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AWS Heroes on learning AI and building cloud community

AWS Heroes and cloud leaders share their thoughts on how to approach AI learning, find a cloud community, handle imposter syndrome, and more.

Dec 08, 2023 • 7 Minute Read

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  • AWS
  • Cloud
  • Software Development
  • Data
  • Security
  • AI & Machine Learning
  • Learning & Development

What do the experts think about cloud computing in the age of AI? How are they upskilling to prepare? And what advice do they have for other developers? 

I interviewed AWS Heroes, Community Builders, and User Group leaders to find out. Keep reading to discover their insights on cloud, the future impact of AI technology, and the importance of an upskilling community.

Table of contents

How is your organization using AI and ML right now?

Michael Walmsley, AWS Serverless Hero and Lead Technology Architect at Accenture, explained that his organization has been using generative AI since April 2023. “I actually work with Accenture on a product called genWizard, which has always been myWizard,” he said. 

“GenWizard is all about automation . . . and so generative AI for us is a way of opening up automation. Automation can go wrong if you don’t have all the details. Generative AI can understand that. 

“It can reason to a degree about what the problems are and how to solve them. So we’re using them to do recourse analysis of system problems, and that happens automatically. . . . We’ve even got them generating workflows to actually automate fixes for a problem.”

Cloud Brigade is also using generative AI as an accelerator. “Mostly, we’re using it to generate code,” said Chris Miller, Machine Learning Hero and CEO of Cloud Brigade. “There are tools like CodeWhisperer and Copilot that are used to do autocompletion of code, but we’re actually using large language models to write larger bodies of code and to accelerate our development.”

What are the challenges of using generative AI applications or services?

AI and ML aren’t without their challenges. First and foremost is the sheer newness of the technology. “We’re kind of still exploring what this is. We’re still exploring all of the implications, the way it works, the way it doesn’t work,” shared Peter Sbarski, AWS Serverless Hero and Co-founder and CTO of heart hands. “I think we should use it, we should explore [and] play with it, but we’ve got to be careful.”

Understanding the long-term value of AI technology is also important. “Cutting through the hype, like what’s realistic for us to use in an organization, where to start identifying business problems that you can use generative AI to solve,” explained Chris Miller.

“For less technical staff, it can be more of a challenge to figure out what the right tools are for people to use, where[as] the development staff is going to be more attuned to jumping in with both feet and using the many tools that are available to us.”

Explore the AI tools tech employees need to learn.

What advice would you give to developers starting to learn generative AI?

As a developer, generative AI can be a helpful tool. But it can also be overwhelming. Chris explained how developers should start learning generative AI and building applications using these services.

“Building is really the key here,” he said. “One thing that generative AI does for us as developers is we don’t really have to understand how to generate models and to do a lot of things. You can actually just jump in with prompts and start using the technology.

“If you’ve never done any prompt engineering before, then I would start with the chatbots. Bedrock in AWS has a chat playground you can use and different models. Experiment with prompt engineering

“And then the next step would be to use something like LangChain, which is an open source toolkit that allows you to build your own chatbots. It will allow you to build the pieces under the hood that connect all the dots. And that’s really where the power is because the chat playgrounds are only going to give you so much access. There will be guardrails in there you don’t want to get in your way. And when you start building your own chatbots, you can really leverage the power of large language models.”

Learn how to develop generative AI applications.

What advice would you give to someone learning a new tech topic?

Generative AI isn’t the only new topic people want to learn. Understanding documentation and developing personal learning tricks can help you learn any new technology.

Get familiar with the documentation

“People stress the value of learning hands on, and I think in addition to that, learning how to navigate the documentation [is important],” said Ben Kehoe, AWS Serverless Hero. “On AWS, this is really important. The docs are really good, so knowing where stuff is and being like, ‘Oh, if I have a question, I know where to find the answer to it,’ is a good baseline to establish. 

“Then, once you get frustrated, you can go find the answer, whether that’s [in] the docs, the marketing materials, the blogs, the videos, [or] any of those things . . . knowing the landscape of that will enable you to answer your own questions.”

Create learning tricks

Remembering new terms can also be a struggle. Magnolia Sandoval, AWS Community Builder and Cloud Engineer at Western Governors University, shared her tips on learning. “It’s complicated because English is my second language,” she explained. “So, everything that I learn, I learn first in English, and then I need to do tricks and tips to remember because some words are complex.

“For example, what services help you with DDoS attacks? We have Route 53, Load Balancing, [and] Shield. So I need to do a phrase like, ‘Two friends balance 53 waffles.’ Something like that just to remember and make it easier.”

What motivates you to upskill and continuously learn new technologies?

For many technologists, the passion for learning alone drives them to upskill. “I love everything that happens in our industry, and I just kind of love learning about new things,” said Peter. “So, yes, the job, of course, requires me to learn, but it’s also the passion, and I think that helps a lot.”

Raphael Manke, AWS User Group leader and IT consultant for codecentric AG, echoed this sentiment. “I always want to try out new things,” he said.

And while it can be tricky to keep up with the constantly changing landscape, new advancements can also free up time to upskill. “It gets easier from year to year,” said Raphael. “You don’t have to write any code for some simple things anymore.”

Uncover 5 tips to make time to learn.

How do you recommend people find a cloud community?

Community plays a big role in learning. If you want to grow your community but aren’t sure where to start, these heroes offer their advice.

Go to regional meetups

“AWS I feel does community really well,” said Michael. “There’s a community page on the website. . . . You can actually search by region and look at all the meetups that happen in your area and find the one you want to go to.

“I run the AWS programming and tools meetup in Melbourne, Australia, and [at] that particular meetup, we do hands-on. It’s not just people talking. We get together and talk, but we always have a workshop.”

Attend re:Invent and other conferences

If you’re able to go to large events like re:Invent, do it. “re:Invent is a big event for getting to know other people in the community, so I highly recommend going,” shared Raphael. “Go to those people you know on the internet, say hi to them. Take a photo, talk to them, get their opinions on your things.”

Bring your friends

When in doubt, bring your friends along to meetups and events. “It’s always more fun with friends,” said Michael. “That’s the beauty of community. It’s all about being together and being with friends, and I think all meetups are like that.”

How do you deal with imposter syndrome?

No matter where you are in your cloud journey, imposter syndrome can set in. “When we’re in a group of people, we often think, ‘Oh, everybody knows all of these things that I don’t,’” said Ben. “That’s usually not the case. I think that’s one of the origins of [imposter syndrome].

“Everyone really does have a depth of information in themselves that they don’t realize they have. Every topic has so much complexity, and all of your experiences that you’re bringing to the table are unique to you, and that is not something that anyone else has.”

Learn how to overcome imposter syndrome.

What soft skills do technologists need?

Soft skills are just as critical as technical skills. “Being able to listen and really be able to understand where people are coming from [is important],” said Damien Burks, AWS Community Builder and Cloud Security Engineer – VP at Citi.

“Public speaking skills are [also] very important because you have to learn how to communicate and translate technical skills or technical knowledge that you have and kind of break that down to people who may not necessarily know or understand the concepts as well as you do.”

Become your own AWS hero and level up cloud skills

If you’re ready to take your cloud skills to the next level, start a free Pluralsight Skills trial and get access to hands-on labs and real-world experience.

Not sure where to start? Check out our curated list of AWS labs:

If you’re more interested in building a smart cloud transformation strategy for your organization, check out our cloud strategy guide for expert insights from AWS, Microsoft, and more.