folks. So you're telling me that the things that work at Google somehow magically work at that very small scale? I don't buy that for a second. Because excellence is always situational. When you have tens of thousands of people building infrastructure for you to work on back in the early days was always the story that that empowered folks who worked at places like Google to do amazing things.

What AWS built fundamentally was the power to have that infrastructure at the click of a button where the only bound, let's be realistic here, is your budget. Suddenly that same global infrastructure and easy provisioning. Easy, quote unquote, becomes something everyone can appreciate and get access to.

But in the early days, that wasn't a thing at all. Watching how technology has evolved the state of the art and opened doors for folks to be just as awesome where they don't need to be at a place like Google to access that, that's the magic of cloud to me.

Francessca Vasquez: Yeah, well, I'm a huge just technology [00:31:00] evangelist.

I think I just was, was born with tech. I like breaking things and putting stuff together. I'll tell you just, you know, maybe two other things because you talked about excellence and equity. There's two, uh, nonprofits that I participate in. One, I got introduced through AWS via our current CEO, Andy Jassy, and our head of sales and marketing, Matt Garment, but it's called Rainier Scholars.

It's a 12 year program. They offer a pathway to college, you know, graduation for low income students of color. And really, ultimately, their, their mission is to answer the question of, you know, how do we build a much more equitable society? And, and for this particular non profit education is that gateway.

So spend some time volunteering there. But then to your point on the opportunity side, there's another, um, organization I just recently, um, So I became a part of Call to Year Up. I don't know if you've heard of them or worked with them?

Corey Quinn: I was an instructor at Year Up for their LAMP stack course. A big fan of those folks.

Francessca Vasquez: So I just [00:32:00] got introduced and I'm gonna be hopefully joining part of their board soon to offer, you know, again, some guidance and even figuring out how we can do that. So you know, right? They're then focused on serving a student population and decreasing, shrinking the opportunity divide, right? Again, focused on sort of equitable access.

And that is what tech should be about. Democratizing technology. Technology such that everyone has access and by the way, it doesn't mean that I don't have favorite services and things like that, but it does mean that provided

Corey Quinn: like my children, I can't stand any of them.

Francessca Vasquez: I do have favorite services by the way.


Corey Quinn: Oh, as do we all just, it's just rude to name them because everyone else feels left out.

Francessca Vasquez: I'll tell you offline. Providing that equitable access, I just think is so key and we'll be able to tap in again to more of this talent for many of these companies who are trying to transform their business model.

And some, [00:33:00] like last year we saw companies just surviving, we saw some companies that were thriving, right, with what was going on. So again, I think you can't really talk about a comprehensive, Tech strategy that will empower your business strategy without thinking about your workforce plan in the process.

I just, I think it would be very naive for many companies to do that.

Corey Quinn: So one question that I want to get to here has been that if I take a look at the AWS service landscape, it feels like Perl did back when that was the language that I basically knew the best, which is not saying much.

Francessca Vasquez: You're dating yourself now.

Corey Quinn: Oh, who else would date me these days? My God. But it was, there's more than one way to do it was the language's motto. And I look at AWS environments and I had a, Grow a quip a few weeks back for the time of this recording of there are 17 ways to deploy containers on AWS and apparently turned into an internal meme at AWS, which is just, I love the fact that I can influence company cultures without working there, but I'll take what I can get.

But it is a [00:34:00] hard problem of great. I want to wind up doing some of these things. What's the right path? And the answer is always, it depends. What are you folks doing to simplify the onboarding journey for customers? Because frankly, it is overwhelming and confusing to me. So I can only imagine what someone who is new to the space feels.

And from customers, that's no small thing.

Francessca Vasquez: I am so glad that you asked this question. And I think we hear this question from many of our customers. Again, I've mentioned earlier in the, in the show that we have to meet customers where they are and some customers will be at a stage where they need maybe less prescriptive guidance, right?

They just want us to point them to the building blocks and other customers who need more prescriptive guidance. We have actually. We've taken a combination of our programs and what we call our solutions, and we've wrapped that into much stronger prescriptive guidance under our migration and again, our modernization initiative.

We have a program around this. [00:35:00] What we try to help them do first is assess just where they are on the adoption phase. That tends to drive, then, how we guide them. And that guidance sometimes could be as simple as a solution deployment, where we just kind of give them, you know, the scripts, the APIs, a confirmation template, and off they go.

Sometimes it comes in the form of people and advice, or it really depends on what they want. But we've tried to wrap all of this under our migration, and Acceleration program where we can help them do a fast sort of assessment on where they are, inclusive of driving, you know, quick business case. Most companies aren't doing anything without that.

We then put together a fairly fast mobilization plan. So how do they get started? Does it mean can they launch a control foundation, control tower solutions to set up things like accounts, identity and access management, you know, governance, like how do you get them doing? And then we have some prescriptive guidance.

[00:36:00] in our program that allows them to look at, again, different solution sets to solve, whether that be data, you know, security. You mentioned containers. What's the right path? Do I go containers? Do I go serverless, right? Depending on where they are. Do I go EKS, ECS, anywhere, or Fargate? Yeah, so we try to provide them, again, with some prescriptive guidance, again, based on where they are.

We do that through our Migration Acceleration Initiative, to simplify.

Corey Quinn: Oh yeah, absolutely. And I give an awful lot of guidance in public about how X is terrible, B is the better path, never do C. And whenever I talk, for example, I'm famous for saying multi cloud is the wrong direction, don't do it. And then I talk to customers who are doing it and they expect me to harangue them and my response is, yeah, you're probably right.

They're taken aback by this. Does this mean you're saying things you don't believe? No, not at all. I'm speaking to the general case where if in the absence of external guidance this is how I would approach things. You are not the general case by definition of having a one on one [00:37:00] conversation with me.

You have almost certainly weighed the trade offs, looked at the context behind what you're doing and why, and have come to the right decision. I don't pretend to know your business or your constraints or your capabilities. So, me sitting here with no outside expertise, looking at what you've done and saying, Oh, that's not the right way to do it.

is ignorant. Why would anyone do that? People are surprised by that, because context matters an awful lot.

Francessca Vasquez: Context does matter, and the reason why we try not to just be overly prescribed again is all customers are different. We try to group patterns, so we do see themes with patterns. And then the other thing that we try to do is, much of our scale happens through our partner ecosystem, Cori.

So we try to make sure that we provide the same frameworks and guidance to our partners, with enough flexibility where our partners and their IP, you know, can also support that for customers. Uh, we have a pretty robust partner ecosystem and about a hundred, And 50 plus [00:38:00] partners that are actually with our migration, you know, modernization competency.

So yeah, it's ongoing and we're going to continue to iterate on it based on customer feedback. And also again, our portfolio of where customers are, a startup is going to look very different than, you know, a hundred year old enterprise or an independent software vendor. Just move into SaaS.

Corey Quinn: Exactly. And my ridiculous build out for my newsletter pipeline system leverages something like a dozen different AWS services.

Is this the way that I would recommend it for most folks? No, but for what I do, it works for me. It provides a great technology testbed. And I think that people lose sight pretty quickly of the fact that there is, in fact, An awful lot of variance out there between use cases constraints. If I break my newsletter, I have to write it by hand one morning.

Oh heavens, not that. As opposed to, you know, if Capital One goes down and suddenly ATM starts spinning out the wrong balance. Well, there's a slightly different failure domain [00:39:00] there. I'm not saying which is worse, mind you, particularly from my perspective, however, I'm just saying it's different.

Francessca Vasquez: I was going to tell you, your newsletter is important to us, so we want to make sure there's reliability and resiliency baked into that.

Corey Quinn: But there isn't any because of my code. It's terrible. This, if, like, forget a region outage, it's far likely I'm going to make a bad push or discover some weird edge case and have to spend, uh, 3, An hour or two late at night fixing something as might have happened the night before this recording.

Francessca Vasquez: Well, by the way, I'm obligated as your chief solution architect to have you look at some form of a prototype or proof of concept for Textract if you're having to hand write out all the newsletters.

You let me know. When you'd like me to come in and walk you through how we might be able to streamline that. Oh,

Corey Quinn: I want to talk about what I've done. I want to start a new sub series on your site. You have the, uh, This is My Architecture. I want to have something, This is My Nonsense Architecture. In other words, one of these learning by counter example stories.

Francessca Vasquez: [00:40:00] Yeah, Matt Jensen will love that.

Corey Quinn: I'm sure he will. Francesca, thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me. If people want to learn more about who you are, what you believe and what you're up to, where can they find you?

Francessca Vasquez: Well, they can certainly find me out on Twitter at Francesca underscore V.

I'm also on LinkedIn. And I also want to thank you, Corey. It's been great just spending this time with you. Keep up the snark, keep giving us feedback and keep doing the great things you're doing with customers, which is most important.

Corey Quinn: Excellent. I look forward to hearing more about what you folks have in store and we'll of course put links to that in the show notes.

Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me.

Francessca Vasquez: Thank you. Have a good one.

Corey Quinn: Francesca Vasquez, VP of Technology at AWS. 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 hated this podcast, please leave a five star review on your podcast platform of choice, along with a comment telling me why there is in fact an AWS 400 [00:41:00] mainframe.

I just haven't seen it yet.

Newsletter Footer

Get the Newsletter

Reach over 30,000 discerning engineers, managers, enthusiasts who actually care about the state of Amazon’s cloud ecosystems.

"*" indicates required fields

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
Sponsor Icon Footer

Sponsor an Episode

Get your message in front of people who care enough to keep current about the cloud phenomenon and its business impacts.