I am coming up on 90 days in my new role as an AWS architect, working as a contractor for a major media company, and it has been quite a change. Moving from working in K-12 education to information security in the cloud has been quite a challenge, and I do enjoy going to work each day (except for the commute, that never gets better). Here are a couple of observations:
- Contracting is lonely work
I am used to being part of a small team, and that is not how my role is seen on a day to day basis. I am assigned to a security team, but I am not part of that team, as I am always just 30 days away from being reassigned. I am left to do my thing, and the rest of the group goes to their own meetings and eats together, while I have my salad in my cubicle. There is little camaraderie among consultants, as we are all from different consulting groups and companies, and vastly different cultures. I tried to join a lunch group, but it seems to have fizzled out. Maybe I killed it by accident, who knows.
- Everyone is smarter than me
I know this is a condition where I will grow and develop, but I am a new architect, and all of my fellow architects are building these amazing systems. I spend most of my day doing customer support and building python scripts and reading the boto3 documentation. These days I am working on building a web front end, learning the Flask and Django frameworks and hacking away.
- Corporate life is weird
Working for two large corporations is more than a little strange, especially when one has a large operational group that is 12 hours ahead, so I get emails and meetings in the wee hours that I can not possibly hope to attend. There are so many little processes and rules to get any changes made, where as when I was in charge of all things technology I could make changes with impunity. Now I have to see which sets of hoops I have to jump through. I have to submit two separate time sheets, which is funny because everyone at my old organization complained when they implemented a time clock system for payroll.
- This AWS thing is quite the onion
Most of my day is spent working with S3, SQS, CloudFormation, Lambda and EC2 scaling groups and launch configs. I am always worried that I will ask a stupid question of someone who will remember me, so I am always digging through the docs and googling everything. Sometimes I will set up the test question on my personal or other work account, so that I can keep my ‘DOH!’ answer and the accompanying shame to myself. Specifically, I couldn’t figure out how to see graphically how much data was in an S3 bucket. I have never had a reason to click on the Management / Metrics button in the last two years of working with S3. So glad I didn’t ask that of our AWS technical account manager. I’ve managed to build an interesting application using DynamoDB, Lambda, EC2 and S3, using a couple of the services for the first time.
- The days are long
I start my day at 5am, and work for my old gig for an hour or so. I have a commute that is either 50 or 90 minutes, depending on the vagaries of the traffic gods. I start work at 8:30am, and use the pomodoro method to get 25 minute sprints of intense concentration. I have a closing stand up meeting at 4:30pm, and usually get on the road home at 5pm, and get home 6-6:30pm. I work for my other gig for about 2 hours, and get to sleep about 9pm. Not much time for studying or fun.
- The prospects are looking good
While I may only be on this project for another couple of months, I work for a special group of the company that cuts across all market segments, so as long as the cloud is the hot new thing, I will have work. I’m trying to develop my skills (in the free hour between midnight and 1am) so I can move to the dev/ops team if my time with my current team is up. The average longevity of the other consultants is years rather than months, so that helps remove some anxiety.