Episode #109: Serverless for Newbies with Emily Shea

September 6, 2021 • 40 minutes

On this episode, Jeremy and Rebecca chat with Emily Shea about how she got started with serverless, the technical challenges she faced, the hurdles she overcame, and how she uses that to help her customers become better serverless practitioners.

Emily Shea is a Sr. Serverless GTM Specialist at AWS. Emily has been at Amazon for 5 years and currently works with customers adopting serverless in the UK & Ireland. In her free time, Emily has learned to code and build her own serverless applications. Emily’s current personal project is a daily Chinese vocabulary app with over 100 subscribers.
Twitter: https://twitter.com/em__shea
Personal blog: https://emshea.com/
Chinese vocabulary app: https://haohaotiantian.com/
re:Invent talk: Getting started building your first serverless web application


Jeremy: Hi everyone. I'm Jeremy Daly.

Rebecca: And I'm Rebecca Marshburn.

Jeremy: And welcome to Serverless Chats. Hey, Rebecca, how are you doing?

Rebecca: I'm doing good. I recently got back from Tennessee, a rural farmhouse, for the last month, and it's overwhelming but really great to be back in the city and to be back in Seattle. What about you, Jeremy?

Jeremy: I have been plugging away on Serverless Cloud, and just heads down. It's been a whirlwind, but exciting stuff happening all around. And it's good to be doing the podcast again. So, we have a super exciting guest today. So, Rebecca, would you like to introduce her?

Rebecca: Yes. I am super excited to introduce Emily Shea, who I met through my time working at AWS. She has worked for Amazon in various capacities. So, she's worked from the retail side. She's now at Amazon Web Services, or AWS as we all love to call it. She started in Seattle. She's now based out of London, and she's now a senior business development manager and doing things like delivering re:Invent talks from a technical point of view, but does not come necessarily from a technical background.

Rebecca: So, super excited to talk a bit about beginnings, and then how beginnings have shaped where she is today in terms of going from zero tech, in a way, to leading others and teaching others at places like re:Invent. Hey, Emily, it's nice to have you here. Thanks for joining us.

Emily: Hey Rebecca, hey Jeremy. It's great to be here.

Rebecca: I just want to kick us off with a bit about beginnings. Could you maybe tell us about your day job today, and then a little bit about the path and the background that I alluded to, that you've taken in the last few years from retail to partner manager to the AWS side today. And what are you talking about when you talk at re:Invent now?

Emily: Yeah, absolutely. It's definitely been an interesting path. Definitely couldn't have predicted any of the steps along the way, but have had a lot of fun with it. So, as my current job, I actually recently relocated from the Seattle office. I've been at the Seattle office for a couple of years, and then I moved in January to London, looking for a new adventure. Now, I'm senior go-to-market specialist for the UK and Ireland customers.

Emily: And that's been really fun. That's a new challenge to be working directly with customers. So, I'm trying to support all of the customers in that region to adopt Serverless. So, all of those good services like Lambda, API Gateway, Step Functions, EventBridge, the whole crew trying to help the customers in those regions, adopt them with that's helping them with a set of workshops or just having conversations about what works, what would work for your use case. And that's been super fun just to get an eyeful of what customers are up to and all their different use cases in industries that they come from.

Emily: So, that's what I'm up to today. My role prior to this, I started at AWS in the partner space, working with a lot of great ISBs that build tools to monitor observability to deployment frameworks. That space was where I started. AWS fell into a Serverless role when I really didn't know much about AWS or much about Serverless at all, and really fell in love with it and then just took it from there. But then my origins at Amazon are on the retail side. So, got really excited about AWS and made my way over here. So, it's been all kinds of different twists and turns, but super excited to be where I am today.

Jeremy: I'd love to know how your efforts on Serverless adoption are going. Are you seeing a lot of customers really embrace it, are you seeing a mix between the containers and the traditional EC2s and then sprinkling in a bit of Serverless, or are people going full into Serverless?

Emily: Yeah. It's super fun just getting to work with some of those customers that are the most enthusiastic about adopting the latest and greatest, and they're super passionate about Serverless, just like we are. I feel that group is super fun to work with, but then we still are so early on in Cloud, and just talking to customers that have really just taken that first step, that I think it is such a spectrum of where different customers are. And it's awesome to work with the ones that are really thinking ahead and getting on it, but then also to the ones that are really just taking those first steps into Cloud. So, it's a big spectrum, and it's nice to be able to get a chance to talk to both.

Rebecca: I think Jeremy and I are connected in a way, hopefully that's true since we're co-hosting this, but I had a similar question. So, building off what he asked, do you see differences or similarities between customers based in the London, UK, Ireland area and customers based in the US, and do you see applications that both struggle with or both succeed at, or is it different as it is different culturally? How does culture and adoption play into each other for Serverless across the Atlantic?

Emily: Definitely. And I think some of it is, I'm still learning myself, I'm probably about seven months into the role at this point. And for my last role I was very much focused on the partner space and then working with a lot of those ISBs. So, I think I'm still learning the region, learning about the different customers that are here in the different industries. So, it's an awesome learning opportunity, and I'm still getting up to speed.

Rebecca: That makes sense. And I think it will probably change over time, obviously your understanding of it and getting into the space, but it probably takes a lot of time, the nuances between understanding, oh, here are the key phrases or messages that actually resonate more, and whether or not those are similar or different between different countries where customers are based.

Rebecca: I wanted to dive in more into how you started with Serverless and your path there, because I think it's really unique, and usually I stay away from trying to use the word "unique" because it maybe doesn't say much, but it really is singular, I think. So, you wanted to build a website to help yourself learn Chinese. So, can you tell us a bit about how your connection between learning Chinese and studying that in college, and how that led you to building on Serverless and getting deeply technical?

Emily: Yes. So, when I say I don't have a tech background, I really do not. I have a Chinese background. So, all of my starting in high school and through undergrad and grad school, I was studying Chinese language, and that's been my earlier passion and still really enjoy getting to spend some time on that. But as I was getting really deep into AWS and having a ton of fun learning AWS and studying for certifications and that phase of my career, I was sitting at home one day thinking, "You know, I'm spending a lot of time on Serverless and not a lot of time on Chinese. I really hope that I'm not just kind of losing the skill that I put so much effort into."

Emily: At that time I was just getting started with playing with things in the console and just, I think I'd done maybe a couple Python courses online or something. So, I thought it'd be really cool if I could have some regular reminder to study Chinese and to have that worked into my daily routine, and it'd be awesome if I could just have a new word that I hadn't seen in a while and just have a bit of a refresher and get that into my routine. So, I set up that initial, I just threw some words in an S3 bucket and set up an SNS topic that would text my phone, and a Lambda function to connect the two and trigger on a daily basis.

Emily: And that was the genesis of this project that now has blown into a full service that I'm using that's got, I think, about a 100 or so subscribers, that's evolved in complexity over time. But that was the original small project that I started with.

Jeremy: So, I love the fact that you take this seed of an idea and you start very simple, like you said, SNS topic, Lambda function, EventBridge rule, or CloudWatch rule, that triggers this thing on a regular basis. So, what was that first experience like though? Because I'm very curious, especially people who don't come from a technical background, all of a sudden you see a wall of Python or you see a Cloud formation YAML, and you're, "Okay, what is this?" The console, I think, is a great way for some people to get started. But what was that first experience like? How much of it was it you just sitting, your eyes glazing over looking at this stuff, as opposed to really feeling you had actionable material or a tutorial to start with?

Emily: Absolutely. I think that there is still plenty of eyes glazing over. I think that you never truly leave that behind. But I do think it is amazing to stand where I am today where I've probably been coding for maybe two or three years now, and to just look back on some of those things where I would see an error message and just be completely out of my depth at figuring out how to go about debugging it, whereas now it's, "Oh, I've seen that a million times. Here's whatever I need to do to fix it." So, it's cool to see your skills build over time.

Emily: But I do think it was just that initial application of using some of those skills and those services to build something that not only I found useful, but some of my friends were also interested in using. And I think that ability to take these skills and then to write some code and build something useful was really, I think that gets you that addiction to building stuff. And it's super empowering, I think, coming from a non-technical background, I think. I talked to people all the time earlier on where you have all kinds of cool ideas.

Emily: It's, "Oh, I'd love to have an app for this," or, "I'd love to, to kind of build like a small business around this," and there're all kinds of ideas, but then the technical skills to be able to build it, or the gap. So, it's super cool to have just even a bit, and I feel you can get so much done with just Serverless, that I feel that's really empowering to be able to say, "Okay, I have an idea and I absolutely have the skills to be able to make it a reality."

Rebecca: Do you remember if you had the first aha moment where you're, "Okay, eyes glazed over, and I see this error message, I'm either just going to quit now, or I'm going to like dig," and all of a sudden there's that moment where you're, "Oh ..." And did that germinate from a specific tutorial you watched or a blog post you read, or was there a moment where it congealed and you're, "Aah, got it. This is how I worked through it."

Emily: I feel there have been different milestones as the project has progressed. I think that I often, I don't typically finish a full tutorial. I feel I'll start the tutorial, get a couple of the concepts, and then start building something that I'm, "Okay, this is how I wanna apply it." And I feel that you just understand it so much more deeply when you have that combination of learning and then also building. So, I think that's been my approach to tutorials. But I feel every time that I launch a new feature or do a big refactor of a piece of the project, I feel it is such a sense of accomplishment and excitement about getting a feature that I've been thinking about for however many months out and published.

Emily: So, I feel I'm still continuing to have those experiences where it's, "Oh yes! Here's a new, big skill or service that I didn't kind of understand or was really intimidating at first that now I'm able to go build with." So, I feel you still can you continue to build that sense of accomplishment and excitement.

Jeremy: Yeah. Well, speaking of blog posts too, and tutorials, one of the things that was absolutely great that you did, and I loved the blog post series that you wrote about building and your experience with doing it, because one, you're an excellent writer, but you also came at it from this standpoint of a person just getting started. So, you see a lot of technical people aren't the best writers, and sometimes you get a very complex technical blog post. You came at it from an angle that was such at the right level for so many people, and I think even for people who were technical, reading what you wrote and experiencing what you experienced, it was just a really nice on-ramp, I think, for a lot of people.

Jeremy: So, maybe this is another question, because you said you only get through a first part of the tutorial. I'm the same way. If I see a tutorial, as soon as I get to step four, I'm, "I feel like I've got enough here. I can just go ahead and run with it," before you put the safety harness on and some of these other things that you got some problems. But where do you think that balance is for tutorials, especially for beginners, when it comes to Serverless? Is it something where, how many steps can you give them? And there was actually... And to make this question even longer, apologies.

Jeremy: But actually, Chris Munns asked this question on Twitter a few months ago, where he asked whether or not the Hello World examples or the basic examples that they give for the starting tutorials, should they leave out a lot of that complexity so that you don't get bogged down with it, but really what they're telling you to do is build an app that doesn't follow best practices. Is that the right approach, or should we go deeper? Where do you think that line is in terms of how technical and how in-depth the blog post needs to be?

Emily: Definitely. Yeah. And I think that coming from my experience of just getting into some of those tutorials from a background of quite literally zero, I think, in the tech world, I think I've definitely run into those tutorials that assume too much and just jump you in so much deeper than at least I was. So, I think that in some ways I feel there is a bit of an advantage of coming from a place where, I think, or it gets back when I first started at AWS and was still doing, I did my Cloud partitioner's certification and it was just really building that fundamentals. I actually talked to a few people who took me through that full, "This is what a server is," and all of these new things that were concepts that I had never encountered.

Emily: I think when I logged onto Google or whatever website, I had no idea how it came from here to there to me. And just, I remember all of that was a black box. So, I think coming from that absolute zero, I think it's helpful to be in those shoes, because you never know where people are technically. I think that we have such a variety of skills that you never really know where the audience is that you're writing to, and so it never hurts to take a step back and remember kind of where you came from. And maybe it's harder for some people who've been in the industry for years, whereas I'm coming from just a couple of years of starting from that base.

Emily: But I think that what I found is, definitely, I think you can never go too simple when building up the basics. You always want to take a couple steps back further than you think you need to just because you're already really familiar with the concept, but plenty of people are going to come into it from a position of less familiarity. But I also think that as I'm getting bit more complex in some of the blog posts that I'm writing, I do find it useful to link out to either my earlier blog posts or other blog posts that go through those really basic fundamentals, just because if you're coming into the blog post and reading it, maybe you don't want to get bogged down in that, or maybe it is new for you and you want to go back and understand the pre-reqs to what goes into the blog posts.

Emily: So, I think that's been an approach that I've taken recently. And as far as, I do think that we can always get more code samples that include those best practices out on the internet, because when I think about if I'm approaching a new project or building something new, it's always so helpful to me to have lots of different code samples to pull from that are those complex interesting use cases that maybe aren't the super basic things that you might run into. So, I think having the more code samples, the more blogs, the more content that we can get out there, the better it will be for people to be able to have that breadth of examples that they can pull from that are in all different use cases.

Jeremy: Right. Yeah. And I love that point about assumptions, because I think that's a huge thing where everybody comes from different backgrounds, and you might mention some random thing, and it's a computer science term or some Cloud related term, and it could have a completely different meaning, depending on your background. So, interesting approach.

Rebecca: Yeah. And I wonder, something that is so interesting that you brought up was, getting that context, this is what a server is, starting, let's say "way back", it's almost, I think ... A lot of times I've seen our tutorials and many other tutorials where it's, you're trying to solve this problem, here's the tutorial of how to do it, but there actually isn't in context. It's as though we're standing super close to a computer screen looking at one pixel. And what we're actually saying is, if I stepped 50 feet back and looked at the screen, there's actually an entire painting here.

Rebecca: So, it's almost like I want to say, "Hey..." At Munns on Twitter, "... The way you might actually be able to improve this is not how much depth of complexity you go into technically, but also, how did we get here, and what are some of the contextual concepts I need to know so I know what I'm solving, how does this fit into a greater landscape." And I think that you've done that in your blog a lot too, which is pretty cool. But it sounds like, I wonder if that's part of the "embracing a beginner" is by helping them understand how they got to what they're about to solve?

Emily: Oh, absolutely. I think that was really critical for me. And I think I still continue to build up that understanding of where customers and where the industry is coming from. And I think that was really critical to me earlier on to pair that understanding of AWS services and the core of Cloud, with a bit of just talking to people who have built in an on-prem world, and understanding what that looks like and where we were really recently and what the pain points are. Because I think if you're a Cloud-native person from your skillset, that might be a gap when it comes to what you understand, why is it significant that the services is just so easy to work with? What was the prior way that people were building? I think that's really important context that is hard to build up other than just speaking with people who have built previously.

Jeremy: Right. And that prior context, that is something that I've struggled back and forth thinking about what is the best way, who do I want? Somebody who grew up Cloud-native or somebody who has all the baggage of having to rack servers and install cables and things like that? Because again, I'm very old, I feel very old. Anyways. I've been doing this stuff since 1997, so it's been a very long time for me. And I started in that whole racking servers and having to install software and having to drive to a data center at 2:00 in the morning in order to change out a bad drive and things like that. So, for me, Serverless and Cloud is, it's like Nirvana compared to what I had to deal with before.

Jeremy: But I wonder, and as somebody who, and you're now very accomplished with Serverless and Cloud services and things like that, but I wonder, not having that baggage, is that potentially a good thing because you are thinking about things now in the way that we're trying to evolve, developing applications to be, or do you really think that some of that prior context is very important to have?

Emily: I think I hope that I benefit from not having the weight of needing to rack a server before I build my Chinese app. But I think for me personally, I think that the value of having that context is really just in my conversations with customers as a business development manager. I think that's where I get that value out of being able to understand where folks are coming from, and be able to help them understand what Serverless offers. But from just a pure building perspective, I think that it is super powerful, I think, to be able to just jump into never needing to really ... I've done some EC2 tutorials for some of the certifications, but beyond that I feel the intricacies of that are not something that I need to really invest a ton of time in, which I feel is valuable to me from just a speed perspective.

Rebecca: I wanted to ask you a bit about customers, and I've watched your re:Invent talk from last year, a couple of different times, and you have four key tips for getting started and how you started yourself is; start small, think in terms of event-driven workflows, create well-defined APIs, and set up an automated development workflow. Do you apply those steps to your customers today as well? Is that how you start them off, and how does that feel for them in terms of them getting started? Does that apply pretty much across the board?

Emily: Yeah. So, I think it definitely does. I think that those are ... They might look different within an organization scale versus a just-me-and-my-computer scale, but I think that it really does apply. When I think about starting small, I often recommend that customers start with a proof of concept, and get a feel for the technology and understand what it looks like, and then see that value and be able to expand from there. Obviously, any kind automation of pipelines and stuff like that is definitely a best practice.

Emily: I think that there's, for me, one thing that I do recommend just for organizations that are at a bigger scale, that's different than what I covered there, and that's just, I think that it's one thing to start with the technology and get really excited about it yourself and get hands on with it and start building something, but when you think about expanding that within an organization, different things start to come into play, whether you think about your security in governance concerns that you might have within your organization, just making sure that you're building the best practices, but also just sharing learnings.

Emily: So, I think that I've seen some customers be really successful when they've got a best practice group within their organization and they're able to keep track of just, these are our monitoring best practices, or these are some examples of different architecture pieces that we're frequently reusing, and they're able to build those ones and then be able to share those and have that knowledge be shared across the organization. So, I think that's another thing that I'm seeing customers do that's helping them be successful with Serverless that maybe wasn't captured in those best practices for me as an individual.

Jeremy: Yeah. And I think that, like Lego, the Lego Engineering Group, is probably one of the best examples of a company that's embraced "let's take best practices, let's codify them, let's push them down to the rest of the organization." I'm curious though, there is a lot of information out there, and there was another tweet recently, I think it was from Brian LaRue, that we probably need to start thinking about more certifications, especially maybe specific ones around Serverless and things like that, because as many good practices or best practices are out there, there's always exceptions. Then, there's also people sometimes who ...

Jeremy: I read some blog posts and I'm, "Ooh, I wouldn't do it that way." You want to be careful about how you criticize somebody too and do it gently, but do you see that as well where teams left up to their own devices, sometimes, maybe aren't following the Serverless Lens, the well-architected framework, and they do implement some bad patterns. And if they do, does that, do you think that, obviously, this is probably a dumb question, but it probably hinders them, but do you see that happening? Do you see sometimes patterns where you have to go in and say, "Well, that's not the best practice"?

Emily: Definitely. And I think with any new technology, as people are getting started with it, I think that you might run into some points of friction or it's just some things that you're maybe not understanding like the best way to build something, or you might start building in a way that maybe is more optimized for what you're used to and isn't really using the technologies to their best advantage, the way that you could be using them. So, I think that's hopefully where I can come in in my role and just reaching out to those customers that are starting to use Serverless and helping them get that best practice group and get those resources that we have, like the Serverless Lens, and be able to start right.

Emily: And I think there is a certain point that's optimal where you've got customers that have tried out some Serverless and are super excited about it and are looking to expand and then start doing more and more with it, and so you hope that they are able to get those best practices and get the foundations right. So, I think that getting that content out there that helps them achieve that goal is super critical.

Rebecca: You mentioned something interesting as well, I think about scale, and I'm wondering how you've thought about there's a scale between, obviously, zero and 10, 10 and a 100, a 100 and a 1,000. I'm curious about how you think about that scale. You probably needed to change your own application as you saw people adopting, and now you're at a 100, and what does that mean to you? Then, how do you see that changing? Do you have even your own threshold for, "Okay, once we're at 200 it's gonna have to look like this," or, "Once I'm at a 1,000," or, "Once the organization is at 10,000," different ways that you might even view those best practices with a different lens?

Emily: Yeah. And I think that, with my application, it is funny, I think that obviously Serverless is great for just small applications that you're not sure if they're going to blow up or if they're going to just stay small just because it is that pay-as-you-go pricing. So, I think with my own application, it probably is still within the very tiny, below the free tier, really hasn't taken advantage of any of the scale aspects that can be great about Serverless. So, I'd love to see it go bigger, but we'll see.

Jeremy: So, following up though on that scale question, because besides just scaling the application, you were talking about bringing Serverless into teams and then starting to adopt it and creating a team of people that might do best practices. That's a lot of people. That's a big investment, I think, for companies to do that. So, clearly, there are a number of certifications, maybe not specific to Serverless, but as you mentioned, you went through some of these certifications as well, where do you think that plays a role, and how valuable is that into getting everybody in a team on the same page?

Emily: Yeah. So, I found it personally really helpful to be able just to understand some of those fundamentals of different AWS services and just to get a landscape of what's out there. I think when you're approaching a problem or thinking about building something, there are obviously so many different services to choose from. And I think having a bit of a sense ... And I think that the certifications do give you a flavor of AWS as you're doing a tutorial for this or a Hello World example for this. I think they do give you just that initial taste for a lot of different services, and you start to think about how they all fit together. So, I think that's really helpful if you're newer to AWS and looking for a bit of a landscape of the different services. I think that I found the certifications to be really helpful as I'm building that skillset within my own career.

Rebecca: I think you doing a really amazing job, both in your writing, and I think Jeremy alluded to this earlier, articulating big concepts into things that feel graspable and legible and readable to someone else. And I'm wondering, I'm putting you on the spot, but a lot of times we hear people say, "Hey, I'm going to go take an ADL certification course," and there's all these courses out there to help learn and all these ways where it's, "You should study this," or," "Here's a reading guide," or, "Here's a test guide," or, "Here's a 12-hour course that you can take." I'm curious if you have any tips or advice, A, just what worked for you, or B, when you hear other people asking those questions, "What's the best way to learn this," what you might often tell them in terms of getting prepared for cert?

Emily: Definitely. So, I think that ... And that is one of my favorite questions to get. I think I love when either from my re:Invent talk or some of my blogs, when somebody reaches out and says, "I'm super interested in getting started with AWS or getting started with Serverless." I think that's one of my favorite things to help people with. But from a certification perspective, I mentioned they did the Cloud partitioner's super early on as I was just getting a feel for AWS. And that one, I really think that the Cloud Essentials course that's available free out there, is really everything you need to get through that one.

Emily: I think, like I mentioned a bit about how I felt it was cool to also talk to people who had a bit more context on why does Cloud exist, what was the on-prem world like, and what is it that we're getting out of Cloud that we didn't get before? I think that that context is something that you might not get from it that's good to just have some conversations with people about, but I think that that was sufficient prep for that one. Then, the Solution Architect Associate Certification, that one definitely takes a bit more prep, a bit more time investment. I think for that one, I used the official study guides, the book, and then I do like to have that physical book when I'm studying for something.

Emily: Then, I also used AkaGuru, so just going through some of the ... And I think, again, like I've mentioned, I'm not someone who finishes tutorials from start to finish. I'm also probably not someone that finishes books or courses from start to finish, but just getting a bit of skimming over and getting some of those pieces. I think those were the big ones that I used for that. Starting to think about the Professional at this point, which I think is a whole nother time investment. So, maybe I'll write a blog post about that one some day.

Rebecca: Yeah, that's probably a whole series of blog posts?

Emily: That one, yes. That's a lot.

Jeremy: So, I want to go back for a second though, because you're talking about some resources available to you to become certified, which I think is a great thing to do, and I think it can really help people. I've heard a lot about it, people getting on the same page, using the same language, being able to communicate at the same level, and also a good resume, confidence boost. And I don't think everybody gets hired because they are certified, but it certainly doesn't hurt, and it's good to have that under their belt. But I'm curious, to go back to some other resources, because this is one of the things ...

Jeremy: I'm sure when you're developing your Serverless applications or you're working with customers, if you ever need help, you probably turn to the Serverless Chats Podcast because there's always some great episodes there, when you look at the Off-by-none Newsletter to get helpful hints there. But as you run up against a wall, for example, where do you find the best resources? Do you find this through the community and their blog posts? Is it more official AWS documentation? Is it a combination of hero's content and things like that? Where are probably the best resources to get you over some of these technical hurdles?

Emily: Definitely. Well, I think anybody who has learned to code knows the power of Google, and the fact that you're never going to lose that dependence on how do I Google a JavaScript for a loop. But I think I definitely do use some of the more official AWS tutorials when it comes to getting started with the service. I'm thinking about stuff like Serverless Land, which has got a lot of great getting up to speed with the new Serverless service. I think those are super helpful. But I do find a ton of value just in the things that the community produces. I think there's so many great blog posts just about, "Hey, this is how I built ..."

Emily: And I try to write those myself just because I think that I've gotten so much value out of other people's of, "Hey, I was trying to do this specific thing with API Gateway, and so I wrote a blog post about it. And this is my code sample." I think that those have been super helpful to me as I'm building my own stuff. So, I think that that ends up being a big resource. Then, recently, because I've been doing a bit more fancy things with Dynamo DB, and so Alex Debris' Dynamo DB book has been super helpful to me, and spend a lot of time with that one.

Rebecca: I've got to ask you, when you say fancy things with Dynamo DB, what do you mean?

Emily: I mean fancy for me, probably not fancy for anybody else-

Rebecca: For me too.

Emily: ... I think that databases are definitely an area that I'm still getting into and getting familiar with, so I think that the book has been a really great resource for that. But I think I initially started using Dynamo as one might use a relational database. So, I just had a couple different Dynamo DB tables that I was using for storing different pieces of information for my Chinese app. And I thought it'd be really cool to, even though, like I said, my app is just at such a small scale as far as what services like Dynamo DB can can handle and what they're really optimized for, that all of it is slightly over-engineered, but it's really just a learning project for me.

Emily: So, I thought it'd be cool to try out some single-table design and just understand a bit more of those concepts, and so I've been working on doing a bit of a refactor on the database side of my application. So, that was definitely, have spent a lot of time with the book to figure out what the best way to do that was, but hopefully I'll be able to launch that soon.

Jeremy: Awesome-

Rebecca: It sounds fancy.

Jeremy: Yes. Well, single-table design, it's a mind bender. You've got-

Emily: Oh, yeah.

Jeremy: ... To think fourth dimensionally. But once it clicks and you figure it out, it is a very powerful pattern to use.

Emily: Definitely. Mind-bending is exactly the word I would use to describe where you read a page and then you need to close the book and go take a walk because everything needs to settle.

Jeremy: How many times can you watch the Rick Houlihan re:Invent talks at 0.25 speed just to try to get through it.

Emily: Yes. Slow it down to my level.

Jeremy: Right. I think everyone has to do that, so ...

Rebecca: Well, Emily, is there anything else that you would like to highlight here? You've done so much from, like you said, zero tech to fancy tech, and it's been really cool to even want to be an observer of your experience of it and that you've let other people in. Sometimes it's hard to be super vulnerable as a total newbie, and instead you're, "Not only am I gonna be vulnerable, I'm gonna then share this with everyone as they watch me work through this." Is there anything else that you'd like to leave us with that we should know, that's on your mind right now, that you're, "Hey, I'm actually struggling with this particular challenge. Tweet at me with your answers," whatever it is. We're happy to hold this space for that.

Emily: Absolutely. So, I think, maybe what I'd leave on is just, to your point about, it is challenging to go out there and be surrounded by people that maybe have years in the industry or have a ton of great technical depth, who are able to read through Dynamo DB's stuff in a breeze, no problem, is that I think it definitely is, it can be intimidating to be surrounded by folks that have a lot more depth in it. But I think I've, at least just within the Serverless community and just all the people that work on Serverless-type things, I think I've just found such a phenomenal response to people when I am sharing things or when I'm writing about something or doing a small project, just to learn myself.

Emily: I think there's been such a phenomenal response and people that are super exciting, what I would consider the opposite of gate keeping, that are just really encouraging and welcoming into the community. So, I think that, definitely, to anyone that's thinking about getting into it, there's a really excellent community out there that's there to help.

Jeremy: Yeah.

Rebecca: Oh, I love to hear it.

Jeremy: Awesome. Well, Emily, thank you for being on the show and sharing all this with us. If people want to find out more about you, check out your blog or the Chinese site, because you can go there now and you can learn Chinese. You've got some things in there to help people. How do they do that?

Emily: Yes. So, my blog is emshea.com. E-M-S-H-E-A. I'm also on Twitter. I think it's em__shea. I couldn't find it without the underscore. Then, the Chinese website, I think, is linked from there, but it's [howhow@zinzin.com 00:36:57], but it's linked from all of my different places, so you don't want to spell the Chinese-

Jeremy: I wasn't even going to try to pronounce it, so I'm glad that you did. Awesome. And we've got your re:Invent talk, so we'll get all this stuff in the show notes as well, so if anybody wants to check that out, they can do that there.

Emily: Excellent.

Rebecca: Yeah. What a joy. It's so good to see you again, Emily. It's so good to hear more about your story. Thanks for sharing.

Emily: Awesome. Yeah, it's been great to be on here. It's super exciting to be on Serverless Chats. I've listening for a while. So, thank you both.