Join Corey and Jon as they discuss what a partner solutions architect for cloud management tools does at AWS, the company’s top partners for cloud management, what it’s like to be part of the AWS team, what it’s like to work from home during the COVID-19 pandemic and how it compares to working from home during “normal times,” how working from home will become the new normal in the near future, why you can’t measure work-from-home productivity effectively during COVID-19, two new features Jon just realized Chime has and what he hopes to see added to the video meeting tool in the near future, why Jon launched his own AWS-focused blog, what AWS’ response to his blog has been, and more.
A Partner Solutions Architect for Cloud Management Tools at AWS. Jon Myer is an evangelist for all things AWS and passionate about educating, teaching, and connecting with others about new or existing services AWS releases.
- The AWS Blogger: https://www.theawsblogger.com/
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/_jonmyer
- LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jon-myer/
Announcer: Hello, and welcome to Screaming in the Cloud with your host, Cloud Economist 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. I'm joined this week by Jon Myer, a partner solutions architect for Cloud Management Tools at AWS. Jon, welcome to the show.
Jon: Thanks, Corey, for having me. I really appreciate it.
Corey: So, you're a partner solutions architect for Cloud Management Tools. I feel like there's someone at AWS who gets bonused per syllable that they put on business cards some weeks. Can you distill down what exactly that is?
Jon: Yeah, you think they get bonus points, try writing it out. That's why I shortened it to PSA-CMT.
Corey: Exactly. We do love our acronyms.
Jon: [laughs]. Yeah, exactly. All right. So, what a PSA for Cloud Management Tools does is—you know, partners are my customers. I work directly with partners to really help them out. So, if you think of some of the top partners out there for cloud management, CloudCheckr, CloudWire, Cloudability, Turbo, Turbonomics, those are the ones that I directly deal with. And I'll work with them for doing webinars; blog posts on their applications; maybe they're bringing out a new UI, I'll test it out.
And I'll take some of the AWS products or services that might be up and coming, and I'll work directly with them to try to get it integrated, or try to figure out some caveats for it, so that they can tell it out and make sure that their application works with it, so when we release new services, or they get launched, they're already kind of jumpstart on in the help their customers out because we don't want customers to be in a tough situation when a new service is released, and the partners can't support them.
Corey: So, the hard part that I’ve found has been anytime you talk to someone who does solutions architecture in anything even tangentially approaching AWS, let alone someone who actually works there is, how do you figure out where to start and stop? And that is a sincere question, by the way, because we have long since passed a point where I could talk to you right now—as an AWS employee, about various AWS services that don't exist. And we're at a point now where there's no way you'd be able to, on the fly, disambiguate between which ones exist versus which ones I'm making up to be funny. I don't generally tend to do that because, ‘haha I made someone look foolish’ is not generally my brand, unless that someone is a multinational company. But the problem is that it's so hard to be a specialist across AWS. Whenever someone says I'm an expert with AWS, my immediate response is you're lying because no one knows in all. Where do you draw the lines?
Jon: That's actually a good question. We come across that a lot. The great part is that we have a strong, vast majority team behind us. And customers and partners know that and understand it. So, if I'm in a deep conversation with my partner, and they want to talk about AI/ML, which I'm not an expert in: I understand it in the basics; I'll tell them that I have to bring in another specialist or somebody who can work with them. He'll join the call, that person will not only educate the partner, but I'll start to educate myself on bits and pieces of it. We have, like, what 190 some services and don't quote me on that one because I'm sure that there are plus or minus a couple—
Corey: You're forgetting a few depending upon how you slice it. I was slicing apart Boto and came up with I think around 220, but some of those are questionable. Yeah, that's the problem. There's not even a clear answer. We could have a whole debate about the number of services.
Jon: Yeah. So, that usually gets a little tough for us to-back then, when we had just a little majority of services, it was all right to be, “Yes, I knew AWS,” and somebody’d be like, “All right, hey, they know at all.” But with so many services, I try to put my focus on the ones that my Cloud Management Tools partners are really focusing on and using, and if they need help with another service, I have no problem reaching back to my team and saying, “Hey, listen, I need some help. Who's available?” And there's always 10 or 20 people like, “Hey, I can help you. I can jump in there.” So, it really makes you feel comfortable that you have the full support of your team behind you.
Corey: That's got to be fun. Now that we have a staff on our side, I'm starting to learn how some of these challenges begin manifesting because the company, at least on my side, has grown to a point where I can't hold it all in my head anymore. There are consulting engagements in flight right now on my side that I have never interacted with, which feels bizarre to me, and it's like I'm careening out of control and losing it. That's something, for better or worse, at a big company you've already made your peace with as soon as you effectively walk in the door. How long have you been with AWS?
Jon: I've actually been with them about 10 months now. That's probably about, what, 20 years in AWS terms?
Corey: Especially given the last two months of pandemic, where at that point at, well, we're absolutely at this point, “Wow, March lasted 10 years.”
Jon: Yeah, so the 10 months that I've been with those, I felt myself grown, I've had a lot of fun learning, and onboarding, and working with various people doing all kinds of cool and crazy things, and this year, I have so much more planned, and it feels like I've been here probably I'm going to say at least five years already. I feel like a veteran on this, and I'm just really engrossed in AWS.
Corey: One of the funny parts is that Amazon, by and large, is generally not a remote-first company. For an awful lot of roles, you can work from anywhere you want, as long as it's Seattle. And you on the other hand are out near Allentown, Pennsylvania, a city near and dear to my heart, given that I was born there. I kid, I kid, I was not actually born: I sprung fully formed from the forehead of some God. But you have been doing the remote thing at AWS for a while. Tell me about that.
Jon: Yes, so that's actually one of the benefits. I've been working remote, or from home, probably for the last five years. So, I've kind of had my routine, and when this role came up, and I'm still, kind of, based out of New York, I traveled to New York occasionally when they need me, and in fact, I've traveled quite a bit, but through my own options, and I had that ability to pick and choose some of the things that I'm able to do and support my partners, which is great, but being able to work, I want to say it's a small town compared to, or a really small town compared to Seattle, but it's nice because we're still connected to our teams. We are using various tools to do our communications. We use Chime for our video chat, and it still feels like I'm connected to the team because we're constantly interacting in one way or another. I love working from home, and I like the ability that I can travel occasionally when I need to; go to New York to work with some of the colleagues. It's really made it flexible.
Corey: One thing I really want to emphasize as someone who's been working from home myself for the last three and a half years, as of the time of this recording is that this is not normal. I have had so many different conversations with folks where they feel like they're not being productive; it turns out that they actually suck at working from home; they need to be in an office. No, these are not normal times. My productivity has taken a dive, not because I don't know how to work from home, but because we are now staring down a pandemic, and for most of us, it's sort of hard to compartmentalize that off from being the most efficient corporate drone we possibly can. So, talk to me a little bit about, first, what you've seen change from a remote culture, and then let's talk a little bit about workflows.
Jon: That's actually a really good point. Since I've been working from home, this is definitely not the norm. We are not dealing with a normal situation, I would have a normal routine. Get up, get the family ready, kids are off to school, I’m engrossed into work. You know, lunchtime, work out, afterwards meetings. Really cutting off around 5:00, 5:30 of my day, and that's great, and I have flexibility throughout the day if I need to run somewhere, and do something, and handle something.
But now you're not allowed to go anywhere, and you can't do anything, and everybody is stuck in a routine where you're only doing things around your house, and occasionally going out and doing various trips for essential items. For me, the first two weeks of dealing with not only the family being home, but colleagues, interacting with them, and they're like not sure what to do, and how to handle this office-to-home transition, they didn't have the setup that I have to get things done efficiently. They're adapting, they're learning new ways and tools to do it, and then in the two weeks after that people are like, “All right, I need to chat with people,” So, you have a lot more chat conversations, video chat, people want to jump on it. I've offered some virtual coffee time for people who just want to download, and need some of that social conversation. Now, I've been working from home, so I don't always need that conversation. I've kind of adapted to that, but you're helping colleagues out who aren't used to that portion of it. And that's really where it comes down to, is that the office workers who are working from home now need help in that transition. And I think working from home might be, kind of, a new norm as people get into that routine and figure out new and inventive ways to do it.
Corey: That's something I found that has been—people are both focusing on in a way they never did before, but they're also in some cases focusing on the wrong part of the story. Personally, on a selfish level, I'm very eager to see what happens when we start going back into offices, now that people know exactly how little it costs to build out a really nice home office from an equipment perspective. It's let me get this straight: you pay me [clears throat] thousand dollars a year, but I'm not allowed to splurge on the expensive $800 standing desk that I spend more time with than I do my own family? It becomes one of those, “Wait a minute…” I think you're going to start seeing a backlash—I hope—against this open plan office mentality where everyone works in these giant tables, cheek to jowl with a bunch of other developers. I'm optimistic. Maybe I'm wrong on that, but that one feels like an easy win for me.
Jon: I think you're right. I think more the people transition from that office to work from home, where working from home will be the new norm, and when you go to the office is really when everything's going to be quiet, or you're out of office will be on, and maybe saying, “Hey, listen, I'm in the office, and I'll get to you when I get a chance,” But when you're at home, you'll do more of that communication. I think it's going to be a total reverse effect.
Corey: Talk to me a little bit about services that AWS offers that you're finding to be particularly helpful now that everyone is, surprise, working from home. And I do want to say, incidentally, that this is not a valid work-from-home test. Surprise, with basically no notice, everyone is now working from home when they didn't expect to be, during a pandemic, is not an adequate test of how good are you at working from home? Is working from home for you? Is your company structured to work from home? The answer to all of that is that this is awful. So, bearing that in mind, what have you found that AWS offers that makes this a little bit more manageable from a day-to-day perspective?
Jon: I think you made a valid point—before I jump into any services they offer—I think of any companies takes this pandemic and working from home, a way to gauge or measure on how well people will work from home as you start to do that as a norm, it would be a total reverse. It's not a valid analysis of the environment. There's no way that you can say, “Hey, listen, during this pandemic, we had 100 people work from home, and productivity was down.” No, there's no way that you can take this—you got to take all the data from people being able to work from home, and not compare it. You have to take into an equation on this pandemic, and that they're working for home. Efficiency—people are unsure right now, so efficiency might be down or up for certain people as they start to learn new ways and to do things. And it all depends on the person itself.
Corey: One thing that I am loath to say when there's any chance that he can hear me, but there's no way he has the spare time to listen on a podcast, is Sid Rao is the general manager of Amazon Chime, and one of my favorite things to do on Twitter is, basically, complain about how awful Chime is, mostly because I find that inspires Sid to do some of his best work. Here, in reality, Chime is really, really good. I've used an awful lot of different messaging services over the years; they all have their faults, and those faults become extremely apparent because a call drops, or suddenly there's a sync issue that doesn't work right. You're always using these apps, and it's incredibly frustrating and noticeable. It's either terrible or it's invisible. Chime has really gotten good. Please don't tell him that because I have a reputation to uphold. That's why it's just between you, me, and several thousand listeners.
Jon: I'll have to accidentally send him the recording of this one.
Jon: Oh, so you mentioned Chime. I like Chime, and in the last two weeks, I've learned some cool features about Chime that I didn't even know existed. One of the other ones that you found out is that I can invite external users to communicate with AWS folks for Chime. Now, please don't share that out globally because everybody will be emailing and trying to reach out to me on Chime, but it's a really good way for me to communicate on one platform with another user that is not part of AWS and to keep in contact, and those communications and to share something really quick. It's better than dropping that email and hopefully, they read it. Chime does that one.
The other feature that I just found out two weeks ago, is that Chime has an event mode, almost like you have a webinar series going on. And guess what? I'm going to record this, I want to make this a webinar right here and now. I can actually turn my group or my meeting into an actual webinar or event, and you can do things like mute to participants, they can’t unmute it, they can ask questions, you can record it, you can share the link out with multiple people. One of the things I'd really like to see is a registration page, I can send it out. I mean, these are features that are just completely awesome about Chime, and the chat portion, groups—something that I know, Corey, you just found out is that you can do a group chat with Chime that you weren't aware of. So…
Corey: Yeah, I've been using Chime for years now. All I needed was an Amazonians email address, and I could message them on Chime, which scared the living crap out of a number of people, which is fine. But it’s how I tend to communicate; it works super well for me and the way that I process things. If we start lobbing emails back and forth, we're lucky we can go three rounds, where it dies in my inbox. I mean, I'm a big believer, these days, in inbox zero [BLEEP] given.
So, if you email me, you're absolutely not going to get a response super well. In fact, when I took on a business partner, having me pass email communication to him for client stuff was basically job zero, we dove directly into that because getting me out of the critical path was great. But messaging people on Chime for asynchronous questions is awesome. I have other problems given my nature of how I tend to operate with AWS and various things that I do, where people think, oh, wait, are you coming at this from a perspective of a journalist, I have never been a journalist. They're good at things and I'm not. Are you coming at this from a customer perspective? Am I coming at this as an analyst? Am I coming at this from just trying to be funny? Am I coming at this to help reprioritize that Chime needs a block feature? Et cetera, et cetera.
Jon: I completely agree. I actually—I’ve been using Chime before I was with AWS, and that's how I communicated with my APN partner, my PDM, and how I would message that person and get immediate responses. Now, just like you on sending emails to not only that person—or I might have sent some emails to you as well, that go on answered—no comment there. And it's easier to get a comment or a response back quickly Chime because you quickly return back a one-liner and it's done. You don't have to click the send button as quick—and your email read through a whole bunch nowadays is going to be clearing your chat inbox versus your regular inbox.
Corey: Yeah, I mean, again, I could think of a lot of feature enhancements. I mean, Slack just got the ability to group channels, which is awesome. I mean, I'm in a company Slack myself with roughly 20 people once you add in our contractors, not to mention all of the shared channels we have with folks, and being able to categorize those by project or whatnot is super handy. With time right now, it's just a last conversation you've had, so that becomes a bit sticky. But by and large, it's a decent product. What else have you folks got? What else have you released that is making the pandemic remote work story bearable from folks who are discovering these services, and what services should people look into if they haven't figured this out yet?
Jon: Yeah, the other service I really like to touch on is Amazon WorkSpaces, which is your Desktop-as-a-Service solution. It's been around for years. In fact, working for another company, I kind of pioneered it internally. Nobody had the expertise. It was new and exciting and deployed it for a large enterprise-level company, got it out there and I was just learning everything, the ins and outs about it. Now think about this, this is, like, four or five years ago. The workspace client that connects to your Amazon WorkSpaces works on any device. I mean, I had it deployed out onto an iPad, and logged into it and actually did some configurations while I was about to take a cruise, a family vacation, and I was able to log in there and get things configured within 10 minutes and resolve issues.
Something that Amazon is doing now, during this, is they're simplifying the delivery of it and reducing the cost of Amazon WorkSpaces during this. They have a couple of free-tier offering or standard-tier offering that allows you to deploy and quickly deploy out for your environment or remote users, and what you're doing is you're eliminating the need to overbuy your desktops, your laptop resources by providing an on-demand access to cloud desktops. And in fact, it's something I'm going to work on is I'm going to work on a video recording and get it posted out there, I do have a webinar in I think about two weeks around AWS WorkSpaces, and how you can set it up, and get it quickly deployed for not only customers but remote workforce.
Corey: And because we wind up having a bit of a delay, that webinar will be out by the time that we wind up publishing this episode, but I will throw a link to it in the show notes, which is kind of weird because you can go watch that webinar right now if you're listening to this, but at the time, we have no idea how it turns out. Personally, I'm hoping there's a hilarious pratfall in which Jon winds up tripping over himself and falling backwards out of his chair. But hope springs eternal; only the future will know.
Jon: I'm going to have to add that to my recording and say, “Hey, Corey, that one's for you.”
Corey: So, something else I want to cover with you is that you recently—as it turns out, I only found this out while researching this show—have launched a personal blog. And in a hilarious coincidence, your first post was on how you did it, and you use the exact same WordPress hosting architecture that, after you had already launched and gotten this up and running, I excoriated on Twitter as being hilariously over complicated. And I wanted to talk to you about that, first, to talk about your blog, and secondly, to add nuance to my observations about WordPress architecture that don't eloquently fit into 280 characters.
Jon: So, let's go on to my blog and why I did it, and let's talk about the architecture. Why did I do it? Well, one of my ultimate goals is to become an evangelist, so I enjoy reaching out and connecting with the audience. I like to work with how-to videos, basically anything AWS, I really enjoy it. I really enjoy sharing what I've learned and very small, quick things. I started writing some blog posts. I wasn't really huge on writing them, but all of a sudden, I found so much in my head that I just wanted to dump down on into a blog and share out with people, and I just thought it was really cool.
So, I was hashing out the name, a buddy of mine, him and I were going back and forth, and he's like—I gave him a couple characters and he gave me back, and then he came up with this and I'm like, “Oh, that domain’s available.” So, I bought the domain right away. And I was like, “Okay, I guess I should go get some approval before I start writing this since it has the word AWS in the domain.” And I'll tell you what, I got the full support of AWS, for us to really do social activities, and share this. Obviously, we have to have our little disclaimer, “This is all me, this is my beliefs.”
Corey: Speaking of someone who owns lastweekinAWS.com who has never been affiliated professionally with AWS, that's an interesting point that you bring up right there. In fact, right before I launched this newsletter, three and a half years ago now, I bought lastweekinthecloud.com with the assumption that if I ever wind up hearing something from AWS legal, I can spend 20 minutes, pivot it to something else, and then talk about AWS as competitors. There we go; that winds up being a nice hedge. Now, I want to say, to be very clear, in three and a half years, despite some periodically incendiary takes on what AWS has done, I would argue when they deserve it, I have never heard a negative word from AWS about this. And that's to their credit.
Jon: Yeah, I love the support. In fact, I brought it to my manager, who's a great leader, and I'm like, “Oh, hey, I did this.” And he's like, “That's awesome.” He goes, “Just make sure you have the approvals.” I sent them in. And he's like, “Thanks, you're good to go.” So, I just like it. I throw in as much as I can on there. In fact, I'm due for another post, which I am working on. I'm going to get that up there. I'm working on a UNDERGROUND DeepRacer—or a Deep UNDERGROUND RaceTrack, as per Corey. So, that will be shared out on there; you'll see that in an up and coming—or by the time this gets out, you already follow me and see that post.
Corey: In what you might be forgiven for mistaking for a blast from the past, today, I want to talk about New Relic. They seem to be a relatively legacy monitoring company, and I would have agreed with that assessment up until relatively recently, but they did something a little out there: they reworked everything. They went open source, they made it so you can monitor your whole stack in one place. And most notably from my perspective, they simplified their pricing into something that is much more affordable for almost everyone. There's even a free tier with one user and a hundred gigs per month, totally free.
Check it out at newrelic.com.
Corey: One thing that amuses me very much about your website—and again, this is not your fault directly at all. It is the entire Amazon social media policy because you mentioned this, so I'm bringing it up, which makes it fair game. At the footer of your website says, “This website represents my own viewpoint and not of my employer, Amazon Web Services.” The problem, from my perspective, given that I'm cynical and more than a bit of a has always been that I don't think anyone is ever going to read someone's blog or social media postings and think that they are speaking on behalf of their employer. Instead, the problem is, “Wow, now we know that these are your thoughts, and yet we continue to employ you, despite them.”
And I’m being a little sarcastic here; there is nothing objectionable that I've ever seen come out of you. But—well, I take that back. We have had some conversations about a few AWS services which I feel you are deeply and profoundly wrong about. But I've never seen anything controversial or problematic come from you. And frankly, any AWS employee for the most part.
But the idea of I don't speak for my employer, I understand why that statement has to be there. I absolutely understand the risk mitigation, but on some level, I can't help roll my eyes whenever I see it. And I strongly suspect that failing is on my part because, again, I'm a small company that for the longest time was just a corporate wrapper around my crappy excuse for a personality. If I say, “Oh, I don't speak on behalf of my employer.” “Yeah, sure you don't. It's the question of which pocket is your snark coming out of this week?” It's a different story. I understand having it there. But I've got to say it is through no fault of your own, or frankly, anyone at AWS’s: in their shoes, I would almost certainly do the exact same thing. But I chuckle every time I see that disclaimer.
Jon: I actually like the disclaimer, only because there will be that one person that says, “Oh, look what Jon from AWS might have posted.” Or something like that. And you're right, I don't usually post anything negative. I know there's flaws in almost anything we do or another service outside of AWS in your daily lives, and I've come to, “Okay, that service doesn't work, but how can I reach out there and try to make that service better?” So, I take that feedback, and I add that to it.
So, if I find something negative, I don't like to just throw it out there, and point it out to everybody and whatever, I'll try to keep it internal, and try to make it better. There might be a roadmap to actually doing that already, so what’s the sense of me actually making a negative? I tried to think of positive, or what I would like to see. I know a lot of people like some of the negative portions, and everything like that. Maybe that's down the road, but right now I like sharing the positive. And the disclaimer just helps it so that one person doesn't think that Jon is commenting on this from an AWS perspective. I'm just commenting on, personally. That I work for AWS, please don't confuse the two.
Corey: I will say it's always amusing to me to see various social media profiles like AWS, VP of corporate communications, I don't speak for my employer. You want to bet? At some point it becomes parody. Credit we're due. Andy Jassy, CEO of AWS does not have, “I don't speak for AWS,” in his social media profile, which is good because, frankly, it is impossible for him not to, given who he is and what he does.
But there are occasionally humorous moments, usually on the marketing side, where I'll see things like that. What I want to talk about, too, is the architecture that you picked for your WordPress blog. You followed the best practices highly available architectural pattern guide, which looks hilarious on some level. It's easily $800 a month in services if you build out the full thing. And people love to dunk on it, which basically when I say people, I mean me. But it's a great glimpse into what it takes to scale these various web applications out in a controlled, highly available way.
It's not because WordPress is what people should be running themselves in this context, but rather because here is an architectural reference guide that you can use, where WordPress is basically the classical three-tiered application. Here's how that can work if you want to put that in a cloud-friendly architectural environment. Now, I have angry and negative reactions to WordPress because one of my jobs a while back, was at Media Temple before they were acquired by GoDaddy, and we ran a WordPress grid that had something like 100,000 customers on it, so I have scars that run deep for WordPress. That said, lastweekinaws.com runs on WordPress, but I pay WP Engine to handle it for me, which means hilariously, it's now hosted on GCP. But it's fun. It's great because I have the good sense to pay someone else to run the blog for me, and I haven't built Frankenstein's monster in order to serve out traffic.
Jon: So, when I first started off, I was actually starting it in another provider, a free one, whatever it was to actually get there. It was Squarespace when I was actually starting off, and I was like—
Corey: The first iteration of my corporate website was also on Squarespace because I could easily spend 40 hours a month playing around with the website that generates zero business.
Jon: Exactly. I was playing around with it, and I was like, “Okay, you know what? I work for AWS? Why am I not deploying this in AWS?” And I started searching, I was going through, and I’ve used Elastic Beanstalk before and I was like, “You know what? That's perfect. Let's do that.” And I was going through it, and I'm working on a blog post for that one, an iteration of the current one that I've actually put out there on my website on, I started off with Elastic Beanstalk.
And then I came across an article, and it was CloudFormation stack on GitHub, and it was like deploying out a WordPress site, and highly available, and I loved the architecture. I actually loved the deployment of it. Now, do I care if it's WordPress or not? Well, I actually can use WordPress; I am not a website developer, or designer, or image person by any means. I just wanted something that I could get up, and get out there, and focus on the content itself, but I also wanted it hosted on AWS, and I felt that me as an AWS person, that I could talk more about it, and share some of my architecture with people, and some of the use cases on why I did it. I did obviously lower down the instance sizes on there because I didn't think I was going to be needing a major X large instance size right now, but it is highly available.
I'm using EFS, which is awesome. I've used it in the past, but in this context, all my data is on a shared storage, and no matter what happens, my WordPress site is deployed on them, it is configurable, I can put it on one, it goes on another one, I don't have to move EBS volumes around, I don't have to have to attach or reattach. It's just readily available, and I just love utilizing the RDS amongst it. And my next step is to throw a CDN right in front of it, and I'm working on that portion as well. Now I can go back to the CloudFormation stack and add it, but I think I'm going to add it myself, and then I'm going to write a document on how I added for the WordPress site. And by the way, my first version of this really sucked. The images were bad because I'm not a UI person. So, I needed help on that front, and I think WordPress was just a lot easier to get it out in time for a webinar that we did.
Corey: This sort of ties back to what the beginning of our conversation started with, with the idea of working remotely, and we're seeing all these services now, and people are doing webinars left and right, which, incidentally, I was always very down on webinars: than I did a few, and the viewer numbers are lower compared to this podcast, or the newsletter, but people take action based on webinars way more frequently. I wind up with outreach based upon them. I've started to understand why enterprise salespeople swear by them. But the reason I bring this up in the context of writing a blog is that when building out a video studio, or spending thousands of dollars on equipment and getting everything set up, is similar in some ways to building out a blogging engine. Namely, people spend so much time focusing on those implementation details that they forget the most important part, which is you have to be able to tell a story that's interesting; that brings people forward. Otherwise, it doesn't matter what your production quality is. No one's going to care.
Jon: I completely agree. I mean, and just some of my blogs, a lot of mine are more personalized, or just my thoughts, random thoughts dropped down on there. And I actually find out, looking at some of the statistics, that more people are reading it, or there's more actions upon it, webinars that are happening, a lot of more people are reaching out to me for communication, and some feedback and I try to provide that as best as possible for them. But ultimately, I agree with you on webinars. I think they are obviously the latest thing that we can do during this certain times that we can share with our community, but we can also touch everybody on a personal level, as well.
Corey: Yeah, when I was looking at your blog, it was oh, wow, it looks like you only have five or six blog posts. Oh, another abandonware blog, and then I checked the dates and they're all within the past month. Okay, someone, at least, as being prolific and that's sort of the important part. You find your own voice and you see what the traffic starts to look like, and what resonates, and what doesn't. I mean, I have that problem, incidentally, with my newsletter.
It's one of the reasons that I still have some weak form of tracking built into the newsletter. I don't actually care whether you click on a link or not. What I care about is across the entire board. For example, what links do well, and what don’t. That in turn informs what I should be putting more of in. For example, I don't care at all about IoT. But it turns out the audience really does, which means I need to spend more time focusing on IoT based upon reader responses that I'm getting. But I don't want to be creepy. I don't care who you are. I don't care what you're clicking on. I just want to know, in general, what do people like versus what don't they like? Because feedback is a very hard thing to get objectively because you either get people who love everything you do or people who hate you, and neither one of those is what we would call unbiased.
Jon: No, I completely agree with you in that.
Corey: So, one last thing I wanted to cover with you before we wind up calling it a show. Talk to me a little bit about certifications. One of the reasons that I only have the Cloud Practitioner, among several other reasons in fact, is because it is challenging and annoying for me to find a place to go to a testing center. Well, now, all of these certifications can be conducted remotely, which means it's less of a pain. Tell me a little bit about that.
Jon: So, the certifications and the testings that started out—if you look back, and I believe it was probably January, February, on the timeframe that the Cloud Practitioner was allowed remote or online, that you didn't even have to go into a testing center and actually take the test. Due to the current state that we're in, the pandemic, those who were studying for an AWS exam couldn't go to a testing center. So, if they had stopped their exam studying, and then they'd have to pick it back up that was not really friendly for them. It does take a lot to study each of these domains, and the areas of expertise. AWS released your certifications and your exams proctoring at home online, you can proctor at home at any time available. Somebody will be watching you, obviously, through your camera. I've got some good feedback on that, on how they're being handled and monitored. And—
Corey: My CEO went on a bit of a rampage when he got his Cloud Practitioner on it, and credit where due, they fixed an awful lot of the problems that he wound up highlighting.
Jon: Yeah, exactly. I mean, so AWS, obviously, his customer feedback is the biggest thing for them. So, there's something that you see that doesn't work right, they take that feedback. Working and doing these exams at home have allowed people to kind of stay focused during this time, and continue their learning and training. So, when we are finally allowed to kind of go out, and things have kind of settled back down—I don't want to say normalize in a way—but things start to go back to normal, that they've got their certifications and they can continue on the path of their career, or their goals.
Corey: I used to be very down on certifications, and it turns out that my reasons for being down on them were almost completely invalid, and were also steeped in privilege, to be very honest with you. Because by God, I'm Corey Quinn, I don't need a piece of paper from Amazon saying that I know how Amazon works. I can just point at my own body of work, I can point at my resume of working on these things, therefore certifications are a useless money grab. And this was patently untrue, and extremely unfair because when you're starting out, particularly, there needs to be something that says, you have some baseline level of experience with a system. As your career progresses, that becomes a list of things you've done before, but early on you don't have that option, so certification is a terrific signal that you can at least have a discussion around the topic, and you can be conversant with the vocabulary.
Second, when you're running a large scale company and you want to get everyone trained up and validate where they are, it's a terrific thing to work with at large scale from an organizational point of view. There's also some partner program stories behind it that, frankly, I find a little silly, particularly in light of we're trying to keep business afloat but now we have to jump through partner hoops to maintain various positions within the partner program. It's frankly one of the reasons I never joined the AWS Partner Network. So, I've really come around on certifications. And at some point, I would probably consider getting more of them.
One idea I had was that I would love to try speed-running my way through all of them, but because you can't livestream these things, you can't share the contents of it, and there's not a lot you can do, the way I learn, that’s going to be helpful for other people. There's no story for that behind, “Look how smart I am.” And it turns out that that is not a compelling pitch, and there are better uses of everyone's time. But I still toyed with the idea because I have a trick memory and I test well.
Jon: Actually, I think you touched on it very well. It's not only the validation within your company but as personal validation. Testing yourself and challenging yourself, that you understand the basics, you understand some of the caveats that you're going to run into, and it will not only help you, but it will help customers and partners that you work with, your company that you work with, and some of the way you see things within AWS. And the second point that I have on that one is, I was always afraid to share this, but I failed my Networking Specialty exam. I found it really challenging in an aspect that I will complete it, I will pass it.
I actually even wrote a post on that one and shared it out on my failure, but it was a failure at this time. I didn't fail: I just failed to pass this time, or I didn't pass this time is the correct verbiage. I find it as a challenge, and I will continue to strive towards that. I had some cool and interesting questions in the exam, and the good part was, I didn't understand what that question was, I thought it was a certain answer. And I took it back to the team and I was able to grab insight on why it couldn't be that way, or that wasn't the answer. And I'll tell you what, I'll never fail that question again, or I'll never run into that issue when I work on a project and design something.
Corey: Yeah. And the problem, too, is that when you start going around the certification dance and trying to gloat and compare notes with folks—like, there were a few folks that I'm not going to name that when the Cloud Practitioner came out, they went out and got this, and talked about how quickly they were able to speed run through it. And sure, it's fun and all, but these are folks who've been working with AWS for 10 years. And when you say something like that, all you're really accomplishing is making people who aren't as steeped in the ecosystem feel crappy. That's not good for anyone, and it doesn't come off super well because you're not the target of that certification.
I mean, I have a similar story myself. I got one question wrong on it, and I know exactly which one I got wrong because I was honest, rather than following the guide, namely, how long does it take to recover an RDS instance from snapshot, or something like that, and I have some horror stories around that. So, I said weeks. Yeah, it turns out that's not the right answer. But I'm not the target market for that sort of certification. If we want to see the other side of it, have me go take the machine learning or database certification that apparently does not include Route 53, which is a travesty. And you'll watch those certs sweep the floor with me. We all have our areas of focus, and I think that comparison really is the thief of joy when it comes to covering these extraordinarily complex services in a way that is cohesive, accessible to a lot of people and, let's not kid ourselves, fits the format of a multiple-choice quiz.
Jon: No, I agree.
Corey: So, if people want to wind up hearing more from you, where can they track you down?
Jon: Corey, great question, I actually wanted to share this that if you follow me, check out my website, theAWSblogger.com, you can follow me on Twitter—and unfortunately I have to say, “At underscore,” because if you search for some reason, it just doesn't pop up—so @_jonmyer, J-O-N-M-Y-E-R, or look me up on LinkedIn. I actually post a lot more on Twitter now thanks to Corey, and I kind of share a little bit more information. Those are great places where I'll be constantly posting and sharing stuff out for the community, and everybody that wants to digest and regress some more AWS information.
Corey: Excellent. Jon, thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me. I appreciate it.
Jon: Yeah, and thanks, Corey, for having me on here. It's always a blast talking with you. I have lots of fun. The conversations are casual and nothing scripted. It just comes out.
Corey: Absolutely. Jon Myer, partner solutions architect for Cloud Management Tools. 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 Apple Podcasts. If you've hated this podcast, please leave a five-star review on Apple Podcasts, and leave a comment explaining what's wrong with it in multiple-choice format.
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