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Episode 11

Ivonne Roberts: Serverless & Microservices on AWS, Creating Tech Videos, and Avoiding Alligators in Florida

Ivonne joins Adam to discuss building serverless & microservice based applications on AWS as well as her experiences creating technical video content in 2021. They'll also surely discuss life in Florida since Adam has opinions after spending six months in the The Sunshine State.

About Ivonne

Ivonne is a Principal Software Engineer with over fifteen years of software development experience, including ten years working with AWS and more than five years building serverless applications. Her expertise includes developing mission-critical production workloads, researching new technologies and design patterns, building prototypes, and establishing reference architectures.

At Edelman Financial Engines, Ivonne and her team pioneered the development and operational readiness of the first microservices from a Java monolith modernization project. With those first microservices, she was able to instruct software engineers on the industry standards they should implement as they began following the company's quest to be all-in on AWS with a serverless-first software development philosophy.

You can find her online on Twitter, her website, and YouTube.


Adam: Hey everyone. Welcome to AWS FM, a live audio show with guests from around AWS community. I'm your host, Adam Elmore, and today I have Ivonne Roberts. Hi, Ivonne.

Ivonne: Hello. Hi everyone.

Adam: So thank you so much for joining Ivonne. I've kind of started every episode like this. I'd like to start with your story. Just kind of your background in tech, if you could kind of start from the beginning.

Ivonne: Yeah. So, okay. I've been working for a couple years, maybe more than a couple. I definitely started somewhat non-traditional. I went to school, I did art school basically, and learned how to draw and color and paint. My first job out of school was basically designing t-shirts, which was a lot of fun, but they had a website that needed help. And so I started tinkering and I really enjoyed it. I liked being able to move letters and characters and then see something digital, beautiful, et cetera on screen. So I've moved from coloring on t-shirts to doing website design worked at a couple different freelance gigs and finally got that real web application job. And then from there, I just got deeper and deeper into the code and moved from front all the way to backend. I loved it. I enjoyed it. I went to school to prove I could do it. And so now I've been working at FinTech companies. I'm at my second FinTech now working on modernization applications and trying to make distributed microservices, especially in the serverless space or realm.

Adam: And so you're an AWS serverless hero.

Ivonne: I am freshly minted hot off the presses.

Adam: So could you talk a little bit about kind of how you got into serverless and, and that journey?

Ivonne: Yeah, so at my previous gig Edelman financial engines, we were, starting that migration from on-premises to the cloud and especially AWS, and there was kind of two branches in the company there was the lift and shift all the heavy lifting, lot of muscles to get that all out there. And then there was the serverless and net new applications and pulling chunks out of a monolithic application in to serverless. And to me, it seemed so intriguing when I had gone to school to do the comp sci thing. At that point, it was like 2010. It was EC2, S3 and like not much on AWS. Right? And to be part of this team that was going to go on this serverless front, which was some, what new at that point to me was exciting. And I really liked the whole tinkering and figuring things out. It was pretty cool.

Adam: And I've seen it on, I think it was on your YouTube channel, you referred to being full, full, full stack. Could you talk a little about that? It sounds like you're more into kind of backend work, which is my speed as well. I sort of hesitantly work on front end stuff, but you have the art background. So you have an interesting kind of mix of skills. What is your sort of role in your current job? So you're at bill.com, I think?

Ivonne: I am. So I'm at bill.com been there a couple weeks, so I'm still kind of figuring out what that role is, right.

Adam: Still being shaped right now, your role is onboarding. Yeah

Ivonne: Exactly.

Adam: But you kind of understood your story a little bit. You're a master's in computer science, but then also you have that bachelor's in the digital multimedia. And I want to talk about we'll get into your content creation. I think that come, it's very clear that you have that art background when you look at your YouTube channel, which I'm sure we'll talk about. Yeah. You also talk a lot about microservices. Could you kind of talk about just how you sort of view microservices and serverless in AWS together, how those worlds come together for you?

Ivonne: Yeah. So I think microservices I wouldn't say it's something necessarily new. I think that concept has existed maybe 10 plus years or so. And, it's the idea of this waled off set of code, right? That really just acts on one thing you kind of reduce your blast radius when you make a change when you need to release. And so I think that's the beauty of microservices, right? It's the small contained bounded context. For lack of a better word. And I think it's pretty cool. It's a pretty powerful way. A lot of companies they've had applications that they've been working on for 5, 10, 15, 20 years and that release cycle that is always something pretty difficult. Right?

Adam: Yep.

Ivonne: And being able to split into these microservices and wall off different parts of your code. And so team one can release Monday morning, another team, they might be working on something more risky and they can release late Friday night, right? And have the weekend to deal with it. It really is. It changes a lot of parts of software development, right? This whole paradigm of modeling your application this way.

Adam: And is this also tied in, I had never heard this term hexagonal architecture. You talk about that in one of your videos. Could you explain what that is for people like me that don't know?

Ivonne: So for me I think the biggest beauty of hexagonal architecture, it's really a way of organizing your code. And when you're looking at a company that maybe has a 100, 500 plus software engineers, having patterns in place that make it easy from you to jump from one microservice to another microservice, to be able to see how the code is organized and quickly recognize, okay, this is where I need to make a change for my rest API. This is where I need to make a change for let's say, database or business logic, et cetera. And then the other thing that hexagon architecture makes easy is like the whole testing and being able to just test one class in your application. That, there's definitely like a lot of benefits. I'm sure I'm underselling it as well to me anyways, it's really that organization, that, to be able to quickly recognize what goes, where, and be able to make changes without having to change a 100 class files . As you refactor through. Right?

Adam: So your AWS history, you've gave a talk 2017 on stage at reinvent. Right? So could you talk about, I guess I didn't get much of your AWS story. Could you talk about how you kind of, eventually you became this newly minted serverless hero, what did that journey look like for you getting started in the cloud and kind of getting to this point?

Ivonne: Yeah. So I started to mention I was in this team that our job was serverless first create these new microservices. And for me, I struggled a lot, like trying to find answers to how do you do this? Or how do you do that? A lot of it was new and not only that, but there. Wasn't how do I put it? There weren't a lot of people tinkering, like I was right? And so if I got stuck unfortunately it doesn't matter how good I was at Googling or this was on my, there wasn't right? And so I started creating that content. And like, for example, x-ray was one of those things for, which is what I talked about in that 2017 talk. I just couldn't find out how to do it. And so I kept tinkering and tinkering, looking at the eight AWS stocks and kind of put pieces together. And I finally got it to work and I'm like, I need to tell the whole wide world, cause no one should suffer as bad as I did.

Adam: Yeah. And that, I want to get into your, kind of your YouTube content and your teaching style. It's clear that you have a gift. I mean, I'm not just saying that like your ability to teach, I don't know if it's from B being a parent. If you have a background in teaching you're clearly good at sort of explaining these concepts. I wonder you've solicited for questions on Twitter what are things people struggle with getting into serverless? Have you gotten feedback on that? Are there common questions, things that you see, people that are just learning serverless, struggling with things that you maybe struggled with. And what would you say to those people?

Ivonne: I would say, well, let me go and order. So what kind of feedback am I getting? I think the biggest one that I've gotten is really around observability, right? Used to be that you deployed your application, whether it was on a bare metal server, EC2 instance or a server, right? And you can SSH into that server and you can download logs. You can get your, if it's Java get the, he dump and all, and figure out what is going on. Right? That's not as easy, right? With the Lambda.There's nothing you can log into.. And like that tooling and like observing how your application works. I think that's hard for a lot of people who are used to the more traditional three tier web application. So I get a lot of that.

Adam: Yeah. To your point. I mean, I think we've had two guests on this very new show that are building like observability and monitoring solutions for serverless. So I think it's a space that people are paying attention to and trying to make it better. And that's one of the common themes. I feel like that. And sort of the dev experience overall with serverless. Do you see that too? Go ahead?

Ivonne: I think so. I agree with you. I think it's like so ripe for, innovation there. Like finding a way to still be able to see all the like nuts and bolts of your application, but still outsource, that server, because we all know serverless really does have servers.

Adam: It does? What?

Ivonne: And so somebody has to manage that and you don't want to manage it, but at the end of the day, you kind of want to see what's going on. At that somewhat low level. Right? So, yeah. I agree. I think it's right for innovation. I think folks, another thing like with serverless, you were asking, like what I've been hearing a lot it's kind of struggling to get started. Right? Because, it's so different. There's probably so many different things like infrastructure as code maybe like what programming languages you can use, or if you want to use containers and like, there's so many net new that you have to learn.

Adam: Yep.

Ivonne: And I think there's like that fear to get started. And, I think that's where I can help. Just to kind of explore that world in somewhat of a painless way. And I would say that's the advice. Right? Get started, just try and tinker, I think you'll surprise yourself how much you learn as you play with it, how much you learn on the job, right?

Adam: Oh yeah, absolutely. I do think it's like, at this moment, we're just on the sort of cusp of a lot more tooling, a lot more like sort of guiderails for serverless. I mean, you look at some of the things that are coming out just as we speak with serverless Inc. Has put out, we've talked about on the show, they've put out serverless cloud, you've got the serverless stack folks shipping cool stuff where you're-. Just sort of like giving you some opinionated stuff to work with in the serverless space. I've seen you. I think you're a fan of Sam, is that Accurate?

Ivonne: I have been, I've been playing around quite a bit with it lately. I think it's another level of abstraction, right? If you want to use cloud formation, by all means you can at like bare cloud formation you'll create like 15 resources where let's say, Sam will let you just create two. Right?

Adam: Right.

Ivonne: Assuming you're using like the cloud formation version of it all. And I think again, the more you can abstract hard the better. Right? I think that's kind of the beauty of it all.

Adam: Have you played at all with, they've got a new, like sort of Dev workflow thing accelerate?

Ivonne: Honestly, I have not played with it. I've been watching, I know they had the like serverless land, had the stream a couple weeks back and it was pretty interesting to kind of see it in motion. I haven't tried it yet.

Adam: It's brand new. Right? I don't follow you. There's too much to keep up with in thes land, which is a good problem to have, I will say

Ivonne: It is. It really is. They have a lot of toys there.

Adam: Oh yeah. I think Eric Johnson we just booked him. He's going to come on the show in a month or so. And we'll talk, I'm sure about Sam. So I know part of your story is sort of hitting a fork in the road. So you had played with building sites even in high school, I think. And just correct me if I botch any of this, but-

Ivonne: No, no, it's definitely true.

Adam: Yeah. You had experimented early and then when you got into college, you weren't sure that maybe it was right for you and that you, that kind of put you down the digital multimedia route. I wonder. Do you have any advice for anyone that maybe is in that spot right now? They feel like this isn't stem isn't for them or computer programming isn't for them, anything you would say to those people,

Ivonne: So I have no regrets. I like because I'm a full, full, full stack.

Adam: It's a lot of stacks.

Ivonne: I kind of I definitely, it's been pretty cool knowing all those different parts of it. I think that a lot of times though, we kind of talk ourselves down and say, I can't do that. That's too hard or that it's confusing to me. I saw those back then it was like black and green screens. It was very minimal. Like was, well, I guess windows was kind of in a it was out. But anyways, it wasn't a pretty like environment like programming was like a notepad or-

Adam: yeah, sure.

Ivonne: -A notepad plus plus maybe if, if you started a little later and so it wasn't pretty to me and that's kind of silly, I think looking back now and I should have tried, I should have not discredited so quickly. Yeah. Because I love it. I think being able to step back and seeing that finished product is, is just so exciting to me.

Adam: Oh yeah. Absolutely. Keeps us coming back, getting into your content because I, can't not talk about your YouTube channel. I've gone too long already. Everyone on this call needs to stop what they're doing and go subscribe to Ivonne's YouTube channel. Your YouTube channel is fantastic. And I don't say that like about everything I see on the internet, your ability. So one, the teaching style, I mentioned you clearly have some, do you have a background in teaching? I guess that's my first question.

Ivonne: I don't, but I was raised by a teacher who was going to school when I was a kid. Right? And so she would do all her experiments and like test out her lesson plans on me. And I have a couple family members who are so like watching them, I guess maybe I learned it or maybe it was always in me. And I just kind of fought that skillset. I don't know.

Adam: Well, you break things down really well. And the thing that I notice your production quality is fantastic. I've not seen a lot of people doing the sort of overlays. So you've got the top down camera, which is awesome. You see that in like other sort of sectors tech, you don't see it so much. So you're drawing, you're drawing out diagrams and writing out notes and then you're doing it where it's like, you're drawing on the screen. I don't even know how you do that, but that's super cool. Is that your digital multimedia background is that, did you learn all these tricks from that?

Ivonne: It's funny you say that. And going back to what I said before, like I have no regrets, right? Because I had to take a couple classes in like video editing and, like understanding how to splice and dice, audio and different things like that and deal with Croma background, green screen, et cetera. Now I have like friends that I went to school with that are amazing and I could not light a candle to their work. Right? But it makes this like so much easier. Right? It's like, wow. Maybe it was good that I got that degree.

Adam: I mean, it's paying off. I think your YouTube channel needs to be blowing up. And I think it's clear. You've just been doing it for, I mean, it's not been that long a year maybe. Is that right?

Ivonne: It has been a year. I have to admit I've like released some content and then like stopped and took a break. And then released some more. I think I'm still kind of figuring it out. Right? Trying to see, like, what's a good pattern for me. I do have a day job. And I definitely have to do that and I have kids. I don't know. I think I heard them in the background. I don't know if it showed up in the audio. I apologize.

Adam: Oh, you're good. No, I've got two of them and they'll probably bust down the door at some point.

Ivonne: Exactly.

Adam: I think I know way too much. And I'm sorry if I do too much research, but I think your kids are the same ages of mine you've got a seven and a two year old.

Ivonne: I see. I do. I do. Yeah. So they just changed. It's funny because like the past couple months I'm like, well I have a one and a six year old, but really it's like in a couple weeks, like I kind of feel like when you're a kid where you you're like, oh yeah, I'm one year and three quarters.

Adam: Yeah. I guess mine are just get a ready to turn. So I've got my little one turns two next week. So, on the 29th. I don't know. That's

Ivonne: So you Understand exactly.

Adam: Yeah. I just call him two now because it's like, he's much more a two year old than a one year old. And if you've been a parent, you know, there's a big difference.

Ivonne: It's a big difference. Yeah. For sure.

Adam: But life is not easy.

Ivonne: You get into more trouble.

Adam: Oh absolutely. The older they get and I guess you're of doing all the content. You've got a day job and kids it's not easy. So I'm kind of trying to do the same thing. I'm new at the content thing. But having a day job balancing it all, it's not easy. What's your plan, I guess, in terms of where are you focused on in terms of the content creation side? I you've played with TikTok. I saw.

Ivonne: I did. I was having fun. I was trying to see if I could branch. Yeah. It took me like, 45 minutes to do that one. And I'm that's a lot easier right. Than, creating a full blown video. So I was like, well maybe I could just do that until the kids are like, out of the house and in college. Yeah.

Adam: There's a lot of things on my calendar for when my kids grow up because there are certain things it's like this season life it's not happening,

Ivonne: But I'm trying to get to that point where maybe I'm releasing like two videos a week oh I'm sorry. No, two videos a month. Let me not.

Adam: sounds a lot more.

Ivonne: Commit to that. Maybe we could edit out that point.

Adam: Putting you on the record.

Ivonne: No. Right. But, I'm trying to get to that point where like two a month at least, and try to pepper in more blog posts and maybe these TikTok videos to fill out because that, I think it's important, to have that story, to tell, to, get people, to maybe let go of their fears a little bit and try something new and have some fun at it.

Adam: Absolutely. I've considered the TikTok thing mostly because like my wife doesn't do Twitter. She's just on TikTok. And I feel like if she's ever going to consume any of my content, I'm going to have to do stuff on TikTok you, but I don't know what going to look like. Because it doesn't feel like my platform. We'll see.

Ivonne: I'm not going to dance on Twitter or TikTok. I'm sorry. It's not happening.

Adam: No, it's mostly. Yeah. She's watching like people running into stuff and falling off of things. That's not going to be my TikTok.

Ivonne: That's not healthy either.

Adam: No. So You live in Tampa. Did you, have you grown up in Tampa? Is that where you're originally from?

Ivonne: No. So I actually, I was born in New York. I lived in Texas then went back to New York, then lived in Pennsylvania, then lived in Michigan. Wow. Then lived in California and now I'm in Florida.

Adam: Yeah. How long have you been in Florida?

Ivonne: So I think it's been 4, 3, 4 years now. Okay. I think I'm almost at four years. It's a lot of fun. I like it. It's sunny. No snow.

Adam: No snow. Yeah. I, so I'd lived there for six months. So I grew up in Missouri, but my wife and I, I've worked remote for a long time. We decided we're going to live somewhere else. And we went down, we lived in Naples, Florida for like six months, so.

Ivonne: Oh nice.

Adam: We went to Tampa a couple. I can't remember different things we had to do. Yeah. No it's great. It's always warm. There's a lot of lightning. So I think I had to back up power supply and all that stuff, but

Ivonne: Yeah, you get used to it. It's funny. So lightning is a problem here working remote, so power supplies are important and everything like that. But I think the funniest part is, so I lived in Silicon valley for, I don't know, 7, 6, 7 years a a while. Right? I felt like I was in the heart of Silicon valley. I had really crappy internet. It was like a 100 up a 100 down or something like that. Horrible. So I live actually north of Tampa, kind of the Boondocks, like there's cows across the street and what not. I have one gig up and one gig down internet, which is like surreal to me. Yeah.

Adam: No that's so funny. I live in rural Southern, Missouri and I have one gig up down it's fiber to the like closet. Like there's my closet with my server rack. I have a fiber running to it, which is nuts to me. And my co-founder. I started a company at like five, six, I don't know a while back. And my co-founder lives out in San Francisco. He had horrible like Comcast internet and we, it was always this crazy situation where I shouldn't be the one with good internet in rural Southern Missouri.

Ivonne: Exactly, exactly.

Adam: Are you going to reinvent?

Ivonne: I am. I'm actually very excited. I need a vacation. To me, reinvent is a vacation. Yeah.

Adam: You sound like a parent.

Ivonne: Exactly. But yeah, I'm definitely going, I'm actually doing a talk on the, on the first day there.

Adam: Oh, really?

Ivonne: I'm going to talk. Yeah. Talk about like MVP applications and like productizing them on serverless technologies.

Adam: Very cool.

Ivonne: So I'm excited. It will be fun.

Adam: Well, I'll either watch virtually or I might attend. I'm still on the fence. It's been a couple weeks of deliberating. I don't know. It's we have kids. It's hard.

Ivonne: It will definitely be hard. I have them listed the parents, the grandparents to help out. To keep the children alive.

Adam: Absolutely. Exactly. An important job. So we're going to play a game. Anyone who's been on these before has experienced this and I'm sorry for that. I hope it goes better today. Last time we have Luke Van Dunkers coat on and I blew it. I stopped the timer. So that's very in the realm of possibilities here. This could all just flame out, but we're going to try. And the game is called AWS or Amazon. And the idea is that each of the 200 plus AWS services starts with either AWS or Amazon. It's got that prefix and Ivonne is going to try to guess or just know the answers as I read off services. Yeah. And then I'm going to try to count them but I have no method right now. Really keeping track of the numbers. So it's more like official count will come after the show.

Ivonne: Okay. That sounds good.

Adam: Yeah. The number to beat is nine. Ben Brits has the only official score. So we we'll get this started. Are you ready?

Ivonne: Okay. I'm ready.

Adam: All right. Security hub.

Ivonne: AWS

Adam: Cognito.

Ivonne: Amazon.

Adam: Guard duty.

Ivonne: Amazon, No. Oh wow

Adam: Secrets manager.

Ivonne: AWS.

Adam: Look at You. Panorama.

Ivonne: Amazon.

Adam: Poly.

Ivonne: Amazon.

Adam: You got it. Cloud HSM.

Ivonne: Amazon.

Adam: Macy.

Ivonne: AWS.

Adam: shield.

Ivonne: Oh no. AWS.

Adam: OpsWorks.

Ivonne: Amazon oposworks sounds right. Oh no.

Adam: Trusted advisor.

Ivonne: AWS.

Adam: Config.

Ivonne: Oh.

Adam: Oh right. I think you missed, did you miss four?

Ivonne: Oh no. I should have counted. I-

Adam: I, no, I, yeah. I have no way of keeping track between the hitting the buttons. I think it was close. I could count here. 1, 2, 3, you answered 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 of them. Okay. I think you missed three or four. So we'll go back and get the official count. But I think you're going to be in the six or seven ballpark I'll come up with-

Ivonne: Okay. So not quite a record.

Adam: Not quite the record. You. Yeah, but you are the second place right now. So, I mean,

Ivonne: There you go.

Adam: That's something

Ivonne: We could just end the show here.

Adam: Yeah. There you go. You've set. Like this is a career milestone, right? Like second place on a, made up game on a made up show. So do you have any hot takes for me, Ivonne? I like to ask for these, not everybody has them, but any technology, hot decks, particularly

Ivonne: Like, what folks should focus on or?

Adam: No, like a hot take, like something like, I don't know, JavaScript sucks or something that like gets people riled up so I can put it on social media and maybe people listen said,

Ivonne: JavaScript sucks.

Adam: There you go. Hot take. No, You're good. You know them

Ivonne: I think no, honestly, like JavaScript sucks, but Type script is here to save the day.

Adam: Ooh, you're a Type script fan. I am definitely a type script fan.

Ivonne: I am.

Adam: Yeah. It's been so good to have you on Ivan. This is the point where my kids have now started like screaming outside of my door. So I think that it's time to call it a couple of things before we get off here. One there's a discord channel. So for all of my AWS FM listeners, if you're not on the discord, join the discord. I don't know what we're going to do there. I'm still figuring that part out. I don't really know how to discord, but we're going to figure it out. And maybe if you know how to discord, you could get on there and set it all up and help me. But we're going to talk about the show. We're going to talk about future guests, what we should do on the show.

Adam: That kind of thing. The other thing is, if you listen to the show, I've got lights like going out. I don't know what that's, I'm trying to, trying to kick me off the show here. If you do listen to the show on like a podcast platform, Apple, Spotify, whatever. I would appreciate. If you write in and review it, I don't even know why. I just know this is like every podcast I listen to. They ask you to do this. And it does feel really nice when I see a five star review. So yeah, go ahead and do that. I don't know what purpose that will serve, but it'll make me feel good. And that's enough Ivonne. Thank you so much. It's been so great to have you on and learn more. Yeah. Just about you and your career. And I appreciate you taking the time.

Ivonne: This has been great. It's a lot of fun. It's so good to build community. Be able to talk to people across the world and learn more really like that's the goal, right?

Adam: Absolutely.

Ivonne: Bring more every day.

Adam: Well, come back Thursday, everyone that's listening. We've got Linda Aviva on and we'll look forward to that show. Thank you so much, Ivonne.

Ivonne: You're welcome. Bye bye.