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VMblog Expert Interview: 5 Questions with Emrah Samdan, AWS Community Builder

interview-thundra-samdan 

I recently had a chance to dig in a little deeper into a couple of interesting areas, one being serverless technology and the other being the AWS Community Builders Program.  To learn more, I spoke with Emrah Samdan, the VP of Product at Thundra

VMblog:  Congrats on being named in the first cohort of AWS Community Builder!  Can you explain what an AWS Community Builder is for readers?

Emrah Samdan:  The new AWS Community Builders Program offers technical resources, mentorship, and networking opportunities to AWS enthusiasts and emerging thought leaders who are passionate about sharing knowledge and connecting with the technical community.

AWS Community Builder program is similar to AWS Heroes program but it differs from because it's not an invite-only program. Instead, anyone who thinks that he/she is helping the AWS community to grow in anyways can apply here. For the first batch of AWS Community Builders, there was an exception to the invitation for launching the program together. I'm flattered that they have also invited me as an AWS Community Builder for the serverless branch.

AWS Community Builder, as it can be understood by the name, is an individual who helps others to grow within the community. Anyone can achieve this in many ways, such as:

  • Frequently writing about a particular tech area with examples on AWS products.
  • Organizing community events and speaking at them to share your knowledge
  • Recording a podcast with folks who're experts of AWS and many different other ways.
  • And any help that you can think of.

I want to encourage anyone reading this interview to apply for this program because it has certain advantages that make it attractive. Some of those are:

  • Ability to learn about the roadmap and upcoming features and even contribute with your ideas with periodic talks with product teams at AWS
  • Attending mentorship opportunities as a mentee to improve your public speaking, blog writing skills
  • AWS credits exclusive to Community Builders to test out your cool ideas without thinking about the cost.
  • Opportunity to extend your audience for your content by amplifying your voice with your new tag as a community builder.
  • And many more.

VMblog:  For this new initiative for AWS enthusiasts who are passionate about sharing knowledge and connecting with the community, what does this mean to you personally? And for Thundra?

Samdan:  This part might be a little bit emotional. I've never been into any developer or tech community that much till I met with the awesome serverless community. It was the best of luck for me that I have started to work at Thundra almost three years ago now, and it made me start doing it for other people since then. Serverless was entirely new back at that time. There were limited content and experience except for the ones provided by the first heroes such as Yan Cui, Slobodan Stojanovic, and others. I started by admiring them and trying to understand what they are talking about as a stranger to this serverless thing.

I then joined my friends who organize Serverless Turkey meetup at Ankara and Istanbul and start meeting new folks in my local community. In the meantime, I talked with many serverless people all around the world virtually because I was trying to improve Thundra with new features and continuously looking for feedback and input. That made me know many great people such as serverless heroes Ant Stanley, Farrah Campbell, Marcia Villalba, Jeremy Daly, and great folks from AWS Heitor Lessa, Danilo Poccia, James Beswick, Eric Johnson, and Chris Munns and more. The more I get into the serverless community, the more I like being a part of it. In  October 2019, we organized our first ServerlessDays in Istanbul, hosting more than 250+ people. In the meantime, I started to become a subject matter expert in my area: serverless observability and started frequently blogging about it, ran webinars, publishing whitepapers, and more. I was always feeling like there should be other ways of sharing with the community and enabling more people to achieve with serverless. 

As we all sadly know, the pandemic hit the world globally by March 2020. We were planning to organize a ServerlessDays, this time in Ankara and we have to cancel our plans. Serverless enthusiasts in Turkey lost their chance of attending an in-person event this year. At this point, I thought we can organize a virtual conference of ServerlessDays globally. With my co-organizer buddies Ant Stanley, Farrah Campbell, and Gunnar Grosch, we believed that ServerlessDays Virtual will stay alive even after the pandemic ends. It will continue enabling people who cannot attend any on-site event for any reason. It will be the best event running virtually and everyone will expect for the next one. So far, we have organized two ServerlessDays Virtuals, and the preparations are going on for the third one.

All the blogs I wrote, all the events I organize, and all the podcasts I talked mean a lot to me because they allow me to give back my knowledge that I learned thanks to the community. All of those mean a lot to Thundra because being actively engaged in the community gave me the opportunity of meeting with many new potential customers and users using our competitors. In this way, I had the chance to improve and expand our product in the best way possible. After Serkan selected as an AWS Serverless Hero, Thundra would not be complaining about another AWS Community Builder in staff :)

VMblog:  What motivates you to share and contribute to go above and beyond for the AWS community?

Samdan:  I guess there is no one answer to that question, but I can shortly say enabling people to go with serverless. I frankly believe that serverless technologies will be the default of cloud in maybe five years, and I want to contribute to making it as soon as possible.

Serverless means more efficient usage of everything and innovating faster by focusing only on value. Thanks to serverless, companies are consuming less compute and indirectly less energy and polluting the environment less. Individuals spend less time building new product ideas and innovating for more cutting-edge technologies. I want to be an accelerator of this breakthrough in any way possible. I'm motivated to do more for the serverless community in the following days, months and years.

VMblog:  What upcoming AWS Community Days, AWS User Groups, or other community-based events are you looking forward to?

Samdan:  The biggest one is re:Invent 2020 for sure. re:Invent has been such a nicely organized event that you start attending the next one when you are returning back home at the airport. At least, I felt in this way last year. In the times of global pandemic, this year it will also be virtual. Surprisingly, it will be three weeks long. I cannot imagine how they will keep the hype up but I'm also sure that AWS will find a way with all the announcements and great educative talks.

This year, I've spoken at more than 20 events virtually and will continue to take place and talk about serverless observability, chaos engineering, debugging, and more. The most notable upcoming ones are ServerlessDays Warsaw in September. In October, I'll be speaking at Serverless Architecture Conference Berlin, and ChaosConf by Gremlin. 

I try not to turn down any invitation that comes from a meetup and event because I know what it means to organize an event. So, if you are looking for a speaker for your meetup, hit me with a DM on Twitter.

VMblog:  Looking to the rest of 2020, what are the top priorities for the serverless community and any predictions you want to share?

Samdan:  Top priorities for the serverless community have always been enabling more people to step in serverless and generating new use cases. AWS is doing a perfect job by removing an important barrier every day. Cold starts are now history thanks to the provisioned concurrency support. Thanks to the new EFS support, applications that require state and storage can now be run on AWS Lambda.

In my agenda, the next thing is to enable more people to run serverless applications with different use cases. I still don't see many machine learning applications running in a serverless way. Another thing that I want to see is more control over the lifecycle events of the containers running the AWS Lambda function. This could unlock many possibilities for observability and security products like Thundra.

From the community perspective, I think everyone missed everyone so much and we'll be organizing the funniest and the friendliest events when the pandemic is over. I'm looking forward to getting together with my serverless friends at some corner of the world and have local food and beer discussing what we can do with serverless for serverless.

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Published Friday, August 28, 2020 7:33 AM by David Marshall
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