Serverless Chats

In this episode, Jeremy chats with Dr. Peter Sbarski about why education is the key to serverless adoption, how certifications help build stronger teams, what traditional institutions need to do to adapt to the new cloud economy, and much more.

Show Notes

About Dr. Peter Sbarski

Peter Sbarski is VP of Education & Research at A Cloud Guru and the organizer of Serverlessconf, the world’s first conference dedicated entirely to serverless architectures and technologies. His work at A Cloud Guru allows him to work with, talk and write about serverless architectures, cloud computing, and AWS. He has written a book called Serverless Architectures on AWS. Peter is always happy to talk about cloud computing and AWS, and can be found at conferences and meetups throughout the year. He helps to organize Serverless Meetups in Melbourne and Sydney in Australia, and is always keen to share his experience working on interesting and innovative cloud projects.

Peter’s passions include serverless technologies, event-driven programming, back end architecture, microservices, and orchestration of systems. Peter holds a PhD in Computer Science from Monash University, Australia.


Jeremy: Hi, everyone. I'm Jeremy Daly and you're listening to Serverless Chats. This week, I'm chatting with Dr. Peter Sbarski. Hi, Peter. Thanks for joining me.

Peter: Hi, Jeremy. Thank you for having me.

Jeremy: So you are the VP of education and research at A Cloud Guru. So why don't you tell the listeners a bit about yourself and what A Cloud Guru does?

Peter: Yeah. Thank you, Jeremy. So my background is in computer science. I got a PhD about 12 years ago, from Monash University in Australia. I worked as a consultant focusing on cloud projects, primarily. Then four years ago, I joined A Cloud Guru and have been with A Cloud Guru ever since. So at A Cloud Guru, we create awesome fun online education. So we help people get skilled up on AWS or Azure or GCP, or just learn cloud related technologies in a very fun and engaging and practical way as well.

We help people get certified, but also learn how do you use containers? How do you use Kubernetes? How do you go serverless? How do you do things with best practice in mind? So we focus on making sure that we produce that high quality, curated education that anyone can access.

Jeremy: That's awesome. All right, so you and I have bumped into each other, and you're all the way in Australia, and I'm over here on the East Coast of the United States. We've bumped into one another in Seattle, and at re:Invent a couple of times. Every time we get together, we are always talking about serverless education. I think last time we were together, we went maybe even way beyond serverless education. That's what I want to talk to you about today is just the state of serverless education.

And we can go a little bit deeper. But one of the things that I think is unique about serverless as opposed to maybe learning even containers, or even some of these other cloud concepts is, serverless just seems to be such a reworking or re-engineering your own mind to think about these things differently. What are you seeing in terms of maybe the challenges between training people, just on programming languages and some of these other cloud computing, concepts versus training people on serverless?

Peter: Yeah, it's a great question, Jeremy. Look, I hate to use the word paradigm, but it does feel, it is really a paradigm shift. Because serverless, it feels like, this is what cloud was supposed to be all along, right? You're not dealing with low level infrastructure concerns. You're not provisioning your servers and thinking about memory capacity, but you're thinking at a high level of abstraction, you're thinking in terms of code, you're thinking in terms of functions and services and event driven architectures. That's interesting. It's different and it requires people to really think in new ways.

Look, I think, honestly, the adoption of serverless will hang on education. If it can educate people, serverless as a concept as an idea will be successful. I think that's what we're all working towards. This is what you do nearly every day, right? You educate people on serverless. You blog, you talk, because this is the way we get people to understand.

Jeremy: Yeah, so that's actually a really good point about education, because I think there is an education gap. But before we talk about the education gap, I think from a more maybe structural standpoint, one of the things that is really interesting about cloud computing in general, and I think you're right, it's hard to draw that distinction between what is serverless and what is just eventually cloud? What we understand that to be. I'm thinking that I watch people struggle, trying to figure out, "Okay, AWS just launched some new feature that has now made some of the workaround that I was using in the past has made that obsolete."

I think that you have this speed of innovation in the cloud. It's not just AWS, it's Google, it's Azure, it's Alibaba, it's Tencent. All of these cloud providers are just going through now, and releasing all of these really cool new features. So how does the average human that doesn't read 800 articles a week like I try to do, how do they stay up to date with this stuff?

Peter: It is actually very difficult. It's very hard because the pace of innovation, especially in cloud computing like you said, is incredible, right? It's so funny. We actually do a weekly show, a round up at A Cloud Guru covering everything that has happened in AWS or Azure for that week, right? And we always have material to talk about because there's always something new. So yeah, you have to have a trusted source, you have to watch a show like AWS This Week or read a round up blog or something, because it is so hard to keep up with everything.

Look for us, it's a full time job, right? You just have to stay up to date, then hopefully, we can share what we've learned and what's important with everybody else. But yeah, it's a challenge. I don't blame you if you miss a few things. It's just too quick.

Jeremy: Yeah, no, it goes beyond that too, right? If you think about saying, "Okay, well, the great now they've released Lambda destinations, or now there's the HTTP API, or there's these other little things they do." The Lambda destinations really changed probably what the best practices for dead letter queues with Lambda functions, right? Because you get more context when you use the failure path of a failure destination, I guess. So that's the other thing. Forget about just knowing what's available, knowing the right ways to use it, or the best practices or the leading practices. That's a whole nother thing you have to keep up with.

Peter: That's it. It's so funny. I remember, I was writing my book, I wrote a chapter on the API Gateway, and API Gateway came out. I remember I finished that chapter. I was so happy. Then literally two days later, I know Proxying came out. So now you could proxy request straight to Lambda. So you no longer have the right velocity templates. And I'm okay, well, let's scrap that chapter. Let's do it all over again. All right, had to start from scratch and come up with that new best practice. It happens all the time. It's hard.

Jeremy: Right.

Peter: Yeah, this is why there are great people such as yourself, who write blogs and talk about best practice, and we produce content on that as well. Yeah, I think it's the only way right, you have to have a good source of advice You got to try keeping up to date. What do you do? Let me ask you Jeremy, what do you do keep up to date? Apart from reading 800 articles a week?

Jeremy: Well, that's basically what I do. Listen, this is the other thing too is, I don't stay up to date on these things. I pick and choose some of the things that I want to follow. There's a lot of innovation that's happening with IAM and some of the cloud map stuff, Cloud Discovery. Honestly I have not been paying attention much to it, other than watching Ben Kehoe tweets, right?

Peter: Yeah.

Jeremy: That's basically what I've been doing to try to follow along with that, because there are so many other things that you have to go deep on. Again, I think that's one of those things with the cloud in general where, as a normal developer, and if I'm a developer 20 years ago, I'm learning Java in my freshman programming class, my first CS class that I take, and then I go on to maybe learning about data structures, and I learn some of these basic things. I'm learning about allocating memory, which no modern programming language that you're going to use is making you do those things anymore.

Jeremy: But, you're going to learn some of those basics. I think that's absolutely great. But you're also coming out of school, and I think a lot of these people I know, just from people I've interviewed, they don't even know anything about the cloud at all. Right?

Peter: Yeah.

Jeremy: I know some schools have moved to changing that education to maybe learn something like Python as that opening language or that beginner language that they don't get as stuck on as Java. But, going back to your point is that, you go to be a developer in 2020, all of a sudden, not only do you need to know programming language, you need to know about data structures, you need to know about some of these basic computer science things, but now you need to know how the cloud works. You need to know about distributed computing and you need to know about caching and eventual consistency, and all these other things.

Maybe this is a good time to go back to that point on where those gaps are, what are kids ... and I say, kids, and you and now we're getting older, right? So we can refer to college students as kids. What are they learning, that's preparing them for this cloud economy that we're going into?

Peter: I think that is actually a really good point. There are a lot of people coming out of colleges and universities who are not exactly prepared for the industry and the expectations of the industry. They have to ramp up on cloud really quickly. It's a challenge, and I just want to say that, look this stuff is hard. Honestly, it is, there's a lot to know and I don't want anyone to feel discouraged, just because they don't know something right now, it doesn't mean that it cannot be learned, right? We all started from nothing, we were all beginners once. It's all doable. It's all possible.

You just have to go and spend a little bit of time watching courses, reading books, going online, finding blogs to really upscale if you're missing some of those skills, but with universities and colleges in particular, there is that question, what are they teaching? Are they relevant? Are people getting the right skills for the industry? And if not, then where do people go to, to get those skills,

Jeremy: Right. And then you've got things like code camps too. I've seen a lot of people that I've interviewed some people that have gone to code camps and I think there's value there too. I really like the people who have gotten a CS degree and then went to a code camp. I do like that mix of people. But what else ... especially for young people coming out of college, or people looking to change careers, are code camps really the answer you think to those things?

Peter: It's a tough one, right? You can definitely see some benefit with code camps. There definitely is because you do get that quick, deep dive into programming, or computing or cloud computing. But then there needs to be this ongoing program for people to continuously skill up, because it really isn't enough to spend a month for three months, deep diving into something and then you won't become an expert, basically. You need to have that practical hands on experience, and you need to continuously learn, you need to continuously stay up to date.

Really, honestly, it applies to all of us, right? Because I spent eight years at a university, but I have to stay up to date as well. Right? Everything moves so quickly, that continuous education is really key to continuous career growth.

Jeremy: Right

Peter: What's the other interesting thing is that you started saying that, we work university, we learned Java, and we learned memory allocation, but what happened was, you were born, right? You went to school, you went to college or university and then you had a job right? Then you had a job from 25 to 60, or some one thing, and then 65 onwards, you go back to retirement back to play, but things are now different. So an average american will now have 15 different jobs in his or her lifetime.

Jeremy: Wow.

Peter: That's three years per job. Imagine that, and you have to continuously stay-

Jeremy: That's a lot.

Peter: ... learning, it's a lot. It's heaps, right? So you have to continue to stay up to date, you have to learn, you have to get that next job or progression in your career. In our industry especially, if in three years you stop learning, you go out of date, right? You won't get that next promotion. Three years as all it takes if you stop learning to really start going backwards. So being able to continuously learn and figure things out and practice, is really key to being successful.

Jeremy: Yeah, no, I think you actually make a really good point about continuing education. Obviously ... because I can tell you right now, five years ago when Lambda first came out, and I started playing around with Lambda, as soon as you started mixing it with SQS and with API Gateway, and then with SNS and all these other tools that started coming up, I felt like a beginner again, right? I've been doing this for a very, very long time, and I felt pretty good about being able to build web applications.

I started working with AWS in 2009. So I'm like a cloud grandpa at this point, I feel like but essentially, I got to the point where I was able to build pretty good applications in the cloud. Then serverless came along, and it changed everything and made me feel like a beginner again. But I guess maybe one of the questions I have is, because I think if somebody's listening to this, and they are building stuff in the cloud, they're going to say, "Oh, yeah, we need to know the cloud, we need to learn all these things in the cloud and so forth."

Are there people who don't? There are a vast majority of companies who are not using the cloud for anything significant at this point, right? Obviously, the cloud market is pretty big, but the on prem market probably dwarfs it right?

Peter: That's right. Yeah.

Jeremy: For the people who want to hold out, I don't think it's a wise choice but you still need people to work on mainframes, right?

Peter: Look, that's true, but I think cloud is inevitable. It's the future of computing. So yeah, like I said, there are a lot of companies still in that beginner phase, they're still looking at cloud, they're still trying to figure out, "Is it for us? Should we migrate? How does it work?" But really, I think it's inevitable and even mainframes, they will cease to exist one day and cloud will be the thing that we all go to. It doesn't matter whether you're a bank or some other industry that has existed for decades, it will happen.

I don't think there's a choice, right? And what's interesting there serverless, I think, is the future of cloud computing as well.

Jeremy: Right, I agree.

Peter: This is why I think it's important to really understand that progression and know that if you are moving on to cloud provider, what are the serverless options? How do they work? When do I use them? Because if you're moving, does it make sense to just lift and shift? Or should you re architect for the cloud environment? And really take advantage of the power that it offers. So those are a lot of questions and they are hard questions. That's where education again comes in. Because you have to really clearly understand what a cloud provider is, what are the features that you get, what are the trade offs, cost, security, compliance, governance, those are all questions of education.

Jeremy: Yeah, and I totally agree with you. I think you should definitely learn cloud. I just wanted to make sure that I said, people who don't want to learn, give them a give them a little bit of out. But I think absolutely it is just the way things are going to be, and not only the lessons learned in the cloud or I guess the public cloud, but I think a lot of that is going to eventually translate into private clouds as well, right? I think that just the way that Alibaba is doing it, or the way that AWS is doing it, their best practices are going to become the best practices, whether it's on prem or in a public cloud anyways.

Peter: Yeah, completely agree there, right? You'll have your private clouds, public clouds hybrids. But once you learn how a public cloud works, why can't you transfer your knowledge and your skills to the way a private cloud from the same provider works? For example. You have a look at Azure Stack for example, well outpost right, you can have a little AWS center in your own data center. Right? That's cool. So it's awesome that you can transfer your skills there, backwards and forwards.

Jeremy: All right, so let's talk about serverless in general for a bit, because I think that people approach serverless. We talked about this a couple of minutes ago, where it is a completely different paradigm shift, if you want to call it that or mind shift or whatever we want to call it. It is certainly different, right? People need to start thinking asynchronously, they need to start thinking more along the lines of distributed systems. I had this debate the other day with somebody about, is it a microservice, Is it a monolith? All these things.

I'm not even sure that really matters anymore. I'm not sure you can define a serverless application as any one of these things. It's a little bit SOA, it's a little bit microservices, some people like nano services and things like that. So it is certainly a different way of thinking. So, how does somebody who maybe they have a little cloud experience maybe they I've done some stuff with EC2, maybe they've even ventured into containers, for example. What's the first step though, if you are new to serverless?

Peter: I think the first step, as with really any technology, is to get your hands dirty, right? This is what I would tell someone who was new to serverless. Create a Lambda function or an Azure function, or go to GCP, create something, deploy it, run it, see how it works, right? You have to get that initial burst of adrenaline and enjoyment. You have to get something working, activating in the cloud, right? Once you've done that, start building on that a little bit. Add a timer, make it work, make your function run, I don't know on a scheduled event. Integrate it with another service like SQS or SNS to send you an email.

So start building that rudimentary architecture just little by little, just to get that feel, that experience for the power. Suddenly you realize that, "Hey, I've done this. And I didn't need to provision a virtual machine, or I didn't need to create a Dockerfile." It just like code, right? It's code, and I've glued a few things together. It is now working, and it's scaling and it's giving me results. Then I think really, what you should do, is try to build something a little bit more meaningful.

So go find a tutorial, go find the course, something that will actually get you to build a system, right? So you can maybe build an online resume, or you can build ... I don't know, like a really small CMS or something like that, right? But do it practically. Something you can start composing functions together, you can start gluing services together, you'll start using infrastructure as code, because you have to, right? You're not going to be deploying functions manually by hand for too long. That's just going to get crazy and out of control, and suddenly you have to learn, IAM if you are in AWS.

And you'll be like, "Okay, how do I do authentication and authorization? Custom authorizers?" And so things will start slotting into place. But you really need to continuously do things with your own hands.

Jeremy: Right.

Peter: What's interesting for example, is we publish a bunch of courses on serverless. But all of those courses are practical. So you follow the instructor and you do things as that instructor does, right?

Jeremy: Right.

Peter: So we try to stay away from pure theory, because while theory is good, it doesn't really give you that hands on experience that you can then apply when you have to build something in production or for your company or your startup.

Jeremy: Yeah, I agree. It doesn't click until you actually see that work. So you mentioned the courses that A Cloud Guru does and obviously Yan Cui has done a bunch of courses, and Ant Stanley has just launched a new training platform I think and there's some other stuff going on. So there's obviously a market for training. I question is that because the cloud providers aren't doing a good enough job?

Peter: Look, I think it goes to the issue we discussed early, right? Cloud is so vast, it's so big, there's so many things happening. Just look at Kubernetes. I was actually trying to learn containers. I was like a beginner. I was like, "Wow, how do I start? What is all this container stuff and orchestration? And how does monitoring work?" It's just so large, and then you multiplied by other cloud providers, there needs to be that layer of education. So yeah, it's a very interesting space, it moves quickly. So people obviously look for interesting, engaging education from other that they can consume.

Jeremy: Yeah.

Peter: That's what we try to focus on. Right? Really interesting and engaging content that you can learn, that you can practically then try out yourself and do, and that will actually help you in your day to day job. It has to be applicable because we're all so super busy. Right? When you learn what you learn has to then be useful for you later on.

Jeremy: Yeah, I agree. I think that I've seen especially over the last couple of months, I know Azure has been putting quite a bit of energy into this. I know that AWS has grown their Developer Advocate team and they're trying to produce more content, doing more series, doing videos and all that stuff. I and I love it. I love the fact that they're producing all that information, but I also feel like, when you get some of this material directly from the source, right, so when it's AWS telling you, "Hey, here's how you do this, it's use AWS SAM, do this, do ... " It lays out their vision, which I think is good.

I think the sample serverless app that they released a couple of months ago was really interesting. Of course, it was obviously using all their services and doing it exactly the way that they would do it. I think that's very, very helpful. But I also think it's good to get that third party perspective, it's what I try to do with the podcast here to is to talk to people from different clouds, and I know we do a lot of AWS stuff, but at the same time, getting different perspectives and seeing how other people are accomplishing things, I think is just helpful especially depending on how certain people learn.

Peter: Yeah, I think it's fantastic. No single cloud provider can address all of the needs in education, it is just impossible, right? It's too large, it's too broad. For example, our training architects, they are all professionals, right? They all come from the industry and they both had hands on experience and that's what they're teaching, right? They are sharing the experience that they have had. That's interesting, right? I love learning like that. I want to learn from somebody who has actually done it and who can tell me, "Hey, just be careful. There's danger lies, there's a dragon here. That dragon will swallow you if you make the steps. You have to go left instead of going right."

That's interesting. That's what professional education should be about, it should be helpful. But yeah, look, I do love what AWS does, they have awesome people, they create awesome content. The more the merrier. It's great for everyone, I think. You too as well, the content that you create is awesome. It's so fun. It's so engaging. No wonder people come to you and follow you and watch what you do.

Jeremy: Well, I appreciate that. But I would recommend some other training courses. I write blog posts that hopefully make a point here there. But anyways, so one of the other things though I think that we see quite a bit is, you get organizations now starting to adopt serverless. It's great to have some of these one off courses here and there that an individual can take. But really, how do you scale that? And how do you learn at scale?

Peter: That is a key question that people come to us and ask all the time, because it is hard, right? First of all, how do you start? Where do you start? Where do you go once you've done the course? There needs to be a program, a systematic approach to really learning at an organization. At least from our perspective, we always recommend starting off with certifications. I think if you are an organization trying to get into cloud, trying to adopt and use AWS or Azure or GCP effectively, you have to create that common language, a baseline for everybody in the team, that you can then build on as you go ahead.

You and we know that cloud, it's a disruptive technology. Some people refer to it as that discontinuous innovation. In other words, it is that new technology that can solve an existing enterprise need in a new way. However, it does pose challenges. How do you adopted in an enterprise? How do you bring people on board? How do you educate them? How do you show best practice and do it all at scale? And so to be successful, you really need to hit a critical mass in terms of adoption and understanding of what cloud is in an enterprise.

If you take a look at the adoption lifecycle, it typically consists of five segments. So you have your innovators, then you have your early adopters, the early majority, the late majority and the laggards. I think this was originally proposed by Everett Rogers a few decades back, or we have Simon Wardley he talks about Pioneer, Settler, Town Planners in terms of how to think about organizational structure, to support long term innovation. You have your pioneers who come up with crazy ideas Settlers take those ideas and flesh them out, make them real.

Then Town Planners figure out how to scale them. As you go for that innovation lifecycle, the most difficult step is usually the transition between early adopters and the early majority. So to be successful, you need to create a bandwagon effect, in which enough momentum builds up for the technology to become a standard. Now to do that, you really need to have 10% of the population embrace the technology or embrace the cloud, right now example and become committed agents. So having 10% of committed agents in the population, is enough to create that bandwagon effect and create a hockey stick adoption of the technology.

The thing is, if you don't achieve that, you will see early adopters become disenfranchised. That's where you see that attrition of talent. Yeah, you go from your peak of inflated expectations, "Oh my god, cloud is amazing. We are going to do great things." To that trough of disillusionment.

Jeremy: Disillusionment. Yeah.

Peter: That's it. Yeah. By the way, this isn't my idea. This has been talked about a lot by others, like Simon Wardley, Drew Ferment, who is SVP of partnerships at A Cloud Guru speaks about this beautifully. So please have him on and he will tell you about this in great detail. He's fantastic. But to drive the adoption and achieve that bandwagon effect, you have to create a cloud culture right? So you have to create a culture of continuous learning. I think to do that, you need to start by building that common language, which can be created by getting people certified, getting people understanding the basics, getting the baseline, and that will help to create that organizational fluency right?

It will give people understanding of what they know and what they don't know and help them to begin speaking on the same terms, really. From there, you can build that momentum. With people learning more about cloud, you can structure a program, you can help them go from the beginner stages to that expert guru face level, that they want to get to. So those are very long winded explanation.

Jeremy: No, it's perfect. And it's funny, you again mentioning certification. For a very long time, I was on the fence with certification, because it was one of those things where, if you go out and you do the work, you're learning this stuff. The certification. Yeah, a stamp of approval. This was early on, right? This is earlier on with AWS when they first launched their certifications programs. I don't think there were a lot of job opportunities necessarily for people saying, "Oh, well, you need to have this AWS certification. You need to have this other certification."

But I think what I've come to realize over time is one, like you said, this common language for certification, I think is extremely important within an organization. But it also is a really good way for you to figure out what you don't know, right? They say there's like three learning, is the stuff you know you know, the stuff you know you don't know. Then the stuff you don't know that you don't know.

Peter: That's right.

Jeremy: The thing with cloud is it's just so vast like you said, there are a lot of things that you don't know that you don't know. Right? Taking one of those tests, even if it's just a practice exam, to show where those gaps are in your cloud learning, I think that's a really powerful argument for at least taking a certification course, whether you go through with it or not, I think it at least fill those knowledge gaps for you.

Peter: Agreed, and I think there are different advantages for individuals versus organizations.

Jeremy: Sure.

Peter: So for an individual, I'm completely with you right? It is awesome for figuring out where your gaps are. What you really know and what you don't know. I'll tell you a quick story. So I at one time decided to get certified and do three certifications in one week. So I decided to get the free associate certifications for AWS, the solutions architect, developer and SysOps, right? So I'm a developer, I come from a developer background, and I was like, "Should be a piece of cake. I'll just watch our courses. I'll be ready. I'll do practice exam I'll go in." So I went in and I did the three certifications.

With a two day gap between each one. I scored the best on the developer exam, because it was DynamoDB and Lambda and all the cool stuff that we love and talk about all the time. Then I scored poorly ... Well, I still passed but I scored the lowest on the SysOps exam. I realized that, "Hey, I actually don't really understand or know very well, some of the Sys admin sides of AWS." And I'm like I was making mental notes in the exam was like, "Okay, I need to look up this. I'm not sure about this, so I need to look it up as well. Then I need to go and really refresh this particular line."

It was eye opening, I had enough skills to pass, but I was like, "Wow, okay, I need to get back in and really continue to learn." I think another benefit of doing a certification is that, it forces you to do things that you normally wouldn't do. So even with a developer exam, you have to go and you have to try Elastic Beanstalk. Yeah, maybe you won't use it, because we're all serverless.

Jeremy: Yeah.

Peter: But it's good to know what it is and how it works and why it's there and when is a good case for it? And then I had to do ECS and deploy a container and use ECR the Container Registry, I was like, "Wow, nobody would never touch it. But my god now I know how to deploy a container and I know how Fargate will scale it and I know some of the properties." So it gives me a much more holistic understanding and perspective about cloud and the entirety of the experience. Then if I go back quickly to organizations like we said, and I know I'll get into a lot of trouble at work for saying this.

So maybe you should cut this out. But I don't think that certifications are a goal into themselves, right? The goal is really to create that organizational fluency. It's to give people an understanding of what they know and don't know, and to begin speaking on the same terms. And at the same time, I think they are a great yardstick for measuring the overall cloud fluency of an organization, right? You can actually see how much sure it is, by looking at how people are certified, at what level is the associate level is at the professional level. So there's a bit of an indicator there as well.

Jeremy: Yeah. No, I think that you made some really great points in there. Especially if you've ever had to use like ECS or deploy containers, things like that, that should be the argument for why you would use serverless, because you wouldn't want to have to do those things, right?

Peter: Exactly right. I was like, "Wow, that was fun. But my God, I want to go back to my function. I just want to focus on the code. I don't want to care about provisioning anymore." You see two instances. Well, luckily, there is Fargate.

Jeremy: Right. Exactly. All right, so let's move past just maybe serverless in general and just talk about I guess, education in general. So this is a conversation that you and I have had where, I think the value of going to college ... and this is maybe going to get way off the rails for some people, but the value of going to college and learning, getting a computer science degree, those things. I think there's a tremendous amount of value in a very practical degree. But I think there's also a tremendous amount of value in technical degrees.

By that I mean electricians or dental hygiene, all those things, that technical education hands on experience, as opposed to taking a bunch of general education classes and learning about the history of Western thought to 1600 or something like that. Some of these more general classes, and not that there's not value in those but, I think that especially for people who are maybe past college, and they want to change careers, they want to learn something new, they want to become a professional at something else, maybe they want to become a plumber or some other type of technician, or maybe they want to get into computers and they want to do some programming or something like that.

I don't think colleges are fitting the bill for a lot of those really technical hands on things that we need. This probably going to end up being the future of a lot of what we do. So where do you see the future of education going in general?

Peter: Jeremy, I think that is a great question. I think the future of education will be very different. I think this applies to all types of schooling, whether its primary, secondary K through 12, tertiary university college level, vocational education, or the professional, ongoing adult education. I think there are going to be a number of areas that will really change in the way education is delivered. How students are approached and what it's done. And let's talk about it in a second. But I think traditional educational organizations will really need to adopt and move quickly.

Because if they don't, they will fall behind. And they will find it harder, much harder to compete for students in the coming decades.

Jeremy: Yeah.

Peter: Just top of my head, I think if you want to succeed in education in the future, you have to do this right? Number one, you have to prioritize the student, and focus on the student experience. I think we can say safely that a lot of educational organizations don't really do that well, and we can do much better, all of us right/ As an industry. We need to go and start creating curated and personalized education for each individual. Let's say Jeremy Daly comes into my school and wants to learn something.

Why can't I make an assessment of Jeremy's skills and create a personalized curated path just for Jeremy? Why is everybody learning the same thing?

Jeremy: Right.

Peter: Not accounting for the person's strengths and weaknesses. Maybe Jeremy is awesome at math, but he needs more help with physics. So why can't we change our curriculum and deliver it in a way that will really help Jeremy, versus Peter who needs a different kind of help? I think next it's the deconstruction of the value chain. I think honestly, some of the top tier universities, they have a bit of a monopoly on education or that's how at least people perceive it. I think we need to break it down, I think we can really democratize education, and it doesn't matter whether you are in US or Australia or India or China, you should have access to great high quality education, regardless.

And it should be affordable, you should be able to do it and have a meaningful, successful life. So this is what we're really trying to achieve here. Subscription based learning, that basically talks about having this ongoing access to high quality resource that you can always tap into, right? Now we spoke about three years for a new job all the time. So you need to have access to a place where you can go and consistently find best practice and help. Just in time options, being able to consume education from your mobile phone, when you are busy.

Maybe you are on the train or bus and you want to look something up, you should have a resource to do that. I think another major thing is that educational organizations, they need to work with businesses, right? They need to really curate education and make sure that it's delivered for what the industry needs. It has to be relevant to the job market, and to what companies and organizations expect. Then of course, lastly you said focus on quality and currency. I spent eight years at a university right? So I spent many, many years and I did love it, right? I love doing computer science. I honestly did not want to get out.

But I know that a lot of what I learned was out of date. As much as I loved it, it really it set me up for research. I could have stayed and I could have done a lot of academic research, but it really didn't equip me for life in the industry and then I had to really quickly skill up. So being able to focus on the quality and currency and match the expectations of the industry. We have to all contribute to that. So yeah, that's a lot to get done. There's a lot to get done for all of us, I think.

Jeremy: So you talked about a lot of different things. I was taking notes as you were saying these because I'm like, "Yep, yep, yep, I agree with all these points." But one thing to know of out of date information, even the rules of beer pong in college has seemed to change, which is really weird.

Peter: Oh, no. Really?

Jeremy: I know. I went to a wedding, it was an after party for wedding but I was thrown by these changing rules-

Peter: [crosstalk].

Jeremy: But seriously though-

Peter: That's crazy.

Jeremy: Well, you and I will play old school next year when we [crosstalk].

Peter: Okay.

Jeremy: But you made some really good points and one of the points you made was about personalizing the educational experience. Now I can't tell you how much I have been just beating the drum on this because my wife is a third grade teacher, and they piloted a program at her school a couple of years ago back, where every student had a little tablet, and they would take their math tests on the tablet. Then what it would do is it would give my wife on her computer an immediate tally, of which questions people were having or which questions the kids were having trouble with.

So she could see, okay, they're having problems whatever it was, multiplying fractions or something like that, or some concept that they were having trouble with. Then she would know as a result of that, that she could teach, review the things that were the weaknesses for the majority of the kids. But that only goes so far. You're still got kids who understand that, maybe some other kids have weaknesses on something else. The ability for these systems now ... and this probably ties back to serverless I would say, is the ability of the scale, I guess, the capabilities of the cloud for you to build these machine learning technologies and the ability for you to hone in on what it is that somebody doesn't understand.

And then even what I was saying about that different perspective, maybe student A is a visual learner, maybe student B is more of a reading or hands on learner or whatever. If there is a way that you see which types of education, which types of content they respond better to, where their weaknesses are, and can feed that information to them, so that you strengthen them on those individual pieces, that's huge, right? That is, to me the future of education. That's not something that you're going to do, sitting in a lecture hall with 300 kids for a general education class.

The other thing you mentioned too about this idea of I guess quality versus quality and currency, if you go to a university now, especially in the United States, it's different in other countries, but you are walking out with a degree and likely $50,000 in student loan debt, right?

Peter: Yeah.

Jeremy: And for a couple hundred dollars, you can get a subscription to A Cloud Guru for the year or LinkedIn Learning or any of these other online training platforms that are out there. Probably A Cloud Guru. That's probably the one you want to go to. But honestly, I learned a lot of stuff in college. I know I did. Of course this was 20 some old years ago, but, when I got out of college, it wasn't until I started reading blogs and watching videos and getting hands on and doing stuff, that I actually use most of what I know today.

So this idea of being able to constantly feed education to people, in a way that doesn't put them into debt for the rest of their life ... not that college isn't an experience that maybe you have to have, but I think for a lot of people that, access to this constant education is just absolutely game changing. You're going to learn more in a six hour course on A Cloud Guru or in one of these other training platforms, then you might learn an entire semester in a college course, that you're paying thousands of dollars for.

Peter: Yeah.

Jeremy: So, I do think that's really, really interesting.

Peter: Yeah, I completely agree with everything you said. I think that's going to be what makes education effective in the future. It's that curated personalized education. You spoke about A Cloud Guru, we have full time training architects, instructors, who what they do every day, right, is they create content. Whenever anything changes, they update it. Right?

Jeremy: Right.

Peter: So when you go to the platform, you know that what you're getting is the latest version. You're getting that latest best practice. So suddenly, what you are learning in a lecture hall, right, doesn't really match what you could be learning online because, that content is much more up to date. So that's an interesting aspect as well. Yeah, the currency and the quality. Yeah. Because we can continuously iterate on it. I think that universities too have an important function that cannot be done with just an online delivery of education.

That element is really that ... It's going to sound harsh, but it's babysitting, right? Because just after you finish school, right? There's still a little bit of time for a lot of people to mature, right? They need to go through that maturation phase. Going to university, going to college allows people to do that, right? It allows them to build social connections. It allows them to learn how to work in a team, maybe better than they did at school. So it gives them that opportunity to mature before they go into the industry.

As much as I love online education, and I think it is the future, there is that element that still needs to be solved, that social element. But I think we'll figure things out, maybe it'll be some blended learning, where you do get that up to date curated delivery of education online. Then there's an additional element where you go and you socialize with your peers. So yeah, we'll see how all that pans out.

Jeremy: Yeah, totally agree. And you mentioned to this idea of tying universities or training too the job market, that is one of those things that's if you're a large corporation, and you're looking to hire developers, or you're looking to hire whatever it is, you have specific needs, you have things that you want these people to know. I think that there are a lot of overlaps between most corporations in terms of ... and again, not just corporations. These are small businesses, these are startups, these are other companies that are going to have the same type of needs.

That information has to get back down to the people who are creating the education materials. I don't think a lot of colleges want to hear that. I know there's some partnerships. I think AWS is doing some partnership with universities and trying to create curriculum for them and things like that. I think that's a great start. But I don't think we're anywhere near where we need to be, like you said, there's a ton of work that's left to be done.

And just from if you're already in a job, if your company is not giving you resources to go and learn, to get continuing education, whether it's a subscription or something like that, or they're doing regular trainings, or hackathons or something, that they're giving you some time to keep up to date, you're doing your company a disservice, right? You have to keep your employees learning because that's the other great thing too is, just motivating them to stay in their job be like, "Oh, I got to learn about ... I don't know, EventBridge or something like that and that was cool. I learned all these new things."

And maybe there's something we can do that integrates that, that will make our company better and our product better and deliver better value to our customers.

Peter: Yeah, and frankly, it's a business risk for the company as well. Right? You want to have your people, be as knowledgeable as possible, to have expertise to know what's available and how to use things and what is actually best practice. Because you have competition, right? And that competition is trying to do what you do better and faster and cheaper, and they are working hard at it. So if you're not giving your people a chance to learn and figure out what is the next thing, you're really doing your business a big disservice.

You know what's interesting, I think some companies think that, "Hey, if I give our stuff education, right? They will learn, they'll get certified, they'll get awesome, and then they will leave." And yeah, sure, it could be a risk. But I think there's a bigger, bigger, much bigger risk, to have your stuff without that education. Not give them the opportunity to learn, not give them the opportunity to lift your entire company, to lift your entire organization. We've dealt with those new skills. It's massive.

Jeremy: I totally agree. Totally agree. All right, so let's maybe close this off with some advice for learners. So we talked about how to get started with serverless early on, but maybe just general advice for people looking for the type of stuff that A Cloud Guru produces?

Peter: Yeah. Look, here's what I would do, right? If you are wanting to get certified, that's your goal. So here's how you could study. If you are a complete beginner coming in. Go to A Cloud Guru, do a certification course, watch the entire course. Follow along, do everything that the instructor does, all the practical labs, read the white papers, go through all the suggested blog posts and resources, just do as much as you can right? Then do a practice exam, and see how you have faired. See where your gaps are.

Because we have practice exams that can help you identify, "Hey, maybe my PC knowledge isn't really good. So I need to double down on that." It's really good if you don't have that much background. If you are very experienced, right? So let's say Jeremy, you want to go get certified, get that professional level certification? I would do the other way. I would actually take a practice exam first, right? I would use that to identify my gaps, right? "Hey, I'm great at storage, and I understand S3 and security, but I need a little bit of extra help with ... I don't know subnets and routing tables.

Peter: And then I would focus on that area because frankly, unless you have heaps of free time, if we need to be very efficient with what we do and what we study. So yeah, I would use that practice exam, to really help me figure out the areas, the gaps that I have and then go and double down on them. Then I could do the practice exam again and figure out, "Okay, is there anything else that I need to know? Or am I ready for the exam?" So these are the two kinds of different strategies and, they work relatively well for different kinds of people.

Jeremy: Mm-hmm.

Peter: If you just want to learn serverless, then like I said before, go do something practically, deploy function, hook something together, use SNS, SQS, send an email, do something right? Then get a course and build a bigger system. Continue building, continue doing things practically and hands on. And then share.

Jeremy: Oh, yeah. I agree.

Peter: I find that the best companies that create that cloud culture, those companies create awesome internal communities, help people share what they've learned, right? To get people contributing blog posts and ideas and suggestions and going to the community, tweet. Create a gist of what you've learned and share that around, and that's awesome. It gives you a lot of satisfaction, and actually promotes that knowledge in your brain as well. So just go and do it.

Jeremy: Yeah, and actually I totally agree with you on sharing. That's one of those things where, I know for me when I first started doing some blog posts that, I basically would write something down I'd be like, "Wait a minute? Is that right?" And then I would do a bunch of research to make sure that what I was saying was right, and then from there you learn more right? You learn more by writing that stuff and sharing it and putting it out there, and if you write a good post about serverless, send it to me and I'm more than happy to amplify that the best I can in the Off-by-none newsletter. And share that with people but I think one of the-

Peter: I love it. I think Jeremy, like what you said is spot on. If you can clearly articulate and explain the concept to somebody else, then you have really understood that idea yourself.

Jeremy: Right.

Peter: That's how you test right? In a few sentences, explain something to somebody who doesn't know what that is, then yeah, you understood, you learned you what it is now. That's how you can really check. So sharing, creating your own knowledge and sharing that is key to really validating that you have learned that material.

Jeremy: Yeah, and I think one of the other things you were getting to the point of with depending on what you're coming into, or if you're getting certified ... I guess what your goal is, right? So I think when you're trying to educate yourself on something, you should really pick that goal, right? Then target content for that goal.

Peter: That's it. You have to have a goal. Yeah, It drives you, right? A goal ... If you have something in front of you and you need to achieve it, that's important. Yeah, certification is great. By the way, if you don't have a cert it's a cool experience. But, come up with a project, do something fun.

Jeremy: That's true. Side projects are always great.

Peter: Side project. Yeah, exactly. Go in GitHub, you can contribute to open source, or maybe you just want to build a game. Or maybe you want to build a little platform yourself. Because once you start building, you'll be learning. It will push you to do more, more and more. Then yeah, you can share with us and we'd be happy to learn from you. That's great. That's why people have GitHub repos. That's why they create all these projects. That's what you do it. That's what I do. It's very effective.

Jeremy: Totally agree. So one last thing. So A Cloud Guru just recently acquired Linux Academy. So what's that all about?

Peter: Yeah, so look, we are joining forces, A Cloud Guru and Linux Academy. Well, it is great. There's going to be a lot of great content for you whether you want to learn AWS or Azure or GCP or Linux or you want to go into Kubernetes and containers, basically we're trying to bring best of both worlds together, into one. So yeah, watch the space, there's a lot of cool stuff that will come out. Not giving you dates. But I know our teams are working very hard. So watch the space.

Jeremy: Yeah, well, there's great content on both platforms. So it'll be really interesting to see those all merge together.

Peter: That's it. Yeah.

Jeremy: Anyways, listen, Peter, thank you so much for taking the time to rant about education with me, and go off the rails about colleges and universities. But seriously, you're a serverless hero, you have done a ton of great work for the community. You have a book and there's some other things so if people want to get in touch with you or find out more about some of the other things you do, how can they do that?

Peter: Look, my Twitter, LinkedIn, anybody can connect, please connect. Let's talk. If you have any questions about cloud education, generally serverless, please get in touch. I'd love to talk to you. Yeah, you can find me at various conferences and events throughout the year as well. Hopefully Jeremy we'll get to hang out very soon at a summit or an event. So yeah, please connect and yeah, happy to talk to you, to anyone, at any time.

Jeremy: Awesome. All right, well, I will get all of that contact stuff in the show notes. Thanks again, Peter.

Peter: Thank you, Jeremy.

What is Serverless Chats?

Serverless Chats is a podcast that geeks out on everything serverless. Join Jeremy Daly and Rebecca Marshburn as they chat with a special guest each week.