Episode #120: Mastering AWS Freelancing with Adam Elmore

November 22, 2021 • 51 minutes

On this episode, Jeremy and Rebecca talk to Adam Elmore about his journey to become an AWS freelancer, the value of achieving all 12 AWS certifications, how starting the AWS FM podcast may have changed his perspective on the AWS CDK (as well as other things), and much more.

Adam is an independent cloud consultant helping startups build products on AWS. He's also the host of AWS FM, a weekly podcast and live audio show where he shares stories from around the AWS community. Adam holds all twelve AWS certifications and is an AWS Community Builder. He's the creator of ness.sh, a CLI tool for deploying web sites and apps into your own AWS account. He's also the co-founder of StatMuse, a Disney and Google backed startup building search technology for sports and financial information. Adam lives in Nixa, Missouri, with his wife and two young boys.


Jeremy: Hi everyone. I'm Jeremy Daly.

Rebecca: And I'm Rebecca Marshburn.

Jeremy: And this is Serverless Chats. Hey Rebecca, how you're doing?

Rebecca: Hey. I'm doing good. And you know what? I feel like whenever we have some chat talk, you always ask me first. So-

Jeremy: That's true-

Rebecca: ... time to turn the table on you. How are you doing Jeremy?

Jeremy: I tell you. Fall is in the air, which I hate because I can never ... I always make a joke. I said, if I ever wrote a memoir, it would be called My Life in Between, because I always am in between shirt sizes and pants sizes. And it's just horrible. And then I feel like fall is that in between weather where if you leave the house in the morning and it's 33 degrees outside, you've got like a jacket on and you're ready. Then by the time you get to the afternoon, the sun's shining, it's in the 50s and then you sweat. It's just horrible. It's a horrible time of year. I mean, it's beautiful, but for me, it's just very uncomfortable try to keep my ... to regulate my body temperature anyways.

Rebecca: Well, I'm going to use that as a hopping off point. You are a rare combination, Jeremy, of both being able to see positive and negative. Like fall is beautiful. I also can't regulate my body temperature.

Rebecca: And so thinking about rare combinations, I would like sometimes when we're about to introduce a guest, we use our own words. But when I find words that are so well put, I might as well let those words speak for the guest. And so I'm just going to go ahead and introduce the person that we have today using the words that someone else has used.

Rebecca: Simply put, Adam gets it. He is a rare combination of brilliant and supremely practical. And that was from a former executive VP at Walt Disney Imagineering, Eric Haseltine. That's a pretty big statement. Really glad to introduce our guest today who's an independent cloud consultant, the holder of 12 AWS certifications, pretty wild, and the host of the AWS FM Podcast, Adam Elmore.

Rebecca: Hey Adam. Thank you for joining us.

Adam: Hi, Rebecca, Jeremy. Thank you so much for having me on the show.

Jeremy: I'm curious, do you have a hard time regulating body temperature during the fall? Or are you ...

Adam: You know, in Missouri, so where I'm from, I'm like in the Ozarks, in the middle of the country, we get the extremes. So it's like, it's not so much that there's a middle ground. It's that every other day is either really hot or really cold. So they say in Missouri, if you don't like the temperature, come back tomorrow. It's just kind of always different.

Jeremy: Well, in New England, they say, if you don't like the weather, wait five minutes, because that's the problem that I have.

Adam: The key is just I don't go outside. That's the key for me. If I just stay inside, it doesn't matter.

Jeremy: Right. There you go.

Jeremy: There is so much that Rebecca and I want to talk to you about today, and we're super excited to have you here. You're hosting this new show called AWS FM, and you've had a number of amazing guests on there. You've been doing a lot of freelancing, want to get into this whole idea of how do you get 12 AWS certificates or certifications in six weeks, which seems like a crazy undertaking that I'd love to get into.

Jeremy: But before we get into any of those topics, I mean, let's talk a little bit more about you. I mean that obviously that quote from Eric Haseltine.

Adam: Yeah.

Jeremy: And I know that you've done a lot of great work not just recently, but a lot of stuff that you've done in the past as well. So maybe just start by going back and just tell us a little bit about how you got started in cloud and in tech and what sort of drew you towards cloud and working with AWS.

Adam: Yeah, absolutely. I guess, my career started back in 2009. I was doing sort of web freelancing just as a web developer. And I did that for four or five years, I guess. And then in 2014 I started a company called StatMuse. And it's sort of a sports digital media and technology company. We raised some money and we raised money from Disney. So that's the Eric Haseltine connection and Google invested. We built some pretty cool technology. We were doing natural language processing. So people asking sports questions. We were turning those sports questions into rich media. So answering with charts and tables and things like that. So we were answering a lot of questions on Alexa and Google Assistant and some other things. But we built all that technology on AWS, and that was sort of my foray into the cloud.

Adam: I was CTO there for five years. And the company's still going, even branched into sort of finance stuff outside of just sports. But that's kind of like, I had those five years to really explore as the head of the company all kinds of different things we could do in the cloud with technology. The application itself, the primary thing that we built at StatMuse wasn't even serverless. It was sort of like an Elixir web app running in just normal application stuff servers, I guess.

Jeremy: You can't say servers on this show. We don't allow it.

Adam: Yeah, sorry. No, we did build some things though. And over the five years kind of ... This was back in 2014, so I don't even know if serverless was really, if it had really kind of taken hold yet. But over the years, kind of built out some cool digital media experiences, built something for the pro football hall of fame, where we did a talking John Madden bust in AR. So you hold up an iPad and you can talk to John Madden. And so that had all kinds of elements with, there's 3D animation stuff involved, but then the conversational intelligence stuff, all of that was serverless. So I do have some experience building serverless stuff in production.

Adam: And we built some other kind of random experiences, but that was sort of my startup career, I guess. We built a San Francisco based startup. That was kind of that chapter of my career and really where I got to kind of explore the cloud and kind of learn on my own with venture capital money, I guess. Learning the ropes.

Jeremy: [crosstalk 00:05:58] learning how to build your capital money. Right?

Adam: Yeah, yeah. Yeah. So Eric Haseltine, that quote. We joined the Disney Accelerator and were there in LA for a few months. We got to meet all kinds of incredible people at Disney, Bob Iger, got to spend time with Bob Iger, which was just incredible. But Eric Haseltine was sort of a technical mentor of mine. And his background is nuts, which I know this show isn't about Eric Haseltine, although we've talked about him a lot already. But he was sort of a hugely influential sort of mentor for me going through that program and then beyond, just somebody that I still stay in touch with. Yeah.

Adam: I guess, in terms of my career, did the startup thing and then left in 2019 and joined a company. Actually an employee of mine at StatMuse had left StatMuse and he was a VP of engineering at a company that builds insurance software, but they built it all on AWS. And so I joined that company where I got to kind of further learn how AWS was used in slightly bigger organizations. StatMuse was like 20 people whereas this company I joined, it was a couple hundred engineers.

Adam: So I got to learn a little bit more there. And then back in April, this year, I decided to go sort of freelance and have been doing that since.

Jeremy: Right.

Rebecca: So Eric, if you're listening, sorry, I believe I mispronounced your name, Haseltine. I know this show is not about Eric, but we might as well keep going with that pattern.

Jeremy: Yeah.

Rebecca: So Adam, you have this really cool thread pinned on your Twitter about practical advice that you've learned through your whole career up to now. In some of the advice you say, you're like, "I wish I knew this when I first started." You're like leverage, infrastructure as code, segregate workloads into multiple accounts, set up CI/CD. Those are a few of those pieces. If you had to choose one of those pieces of advice that, or if like you could only tell your own self one of those pieces of advice, which one of those pieces would it be from that thread?

Adam: Yeah. So I've got to jog my memory here. I mean, the infrastructure as code one seems like an easy choice. I mean, I know when I started with AWS, it was all sort of on my own, kind of building things out and we're experimenting. It was a very kind of ... We had that flexibility to do that. But I wasn't learning how to build things out the right way. And I think we did a whole lot of poking around the console and just getting stuff to work and had a lot of pain through that.

Adam: And then, some of the startups I've advised and done sort of freelance work for, I've seen that pain as well, where you just sort of gain a lot when you have that infrastructure as code, as like from day one you're starting a company, you're building all this technology. It gains a lot in terms of the developer velocity, in terms of just pain down the road that you can avoid. So that one stands out, I guess, as an easy choice. I'm trying. Honestly, I don't remember so many other pieces of advice. The multi count thing obviously is a good idea. Yeah. That's all I can remember.

Jeremy: I think the spirit behind it though, is essentially, it's like there are best practices that I think a lot of us have fallen. I've been building on AWS since 2009 as well. So I went down the whole EC2, DRAGEN road as well. So it's not like we're ... I'm also familiar with the non-surplus aspects of AWS. But I think you did mention in this thread. You're like, "If you are thinking building on Heroku or something like that is the right choice for you, then this is not the thread for you because obviously you clearly dive into more of building on AWS."

Jeremy: And I'm actually kind of curious from an advising standpoint. If you're advising a startup, especially somebody who doesn't have AWS experience, or it doesn't have that deep cloud experience, things like that, is that still the road you're going to push people towards? And clearly, they're hiring you, you're an AWS consultant, so that would make sense. But I mean, is that something that just a general advice for startups that you think given what you've seen, that it's just a better path to start going down the cloud route than maybe choosing one of these other sort of past providers?

Adam: Yeah. So it's interesting you say that because I just kind of the last 24 hours been thinking about how I really kind of encourage serverless for startups and that it feels like as a solo, I build a lot of stuff myself. As sort of a solopreneur it makes a ton of sense when you're really experienced with serverless to build everything out using serverless technologies and with that serverless mindset. But with startups, just, Corey Quinn's newsletter yesterday sort of hit me in the face.

Jeremy: Saw that.

Adam: And it made me sort of question like, I don't know, is it best for everybody? If you have a team, like if you're a startup, you've got 10 engineers already and none of them have cloud experience, maybe it doesn't make sense to start with serverless. Like a lot of the ... The show will talk about, I'm sure, I've started AWS FM. I've had a bunch of guests that are mostly serverless oriented guests. And the success stories are like Lego. So Sheen Brisals at Lego, and some of the bigger companies that, I guess, have adopted serverless and they've proven, iRobot, they've proven that there's something there, it's obviously the future. But is it for every startup? I don't know.

Adam: I'm in the middle of this midlife crisis here, I guess, in technology where Corey Quinn came out with all that yesterday about the unfulfilled promises of serverless. And it did kind of make me question if it's a sort of right tool for every job when it comes to startups. I'm not sure.

Jeremy: Right. Right. And we love Corey Quinn on this show. And I think a lot of the things though that he puts out there, sometimes they're meant to ... I think they're meant to just get people like you to question your life choices.

Rebecca: Yeah. Yeah. You know, you can [crosstalk 00:11:52]

Jeremy: I think that's the-

Adam: Mission accomplished.

Jeremy: That's the purpose of it. But the other thing it's funny, and actually just, we were just talking with Brian Scanlan from Intercom, and he was talking about how they have a Ruby on Rails monolith that, I mean, they've got 25,000 plus customers. But they still use Lambda and SQSQs and a lot of these other things. So I think there's a difference between wholeheartedly embracing only serverless, but then realizing the benefits of using all these other services in combination with maybe other technologies like containers or EC2 or whatever you're going down.

Adam: Yeah. Yeah. I had Ben Kehoe on the show and he talks about the mindset. And it really is more of the mindset than the ... It's like a spectrum. And I didn't think of it that way before, that you can do things. It's not one-size-fits-all. For any given project, you can kind of mix these worlds as it makes sense and make trade-offs. Yeah. You don't have to be ultra purist at all times, I guess.

Jeremy: Right, right. Now you mentioned also somebody who knows serverless, being able to build everything out in serverless. And again, there are a lot of ... There's some caveats in there, right? Like you might not be able to do a certain thing or you got to use this to do web sockets and random whatever. And you've got limitations, six megabyte limits in Lambda and whatever. The things that you might not know about or maybe aren't used to when you're doing that. So clearly training is important and understanding these things. Now, not everybody has 12 AWS certifications like you do. And so I'm kind of curious on that, like one, what was the ... What made you say I'm going to get all 12 of these?

Adam: Yeah. No, it's interesting. It's kind of a theme with me that when I do something, I really kind of like, I do it. Like I don't do anything like-

Jeremy: Go big or go home. Right?

Adam: Yeah. Yeah. My wife and I had a big conversation about this yesterday so it's fresh on my mind. I sort of go really hard. And I guess, when I sort of dipped my toes in the certs, it was six weeks, but it wasn't six continuous weeks. There was like a week in July. I took the associate level exams in July. And then the following February, I did the rest of them.

Jeremy: Gotcha.

Adam: But when I first dipped my toes in them, I was kind of like ... To me, the point was just to validate and maybe fill in some gaps. Because I'd been working on AWS for six, seven years. And I thought like that's sort of a guided path. I'd never done any sort of formal training. And I really wasn't that plugged into the space. I'd kind of been off on my own, sort of building things in a vacuum. So I kind of felt like it'd be a good way to make sure I really understand some of this stuff.

Adam: And then I don't remember why I sort of became disenchanted after the first three. But my employer was paying for them all. So when I came back to it early, the next year, it just kind of like I decided I'm going to just see how quickly can I get them. Because I went through the first three just in a few days. And I thought, "Maybe I can just knock them all out." It ended up being a lot harder than I thought it would be. And I spent a lot more time probably preparing for the exams than I expected. I think a lot of my practical knowledge was sort of building serverless stuff. And the AWS certs don't really cover much of that.

Jeremy: Which is actually one of the complaints I think that really why is there not a serverless-

Adam: Yeah, there should be a serverless. Yeah.

Jeremy: Why is there not a serverless certification? Yeah.

Adam: Yeah. One of my favorite services ... Oh, go ahead.

Rebecca: Oh, I was going to say having worked on the serverless team, I assure you that is an internal conversation as well and something that I think we'll see at some point, hopefully not too far from now.

Adam: Yeah. It would make sense. I mean, I took all 12 of these exams, and I don't think I answered a single question about AppSync, which is one of my favorite services in terms of things I use practically pretty often. So it felt kind of weird to get to the end of it and be, "Where was all the serverless stuff?"

Rebecca: It's because you're living in the future.

Adam: Yeah. Yeah.

Rebecca: So you said it was harder than you thought it would be. And some of that is because your practical working knowledge may not have applied one-to-one to the types of certs that you were taking. Can you dive into a little bit more some of the challenges in terms of like maybe it's preparation challenges, maybe it's like sometimes it's just, we forget how to study type of challenges or what to study. So if someone else is thinking, maybe they're not going to battle all 12 at once, but even if they're thinking of one, what are some challenges they might want to keep top of mind in terms of someone who's gone through it so many times?

Adam: Yeah. So my experience was probably a lot different than most people's will be. I would say there are so many good resources out there today that I feel like the test part of it, you're just spoiled for choice. There's free options, the freeCodeCamp stuff. If you can pay the money, there's excellent paid resources. So I feel like choosing resources, you probably can't go wrong with a whole bunch of different options.

Adam: In terms of preparation for me, I'm sort of an auditory learner. And I like to listen to stuff really fast. So I can kind of burn through a lot of training materials, content or whatever pretty quickly. And that was kind of the whole shtick, I guess, was getting them done really quickly. And I enjoy taking tests. So I don't know that my experience is all that helpful to most people.

Jeremy: Interesting. Now, I want to, speaking of taking tests, I'm thinking about giving you a Turing test because I'm not-

Adam: Oh geez.

Jeremy: Well, I'm just curious. People have joked in the past that I was a robot because I would try to do so much. But I think you might be a robot actually.

Adam: Yeah. No. I ... It's like this weird-

Jeremy: Who enjoys taking tests?

Adam: Yeah. It's this weird like, I enjoy multiple choice tests I will say.

Jeremy: All right.

Adam: I enjoy trying to get in the test writer's head and kind of figure out what they were trying to make you think or the direction. I don't know. Sort of reverse psychology.

Jeremy: That's impressing. Yeah.

Adam: I feel like I can kind of like get a C on any test if I know nothing about the subject matter. So that was sort of part of it. I enjoyed the getting up early and taking each test each time.

Rebecca: I can also imagine you as a kid actually liking the tactile experience of filling in the little bubbles.

Adam: Oh yeah, yeah.

Rebecca: I can just imagine you like, "Oh yeah."

Adam: Like perfectly.

Rebecca: Yeah, exactly.

Adam: Look how good the pattern is.

Jeremy: Oh, your number two pencil sharpened, ready to go.

Adam: Yeah. Exactly.

Adam: One of the challenges. You asked me challenges. I think one of the challenges for me, I wake up early, early, so I was doing them in my home. That's a great part about this, I guess today, you can take all these tests at home. I used to, I guess, with IT certifications, you had to go in and sit in a proctor's room or whatever. So I was able to take them home, or take them in my home office. But having two young kids made it a little challenging. Nobody can come in the room. It's like a whole thing. If they like ... I don't know. They can disqualify you if they hear people talking to you.

Rebecca: Your four-year-old is giving you some answers.

Adam: Exactly. Yeah. Yeah.

Jeremy: And they watch you, right?

Adam: They're always messing in the door. Yeah.

Jeremy: You turn your webcam on, and they like watch you.

Adam: Oh yeah. They're watching you. They're like, if you put your hand on your face, they say stuff. It's kind of a whole experience that I recommend going through. I don't know if AWS certs are worth it honestly, but I think it's a good experience to go through and there's some guided learning there.

Jeremy: Well, I'm actually curious about that you saying you're not sure they're worth it because I mean, if ... I mean, I haven't taken any of the certification exams yet, and I keep meaning to them. I really should. Like I should. I work in AWS all the time. I probably should have a certification or two. But it's one of the things where it's like, I'm always reading docs. When new services come out, I'm pretty on top of kind of evaluating them. A lot of the stuff that comes out with, whether it's like rolling time Windows or something like that, or bisecting batches, whatever it is that might happen in these little tiny features that most people probably don't pay attention to, those things like perk. Those are the things that get me excited, not taking tests, but learning about these new things and reading up actually how they work and then go and experiment with them.

Jeremy: So I feel like I stay up-to-date with all this stuff, but at the same time, VPCs and the whole thing with routing for even VPC peering and the security groups and things like that, when I have to set those up, I can. I stumble a little bit and I got to go and look stuff up, whatever. But I also feel like having a good rounded knowledge of some of the stuff is good. I don't want to dismiss that. But I also wonder the value of how much you apply, how much those certification and what you learn in those certifications, how much those apply to your real work, especially when they can be very, very broad and you've got 200 plus services that some of them seem to cover.

Adam: Yeah. I mean, I won't say that I didn't learn anything that was worth something. I'm sure there were things I picked up through the certification prep. There's just a whole lot of content I consumed to kind of get through those.

Adam: I'm sure there were things I picked up that have applied to my day-to-day work with clients. But for the most part, it kind of felt like I don't ... I'm never going to touch Direct Connect. Like I just, I don't plan to. I know a whole lot about Direct Connect now and it kind of feels like why did I do that if all that knowledge ... The amount of prep I did for the advanced networking course was, it was just a lot compared to the other exams. And really, I don't use any of that knowledge.

Adam: So it's hard for me to say, "Go out, take all the exams because it's going to really help you with your day job." And I just don't know how much it helps either with getting opportunities. I've never really used them to try and go get a job. Yeah. It's kind of hard for me.

Adam: I sort of did it as a parlor trick. And I guess, there have been people that I know have gone down the path and they said I inspired them to take the certs. And I'm happy for them for that. And there are a few ways that I think they come into play, as a freelancer, at least in a few countries with AWS IQ. But outside of that ...

Jeremy: Yeah.

Adam: Yeah, yeah. Outside of that, I don't know. Maybe somebody could tell me after they get them all, if it helped them land some job.

Jeremy: Tell me how to use the certs that I already have.

Adam: Exactly.

Rebecca: The goodness too is that it allowed you to do something that you love, which is taking tests.

Adam: Yeah.

Rebecca: But another thing that you love is the AWS CDK. And in one of your blog posts, you talk about how it dramatically improved your ability to stand up infrastructure quickly, but you also saw that it was deploying the same handful of resources, which felt real tedious. And then you go ahead and talk about so while Amplify can solve this and a lot more, as you say, you wanted to build an open source project, which is Ness with a much narrower focus. And so I'm wondering if you can tell us about Ness and its origins and why you built it, and why did you want to take such a narrow focus on it?

Adam: Yeah, so I guess at that time, when I built Ness there wasn't ... So Amplify didn't support doing nessjs server side stuff. You didn't have now SST, the serverless stack framework supports that. I think when I first built Ness, it was sort of meeting this need where you're deploying a nessjs site specifically. You either deploy it with Vercel or what. And like I'd like doing everything in my own AWS accounts. It just kind of felt. And I do love Vercel. Now I feel like I use it more than I use my own CLI tool that I built for this purpose.

Adam: But at the time that was sort of the justification was I want build to deploy either a static site, or maybe it's a site that I want to deploy a nessjs with server side rendering to Lambda@Edge. And I want to do that just from the CLI. I don't want to have to set up a third-party account and do the dance there to set up a Vercel account or whatever. That was kind of the idea. And it was narrow in the sense that like it's a CLI tool that's just meant for deploying your websites.

Jeremy: Yeah. And I think it's interesting though because you said like, now Vercel, you might use that more than you use your own thing. I mean, that's probably a good lesson into building your own solutions for stuff, right?

Adam: Yeah. Exactly.

Jeremy: I wonder if I could find a tool that gets me close to where I need to get to. But I think it's just interesting in terms of you have these tools. You love the CDK. I'm ambivalent towards it I think, because again, it's one of those things for me where I think I take Ben Kehoe's side on this where it's like anything that's non-deterministic always makes me a little bit nervous. Right? But there's other reasons. But you've got the SDK ... The CDK. I'm sorry. Did I say SDK? I meant CDK. Sorry. AWS CDK, not the SDK. The SDK is very important. I mean CDK as well, but.

Jeremy: So you've got the CDK. You've got SAM. SAM just added a whole bunch of new features like SAM Accelerate. And then now you have SAM Pipelines. You also have CDK pipelines. And then you have Terraform. And Terraform has all kinds of crazy things. Clearly the serverless framework was very early with the infrastructure as code. You've got Architect. You've got Pulumi. You've got, I don't know, the hundred others. Right? So you've got all these different tools and services that allow you to do things.

Jeremy: Everything does it a little bit different. Some of them more flexible than others. Some of them are limited. But I'm just curious. From your perspective, CDK, that sits above all those other ones to you? Is that ... I mean, do you think that's the ultimate, or do you still think that there's room for these other players?

Adam: Yeah. I guess my answer to this today is very different than would've been six months ago. I think before I started a podcast and had a bunch of smart people that I got to talk to on a podcast, I was probably like 90% of the time I'm reaching for the CDK. Otherwise, just CloudFormation.

Adam: I think having a lot of other perspectives and being confronted with those on my own podcast helped me kind of see the downsides of the CDK. And I think for me, I wasn't ever doing anything in my mind that was non-deterministic. Like I'm not hitting any websites that influence my ... I'm not making web requests to sort of-

Jeremy: But you could-

Adam: ... influence my infrastructure. You could. And that's what I never thought about. For somebody is an on-ramp into infrastructure as code. If somebody's coming into AWS or infrastructure as code and it's their first experience and they're on the CDK, I never thought about some of the potential foot guns or whatever, the ways that they could really kind of set themselves up for pain. So I do have that new perspective on it, I guess. And I think a lot of that has been talking with folks like Ben Kehoe and Ben Bridts.

Adam: Now I think I'm probably more likely to just write CloudFormation. But I'll be honest, there's so many cool new toys to play with that I'm very interested in what you guys are doing at Serverless Inc, the serverless stack stuff really interests me. So I think there's a lot of things I want to find time to kind of play with and see how does it influence the developer experience.

Adam: But yeah, I still think the CDK is great. I sort of got into the CDK pretty early and did some contributing and felt like this is really cool. I liked TypeScript and I was kind of able to use more TypeScript, I guess. But I do kind of see a little bit wider angle on it now after some other perspectives.

Jeremy: Yeah. Right. No, and I mean, it's funny too. I mean maybe we need a ... Or there needs to be an AWS certification for dev tools I mean, in general. There's just so many of them.

Adam: There's a lot. Yeah.

Jeremy: Yeah. I mean. But I think you're right. It's one of those things with differing perspectives or different perspectives that you do get when you start talking to other people. And it's funny too, because just going back to Corey Quinn's article on serverless and that whole deal, I mean, again, you can very easily find yourself in a bubble where you're only talking to people that support your own conclusions basically. And sometimes even if they don't, you still draw your own conclusions. I do that sometimes, unfortunately.

Jeremy: But anyways. Let's talk a little bit about AWS FM. I don't know. Do you want to kick us off on that, Rebecca?

Rebecca: Yeah. Well, I mean first Adam, we, Jeremy and I were talking about this. We speculate that it's Adam's Web Show, right? That's what the AWS stands for?

Jeremy: Not Amazon Web Services.

Rebecca: For the record.

Adam: Keep me safe from any legal troubles.

Rebecca: So what made you want to start AWS FM?

Adam: Yeah, so-

Rebecca: I'm guessing there's so much about it. It has to do with talking to these smart folks. But I'm wondering if that is what you knew you were going to get out of it or what happened to come out of it?

Adam: Yeah. So in retrospect, I guess, the thing I enjoy the most about it is the smart folks I get to talk to and how much I do feel like I learn after each show that I air, not about podcasting, but just about things I didn't understand, the perspective I didn't have within the AWS community. That's been the biggest benefit and why I sort of love it more all the time.

Adam: I think when I got into it, it was a few things. I literally, I just joined the Twitter Space, these sort of live audio experiences on Twitter for those that aren't familiar. I had gotten on one that was about cloud or web technology or something. And in listening to it, I realized like this is a really cool new medium and I like talking to people. So I was having conversations with some of the folks that I had on in the early episodes of the show, like having Zoom calls, just kind of talking. We're both freelancers or whatever, just kind of sharing something in common and getting on calls to talk. And I realized other people might want to hear that.

Adam: So I thought I'll do this live audio show on Twitter Space, and maybe people will tune in and listen. And I kind of thought at that point, "Oh, I guess I could put it on the podcast platforms. I could take the audio and put it up there." But that was sort of secondary. And then I think over time, my perspective on that shifted and now it's sort of, I feel like I'm recording a podcast, but I let people listen in to the recording process live.

Adam: But yeah, early on it was like this Twitter Space thing is cool. I'm going to make a live audio show and see how it goes. And I just, I sort of jump in when I do something and I do a lot of it and see if I like it. Also, aws.fm was available. Then, when a domain name's available like that, that's half of it for me.

Jeremy: Well, you might be the first person I know that found a domain name, bought it, and then actually did something with it. There's a lot. There's a lot. I have a lot of domains in my domain graveyard that are brilliant ideas, I think. I just haven't had the time to get to them yet.

Adam: Yep. I got a lot of those too.

Rebecca: And then you get the annual bill and you're like, "I guess, two more years."

Adam: Yeah.

Jeremy: Yeah, "Two more years. That's fine. That's fine. I'll do it."

Jeremy: But speaking of time. I think we were chatting before and Rebecca joined the show back in June, I think. And we still took a break to kind of give ourselves a rest. Again, we had 107 episodes. I was doing one every single week for 107 weeks. I mean, there's a long time, plus producing the newsletter and then trying to do blog posts and other videos and all this sort of stuff. And I was a freelancer for quite some time, which gave me some time to invest in video and do some of these other things. And then I took a full-time job at Serverless last year and then suddenly it's like, "Well, now you got a full-time job." And I've got two daughters and I've got a wife and I've got a house to take care of and we have a dog. And it's like, just trying to find time to produce good quality content is hard.

Jeremy: And I'm just curious. Why are you so crazy?

Adam: My wife is also curious.

Jeremy: Have you not learned from us?

Adam: If we can answer that question on this show, and then I could get my wife to listen to it, that would be like two birds, one stone.

Jeremy: There we go.

Adam: She's never listened to my podcast. So if she listened to yours first, that'll be a little upsetting. But yeah, no, I think I really do sort of have this problem and I'm trying to sort through this in real-time. This is a very active conversation where I can't do anything just sort of semi do it. And it affects a lot of areas of life. It's something I'd really like to grow into. I'd love to like ... One step I'm taking is I am going to ease up on the show. So it's not going to be three times a week. It's going to be ideally one time a week. It's just hard to reshuffle and schedule people.

Adam: Yeah, the thing with the podcast specifically is once you start making your list of people you'd love to have on a show like that, it's just, it's such a long list, and there's so many people in the AWS community that you just want to interact with and you want to have that experience with. And then you start thinking about one a week and it feels like I'd have to do this forever. I'm really just kind of a sprinter, I guess. I don't do the long-distance thing very well.

Rebecca: So you've had some really incredible people on your show, as you already talked about, right? Like Brian LeRoux, we talked about, Ian McKay, Ben Kehoe, Nader Dabit. You do also have Shawn Wang from Temporal coming up, I believe as a guest. And I'm wondering what you're most ... A couple of things about maybe what has stuck with you the most from guests that you've had, and then what you're looking forward to, let's say talking to Shawn about, and where you think that conversation might go? Why you're excited to have him on?

Adam: Yeah. I'll answer the second one first actually. With Shawn and Nader, it's sort of like life after AWS. They're both former AWS employees. And they have sort of a perspective of leaving AWS. And that's kind of my curiosities with both of those two. And obviously, I've just, I've followed Shawn on Twitter for a long time and I'm just a fan. So I have lots of questions just because they're curiosities of mine. I don't know if that's a good way to produce content.

Adam: In terms of things that have stuck with me, I think it's been the sort of ongoing debates on the show or not even really debates, because it's all been sort of one sided, but there've been very recurring themes where I have several guests in a row that all hold up an opinion very strongly and they haven't heard the other. They just, they end up talking about it. And there's been some things like local testing versus testing in the cloud.

Adam: My first like 15 guests, I feel like hammered home that you should just deploy everything to the cloud and test there. And that just sort of seems like this consensus. But then I just had Brian LeRoux on who is like Jeremy said sort of alone, him and LocalStack sort of holding up that side of the debate, like you should emulate, you should-

Jeremy: Hey, that was before we were recording.

Adam: Oh, sorry, yeah.

Jeremy: I have to clarify on this. No, I think Brian, and again, Brian is great. I've met him a number of times. I've known him for quite some time now. And what they've done at Architect is brilliant. I mean, they've encapsulated all this stuff so that you can do this local emulation and within that environment, it works. It works really with really well. So it's part of Architect and begin and that whole workflow that they do it works really, really well.

Jeremy: And then LocalStack I think has done a brilliant job of saying like, "Hey, it's really hard to get all your stuff in the cloud to test it. So it is easier and faster to do this locally." So again, I think the consensus is if we could put it in the cloud, then we should do that. But I think what Brian and his team has done and what the team over at LocalStack has done is basically said, "While that may be a fantasy world that we all want to get to, that's not where we are now." And they've built really, really good solutions to sort of fill that gap.

Adam: Yep. Yeah. I think having all the options is great. And I think having Brian finally on my show brought a nice balance to the conversation because it had gotten so one sided. And there's other, I think, perspectives like the CDK was not super popular amongst my guests. I will have Elad on the show eventually to kind of make the case for the CDK. Yeah. It's been interesting. That's something that stuck with me, I guess, across the episodes, is that there's so many shared opinions. Maybe I'm in a bubble and I'm just picking people that support my worldview, but.

Jeremy: Well, no, and I think that the funny thing is, and this is something where you mentioned you learn so much from the guests. And that's been the same for me. Honestly, just the idea of how many listeners you might have, how many people are actually interested in tuning in to hear about whatever the topic of the day is. That almost doesn't matter, right? Because it's sort of like, you'd be wanting to have these conversations anyways. And this is something we've talked quite a bit about, especially since the pandemic hit.

Jeremy: I started the podcast, 2019. We were ramping up. We had starting to get a lot of listeners and things growing. We're getting sponsors and I'm like, "Ah, this is a really cool thing that we can do." Then the pandemic hits and everybody's a content producer. And again, awesome. The more good content, there's so many great voices out there. Absolutely. That is not something where I'm like, "Oh, hey, stop making content so only I can do it." Because everybody should be making content because you can just share those perspectives.

Jeremy: But the problem is, the downside to that is the fact that if you have so many people producing content, and again, the quality varies, some of it's really good. Sometimes it's hard to find the needle in the haystack, which is partially what I try to do with Off-by-none, the newsletter, is to try to pick the good content and try to get that surface so that people can see it. And again, this is good content based on my own opinion. So that might be tainted or in part of a bubble as well.

Jeremy: But I think you just get so much content that's being produced that it is really, really hard to ... It is hard to kind of cut through that noise and find some of that stuff. And so sometimes I think our show gets listened to because we have a specific guest on and people are more interested in the guest than they are in our show. But then on the other side of it, on the other side of it, I have a lot of people or we have a lot of people that listen to the show just because they like the types of conversations we have and so forth.

Jeremy: So I think you find different types of listeners and you get a few here and there. But this is how I feel about it. And I know I'm rambling a little bit, but as somebody who I think you probably feel the same way. You mentioned earlier that somebody ... that you inspired somebody to get all their certifications or to get their certifications. And that's a thing for me where it's like if we have 5,000, 10,000, whatever, people listening to the show, that's awesome. But you know what? If we connect with three or four or five. I had somebody tell me on Twitter that the reason why they were able to convince their team to get into Serverless was because of the episodes that I had with Michael Hart, talking about the inner workings of Lambda and all that kind of stuff.

Jeremy: And that is the kind of stuff where I'm like, "I'm going to have these conversations anyway. So if people want to listen in," right? And that's going to push them over the edge or inspire them or get them to do something else. To me, that is just ... that makes it worth it even beyond the fact that I'm learning a ton just from talking to these people.

Adam: Oh, absolutely. I think that's the same way with me, for Twitter. I kind of feel like sometimes I just would rather not be on Twitter. But you do get those random interactions where somebody says like, "Oh, that thing you said, really, it meant something to me. I'm doing this now." And you get those with the podcast too. It sort of makes you feel like you need to keep doing it, even if you don't always feel like doing it.

Adam: The whole content thing, the sort of hamster wheel that it feels like, even just very early for me, I've been doing this for like 10 seconds and you guys have been doing this forever, but it's already kind of like, I get the psychology of, yeah, maybe this long-term, maybe it's not for me. It just feels like there's so much involved. But then the conversations are so great. And I think that's the part where if I feel like I'm talking with people that I want to talk with anyway, I'm having 300% more conversations in my week than I would've without doing the podcast, aside from client conversations. So it feels worth it in that sense. But the whole getting people to listen to it and market it and do all that stuff, eh, it's ... I don't know. It's a slog.

Rebecca: Well, I want to put an asterisk on that. You say we've been doing this forever. Jeremy has been doing this forever.

Adam: Sure. Yeah.

Rebecca: He was just kind enough to invite me along on the ride. And I quite enjoy it. I'm so glad to be in this seat.

Rebecca: So whether or not content is short-term or mid-term, but maybe not as long-term as what, it sounds like what I think what you've built in your freelancing career, which might be a bit more long-term. You don't have to tell me, tell us all your life plans, but I'm wondering if we could talk a little bit about freelancing in terms of the questions or patterns that you see in your work most often.

Rebecca: And I imagine that a lot of people listening might be thinking about, "Is it time for me to make the jump? Is it time for me to start my own thing? Could I be a freelancer? What might I think about in terms of lifestyle choice or what that means for me or now there's not. Every two weeks there's a check. Now I have to make sure that I ask for my own checks," and all those sorts of things. But also finding the right clients. Like how do you find the right clients that you actually do want to freelance work with?

Rebecca: I just asked you a lot of questions about freelancing, but I'm wondering if someone is thinking about making that leap, what are some of the considerations they might want to ask, and how might they find the right clients that they should ... that would complement what they want to do and the skills that they have?

Adam: Yeah. So that is the number one question I get when I share anything about my freelancing, like on Twitter, people all want to know how do you find clients. And I think, for me, that there's a very clear answer now for a few segments of people. If you live in the US, the UK, or France, there's something called AWS IQ. It's a seldom heard of AWS service that's sort of a marketplace. It's like Upwork if you're familiar with freelance marketplaces that are more technology agnostic, I guess. It's sort of an AWS centric marketplace for people who are AWS customers, they need help doing something in their account, building something. They can engage with these AWS experts on IQ.

Adam: And to be an expert, you have to live in one of those three countries today. Hopefully, that changes and they continue to expand internationally. But you have to hold a single AWS certification. And if you hold an AWS certification, you can register to be an expert and you basically go in there and you kind of try to connect with these customers that are reaching out for help.

Adam: That's been, for me, starting out in April, I was able to hit the ground running really fast. And having all of the certifications sort of has an outsize impact within that community. They just feature them very prominently on your profile. And whenever you bid for working with somebody, they see that very clearly. And I've had customers tell me, "I chose you because you had 12 of them and the other guy had three. I don't know. That's a bigger number."

Adam: So that, AWS IQ is a very clear path if you live in those three countries today and you want to do cloud consulting as an independent sort of freelancer. AWS IQ is a great path. Obviously, that doesn't work for if you're a web dev and you just want to do web freelancing. Then I don't know. I guess Upwork and Fiverr. I don't know.

Jeremy: Well, I'll tell you. Another great way to get AWS customers is probably to start a podcast about AWS.

Adam: Yeah. So that is a lot of it for me. I had a really busy summer with consulting and doing the freelance work. And then it went well enough that I was sort of like, "Maybe I'll pump the brakes and invest in some other things." And content production was one of those. "There's a pandemic. I'm just going to ... I got nothing else to do. So I'm going to buy a bunch of video equipment."

Adam: No, I thought it could be this sort of long-term, I don't know, lead gen and sort of getting in front of more potential AWS customers. Yeah, that's what I tell myself at least to keep myself going, that this does have a long tail of reasons-

Jeremy: You tell your wife, you tell your wife that.

Adam: That's what I tell my wife.

Jeremy: That it's all about getting more customers.

Adam: Exactly. Yeah. Because it's ... I don't know. It can be hard to remember at times why I'm doing some of the things I do. But yeah, it's ... I think for freelancing, having that sort of infinite pool of potential customers is just a great headstart.

Adam: And then in terms of worrying about the day-to-day, if you live in the US, healthcare is obviously a major concern. I know a lot of people just don't leave their day job because they can't imagine not having their healthcare provided. And it is expensive. But there are a lot of options, I guess now. I've done freelancing in the past where it wasn't as easy to get healthcare coverage independently.

Adam: But the whole not having a paycheck that's reliable every month for me has worked in my favor, I guess. I view it as there's no cap any given month. And the potential is kind of incredible at times. You feel like you can sort of do the next three months' worth of work this month if you feel like it and want to hunker down. So I enjoy that variability because it's allowed me to kind of take breaks and then go hard, which is kind of leans more toward my personality, I guess.

Rebecca: And do you see, is there a pattern or like a most common type of project that someone will come to you to work on where you're like, actually there's a hundred thousand opportunities to just build this like API for it? Is there like a specific constant ask that there's just not enough supply for the demand of it?

Adam: So I actually published a Google spreadsheet of all of my clients to date this year. I published how much they paid me. I kept the names anonymous obviously, but how much they paid me and what type of work I did. And that was a good retrospective for me to kind of get a sense for what am I doing, what is ... is there patterns in terms of the work I'm taking on. And it was sort of all over the place.

Adam: I think there are a few recurring themes. People that don't have CI/CD and they want to sort of implement CI/CD pipelines in AWS, or I've had infrastructure as code where they didn't start out that way and they want to move into that, which is tough. Then there's like security best practices and setting up accounts to monitor security posture. That's some things I've done more than once.

Adam: But it's a lot of different things. I think I've had 16 clients this year so far, and it's kind of been all over the place. The things that are hard to avoid are, I have a web dev background where building stuff out full stack. I can't resist sometimes seeing somebody's like, they've got their project they want to build and it's going to be on AWS. So there's that. But it's like full stack and you're building the whole front end. I've gotten into a few of those. And those definitely consume a lot of time. So they feel like all I'm doing, but it's because those few projects take so much, so much care. I'm just not very good at front end work, I guess. So it takes me a long time.

Jeremy: Well, the other thing too, is that it's probably good to have some variety in the things that you're doing on the back end so you don't get terribly bored like I did when I ran my own development company and built forms for people for 12 years, it seemed like, and it just was wanted me to tear my eyes out.

Jeremy: Listen, we're running out of time, and I was going to be a joke about how, oh, I should have hit record, but I did. But anyways, because I can imagine as a podcast, you probably have worried about that yourself.

Adam: Oh yeah.

Jeremy: I know I have. I know we've had. We've lost episodes before because it didn't upload right. Anyways, there's more to making content than I think people think. There's especially the downsides of it.

Jeremy: But anyways, Adam, thank you so much for being on the show. What you're doing with AWS FM, Adam's Web Show just to be clear, it's great. And I mean, and the guests are awesome and so forth. It's interesting to hear you saying you got to tone it back a little bit because like I don't even have enough time to listen to this show. I'm on like three hours of content-

Rebecca: Jeremy's never heard of this show-

Jeremy: ... that you ... I don't even know. I hope these come out okay. I don't know. I never listen. No, I'm just kidding.

Jeremy: But, no, I really appreciate what you're doing. And again, just, and the other thing is just giving people and these experts just a form to speak and getting those ideas out there. And I'm glad somebody else works with that dilemma where you hear a bunch of smart people tell you one thing, and then a bunch of smart people tell you the exact opposite thing. And then your brain can't figure out which one to choose. Yeah, that's a common thing for me as well. So you're not alone there.

Adam: Yeah. I'm not smart enough for most of the people that come on the show. But thank you so much for having me on. It has been great just to talk with other people that have done this and been sort of down range. I know we could probably swap a lot of horror stories in my very short amount of time. But it's been so great to be on the other side of the interview, I guess. Thank you so much for having me.

Rebecca: Well, we are super happy to have you. And if other people wanted to learn where they can find you, what links might you want to tell them? And then we'll go ahead and put those in the show notes, too.

Adam: Yeah. So I think just my Twitter, which is like a sort of phonetic spelling of my name, aeduhm. It's A-E-D-U-H-M if I can remember.

Rebecca: It's like Alpha, Epsilon, Delta ...

Adam: Yeah, exactly.

Rebecca: Umberto.

Adam: And then I've got a website that's adam.dev. It's mostly like just a single page. Here's how you can reach me. But if you don't remember how to spell my Twitter handle, that's one way.

Jeremy: And then of course, aws.fm to check out the show and already tons of great episodes. Lots of great guests coming up. So thanks again, Adam. This was awesome.

Adam: Yeah. Thanks guys.