Ep#80 Creating Content for Disney and now AWS

August 15, 2022

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About the Guest

Justine Garrison

Justin loves open source almost as much as he loves community. He is not a fan of buzz words but searches for the patterns and benefits behind technology trends. He frequently shares his findings and tries to disseminate knowledge through practical lessons and unique examples. He is an active member in many communities and constantly questions the status quo. He is relentless in trying to learn new things and giving back to the communities who have taught him so much.

Episode Summary

I would rather entertain and hope that people learned something than educate people and hope they were entertained” ~ Walt Disney

Justin provides us an insight on how he comes up with his entertaining but educational ideas.

Interesting in learning more about Brand Relationships and Content Creating. Check out my podcast with Corey Quinn HERE!

If you're interested in learning more check out the AWS WAF Website.
Are you looking to attend an AWS Summit or maybe AWS re:invent, more information here!

Episode Show Notes & Transcript

Host: Jon

This meeting is being recorded.

Host: Jon

Uh, oh, this meeting's being recorded. <laugh> I love it. Don't worry. Anything. We'll make it to the blooper reel. So you're guaranteed to have some highlights. All right. Let's kick things off. Ready? 3, 2, 1, please join me in welcoming Justin Garrison, senior developer advocate for AWS to the show. Justin. Thanks for joining me.

Guest: Justin

Hey, Jon. Thanks for having me on.

Host: Jon

All right, Justin, I reached out to you on LinkedIn. Actually. I have a couple of my previous guests suggest that I reached out to you as well on some of the videos that you were doing on LinkedIn, because they resonate with me as a technical person before we get to a couple of those. How about a little backstory on yourself?

Guest: Justin

Yeah, I'm Justin. I live in Southern California. Uh, I started my tech career in help desk, um, doing various things with desktop support, phone support, all different things, uh, slowly moved into like a assist admin role and development role. And, and now I'm a developer advocate at AWS. So that's the very condensed version of my, my 15 year career.

Host: Jon

Okay. Justin, some of my other guests will give me at least five minutes long. I think that was a 32nd like elevator pitch onto your career. We, we gotta peel that back a little bit. Uh, help desk. You were in help desk as well. Is it, is that a tradition that every person in it must enter into help desk to understand things before they progress?

Guest: Justin

To me, it gave me a lot of empathy, not only for, uh, the users, but also for the help desk staff, because that's just like a big area where as I see a lot of people that jump past that don't know what it's like to receive end user calls, and they don't know how to make help for error messages or explain things in a way to someone over the phone. I mean, we've all had that conversation with our parents before someone we're trying to explain like, no click on this part. Oh, now did you do this? Uh, and those are really hard cause you're, you're blind leading someone that doesn't understand and being able to kind of have that communication ability is, is really key to a lot of people in their career, whether you're a, a developer that never talked to customers or you are on that like customer facing role. And it helped me a lot. I worked in a help desk sort of role helping end users for almost 10 years.

Host: Jon

I think that's helped you kind of put together some of your videos. Uh, I've watched a number of them on LinkedIn, YouTube. We we're gonna talk fully on why you and how you put these together a little bit more about you as a senior developer advocate at AWS. Really? What do you do?

Guest: Justin

I make videos. Of course <laugh>

Host: Jon

Well, so do I, but <laugh> yours are definitely entertaining and very informative. I really enjoy them, but, okay, so you make videos, you make videos about what?

Guest: Justin

Well, and I guess at AWS, my goal as a developer advocate is to make our products better. And I came from a long time customer. I was a customer of AWS before, and, and then when I switched over to working AWS, I, I, as we call it, we got demoted as like now I work here. Um, the customers are always, always, you know, the promotion side of it, but I really had the goal of making products better. And I was like, Hey, I've worked with a lot of these things. How would I make it better for the next person coming on or the next generation of companies building systems on top of what AWS provides. And the only ways that I've really found to do that are to prioritize work and to make sure that the right features and bug fixes and things get prioritized first, or to help educate the customers and make the customers better at using the tools at fitting the right purpose to the right tool.

Guest: Justin

And, and AWS has a lot of services and we often get questions about which one should I use for what thing. And I try to educate people in those areas of saying like, Hey, I can help save you time by educating you up front and saying, oh, maybe if you're using this type of service or you're building this sort of thing you want to focus on using this service inside of AWS. And those are the two ways that I've found the best way to make the products better. And, and that's really where I just focus. I just kinda go back and forth between making the product prioritization and writing code to actually help the, the service itself and the other side, switching to then telling customers and saying, Hey, this is how you should use this thing. Or this is how you can understand this new feature we created or how it works

Host: Jon

Before joining AWS. Were you making videos or how did you get into making some of this content?

Guest: Justin

Um, that's actually a really long history. Uh, I grew up, is

Host: Jon

It longer than your elevator pitch? Because we've got time

Guest: Justin

<laugh> it is, it is quite a bit longer. Uh, I grew up watching bill night, a science guy, and a lot of the stuff that he did, many people probably don't remember him, but he basically would represent scientific things in very interesting, entertaining way. And, uh, I worked at Disney for quite a long time, and I love a quote from waltz, uh, who said a long time ago that I would rather entertain and hope people learn something than educate and hope they were entertained. And I really took that to heart where I was just like, yeah, like, that's my style. Like I want to just entertain people and hopefully you learn something out of it, but if you don't, that's okay, you were entertained and you laughed, you had fun. And those are the things that I really focus on. A lot of the times and bill Knight, a science guy, I think really did that.

Guest: Justin

And even throughout my life, like other people start doing that in different areas. Uh, Alison brown is another one. Who's a cook who does things in very interesting, sort of like, uh, not cartoony, but like he has props for things and he has puppets and he tries to explain the, the things that are invisible to what's happening inside your food. And he makes them big invisible. And I've been doing that with technology videos for a long time, actually. Um, I found an old video that I filmed, uh, over 10 years ago at a job that I was, I was working, part-time writing for a website called how to geek.com and I wanted to make a video series for them. So I started grabbing my friends and we just started filming weird random stuff that I was like, oh, how does a hard drive work? Well, maybe I represent it with a filing cabinet and I, I have never edited those videos.

Guest: Justin

They're really bad. Uh, but it, I realized it was a passion of mine over 10 years ago that I was making these sort of videos of like, how do you make the invisible things visible? How do you teach people about things that are really hard to grasp and understand in a way that's memorable? And it's not always the same, like one to one ratio. Oh yeah, this is exactly how this thing works. But learning is really just a series of, of more true or less true lies. Right? Like we start off and it's like, oh, what's the sun. Oh, it's like, it's energy. Oh, no, like what's the sun. Oh, it's a, it's a star. Okay. Well it's the sun. Oh, it's actually like fusion happening in atoms that create all this. Like you have to get progressively closer and closer to that thing that is more true than when you started out. And a lot of my videos start at that very high level entry sort of like, Hey, what is just this thing? How do I conceptually understand it? And I like to kind of meet people there and then dive deeper. If they want understand more. I try to like go into some of the details of like, okay, now how do you stand understand this piece of that puzzle that they're trying to learn

Host: Jon

How to geek? Oh, that brings back memories. Wait, so I've probably watched some of your stuff I'm going. Does that still exist?

Guest: Justin

Yeah, absolutely. Uh, well, in, in the gang they've been running it for quite a while. They've expanded quite a bit to different, uh, stuff I did mainly Lenux content for them for two years. Uh, that was my sort of focus was I was a Lenox desktop user. I ran a podcast for Lenux mint. Uh, my, myself and someone else in the community started it. And we ran that for two years. I wrote for how to geek for a couple years. And these were all just kind of things that I was volunteering for, uh, how chick got paid, but it was, I think it was like 20 bucks an article, uh, at the time. And so it wasn't much, but I was spending, you know, a few hours like researching and, and creating stuff. And a lot of times I was just creating stuff for myself. And I was just like, Hey, what thing did I learn this week? Uh, I, I've always been kind of a, a nerd with Linux building my own, my own home theater, PCs, my network storage, hosting stuff on my land, and then figuring out, okay, now how do I teach someone how to do this? Let me do step by step. So they can just cut through all of the forum posts and bad documentation that I had to go through.

Host: Jon

Bill I Alton brown, good eats was his thing where you and I love watching his show and how he could break down, you know, the food and everything, uh, is really good. You kind of approach content the same way that I, I kind of do though. Mine are not as entertaining as yours. Maybe I will get there. Maybe I gotta do some more funny stuff on it and, uh, enjoyable using different props. But if you run across an issue or a problem, isn't it weird how you think I gotta share this with everybody. I gotta write song. I gotta put something together because I can't be the only one that just came across it.

Guest: Justin

The really interesting part to me was doing that stuff when I learned it. And then five years or more later, someone sends me a message. I just learned this thing from you. Thank you so much. And it's like, those residual sort of benefits are amazing because I never would've thought, you know, when I was learning it, that was my time in that progression of what I was doing. And maybe I don't even touch that technology anymore. Maybe I've even forgotten what I've written. Uh, but people are all on different journeys and everyone is going through their path at different times. And by having this sort of asynchronous communication between people, it makes it so much easier just to reach a broader audience at not only different locations, but also different time periods of their lives, or just in general. Like, I don't know what the world's gonna be like in two years.

Guest: Justin

Um, so I don't even know if some stuff I'm writing is relevant in two years, but that doesn't matter because I can still write it down for me when I teach it. I learn it better. I, I cement it in my own mind as well, because then I can kind of go back to that sort of, how did I explain this before? Oh yeah, that was the thing I did. I did a, a talk at CubeCon oh, probably four years ago now. And I gave that talk a few times at different conferences. And now it's just my go-to way to represent when someone's like what's Kubernetes. And it's like the thing that I kind of got involved in and now I was like, okay, well, let's pull up a Google sheet, right? Here's a, here's a spreadsheet and I'll show you how Kubernetes works. And that's literally what the talk was about, was like, let's show you what Kubernetes is and we'll do it with a spreadsheet cuz people can visually understand spreadsheets more than they can understand API servers and databases and all this other stuff.

Host: Jon

Speaking of Kubernetes, you had some content I wanna talk about cuz I really enjoyed. I watched you had a four by four, not a two by four, a four by four to a plastic container for autoscaler. You want to talk about how you came up with this content because first of all, everybody, I employ you to go check it out, follow Justin on LinkedIn. We'll talk about some more places that you can actually follow him. But this video is very informative and I liked it cuz all of a sudden you're like, oh yeah, here's a Linux memory controller. Bam. And you broke it all over place. You wanna talk about how you created that and came up with that video?

Guest: Justin

I think some of the most, the things that have resonated the most with people are the things that I don't think too much about the, the things that I just like have a basic idea for. And then I just start trying it and then once I try it, then I'm like, okay, now I just gotta fill in a gap here and how do I fill that gap? And those are the things that are more intuitive. Those are the things that's just like, oh literally I didn't have a four by four in mind when I was creating that video, I had the plastic, the plastic containers. I had the water, I had some sort of idea that like, oh I need this to go away. Like what happens when it fills up with memory? And, and I had four by fours, a pile of four by four, is there outside in my backyard where I was shooting it.

Guest: Justin

So I was just like, oh, this will work. And, and that sort of like, not only was it surprising to people, right? <laugh> like, where did this come from? But also like, it was, it was funny. Like it was just like it that surprise that contrast of like you're explaining something and then you get surprised something it's like, oh, that was memorable because it wasn't really thought out it wasn't planned. It wasn't scripted. And, and even in the video, like I'm laughing. Like I hit the, the, the cup and water went everywhere. Like my phone was soaking wet. The microphone was wet. And I, I was laughing because I was like, oh, did I just ruin everything? And so I cut it at the, at the laugh basically, but I had to like stop and like clean everything. I was like, is everything okay still?

Guest: Justin

Uh, and, and that was just like really, uh, like it was real. It wasn't something that I had planned for. It wasn't something that I was like, oh, this worked and this worked and you know, movies and TV are often scripted, but people love, uh, watching, you know, non-scripted television. They're like, oh, this is, I don't know what's gonna happen yet. Yeah, you do kind of know. But the surprises, the things that were unexpected, the human behavior is what we really kinda latch onto a lot of times. And even live streaming. People love live streaming, cuz you don't know how people someone's gonna react or what's gonna happen. And so when you're doing like a demo on stage or a live stream, video games or technology, people love that. Cuz they're like where's the, the suspense is, I don't know what's gonna happen next. And just being a little bit, you know, creative in that mindset of just like, how would I explain this right now with what I have around me, uh, is, is something that is not only a little freeing, cuz I don't have to think about it too much, but also it seems to resonate more because I guess some people think like I do or at least like those sort of analogies that come to me and, and yeah, like everyone thinks different.

Guest: Justin

Everyone has different ways of teaching things. And I always encourage people like don't try to do what I do try to do. What makes sense to you try to find the thing that's like, oh how would you teach this to you? The younger self of you. And, and I bet you there's other people out there that learn the same way and there everyone that's listening to you or watching you now will resonate with that. If they really like the way the style of your teaching and the way you learn

Host: Jon

Unscripted, that's really how I like to run the podcast in our conversations. As Justin's indicated, everything's unscripted here on the show and his stuff is unscripted. I think one of 'em that sits really and resonates with me is, and, and from memory is you had these buckets and you were talking about storage, I believe, and you were pouring it in and here's a bucket for this and everything. And that's where I came to start following you on LinkedIn. It was like, wow, I'm not a big Kubernetes fan and I know what it is and I follow it, but that really actually kind of sat with me and I understood how you were explaining it and how it worked probably better than I could have got written in any book or article.

Guest: Justin

Yeah. And the depth, uh, like videos are short that short form video less than a minute is really hard. And so the depths not there, but conceptually you understand now, and you can associate that because people are really good at discovering patterns and you may not know how Kubernetes does it, but you know how your computer with a hard drive did it or how S3 did it or something else that you've used in the past. And you're like, oh, a bucket. I know what a bucket is. Maybe they, they're not exactly the same, but I understand what it's used for or how I might use it in the future. And people are so good at recognizing those patterns, especially with concrete examples, abstract stuff is a little bit harder sometimes if I'm like, oh, well there's this bucket that exists inside of a hard drive.

Guest: Justin

And you're like, I don't understand what you're talking about, but if I show you a physical bucket and say, put stuff in here, like, oh, I know how that works. Like I don't <laugh> okay, sure. I'll just throw some stuff in there. And, and those are the things that I think can make that stuff that, that invisible stuff so much more visible and relatable cause like, oh, okay, now I can understand, I can use this somewhere else. What happens if two people wanna use the bucket? Is that possible? Let's figure out those sort of use cases. Uh, but the actual just idea behind what do I want this for? Why does this exist? Uh, those are the pieces that in the short form videos, I really like to try to tackle

Host: Jon

With the short form videos. Do you find that a lot of the audience wants more or says, oh, you forgot this. Oh, don't, don't forget that. And they always want to add onto it, but the whole premise around it is to just wet your appetite and get you to understand the basics. And then you build on top of that. How do you handle that?

Guest: Justin

I love it. When people tell me something they're trying to learn. I, every time someone tells me in person or online, like, Hey, I love this video. I always ask them, what are you learning right now? What is the thing that you're trying to learn? Cuz I have a note that I just keep, it's a backlog of probably a hundred items and they're like, these are all ideas. I'm not gonna act on all of them, but I slowly can think on some of 'em and like, oh this one gives me an idea or, oh, I was out mowing the lawn and I had this idea for how something works. <laugh> um, those sort of moments of inspiration kind of happen. And then I just go to my note, I type in like, oh, this thing is kind of like mowing the lawn and then I'll just come back to it later.

Guest: Justin

I just like, I don't, I don't need the whole script of the video. Cause it is only a minute, but I just need a, a piece of it. Like how would I again teach this to my kids or the younger version of myself and how would that sort of resonate? And so those are the things that I really try to focus on. It's just like, what are people learning right now? One of the hardest things is keeping it to a minute because there's always more to say there's always more depth that I'm like, oh, this isn't right. I know because I know the technology because I know the details. This piece is a lie and you just have to get over that. You just have to say like, most people aren't coming for those details. They're not coming for that other piece. They want to just know the overview.

Guest: Justin

They wanna know why does this exist again? And so those are the things that I really try to focus on, especially in that short form video, because it's just too hard to go into all the details and sure. There's people that are that come to me and like, oh, you got this wrong. Oh, you said the wrong word here. And that's sort of that benefit of not being scripted. And, and there's a downside to that too, because it isn't always a hundred percent accurate, but I hope to help people just like say, oh, I understood this a little more now. Now I can go understand the details later. And, and then if I don't need to know that that's fine. It was a minute of my time and maybe I was entertained. Great. That's part of the goal.

Host: Jon

Are, are you saying that we're gonna see a lawnmower in one of your episode soon? <laugh>

Guest: Justin

Uh, I, I don't have any lawnmower. I do have things on outside on my lawn. Uh, but uh, I, I don't have a lawnmower anymore right now.

Host: Jon

<laugh> are you following like an 80 20 rule one creating videos like 80%? Ah, this is, this is really good. 80% of it. And maybe 20 of it is, I don't wanna say a lie, but you like, you indicated you have to get over that a little bit, but you have the basics, the foundations for people to retain and take it one step further on their own

Guest: Justin

With a one minute video. I find I cut so much stuff out

Host: Jon

Now for a quick interruption, a huge shout out to our friends at Veeam for sponsoring this episode, Veeam backup for AWS can easily protect all of your Amazon C two RDS and data. Wait a second. They can protect my VPC data too. Yep. That's right. Simplify AWS, backup and recovery while ensuring security and compliance. All right. Now, back to our episode

Guest: Justin

With a one minute video, I find I cut so much stuff out that like, I don't, I don't even bother, like I, I get like the 10% mark of the thing that I wanted in there then I'm good. And a lot of times for the short form videos, it's really hard to context switch. So I try to go if I have a repeating representation for something, I go and I shoot four or five of the videos at a time. And I say, okay, this is gonna be easier for me just to do two hours of shooting rather than like a half hour here and a half hour there. And so I'll just do them all back to back and it helps with some of that continuity between like, Hey, by the way that last video we told you about this thing, uh, and the visuals also help because they're consistent it's oh yeah, here's that bucket again.

Guest: Justin

Here's that container, whatever it is. And so those things do kind of carry over. But a lot of times it's just, if I wanna land the one thing I want someone to learn, I'm hoping I do that within 20 seconds. And if, if I did great, I can add some details to the end. Um, but a lot of times, again, short form videos are just so restrictive and it is a challenge. And I kind of love that challenge, cuz challenges bring out more creativity and they make you push yourself a little more. Like how could I show this? Instead of say it right? What's something that I could have like a t-shirt that had a label or a text on the screen rather than have to say, Hey, I'm a Kubernetes cluster. Like I don't need to do that. Cuz you can read Kubernetes cluster and then just see what I do. And some of those like compression tricks are really kind of interesting to have in there and sometimes are a little more accurate or a little more, uh, engaging because it makes someone read and stop and say, oh, this is the thing I had to consume that I had to understand the words first. And then he told me or showed me what they were doing.

Host: Jon

You said some of those tricks. Are there any tricks for those out there looking to create some of these short videos or engaging content, something like you're doing or any tricks that you've learned along the way that you can share

Guest: Justin

The biggest tip or trick? I guess that I tell anyone is to have fun, that that amount of fun you're having creating the video comes across so quickly in this swipeable sort of medium of, of short form videos of, I don't, I don't care anymore. Someone can tell pretty quick if you overthought, uh, a short video, <laugh> like you can tell someone's like thinking in their head about what to say at the intro. And some people are more natural with it. Some people just go right into that hook and they're like, oh, this is the thing. A lot of people will like say, you have to do this, this, this inside your short form video. Like I just have fun. And the, the videos that I've had the most fun with are typically the ones that resonate the most with people watching it. And that just comes across so well.

Guest: Justin

And it doesn't matter if you're again doing props, just teach how you like to teach. And if you're excited about something, if you're excited about learning something and excited about telling someone else about it, if that comes across in your video, it doesn't actually matter how many likes or how many views you get. Um, because you're having fun and that's actually the key to success. There is just having fun with it. Uh, I will say that most of my videos do terrible on, on various other platforms. I have a TikTok. Most of those videos have maybe a couple hundred views, uh, you know, less than 10 likes. Um, but then I, I repost them somewhere else. I'll post them on LinkedIn. I'll post them on Twitter and occasionally some of 'em really resonate and they actually get traction and more people can see it. And that's cool, but that's not the goal.

Guest: Justin

I had so much fun making it. And I just love engaging with people and learning more things about what they're learning. That to me was really the ultimate piece of like, Hey, what if we did these short form videos? And, and when I had the idea for it earlier this year, we were doing long form streams. We were doing traditional YouTube videos and, and those were okay, but it was really hard to kind of condense some of the learning and help people. Cause it's like, Hey, you're gonna dedicate an hour of your time to learn this thing and we're gonna go deep into it. But I was like, what if we just gave people a minute of their, you know, a minute of the learning experience of that longer form video, what would that look like? And that's where I started iterating on how do we get more people just to understand the basics. You don't need to go depth, just kind of go breadth on this exists. This is why and helping people be better versions of themselves, helping people find their own path and learn the things they want to learn. One minute at a time,

Host: Jon

I can tell you really enjoy creating the content because that's actually what drives me to watch the video. Whether it's on LinkedIn now I'm not on TikTok. Not yet. Not saying I will never be <laugh>. I always say I've gotten rid of saying never because I said I would never be on YouTube and uh, look where that's gotten me, but I can tell you have a lot of fun with it. Do you have people reaching out to you for like ideas? Hey, could you create this, but think of something or is it, is it harder for, to think of something for somebody else or versus yourself?

Guest: Justin

It's usually harder to think of something for someone else. Um, a lot of the feedback I've got from people is, you know, what are you learning? And they're like, oh, I learned this fantastic new technology and I don't know anything about it. And those are things I'm like, wow, this is, this sounds interesting. But I would've to start from scratch and, and starting from scratch is okay, cuz I can go from, Hey, I, I spent three hours reading the docs. This is the thing I learned in a minute and that's still okay. You can still teach those things too, but it's hard to kind of connect and represent some of those patterns, uh, unless I I'm able to connect them to something else that I know. Cause once I, when I went from, you know, being a, a CI admin to a developer, I had to figure out what was it like running servers.

Guest: Justin

And now what is it like writing code? All of the things that I would associate code with a Linux service or a text file on, you know, like something like at a Linux level, at a file system level. I'm like, okay, how does this work? How does this library work? How does this other thing work? And I always associated those things back and forth with the things that I knew in the past. And so those are the easier things to teach. I think when you have a connection yourself to something in the past and you're like, oh, this is kinda like that other thing. I bet sure. There's other people that also connect it the same way and you can explain it that way and they'll help them come forward to learn a new thing. Uh, but learning, you know, or teaching things that are like out there as far as I've never touched it before, it's really just a matter of immersing myself in it to kind of understand what do I think the essence of this thing is?

Guest: Justin

Or why does this exist? Uh, which is really, again like the videos I create there's you can tell people something exists, which is more just like, Hey, look at this website, you can tell people how to do something, which is like, oh, take these steps. Or you can tell someone, why is it here? And the why is it here? I think are the more abstract things. Those are the things I tend to focus on the details of like, oh, here's the how to, you know, run a four loop and bash or something. Like I could show you that text on a screen and it's not gonna be the most exciting people will absolutely learn from it. Some people are gonna love it because they're at that point of, I need to learn how to do this, but that's not my, that's not the people I'm trying to reach right now. And those people that I'm trying to reach are, Hey, I'm just trying to get into this Kubernetes thing. What is it for? Why would I use it? Uh, where, why would I run it in AWS? Those are all areas that I really focus on that audience, uh, just to kind of reach out to them and say, yeah, this is if you're starting from scratch, let's just let you know. Would you wanna use this at all? Why do these things, why are these things here? And then we'll, we'll go from there

Host: Jon

For loop and bash. Have you created a video yet for that? Because that sounds like an idea. I can see like a revolving, like, okay, knock one all. Oh, okay. We're gonna have to spit all that idea. Write that down on your list. Plus one from me, uh, I would love to see what that video contains. Maybe some yard stuff, something around the house, maybe the books on your shelf, whatever, but <laugh>, that'd

Guest: Justin

Be, I, I, I actually, I do have sketches for like more complex systems that I was like, Hey, if I had budget, here's what I would build. And they're actually like larger, like made out of wood with fly wheels and all this stuff. Like just things I'm like, Hey, how would I, how do I think this works? How does the software do this thing? And, and then how do I represent that visually? And, and I literally have sketches in a notebook that I just like, okay, this is where it would start. You would drop the workload in here and it would go up this way. And all this stuff kind of connects of like a physical sort of like C I C D deployment system of like, okay, here's where the build happens. How does that work? What does that do? Okay. Now, how do I deploy that?

Guest: Justin

How do I do AB testing? How do I do, uh, things like feature flags, all of those things are really abstract concepts. And some developers have been doing it for a long time. Sure. They understand the functionality of it, but people that are getting new to development, getting started in this area, they have no idea why do I need this? Why is this thing important for me to learn and being able to represent like here's every stage of what's happening with the software life cycle. Um, those are all things that, yeah. I have all sorts of like ideas for, okay. How would I do this thing? And I, again, I just go back to, how would I learn it? How would I represent that? How would I teach it to myself 10 years ago?

Host: Jon

How often do you run into the issue where you have all these great ideas, but you just can't get, 'em done can't record. 'em, there's just so many that are coming on. Like, oh man, I need to take a week off to just pile all these in and start recording. I'm like, how do you pick and choose between which ones you're gonna do and which ones you won't do? I mean, I know you said which ones like, maybe resonate with yourself, but what about those are reaching out to you? I mean, how do you pick

Guest: Justin

Most of it is just my interest at the time. If, if it's something that I found difficult or I'm working on that, I'm like, Hey, this is really hard. Uh, I try to say, okay, well let's, let's prioritize that one. And I never try to say that there's no time because there's always time. We all have the same amount of time. It's just about prioritization. And do I want to, you know, review new architecture for some service or write some code or do I want to educate people? And it's all that trade off of like, what's the best benefit to, especially at Amazon, like what's most be best benefit to our service? How do I make the product better? And by educating people by prioritizing tasks, by writing code, those are all like things I have to balance and figure out what would be the most useful thing right now to do and spend my time on.

Guest: Justin

And I often, you know, try to spend a day or a week just like, what does that look like? And I have to stay close to the, the product itself to know where it's going, but also close to the customers as a customer. I try to develop, you know, build new things on Amazon frequently so that I don't forget what it's like, because that's really easy to do when you're not exercising that muscle when you're not building on something all the time, uh, you just kind of forget. You're like, oh, well, yeah, this is what it was like five years ago, but that's not what it's like to get started today because docs have changed and examples have changed and versions have updated. And so if I'm starting something new, I really have to dive back into it and say, okay, now I need to write this code again and figure out what is it like to deploy something from scratch today?

Guest: Justin

And then I can say, oh, you know what, here's the problem is this problem that we don't have docs for it. Is it a problem with the service or is it a problem of education and I'm using it wrong. And in some cases I was using it wrong and that's okay, let me try to steer some people into understand. This is what this piece of the service is for. Here's how you should maybe use it. And, and now you could avoid a whole day of, oh, this doesn't work. It's like, actually, no, we have another thing for that. Or here, here's another example on what you should be doing with it.

Host: Jon

You mentioned what you're working on. Can you let us know a couple of things you might be working on that might be upcoming that you're gonna be releasing?

Guest: Justin

Uh, so we just, I work with a lot with the EKS anywhere team, which is our open source on premises, Kubernetes management service. So you can run EKS clusters, OnPrem. I came from running data centers in the back, you know, as background as a CI admin as system engineer. So I, I love hardware. I actually really like data centers, uh, but I understand just how slow and inefficient they can be and, and kind of stuck in the past in a lot of ways. So I was really excited when we were working on ETS anywhere to let people run, you know, managed Kubernetes clusters on prem. And so I built a, a home lab computer called Kubernetes with a C, uh, which is built out of an old Mac cube, uh, from the early two thousands. So apple had this desktop and I put four servers in it.

Guest: Justin

And, and that was super fun for me because that was something that like, if I'm not writing code, I like to be soldering and I love blinking lights and I love physically connecting wires together. And sometimes, you know, debugging software and debugging hardware are different skill sets, but I like where they kind of intertwine where I can say like, oh, how do I, you know, put a trace point on the software and how do I do it on this wire? And those sorts of concepts of like troubleshooting them is the same. And so we just launched bare metal of, I think, a month ago. And, uh, it's, it was a huge, you know, a huge win for us to be able to say, you can run it on any servers. That was my main focus right now. I'm going back to, uh, sort of like the education mode where I kind of go and I tell people about here's all the new stuff.

Guest: Justin

Um, here's what we're gonna be doing. I have much more videos that I'm planning on recording. Uh, I have two this week that are internal, uh, for conferences. And then a few next week that I'm planning on recording, releasing on our channel. We have containers from the couch as a YouTube channel, um, some more shorts and some regular videos there. So I have a couple weeks of just educational content where I like, okay, now I switch into educational mode, uh, near end of September, October, I switch back to like development mode. Now I need to help build and prioritize things. And those are all the things that are leading up to reinvent for us. Amazon has, you know, reinvent is end of November, early December, where we announce all the new stuff and that's where a lot of teams are working on now. And I need to start developing on it again to say, okay, how am I gonna teach someone how to use this in December and January?

Guest: Justin

And I need to switch back to being a developer instead of an educator. And so those sorts of back and forth are really where I kind of swing both on, on both sides at Amazon, where I just spend a few months building on something, prioritizing stuff, reading docs, understanding how it works. And then a few months teaching it and saying, okay, here's some example code. Here's how you can use it. Here's a, a physical hardware that, that I built to show you how it works, those sorts of things, and then making videos and content and blog posts to help people understand and use it better.

Host: Jon

Will we be seeing you at reinvent, maybe a workshop speaking session

Guest: Justin

At this point, I don't have plans to be at reinvent. Uh, I, I have a bunch of travel, um, in some internal conferences in September, and then I'll be at, um, dev slam in Dubai in October, uh, which is I'm excited to go to, uh, and as well as probably coupon in Detroit, uh, in October. So I have some travel around that time, but I, I don't try to travel too much. I try to do virtual things if I can. Um, a handful of trips a year is, is kind of where, where I'm trying to stay just with family and with my own, uh, health and safety. Um, I, I try not to go around too large of crowds. So, uh I'm and I've been really thankful that my management and Amazon's been very, you know, open to saying like, Hey, I don't really feel like going to Vegas with thousands of people right now. Um, unless the situation changes, it's just not something that I really feel comfortable with.

Host: Jon

Yeah. But no problem. And will we be seeing your content though at reinvent? So you said you were working on some things in upcoming will be people presenting some of the videos that you either made or will be shared across reinvent. Will it be at any of the workshops or sessions?

Guest: Justin

Um, nothing that I, I like directly made. There's a lot of things that I contribute to workshops and, and kind of slide decks and launches and that sort of stuff, um, that I help with, but nothing that's, I don't have anything planned that I'm making content, at least not right now. Um, that's like gonna be up on stage somewhere at reinvent.

Host: Jon

Not yet. You can't say never because I think you, I think one of your videos that you're gonna create between now and then might make it to one of either the sessions, maybe hopefully a keynote session. Wouldn't that be great?

Guest: Justin

<laugh> I, I would love to G I've never given a keynote, uh, which is always something that I, I was like, Hey, you know what, maybe there'll be a keynote sometime in my future. Um, and if there is, I guarantee you there'll be props, um, cuz that's just the type of, you know, keynote and talks that I like to give.

Host: Jon

I actually was really proud as an X Amazonian myself. Uh, one of the keynotes that happened for deep racer, it was pretty cool because my deep racer TV session that I did here in my basement during the whole lockdown stuff actually made it to the keynote I was actually on. I was like, whoa, that was cool. It was like, check that off the bucket list.

Guest: Justin

Sweet. <laugh>

Host: Jon

That's always one wrap it up. So Justin, where can folks find you your content, your information? I know you mentioned TikTok, so if you wanna start there, how do they follow you on TikTok and see some of your cool videos and then maybe YouTube, LinkedIn?

Guest: Justin

Yeah. Uh, TikTok I'm Justin Lee Garrison. Um, it's still a personal account. I post all those videos on there. Um, but also there's other things that I maybe don't publish to our, our traditional like work accounts and that sort of stuff. Um, just general career advice is something I, I often give to people. I see so many people trying to break into tech, trying to learn developments. And so I try to respond to questions and give advice there. Uh, just because that's a medium where I see a lot of people just interested in it. Um, so that's something that I, I do pretty often. Uh, I also run a, uh, newsletter called 1, 2, 3 dev, um, which is a lot of focus around like how to get started in development, but also just how to be a better developer. And, and that's another area where I, I try to just give back and I try to, I used to blog, uh, fairly regularly I don't anymore.

Guest: Justin

And I've lost a lot of the blogs and I just don't have time to do long form blog contents. And so the idea behind 1, 2, 3 dev was I wanted to just give myself some structure. And so it's one GIF every week. It's two comments from me about something and it's three links and those are the three pieces of content that I put in there. And I realized that like I can actually associate a lot of things to JS and, and JS was actually my first sort of short form educational content where I was creating jifs about how would something work? And they were always just like animations. I worked at Disney animation for a long time, uh, not as an animator, but as in technology. And I learned how these like shorts could be so impactful and you don't need a full movie length to actually teach someone something or entertain someone. And so I kept thinking like, well, you know, Jeffs are really just short video. They're short movies in a lot of ways and how do I create content based or themed around a G and give someone a visual a to saying like, here's a comment. It might relate to that G but in a developer perspective and how would I be become a better developer based on that sort of visual aid. And so it's another thing that I kind of do as a, as a weak, weekly newsletter.

Host: Jon

I'm a little curious about, uh, the Disney aspect. What were you doing at Disney again?

Guest: Justin

Yeah, I was at, I started at Disney animation. I managed the render farm. I was, uh, in Linux engineering. So it was a lot of deep diving, uh, kind of performance and automation of Linux. And so its everything from render farm, internal services, artist, workstations and cloud. And so we did kind of a spread of a lot of things, uh, in, in that environment, but it was one of the largest data centers that I worked in for render farm for the servers. Um, I also, and I switched over to Disney streaming, uh, which was uh, running Disney plus. And so I that's actually, I, I did a lot of Amazon, uh, most of Disney plus and, and ESPN plus and the different services run on Amazon. And so I was responsible for the infrastructure, uh, the Amazon infrastructure for Disney plus at launch. So a year before launch and through launch.

Guest: Justin

So I learned a lot throughout that experience of just launching something at a very visible sort of like, uh, highly engaged and anticipated service. Um, but also a lot about how to, how to create and ship movies. How would we go about, uh, thinking of an idea for a movie what's the process to come up with that story? How do we actually execute on that and divide the work? And then how do we technically achieve that with servers and technology on the back ends and, and movies, especially animated movies, in my opinion are the last Feig of box software. Everything that goes into a DVD box is software. It's just, you know, images, second displayed, but the menus are Java you're, your Blueray player runs Java and streaming services are like, they're literally software as a surface you're, you're paying for that software. And you're paying for access to those bits that were created by digital artists and artists in a lot of ways they're writing code, they're writing bits that computers understand and humans interpret. And in that sort of process, isn't much different than what developers are doing today. Um, but it was a super awesome time at, at Disney just understanding like how those systems worked and how the process of creating movies and getting ideas, uh, all worked.

Host: Jon

I think that's pretty cool, kind of following your career obviously, uh, before then help desk. And there's a, there's a lot more that came into it. Obviously we only got the elevator pitch and the background, but you had the Disney plus and working with the big server farms in a huge data center. Here's a question for you, right? I find it very valuable that I came from a traditional data center background, like Iraq stack servers. I understood like the whole networking capability. I built them like from ground up, uh, actually purchased all the hardware install 'em installed the OS troubleshoot, figured out the whole thing. And then coming over to AWS when I did and in the cloud environment, I think it gave me a very solid understanding of how everything came together. Now I'm not saying everybody should start out in a data center, but do you find that having that background gives you a more appreciation to cloud and an understanding of how things are put together?

Guest: Justin

It's more valuable that you understand the value that coming from the back end. It's just like, again, working in help desk, if I've never worked in the help desk, I don't know what those calls are. Like. I don't know when someone calls me is angry because something happened and actually they accidentally kicked the search protector off. And those sorts of things like those

Host: Jon

Are all never happened. <laugh>

Guest: Justin

<laugh> tho those are hard problems to debug and hard problems to maintain. At scale, when you have thousands of users calling a help desk, you don't know what it's like to be on the receiving end of the call. If you just went straight into like I write software, that's good. You you're accelerating what you can do, but the value of all the people that support you, it's just invisible and you don't understand the work they're putting into it. And so if you never ran a data center or worked in a data center or had toe Ram for the fifth time to make it work, like you don't understand the value prop of someone's managing this hardware for me, I don't have to deal with that. I'm just gonna build services and you don't have to know those things, but it is valuable to understand, oh, there's a lot that goes into it.

Guest: Justin

This isn't just like, why isn't this cheaper? Just get rid of all those people that don't do anything. It's like, no, everyone's doing stuff like everyone's working. And there's so many different layers that you don't have to deal with that are just helping you accelerate what you want to do. And, and those are really cool things as coming from a data center, understanding, oh yeah, no, I need redundancy on the racks. That means I need two power supplies. I need two AC units and I need two network connections. Like what, why is all this here? And then just saying like, no, I just write Python software. Like why, why do I care about all that? It's like, no, you care. Um, but here's where that's kind of built in to the pricing model, into this request model of like, I just want this API to be available and allowing people to skip that is great. It's so much better for a lot of people to not have to pay attention to it. But you do miss out on, like, I don't understand what went into this. When I go order, you know, at a restaurant, I don't understand what went into my burger, all the people making bread and cutting fries and, and, you know, cooking the food. All of that process is like, I just get to enjoy it. And it's great. Um, but I appreciate it a lot more if I've done it,

Host: Jon

Uh, that's actually a good aspect of it. Uh, let me ask you a help desk question, cuz this is gonna be fun for me. What's the first thing you usually tell somebody to do? I don't tell you what I, what I typically tell, not only somebody, but also my family to do and my kids, when something isn't working,

Guest: Justin

Of course you reboot it.

Host: Jon

<laugh> I, I swear it is the funniest thing and I've got the, I've got my kids, I got my wife down to it where, uh, she will say the same thing. Hey, this isn't working and she'll tell my kids, have you rebooted it? And they're like, and then they'll reboot their phone. And all of a sudden it starts working. All right. Problem solved.

Guest: Justin

Yep. Yeah. And it's funny cuz some of these systems, I mean phones and Chromebooks and you know, streaming boxes, you think they're self-contained and they don't have the same software bugs because you don't have access to it sometimes. But really it's just it's software people write the software upgrades, you know, sometimes get stuck or, or something's just happening in the background that you don't know about. And just starting over from scratch with like, Hey, what happens if there's no electricity running through this device? And then there's electricity running through it, like what would happen? And it turns out that a lot of software is good at starting from nothing to something rather than being on for days or years at a time.

Host: Jon

Uh, the same deal. I'll leave my laptop run for a week or two, all of a sudden it's crappy. I'm like, all right, I'm just gonna reboot. I gotta clean it up. But there's the same goes with anything. The very first thing I do, oh, I can't install this error message. I'm gonna reboot it. And that's what I tell my kids. I teach everybody. And that's why we try to tell our grandparents, you know, as the older like reboot it, what do you mean? Just hit the power breaker. Turn up. No, I'm just kidding. Have,

Guest: Justin

Have you ever rebooted an entire data center?

Host: Jon

Uh, no. Well we did one when we were building one, but nothing was really in existence. Let me tell you that was a very, I'm sure you've got a story here that you said it. How did that work out?

Guest: Justin

That it was a very exciting, uh, process. Uh, for us one time we had an AC unit being replaced and, and we knew we couldn't run, um, the actual, you know, data center on it. And we took advantage of that by saying, Hey, of course switches. Some things need to be upgraded. Uh, you can't of course, which is you can fail over all this stuff. But I always assumed that it was just like, well, yeah, just start the basic things first and then go in order. And I was like, maybe, you know, a few people can do it. Uh, it took us a team of people overnight to make sure that everything started and stopped in order. And there was a lot of pieces we had to metadata about like starting order. Like when does this start? When can it start? When does this shut down?

Guest: Justin

And we had a metadata service that we relied upon and I never even paid attention to it before. Just like, why, why, what are these numbers for? What is this about? Like, that's the start order. I'm like, when do you do this? And like once every couple years we have to reboot because running a data center again, you have to pay attention to like the city's gonna cut my power cuz they need to do maintenance and you're reliant on other systems that aren't just in your control. And so when you lose AC or, or these other critical systems, you have to start from scratch and starting the entire data center of thousands of machines from no power lights are out to, Hey, is this all working now? And then being able to validate those things and run tests against it. Uh, we think that oftentimes like writing code and end to end test is, is difficult. And doing that at a data center with, with hundreds or thousands of machines is even more so it's just like, wow. Now I have to not only understand all the software, but how it connects to something else and did network come up properly and all the rules need to be persistent. So it was a really exciting experience and, uh, uh, not without, uh, you know, incident, but also it was all planned, which is, you know, having to unplanned data center reboots the worst

Host: Jon

<laugh> how long did it take you to plan and coordinate that?

Guest: Justin

Thankfully, again, I, I, there was a lot of people that came before me that had done it and they knew ahead of time. We had to build systems to say, we have to have reboot orders. And if we didn't have those things, it would've taken us probably a full weekend, uh, maybe a full week, um, just to make sure, oh, this isn't, this is a dependency, go look at the logs. Um, but being able to have people there that have been doing it already, they're like, no, we have all this metadata right now. So it took, I think it was like seven or eight hours to kinda go turn off and, and make sure that, you know, ACS switch the plugs basically. And then, and then bring it all back up. You didn't

Host: Jon

Hot swap? No, I'm just kidding. <laugh> uh, that would've been nerve wracking.

Guest: Justin

Yeah. But very fun.

Host: Jon

<laugh> uh, I I'm sure. I'm sure it was probably nervous, but you had a team there behind you. So Justin, thank you so much for joining me on the show. I really appreciate you getting everybody an insight on what you do, the content you create, where you've come from and some of the ideas that you have upcoming.

Guest: Justin

Yeah. Thank you so much for having me on the show. Uh, I, I try to stay engaged with people. I'm a lot of times, again, like I'm on TikTok. I'm also on Twitter. I'm Roth, Gar on Twitter. Um, which is probably where I hang out the most. And if you want feedback or video ideas, uh, send 'em to me over there.

Host: Jon

Uh, I'll be sure to drop you a couple as I put some together, myself, trying to find, follow your entertainment and informative sessions. All right. Everybody senior developer advocate at AWS, Justin Garrison, Justin, thank you so much for joining me.

Guest: Justin

Yeah. Thanks Jon.

Host: Jon

All right. My name's Jon Myer. Your host. Thank you for joining and watching the Jon Myer podcast. Don't forget to hit that light subscribe ed notified, because guess what folks were outta here?

 

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