Four years have passed. How time flies, it is unbelievable!
Three years ago, I wrote about my first year, and now that I just passed my fourth year mark (and also my second year in my role as a Developer Advocate), I will try and combine these two milestones together and sum up my experience and thoughts. Of course I will do this in the typical Amazonian fashion, according to the LP’s.
Customer Obsession & Earn Trust
As an AWS service team developer advocate, we have somewhat of a unique position. We are embedded into the service organization. We work in tandem with the product to find ways to improve the services and solutions we deliver for our customers. And by customers I mean we have different types.
It is the internal Amazon teams that use Amazon ECS or AWS Fargate. It is the single developer just starting out. It is the enterprise customer that is spending significant amounts every month and has hundreds or thousands of applications deployed. It is the AWS partner who develops solutions that provide added value to our customers. It is the sales teams that engage with customers every day. Each type of customer has different needs, different problems and different goals, sometimes they directly compete with those of our other customers.
Part of my job is to work with as many of them as possibles, create the relationships that will earn trust in the long term. All of that for the purpose of bringing honest and candid feedback and insight back into the service team, so we can address these points on our roadmap, based on our priorities.
What I have learned here is that showing up, being present and engaging with them does wonders, earns that trust and creates a win-win situation for everyone.
In Amazon, you are the master of your own future. You need to actively find ways to advance your career, find opportunities to grow, find ways to have more impact. That means you can’t wait for things to fall into your lap.
Volunteer for projects, initiatives, speaking opportunities, and owning that as part of your career. I decided two years ago to make a change and move to a new role. This was not given to me on a platter, I took the initiative, wrote a one-pager to pitch the idea to a manager, and did not get the role.
I continued to look for opportunities as they came up. And yes it paid off. And I continue to look for these opportunities for our customers and for myself and my future.
Invent and Simplify
No AWS service is perfect, we always have room for improvement. Usually those improvements come as part of our feature and product releases. Sometimes, there are things that are a real customer pain point that will take time to solve and we need to provide a solution or workaround to help our customers.
This leads to creating things like the alpha version of ecsctl written by Scott Coulton or workarounds for timeouts for an Amazon ECS task. Taking complex issues and making them as simple as possible to solve a real problem.
Learn and Be Curious & Dive Deep
Over these past 3 years I have learned so many new things, stuff I knew nothing about only a year before. I have come to love the AWS CDK and it is now my default way to create my infrastructure projects.
As a DA, I need to dive into new features of the product on a regular basis, sometimes I am the one who will “write the instructions” on how to use it. I have to dive into the technology, understand how things work and if need be, get the details from the engineers that write the code for the feature to get their insight. So it is not all about, getting up on stage, going on camera or writing a blog post. I push myself all the time, to learn new things, find new ways to test things and provide feedback in the simplest way possible.
I learned how to filter noise, how to recognize problems and trends before they have too much impact. How to dive into parts of our products and work with the service teams to develop the next thing, to make sure that it is available on day one of a feature release.
And yes I have also learned how to write proper English grammar (I hope).
Hire and Develop the Best & Insist on the Highest Standards
Hiring is everyone’s job, not just managers, not just HR, everyone. The hiring process in Amazon is peculiar (yes Amazonian like using peculiar, a lot) the only company I have worked at that invests time in teaching all of us how interview, practice interviews, remove unconditional bias. Your voice counts if a candidate will be accepted to the position or not, exactly the same as everyone elses, this is not something to take likely. I interviewed a good number of candidates for different positions these past three years. Some were given a offer, others were not.
I have mentored new hires and others on my team. Success is not something to share alone, bringing colleagues and others up to speed, helping them be successful, is so important.
I regularly review content written by others, providing feedback and insights on how to improve their message or tighten their narrative, to make sure that all of us in AWS are producing content of the highest quality for our customers.
I spoke about PTI’s (Phone Tool Icons) last year and I have added another 176 PTI’s to my collection.
One last personal note.
We have an internal tool, that pops up a question once a day to get the pulse of the employees (sometimes it pops up in the most awkward situations too, but that is a tale for another day). One of the questions that comes up is something like, “How satisfied are you with your job right now?”.
My answer to that is always “Extremely satisfied”. Sometimes we get a follow up question, to state the reason for our choice. My answer is always the same.
Yes the technology is awesome. Yes life-work balance for me is great. But that is not the main reason I enjoy my work so much.
I work with an amazing group of people on my team (in no particular order), Jeramiah Dooley, Nathan Peck, Jessica Deen and Scott Coulton. All of them are just great people, knowledgeable, downright nice and friendly. They are people I honestly look forward to working with every day (even if we are on completely different sides of the world, time zones and we hardly meet in person). The value of having such a supportive team, that has each other’s back, that genuinely wants each and every one of us to succeed as individuals and also as a team, is priceless.
I am really happy that I have chosen this path and am looking forward to next 4 years and beyond!