This past December, I and six other EC team members used our annual training budgets to attend Amazon Web Services’ (AWS’s) annual re:invent conference in Las Vegas. We participated in small workshops, informational sessions, and hackathons alongside a staggering 60,000 attendees who descended upon the city to learn more about the services AWS offers.
Conference activities ranged from an enormous expo where companies showed off their products to small “Builder’s Workshops” that offered personalized instruction to no more than a dozen attendees at a time. In between activities, conference sessions explored each of AWS’s offerings as well as unveiled new services (such as Kendra, a search tool powered by machine learning). EC team members attended some sessions together and some individually based on our professional interests. We will each give a Tech Talk in the coming months to share what we learned with the rest of our EC colleagues.
Having one of the entertainment capitals of the world as the backdrop for the conference meant plenty of options for fun as well. Attending the public sector happy hour afforded us the opportunity not only to unwind from a long day of workshops but also to connect with organizations with which EC could potentially partner. Our team has already done a demo with one of the companies we met there, LogRocket, that could help us more quickly identify bugs in production.
The 5 coolest things we learned at re:invent
After returning from the conference and having some time to reflect, the team got on Slack to share our notable takeaways from re:invent:
1. FedRAMP accreditation support for AWS partners
Jamil Evans: “My one thing: I met the head of ISV alliances for the public sector at a public sector reception. He shared that as a trusted partner, AWS will provide us with dedicated support as we move Security Control through the FedRAMP accreditation process!
2. Patch automation with AWS Systems Manager
Colin Ardizzone: “One cool thing I learned about was the Patch Manager capability within AWS Systems Manager which lets you automate patching of EC2 instances with custom scripts and gives ample feedback in the form of logs to CloudWatch. It also lets you patch fleets of instances at a time and will smartly distribute the patch schedule so all your instances aren’t affected at once.”
3. VPC Ingress routing rules!
Pat Ryan: “AWS’s new VPC Ingress Routing features can be used to simplify integration of 3rd party security appliances.”
4. Amazon Textract rocks!
Kayla Cross: “I was impressed with Amazon Textract for importing documents and forms into applications. I thought it would be especially applicable to a lot of projects at EC that may deal with modeling information from complicated government forms.
5. Mobile development with offline support using AWS Amplify
Nate Ostrander: “I learned about AWS Amplify, a development platform that helps you build mobile and web applications without managing compute servers. Amplify also offers offline integration. While offline, the user’s device can query and write to a local cache which will automatically synchronize with the data source when back online.”
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At this week’s Tech Talk, Jim Davis, a senior software developer for Evans and Chambers Technology, shared some of his experiences at the 2018 Amazon Web Services Re:Invent conference.
The discussion covered the basics of machine learning, as well as DeepLens, a deep-learning high-definition camera developed by Amazon as a sandbox and introduction into the world of machine learning. Jim demonstrated the different machine learning types (supervised, unsupervised, and reinforcement learning) and gave examples and industry use cases for each. Jim’s Tech Talk also included a live demo of setting up DeepLens out of the box, which covered how to install and customize project templates freely available on the AWS site.
Jim also highlighted other takeaways from the AWS conference, such as AWS’s growing serverless services (API Gateway, Lambda, DynamoDB, RDS, etc.) and how Amazon has turned cloud computing into the powerful market segment it is today.
About the EC Tech Talk Series
The Tech Talk Series is an employee-led platform dedicated to EC’s core value of continual learning. These talks aim to cover a broad range of technology-based topics to promote the sharing of best practices and ideas across EC’s project teams.No Comments »
At Evans & Chambers, we don’t only hire incredible talent, we actively encourage and support all employees in their path to self-improvement and certification. With the growing partnership and increased usage of AWS (Amazon Web Services) within EC and our customers, we thought what better way to improve ourselves than to get a few more AWS certifications among our staff.
The first EC AWS Certification Challenge pushed several employees to study hard to receive one of the five AWS certifications in just over 2 months. In addition to the EC bonus for AWS certifications, each person that was successful in earning a certification would be entered for a chance to win an all-expense paid trip to AWS re:Invent 2017 in Las Vegas, NV. Re:Invent is a fantastic conference that is focused on all things AWS from learning more about AWS offerings and partners to networking and fun. A trip to re:Invent is a great way to celebrate becoming certified and sharpen additional cloud skills.
The challenge participants were each given a learning path guide along with a copy of the AWS Certified Solutions Architect Official Study Guide to start their journey. Throughout the 2 months, participants could communicate within the #awscertchallenge channel on Slack about questions and certifications topics giving them support so they wouldn’t have to study alone. The challenge study period was wrapped up with a study session at Founding Farmers in Tysons Corner, VA. With one of the five attendees already certified, we were able to not only discuss the advantages of leveraging AWS cloud services, but also what to expect for the exam and how to prepare while sipping a few drinks and enjoying delicious food.
I am pleased to announce that Phil Bozek received not one, but two AWS Certifications and is the official winner of the EC AWS Cert Challenge! Congratulations to Phil for receiving his AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate and AWS Certified Developer – Associate certifications.
Thank you to everyone who participated! Even though the certification challenge is over now, EC still has a few people planning to study and receive AWS certifications in the near future and I wish you all the best of luck in achieving your goals.1 Comment »
A few weeks ago, we talked about how Evans & Chambers is partnering with Amazon Web Services (AWS) on several projects to achieve economies of scale and cost savings for our Government and Commercial partners. EC teammate Ryan was recently confirmed as an Amazon Web Services Certified Solutions Architect. I spent a few minutes with Ryan talking about the certification.
Q: What is an Amazon Web Services Certified Solutions Architect and what is the certification process like?
A: An AWS Certified Solutions Architect is someone who has a solid foundation of general knowledge on the Amazon Web Services cloud platform. They must know not only how to solve a problem in a cloud environment, but how to leverage the unique characteristics of the cloud to increase performance, add efficiencies, and reduce cost. In order to become certified, you just have to pass an 80 minute exam with 55 questions.
Q: Why did you decide to get certified?
A: I decided to journey down the path of certification because I know that Evans & Chambers Technology has a high interest in AWS due to customer adoption, and the growing popularity of AWS in the cloud computing space. I also wanted to get the AWS certification because I knew I would learn something different. Something that would give me a different perspective on how the industry can solve problems, and something that would pull my developer head out of the sand where my code lives, in order to take a look around me and see the big picture.
Q: How will the certification impact your career? Will you use these skills in your work with customers and how will you apply these skills?
A: Evans & Chambers Technology has identified AWS as an important and relevant platform going forward with our customers, so it would benefit anyone in any area of technology to have an AWS certification on their resume. A certification can never hurt your chances, and it would at a minimum allow you to speak intelligently about the cloud environment that your customer might be running on. In general, I think that certifications are important to your resume, because what you know is only marketable if others know you know it.
Q: What did you need to do to prepare for the exam?
A: The best preparation is to study. It is one of those tests where an over prepared student will ace the test without any problem, but a mildly prepared test taker hoping to squeeze by will fail miserably.
Q: How did you study for the exam?
A: I did not take any of the AWS sponsored courses when studying for the exam. I instead used the resources available to me on the internet and studied on my own. Since Evans & Chambers in an AWS partner, I started by taking a free self-paced training course on the Amazon partner network called “Architecting on AWS.” In total, it took four or five hours to complete, and it really gives you an overview of what AWS is and what all the hype is about. Once I had a general idea of what I was getting into, I signed up for an account, and I just started playing around on the AWS console, making some of the scenarios I had just learned come to life. I ran though a lot of use cases, and just tried things to gain a better understanding of how AWS works. The next thing I did was read the AWS white papers and documentation. I found the best approach was to read it, try it, research it, rinse and repeat the entire way through the document. Doing this broke up the monotony of reading about IT infrastructure, and helped me to really understand the concepts.
Q: What resources did you use to study and which was the most helpful?
A: I used Cloud Academy, AWS Partner Network, AWS white papers, AWS documentation, AWS FAQs, and the Internet. AWS resources are by far the most important because the test requires academic knowledge of Amazon’s best practices and recommended ways of doing things on the AWS cloud. The Internet in general is helpful, and there are some YouTube videos that might be helpful as well. I spent some time on the Cloud Academy website, and while it does help you learn new things about the AWS platform, I found that it wasn’t very targeted to the questions I found on the test.
Q: If you were recommending the certification to others, would you suggest independent study or the certification course?
A: Being that I did not take any of the in person, Amazon sponsored training courses, I can not really recommend them or say they are not worth taking. This really depends on how you like to learn. What I will say however, is that even Amazon representatives have said that the in person courses alone will not give you the knowledge to pass the test. If I did it again, I probably would have taken the Amazon practice test to learn the format of the test. The format of the test is really what makes it hard. It is multiple choice, and multiple answer, so even though you know A, B and C are correct, and E is wrong, if your not sure about D, you now have a 50/50 shot of getting the question right even though you are knowledgeable about what the question is asking. I also would have spent less time trying to learn about all the services, and spent more time on the core services such as VPC (Virtual Private Cloud), EC2 (Elastic Cloud Compute), EBS (Elastic Block Store), and IAM (Identity and Access Management).
Q: What was the most interesting and/or surprising thing you learned about AWS?
A: The best part of the experience for me was the “ah ha” moment, when I really understood the benefits of “the cloud”, and why “the cloud” is such a game changer. Have you ever listened to the radio advertisements, or sales representative, who say a lot of words about “the cloud,” but in the end you have no clue what they said? Cutting through the hoard of buzzwords and hype, and actually understand what “the cloud” really is, and what the potential benefits are is a very gratifying feeling.