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97 Things Every Cloud Engineer Should Know

Emily Freeman • Nathen Harvey | Gotopia Bookclub Episode • November 2022

Migrating to the cloud has become a “sine qua non” these days. The compact articles in 97 Things Every Cloud Engineer Should Know inspect the entirety of cloud computing, including fundamentals, architecture and migration. You'll go through security and compliance, operations and reliability and software development. And examine networking, organizational culture, and more. Find out the story behind the benefits of curating such a community-driven book from the co-editors Emily Freeman, head of DevOps product marketing at AWS, Nathen Harvey, developer advocate at Google Cloud, and Chris Williams, cloud therapist and principal cloud solutions architect for World Wide Technologies.

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Migrating to the cloud has become a “sine qua non” these days. The compact articles in 97 Things Every Cloud Engineer Should Know inspect the entirety of cloud computing, including fundamentals, architecture and migration. You'll go through security and compliance, operations and reliability and software development. And examine networking, organizational culture, and more.

Find out the story behind the benefits of curating such a community-driven book from the co-editors Emily Freeman, head of DevOps product marketing at AWS, Nathen Harvey, developer advocate at Google Cloud, and Chris Williams, cloud therapist and principal cloud solutions architect for World Wide Technologies.


Chris Williams: Hello, everybody, and welcome to the "GOTO Book club series." Today, I will be your temporary soon-to-be-sacked host. My name is Chris Williams, and we are going to talk to two amazing authors about a book that's coming up for them. But first off, let's do a round of introductions. My name is Chris Williams, I am a Cloud Therapist and Principal Cloud Solutions Architect for World Wide Technologies. I am also an AWS Hero and I do things with customers.  Emily, would you like to go first?

Emily Freeman: Sure. I am  Emily Freeman. I run community engagement at AWS, and I'm thrilled to be here and talking about "97 Things Every Cloud Engineer Should Know" which has been published for a while now. So, we're very excited.

Chris Williams: We've all got our copies right here. Excellent.

Emily Freeman: I should have brought mine.

Chris Williams: Nathen, please.

Nathen Harvey: Hi there, everyone. My name is Nathen Harvey, I'm a Developer Advocate with Google Cloud. And I focus most of my time on the DORA research program. Maybe you've heard of DORA, she's an explorer. No, no, no, not that DORA, I mean the designated outdoor refreshment area in Ohio. That's where you can...

Chris Williams: Wait, that's...

Nathen Harvey: ...carry around a free, open container.No, that's not the right DORA either.

Chris Williams: Hold on.

Nathen Harvey: The Digital Operational Resilience Act. No, no, that's the EU, that's not here. Oh, right, DORA, DevOps Research, and Assessment, that's what I like to focus on. I do research all the time and help teams understand and apply that research so that they can get better at software delivery and operations performance.

Chris Williams: Not the Delaware Orangutans and Raccoons Association?

Nathen Harvey: Ooh, nice, nice, another one for me to add to my list. Yes.

Emily Freeman: That was a really good intro.

Chris Williams: Awesome.

Emily Freeman: That's solid.

Chris Williams: Excellent. So, we are here today to talk about "97 Things Every Cloud Engineer Should Know." I have several questions, but first, off I wanna say that I loved reading this book. As an old hat to this industry, as a crusty battle-scarred veteran, going through this and seeing a bunch of validations too long, hill-fought-upon battles that I've had in my past, this was a fantastic read.

I have a ton of notes because, as I was going through it, I was also putting aside little gems and nuggets that I'm going to now be talking with my customers about. I'm like, yes, this was very succinctly put. I'm like, yes, yes, yes, check, check, check. Oh my God, I need to talk to everybody about this. So, when y'all asked me to come on and be a host for this, hearts, I was so happy about that.

The story behind the book

strong>Chris Williams:The first thing that I wanted to get into, and this is popcorn, feel free to grab whichever talking point we wanna talk about. How did his book come to be? Like, what was the genesis? And where did you guys figure out, this thing needs to be a thing in the universe?

Emily Freeman: Can I tell you the true and authentic story?

Chris Williams: No, lie to us, make it good.

Emily Freeman: I mean, I could give you a polished version of this. I was chatting, so, I had written "DevOps For Dummies," and in the high, you get after writing a book. So writing a book is a big lift and it's kind of torture, but then it gets published and it's like, "I did it, I'm an author." You feel really good about yourself, and at that moment, I talked to Kathleen Carr, who is incredible. She is just an amazing human being. And at the time she worked for O'Reilly, and she said, "We are doing these, the series of 97 things. We think we should do a cloud engineer one, are you interested?" And I said, "Sure" because that was the right answer. Yes.

Chris Williams: Obviously.

Emily Freeman: So, we set out to do this. And "97 Things" is interesting because, you know, Nathen Harvey and I are more curators or editors of it. We did not write these articles. And so, there were submissions from the community around a bunch of different categories. I thought it was just exciting to hear voices from the community. It's something I'm super passionate about. So, we kick it off, and then a little thing, you may have heard of it, called COVID, hit the world and...

Chris Williams: Tell me more.

Emily Freeman: ...I turned into a sad little troll. And I remember I would sit in my backyard in a hammock. I bought myself a hammock because like, I'm an extrovert, I need people. So, the start of COVID was not a fun time for me. Like, the first two weeks, I was like, "This is fun. I'll order extra wine, it's like a little vacation, whatever. Spend extra time with my little."

Chris Williams: PTO, yes, please.

Emily Freeman: I mean, it dragged on, it was like the song. It was just, you know, we were four months in. So, I would sit in my hammock and I would, like, at some point, I was on the phone with someone and I yelled at a squirrel, and the person on the phone was like, " Emily, are you okay?" I was like, "Clearly not." So, all this to say, the project started to suffer and taper off, and I was struggling. And so, another editor at O'Reilly was like, "Are you open? I know this might be offensive, but please don't take this poorly, are you open to a co-curator, co-editor?" And I was like, time is running out...

Chris Williams: And a ray of sunshine came down. Yes, please.

Emily Freeman: "I'm not offended, I need help." So, I called Nathen Harvey Harvey, who is well known to be one of the best human beings in the world, and I felt like he would be someone who not only knew a bunch of folks in the community but someone who could inspire and help people over the finish line of submitting these. And so, I like to joke that, ultimately, I got us halfway through, and then basically I collapsed. Nathen picked me up on his back and dragged us both over the finish line, and that is how "97 Things Every Cloud Engineer" came to be. So, it was quite the process. The editors were always patient with me, and Nathen was an incredible partner in this, truly.

Chris Williams: And so now, as a true cloud therapist, Nathen, what's your side of the story?

Nathen Harvey: Yeah, I've been furiously scrolling back in my chats with  Emily on my phone to try to figure out when it was that she reached out to me. I mean, we chat too often, I can't get back that far.

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Emily Freeman: I know.

Nathen Harvey: But, essentially, when she reached out to me I said, "Yes, of course. I'd love to help. Wait a minute, 90...do we have to write 97 things?" That was my first question because I don't have 97 things that people need to know, certainly. And then she described the format of the book, and just like  Emily, I got excited because this meant that we could reach out to people across the community and bring in voices that maybe sometimes you haven't heard before or haven't had an opportunity to hear. The thing I love best about the book is in fact that we have so many different authors. And really, each one of these authors is open to a conversation with you. So, we have contact information, LinkedIn, Twitter, or what-have-you in the book for those authors. Find them, reach out, and have a conversation. I think that you'll find it's always better to talk to more people and get more ideas and insights than you could get from just  Emily and me.

Chris Williams: And I'm 100% gonna take you up on that because I'm gonna start pinging these people for my show , and ask them more questions too. Because you do have a lot of amazing voices in there. I mean, there are so many smart people from all walks of IT and so many brilliant...as I'm reading these papers, I'm just like, wow, this person has been there. I can see the scars as I'm reading it and just going through it. One person, in particular, stood out to me, I think it was Chris Short in his paper on changing the attack surface. And he walked through like, did you check this? I was like, "Oh, he's been there. Oh, boo, I feel for you."

Emily Freeman: Chris is amazing, he'll love to hear that.

How to choose the 97 things

Chris Williams: I mean, honestly, as I said, I've got like so many little nuggets of things that were just, wow, that's just a truly impressive pedigree of people that you've brought to the table here. How did that come to be? How did...did you recruit these folks? Did O'Reilly come and get them for you and brought them and then you had like a thousand things that you had to then cull down to 97?

Emily Freeman: We had more... Well, it kind of ebbed and flowed, right? We didn't have enough and then you kinda push over and you have to select from there. We were lucky, in that, several folks submitted multiple ideas, and, we were still able to highlight the vast majority of folks just maybe on one topic, not all three, or whatever. I think the gift of this series and the book is that it not only gives a voice to people like Nathen was saying, that doesn't always have a platform or are a little less known in the industry and who deserve incredible credit, but they also come to this with experiences, passions, points of views that we can't possibly have as individuals, right? And so, in this sort of collection of stories you're able to get all of those perspectives, which I think is incredible.

Nathen Harvey: Yes, I agree. There were certainly some authors that O'Reilly was already working with, and they said, "Hey, why don't you pitch in an article for this particular book?" And they did that, and that was awesome. It was also, I think there was an open call for contributors. And I know personally that  Emily and myself reached out to people that we know across the community.

And I'm glad that you highlighted Chris there, that there were lots of, like, well-experienced authors in the book. But I think it's also important to remember that we have to have to brand new voices in Cloud as well. I think the last, the 97th thing was from Rachel Sweeney from "Zero to Cloud Engineer in less than a year" where Rachel shared her story of how she got into cloud engineering, and how...

Chris Williams: Less than a year ago. And that was the perfect way to end the book, in my opinion, like, "And you can do all of this too in one year or less."

Nathen Harvey: Exactly. We wanna make this open to everyone. Now, in a year, you hopefully won't have all of the battle security scars that Chris Short has and shares in his chapter. But, you know, hopefully, you can spread the timeline of those out a bit. But I think it is really important that we have those voices as well, because, to me, those are super inspiring.

Chris Williams: Definitely.

Emily Freeman: Inspiring. And my favorite aspect of having someone who is either new to a specific area of expertise or the industry in general, they ask the best questions. And they shake up this knowledge bias, the assumptions that we all operate in. Simply asking, "What does that acronym mean?" Is incredibly powerful to align a full group of people around true meaning, not just a word or what we think is something, because we all kind of experience from our perspectives. But yes, they're super powerful in that way.

Chris Williams: Yes. Having, so, I call it beginner brain, when you come in and you try to ask the fundamental questions to make sure that everybody's on the same page, instead of just assuming that everybody knows, like, oh, of course, this is how we do it, this is how everybody does it. It's not. We got this pizza team over here and this, you know, this pizza team wants pineapple, this one, you know, whatever, I'm trying to make a pizza analogy because I haven't had lunch yet. All right.

Emily Freeman: I like it...the beginner's brain is so much more pleasant and lovely than mine. I call it IaaS, idiot as a service.

Nathen Harvey: Inquisitor, inquisitor, inquisitor.

Chris Williams: As a service.

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Emily Freeman: That reminds me of like, I'm going back to Goya, the Spanish Inquisition, like, no, thank you. 

Chris Williams: How do we go from beginner's brain to the Spanish Inquisition, to Goya beans? I don't know how we did that.

Emily Freeman: This is my brain. Goya the painter, Goya painted the Spanish Inquisition.

Chris Williams: Oh, I'm sorry. I thought you were... Never mind.

Nathen Harvey: Well, then he started a bean empire, don't you know?

Emily Freeman: He was very... Did you know that apparently, Pi...what is this? Pythagoras...?

Chris Williams: Pythagorean theorem?

Emily Freeman: Yes, but Pythagoras, the actual dude, was afraid of beans?

Chris Williams: Afraid of them?

Emily Freeman: I don't know if this is true. There's a story about him, he was running from someone, he comes up to a bean field, and he stopped because he was so fearful of beans.

Chris Williams: Terrified of the dreaded bean.

Emily Freeman: Yes. Well, I wanna know what kind of bean.

Chris Williams: All right, let's get back to the book, shall we?

Emily Freeman: You said it was the popcorn that I could take whatever flavor I wanted, and I did.

Chris Williams: Yes, ma'am. All right,  Emily Freeman, everybody.

Writing a book vs curating one

Chris Williams: Okay, so, editing a compilation is different than writing an actual book. I'm assuming, I have no experience with either one of those things. But,  Emily, obviously you're a published author. When you were doing that and then you were coming down from the euphoria and agreeing to all of these other books in your dazed state, is creating a compilation like this significantly different from writing your own thing from whole cloth? Or is it similar?

Emily Freeman: It's very, very different and I think they're both hard for different reasons, and it probably depends on your personality as to which you would be better at. So, anyone who knows me or works with me, including everyone on this call, knows that I'm not always responsive. My email response rate kinda sucks.

Chris Williams: It's in the zero percentage, somewhere around there.

Emily Freeman: It's all part of my plan to get them to get me an EA. Like, if I suck at email bad enough, eventually they're like, "Can you get someone to help her with her email?"

Chris Williams: "Is she still alive? We need to do a safety check."

Emily Freeman: Yes, that's exactly it. So, all that to say, I am not the most organized person as far as a lot of things, but mostly administration, like keeping track of things, and following up with people, is not my strength. I think, of the two of us, Nathen is much stronger in that area, and it's one of the reasons "97 Things" would not exist without Nathen.

But writing a book from scratch is easier in some other ways because you're not having to make some of those upfront decisions or figure out, like, one, we had two challenges with "97 Things," which was, what are the big categories? What are the things that we wanna make sure are touched upon in the book? And how do we organize it? Because you have all these different voices, how do you organize it so there is some level of continuity, right? It doesn't feel like this, like a popcorn analogy, where you're just popping through different random ideas. So, that was more challenging than coming from a single point of view and being able to write from your voice. But, you know, writing a book, I have talked about this, writing a book is torture, don't do it, don't. Nathen, what do you think?

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Nathen Harvey: I've written plenty of things but never, like, actually a book. I've participated in "97 Things," and I've contributed to some other published works. I think that being a curator for "97 Things" in particular,  Emily mentioned that we had some, we had more articles than we could accept. This is just heartbreaking because we have great content that we can encourage people to go and publish on their blog or elsewhere, but we couldn't fit it into the book. It kind of, to me, is very reminiscent of curating a conference, where, as  Emily said, you want some continuity of a story, like a through-line of the story for that conference when you have conference talks. The same with this book.

And then, of course, there's the whole, you're ceding control. You need to convince some of these authors to finish the piece that they need to write. And most of the authors are at least a little bit better at responding to emails than  Emily. But, you know, we're all human, and we all have, like, we all have...or we're all overworked. And as  Emily mentioned, this book was written in 2020. A lot was going on around the globe, the least of which was prioritizing maybe an article for a book, sometimes.

What you need to know about cloud engineering

Chris Williams: Gotcha. So, speaking to that point, the way that you staggered out the sections, you have fundamentals, architecture, migration, security, compliance, operational reliability, software development, cloud economy and measured spending, automation data networking, organizational culture, and personal and professional development. How did that, I mean, that's a lot and how did you bucketize? How did you tell that story? I can tell when I'm reading the last story of one section, how it's kind of related to the first story of the next section. So, I loved the way that mental shift happened in there. But where were you...what was your thought process around these buckets?

Nathen Harvey: I think to start, our thought process was, cloud engineering, what do you need to know? Well, you need to know a little bit about everything. There is just, the surface area so wide and broad that it's really difficult to just sum everything up? I think that  Emily and I really kind of sat down and brainstormed a bunch of these categories, then we looked at the contributions that we had, and this was before we had all of the contributions, we found places where we were lacking in some contributions. But this was where, "Oh, I know a person who is deep in security, or I know someone that's in cloud economics. Let's pull them in and make sure that we have their story together." And then, in terms of laying it out in terms of, like, the progression of how the sections went, I'm not sure I have a good answer on how we came to that.

Emily Freeman: Yes. I remember we had a Google Sheet and we were furiously typing into that and trying to organize this. I also wanna highlight one of the benefits of going through a publisher is that they help, right? So we had incredible editors and folks helping us to organize this and make it a fully-fledged book that would be a great experience for a reader.

Chris Williams: It does flow very well. I mean, for having 97 different voices in the book, it's the continuity of it and the fact that everybody stuck with the phrase cloud engineer, and then first defining it, what a cloud engineer is at the very beginning so that everybody was like, "Oh, I'm not a cloud engineer. Oh, no, I am a cloud engineer." I loved the way that that flowed. Whether that was intentional or unintentional, I applaud you.

Nathen Harvey: Awesome.

Favorite articles in the book

Chris Williams: So, speaking to that, and I know that nobody wants to pick a favorite child or anything like that, were there stories in there that resonated more or that you loved more? I'm not gonna ask which ones you liked less because that's not fair. But were there certain things in there that like, "Yes, oh, you nailed that?"

Emily Freeman: I think, for me, the ones that resonate I have a strong bias toward the human aspects of our sociotechnical systems. I think the ones that focused around that, how to make ourselves better, how to make our systems better for us to operate within. It's great to have 99% uptime or whatever it is for you, but if it's horrible going to work every day, what's the point of this? The ones that kind of helped level up folks.

Then the ones that align with just my experiences, right? As you said about Chris' article, it wasn't just that he had those battle scars, I'm sure you identified with some of those shared experiences. Some of the stories that had similarities to my own experiences certainly resonated with me just because they brought me back to a previous time.

Nathen Harvey: Yes. I lean on those that speak to the human aspects. There were a couple that I certainly come back to and are quoting all of the time, and those are the ones that I think challenge how we think about things. For example, article number 42, J. Paul Reed revisiting the Rs of SRE, I think was really interesting. I talk a lot with people about SRE, and his approach to reminding us all that reliability and resiliency, and robustness, are all different words, and they have different meanings, and we need to understand them in context and how we approach them. And then also certain things around automation, red-green refactor for infrastructure from Annie Hedgpeth

Chris Williams: That was a good one, yep.

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Nathen Harvey: That is, you know, as a former system administrator, I remember very deeply the conversations that I had with developers saying, "Hey, you should write some tests for all that infrastructure as code, code that you're writing." And I knew at that time that what I was good at was writing Nagios alerts, and what I would be really bad at is writing a test. I also had been in conversations with developers over lunch and listening to them argue about what makes a good test and a bad test.

When they said to add tests, I said, "No way. I'm not gonna sit down and argue with you about that. I'm just gonna write better monitors." And it took some time for me to develop as a professional to recognize the power of testing and catching things earlier. And I think Annie's article helps sort of reinforce some of those lessons for me. It was like a walk down memory lane almost.

Chris Williams: It's funny that…

Emily Freeman: I think a lot of these articles, probably ended up being the advice the author would have liked to have 10, 5, 15 years ago, whatever the distance is. And I think that it's an incredibly powerful thing, like, it does, Nathen, sometimes it takes us a minute to feel comfortable implementing not just a new technology, but a new sort of style of work.

Nathen Harvey: Absolutely. Taking a new approach, putting in a new practice. It takes time. And we know, we know from experience and from research, when you try that new thing, the first thing you're likely to do is trip, and that's okay. Get back up and keep moving forward. It's over, like, we call these things practices for a reason, right? You have to practice them, you have to put them into practice. It's that practice that helps you hone the skills that you have.

Emily Freeman: Yes.

Chris Williams: It's...

Emily Freeman: Practice doesn't make perfect but it makes better. Sorry, Chris, I keep interrupting you.

Chris Williams: No, no, it's okay. You're  Emily Freeman, you can do whatever you want.

Nathen Harvey: Except for the email.

Emily Freeman: Not responding to email, Chris, what about that? How about that?

Chris Williams: You already do that anyway,  Emily Freeman, what do you think about that? It's funny that you mentioned Annie because that was one of my light bulb things. So, we've all heard of test-driven development, and I was like, TDD for infrastructure, bing. I was like, "Oh my gosh." As  I said, I have a ton of different nuggets.

One of the things that I liked though, as you were compiling this list of authors and getting all these amazing papers in there, was the expression of vulnerability and the admitting that we don't know everything from a lot of them, from a surprising number of them. Michelle Brenner's article, in it she says "Nobody understands IM." And I was like, "Oh, it's not just me." And I felt so, not vindicated, but I was like, "Okay, if she can say that out loud, then I can admit that."

Nathen Harvey: Well, and I think...

Emily Freeman: I think it's incredibly powerful. 

Nathen Harvey: I think finding those kindred spirits, we're all in this together. And I think, frankly, when I meet with  Emily, I think she's very open and vulnerable. I try to be that way myself and I think that that does come through in all of the authors here. I think that inspiration is one thing, and it's important. Commiseration is just as important, right? No one has figured this out, I'm not alone, but I do have, back to what I said earlier, Chris, I do have people I can reach out to, a community of people that I can reach out to and maybe have a discussion about this.

How we learn from incidents and failures

Emily Freeman: Yes. This is random, but this piqued my interest. The recent Nobel Prize, I think in physics, went to these folks. It's the...it's like the connection, the... Does anyone know what I'm talking about?

Nathen Harvey: The quantum? That experience...

Emily Freeman: Yes. The quantum...

Nathen Harvey: The quantum connection.

Chris Williams: Quantum entanglement?

Nathen Harvey: Yes.

Emily Freeman: Quantum entanglement. Thank you, thank you. Now I'm just thinking about entanglement, it's fine. There's a meme. Quantum entanglement, the concept of it I don't fully understand, but it brought up to me this concept of, you know, we teach in school, from a very young age, facts. We say, "These are facts. This is what we know, and you need to know these things." And I think then we come out of the school system, which truly is based on Victorian principles, right? It has not evolved to our modern society. We come out and then we're expected suddenly to know how to think and to explore and feel comfortable with the unknown. And, you know, for me, it took me 10 years to figure out that I could say I don't know and have that be okay, or be vulnerable about my strengths and my weaknesses.

And I think, for me, I think our school system and society, in general, would be so much better if instead, we took the approach of, hey, we don't know what's going on. These are our theories. We're gonna tell you, bring you up to speed, and then you can take it from here. And maybe we're wrong. Maybe you'll do better. I hope the next generation does better. I hope that the engineers who come up after I do better, change my code. I'm sure it's awful.

Chris Williams: Prove us wrong.

Emily Freeman: Evolution is important but we don't often talk about the sort of aging aspect of that, of having things fall away and having things go out of style, and how that might impact us as individuals. So, with that, it's, yes, there's this commiseration, there's this community of being open and honest. And it's only in that place that you can share a lot of this information and be open to learning. That's when you can kind of open yourself to change and to become better.

Chris Williams:  Emily Freeman, are you suggesting that curiosity and critical thinking and being able to admit that you're wrong, are positive and good traits?

Emily Freeman: Yes. I mean, I know.

Chris Williams: That's crazy talk, this is bananas, this interview's over.

Emily Freeman: Yeah. It was nice seeing you all.

Chris Williams: And I'm fired. Okay.

Emily Freeman: We do though, you know, I think...

Chris Williams: Oh, 100%.

Emily Freeman: We put so much emphasis on being right, and I, in my elder millennial age, I've sort of come to this theory of it's not about being right, it's about coming together and finding a solution together.

Chris Williams: Elder millennial, I'm gonna get you like a Gandalf staff. You can carry it to Reinvent.

Emily Freeman: Yes.

Chris Williams: Thoughts, Mr. Harvey?

Nathen Harvey: Yes, I have thoughts.

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Chris Williams: I got nothing.

Nathen Harvey: I think what  Emily talks about also appears in the book, right? How do we learn from incidents and failures? And how do we, as organizations, actually practice things like blameless postmortems or blameless incident reviews? I'm also just struck by this thought of, you know, the thing that helps, unfortunately, but the reality is, the thing that helps a team bond is going through a tough time together.

I remember, you know, when you have someone new on your operations team, when you go through the first incident or outage with that person, coming out of that we're now much closer connected. And so, having that sort of the fellow travelers that we have, going through similar things, I think that that helps create those bonds, and exposes the vulnerabilities that we all have and allows us to move past them into this stage of learning, and thinking about how can we improve?

Emily Freeman: Yes. If you've ever seen...

Chris Williams: Yes. You don't have to be...

Emily Freeman: ...a traditional, like, Japanese craftsman make a Japanese teapot from hand, highly recommend, go watch a video. It's beautiful, it's absolutely beautiful to watch. But it's very interesting because to put the spout or the handle on, what you have to do is you have to scratch up the clay. And it's only on those scratches that it bonds together and it sticks. And I think that humans are just like that. We don't bond over, "Hey, look at my gorgeous home, look at my great life, look at my cool job title." We bond over, "I had a really hard time, this is, you know, some of my childhood trauma." Whatever it happens to be, that is how humans form really tight connections and tight bonds. So I completely agree, Nathen. It's about the sort of shared experiences.

Chris Williams: I think that we all have... So, I call them foxhole buddies. The folks that you've been to the war with, that you've spent time in the foxhole with, the guys that are up with you at 3 a.m. when that pager goes off and it's all hands on deck. I still chat with friends and colleagues from 20 years ago that are my old foxhole buddies that we just get together and, you know, have a drink and "Remember that time when...? Yeah." And that's what it is. It's all about, that connection and being able to admit that you made a mistake being vulnerable and then learning from those things because nobody's perfect. Especially the ones that pretend that they are.

Nathen Harvey: Chris, as you're saying that, I'm just trying to think about an analogy that works well, that's maybe less war-related. The thing that popped into my mind is, going back in time, if you will, to maybe being a high school student and going to the danceathon. We danced for 24 hours, we're all in this together and we're all exhausted by the end of it, we're probably fighting with our best friend. But omorrow, after we've had a little nap, we're good, we're back together. So, maybe instead of a foxhole buddy, you have a dance marathon partner, and that's the people that you went through the tough time with.

Emily Freeman: Can you educate me on what a danceathon is?

Chris Williams: I was about to ask the same question. I have no idea what you're talking about.

Nathen Harvey: Oh, great, great. So now I've just been exposed my age. All right, so, back in my day...

Chris Williams: Remember the sock hop kids with the pink skirts?

Nathen Harvey: When we were in high school, we would put on poodle dresses and patent leather shoes, and we would go and we would dance and you would raise money. It's like, you know, sometimes you run like your kids run or something...

Chris Williams: Mash potato.

Nathen Harvey: ...and you're like, "I'll get 20 cents per mile if I run this marathon or whatever." Well, it was a way to raise money, and you danced all night. You got locked in the cafeteria, and you spent 24 hours there dancing all night long.

Emily Freeman: I've never heard cafegymatorium  either, but oh my God it's so true.

Nathen Harvey: It is.

Chris Williams: I didn't know what that meant either.

Nathen Harvey: Cafegymatorium. What else is it?

Emily Freeman: I know.

Chris Williams: I think we've all learned a lesson here. It's the friends we've made along the way.

Nathen Harvey: It is. Although the cafegymatorium is, you know, it's kind of like DevOps, I mean DevSecOps, because it's not just a cafeteria and a gym, It's a cafegymatorium, it's also an auditorium. So, like, DevOps doesn't work, we have to include security, so it's DevSecOps. And now, we just get to the ridiculous part of this episode.

Emily Freeman: Why have a turkey when you can have a turducken.

Nathen Harvey: Exactly.

Chris Williams: And we didn't even get into our CCoE argument. This is bananas.

Nathen Harvey: Oh, don't start there.

Chris Williams: He's getting all prickly like a...

Nathen Harvey: I'm ready now. I'm ready now, Chris, we're going to the foxhole.

Emily Freeman: Now you're ready for war?

Nathen Harvey: Now I'm ready for war.

Learnings from curating the book

Chris Williams: Okay. One last little tidbit. What did creating this book, editing this book, and bringing this book to life, and what did it teach you?

Emily Freeman: That is a great question. I think it didn't teach me this but it reinforced to me how incredible our community is. I'll talk to people in other industries, you know, it's not like nurses have this type of community, or pharmacists, or whomever. Electricians don't come together and share how to do this kinda... We have a unique remarkable community.

And the fact that we not only know all of these things but are willing to share and get joy out of sharing how we solve problems and how we do better with each other. I'll never, every time I have trouble at work or I'm frustrated or whatever, I come back to that. And that is forever my north star of the incredible people in this industry who genuinely care. I mean, we're just the luckiest people in the world, we truly are.

Nathen Harvey: Yes. Plus 100 to that for sure. It is about the community of practitioners that we are all, you know, connected and learning from one another. I think  Emily  also mentioned earlier that, you know, in writing a book, it is impossible to understate the power of an editor and editorial team, and someone to push you to get the thing shipped, get that done, and then help you make it better. And I think, frankly, that's just a demonstration of what this book is. It was a community of people coming together, helping each other, lifting each other, and offering that wisdom and those insights to the rest of the community, and I think that's just so powerful.

Emily Freeman: It is.

Chris Williams: I 100% thought Nathen's response was gonna be, "Never write a book with  EmilyFreeman." But this is what I learned myself.

Emily Freeman: I may be unresponsive, but when I'm there, I'm filled with joy.

Chris Williams: And  Emily's was gonna be, "Never write a book during the pandemic."

Emily Freeman: Well, that would be advisable. I still owe everyone a book, by the way, like, it's coming, I'm just slow. I could write a book on recovering from COVID burnout, which some people seem to have just popped out of like they had no problem, and I'm still like, "I don't know about this whole thing. Like, people, I'm not sure."

If you think I am bad at responding to emails, trying to get like a chapter turned in from me, it takes a special kind of person. At some point the editors were sending, I think Kathleen was sending me pictures of saints to try and like Catholic guilt me into doing things. 

Nathen Harvey: "St. Chris Williamstopher, the patron saint of travel is requesting your chapter, Ms. Freeman."

Recommended talk: Modern Software Engineering • Dave Farley & Steve Smith • GOTO 2022

Emily Freeman: We started with some of the lower, and then when we got to Mother Teresa, I was like, "Oh, I'm late, I'm late, we gotta go."

Chris Williams: The editor saint escalation criteria. You don't ever want to get to Mary. Once you get to Mary, you're just, oh, you're done. You're done.

Emily Freeman: Yeah. You're at full you better start saying your Hail Marys.

Chris Williams: Full guilt.

Emily Freeman: Not good. Mea culpa.


Chris Williams: All right. Was there anything else that you wanted to say about the book, about life in general, and about each other? Anything that you wanted to bring to light as we get ready to wrap this up?

Nathen Harvey: I mean, I guess the one thing I'll bring up is, you know, the book did happen during COVID. But COVID wasn't the only thing that happened in 2020. I think that there were a lot of social struggles. The book is dedicated to Black Lives Matter. And today, more than ever, that is the case, black lives matter. And it was really clear, I think, to a lot of new people how important black lives are, and how black lives truly do matter, as we were writing this book. There was a little bit of an awakening, a long overdue awakening across our society and I'm really happy that people have had that. And while the pandemic "ends." This care and love and respect that we have for our fellow humans, I think will stick with us for a long time. I certainly hope so.

Emily Freeman: Absolutely.

Chris Williams: Miss Em?

Emily Freeman: I couldn't say it better.

Chris Williams: Okay. We'll leave it there. Nathen Harvey Harvey, Google Dev advocate extraordinaire.  Emily Freeman Freeman, Twitter superstar and...

Emily Freeman: That's it.

Chris Williams: That's it, that's it.

Emily Freeman: That's my life.

Chris Williams: AWS employee extraordinaire. You're all right, I guess, whatever.

Emily Freeman: I want a t-shirt, "I'm all right, I guess."

Chris Williams: World's okayest engineer.

Emily Freeman: I love it.

Chris Williams: Thanks for coming on. It was a pleasure talking about you. It was a pleasure reading the book, I enjoyed it. I've already given it to all of my colleagues at the office saying, "Pick this up, start scraping out all of the gems of wisdom that are in here," because there's so much good stuff in here. I mean, you know, getting to dip into somebody else's experiences is always hugely valuable. Seeing problems from different facets of life and different experiences is always the way that we level up and skill up. So, it was truly a pleasure.

Emily Freeman: Thank you.

Nathen Harvey: Thank you so much, Chris. And to everyone watching and listening, there were 97 things so that there's room for the three that you want to share with the community. So, please, write down your three, publish them on Twitter, on your blog, and on TikTok, and share the three nuggets of wisdom that you have about a cloud engineer.

Emily Freeman: See what I mean?

Chris Williams: Do you wanna say where people can find you?

Emily Freeman: Nathen Harvey's one of the best humans that I've, like, are you seeing this?

Chris Williams: He's blowing you out of the water Em. You gotta step up in here.

Emily Freeman: I know. How do I compete? I know. When I'm like, how to be nicer  Emily, I think about Nathen Harvey.

Chris Williams: What would Nathen do?

Emily Freeman: Yes. So kind.

Chris Williams: Where can people find you?

Nathen Harvey: You can find me on Twitter. You can find me on Twitter. I'm @nathenharvey, but I must warn you, my father misspelled all of his children's names. So it's N-A-T-H-E-N H-A-R-V-E-Y on Twitter. Thanks, dad. Love you still. Yeah, so, find me on Twitter, Nathen Harvey Harvey.

Emily Freeman: I have to tell you, you're my only true, like, Nathen Harvey that I interact with a lot. And I had to write Nathen Harvey the other day, and I spelled it your way, not the normal... Not normal, I'm trying to remove that word from life. The more traditional way, and yeah, I was like, well...

Nathen Harvey: You made my father smile that day,  Emily, I'm sure.

Emily Freeman: See, there you go. He's like, "See, it was right." You can find me on Twitter @editingemily. Yes, I used to be a writer and an editor. And I'm trying TikTok. Okay, so, I'm not good at it, I'm not that funny. Well, I'm funny, but I'm, you know, I'm trying to join the TikTok community. 

Chris Williams: "I'm funny."

Emily Freeman: My daughter the other day was like, "You're boring." I was like, "I am a lot of things but I am not boring. You take that back right now."

Chris Williams: "You go to your room right now. I'm fun."

Emily Freeman: Yes. "Brooke, go to your room if I'm boring. I am an interesting human being." On TikTok I'm...

Chris Williams: Did Brooke talk you into that?

Emily Freeman: Brooke and Linda are on my team. So, Brooke, Jameson, and Linda.

Chris Williams: Of course they did, of course, they did.

Emily Freeman: Yes. They're incredible. And so, on TikTok I am thatemilyfreeman.

Nathen Harvey: Awesome. All right. Well, folks, thank you very much. It was a pleasure speaking with both of you. Have a wonderful day.

Emily Freeman: Thanks, y'all.

Nathen Harvey: Bye.

About the speakers

Emily Freeman
Emily Freeman

Head of DevOps Product Marketing, Head of Community Engagement at AWS

Nathen Harvey
Nathen Harvey

Developer Advocate at Google Cloud