Software Developers Journey Podcast

#176 Sebastien Stormacq was a developer advocate before the term even existed


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Sebastien Stormacq 0:00
Never give up and continue to learn, never give up. It's not because someone tells you know, at some point that it's a definitive No. It might be a yes at another company or it might be a yes at the same company. And I'm giving that advice to many. I'm doing a lot of interviews for Amazon. And I'm telling people, don't worry if it is not going through, look at my example. And I'm not the only one. Many of us at Amazon, it took us two or three times to get in. So never give up and continue to learn. Listen to the feedback from from your peers from from your customer. And it's not easy doing that by yourself. You need a bit of help, but try to notice your your weak spots are the areas where you can improve your skills or try to measure the gap between what is expected from you and what you can do right now.

Tim Bourguignon 0:53
Hello, and welcome to developer's journey, the podcast bringing you the making of stories of successful software developers to help you on your upcoming journey. I'm your host team building you on this episode 176 I receive Sebastien StormTech sebut has been writing code since it first touched a Commodore 64 In the mid 80s. Who really liking this, he inspires builders to get the most value out of the AWS cloud. Sam is also a fellow blogger and podcaster Oh, and if you want to sell him something, be sure it has an API. So welcome their journey.

Sebastien Stormacq 1:33
Hey, Tim, thank you for having me the

Tim Bourguignon 1:34
show. But before we come to your story, I want to thank the terrific listeners who support the show every month, you are keeping the dev journey lights up. If you would like to join this fine crew and help me spend more time on finding phenomenal guests then editing audio tracks, please go to our website, Dev journey dot info and click on the Support me on Patreon button. Even the smallest contributions are giant steps toward a sustainable dev journey. journey. Thank you. And now back to today's guest. So, as you know, the show exists to help the listeners understand what your story looked like and imagine how to shape their own future. So as always, let's go back to your beginnings. Maybe the Commodore 64 We'll see. Where Where would you place the start of your dev journey

Sebastien Stormacq 2:25
at Commodore 64 Yes, for if you are younger, you don't know that machine. It was like a personal computer or PC. Like we can say but before the IBM PC and those and Microsoft and all these time, I was a kid I was 13 or 14 and I remember that exact night where my parents and us the kids have been invited to neighbors for dinner you know like things happens. And the Kids Next Door got just that brand shiny new Commodore 64 And I never saw I never touched a computer before at some some toys that we can program. That's I forgot the name of that big track big track race like robots on wheels that you can programs like go advanced three position and then turn right that many degrees and then emit the songs and then wait for 30 seconds. So you write your your program on like a cow program at boot camp. That was my first program. Totally, but it was not really a computer. And then I saw Commodore 6564 as a neighbor place and we spent the whole evening trying basic stuff in basics, like prints, Buju and yeah, because at the time, it was in front from me. And then learning the basics of loop of the condition. We had the book sold with the Commodore 64 next to us, you know, like the user guide, with the basic instructions in in the basic programming language, the foundation in selection of basic. And then we were quite proud of what we were doing. We were calling the parents in Hey, come and see on the screen what we did. And then my dad start to give me that evening bit of challenge like what if you you put all the even numbers on screen between zero and one under it? And then what if you compute the Fibonacci suite and what is the Fibonacci then he explained me and then we together with with with the neighbor made these little algorithms this little program and when I was back at home that night I told my parents I want that every one that I don't know how long it took to have one at home because it was not like the type of home where you want that to have that the next day so I probably had to wait for next Christmas or something like that and collect money from all the family and save money a bit for for a while but I eventually got the Commodore 64 And I started to use it slack most of the kids at that time a big part of it was playing games. Let's let's face it. That's not really programming. Exchanging games at school We were exchanging a floppy disk. Because I never bought maybe I should not say that I never bought a game for Condor 64. But okay, all of the games edito probably do not exist anymore. So they cannot sue me right now. And also do programming. I remember buying magazines and typing the codes that we saw in magazine. At the very beginning, I had no floppy drives at all. So at the very beginning, I was typing the code, and I had to keep the computer open. Because if I turn off the computer program is done. And I need to retype like the 16th page of code to get the code back. Again, and the program back again, I wrote an application for my dad to help him to manage his expense report to enter the date city and to print the report in the correct way so that he can just attach receipts and send that and send that back to to accounting. I bought address book for me trying to keep my address and phone number there was no email at the time. So these are the types of small programs I did on the on the on the Commodore 64. And then something happened. My dad and a friend of him as started a side business. And the idea at the time was to rent PC, a PC was quite an expensive piece of technology. There was no Euro back then. But in equivalent euros this time, it was like two 3000 euros to get a green screen, orange screen PC with one floppy disk, maybe a five megabyte hard drive, and an accounting software. And the idea was to rent to companies, companies that cannot afford to buy or do not want to buy because it was new for them to rent like long term renting like three years or five years renting of PC. And so I started to have a lot of PC coming at home. And someone was required to install dos on it and format the hard drive and install the software and guess what was it it was me doing that so I had a lot of different machines at the time. The brand were one maxtow All things bit later Olivetti. But that was a bit later. So I used to have PCs at home. PC, we fought graphic cards at the beginning, we fought how harddrive and I continue to program of course, the things that I was doing on the Commodore I did that on the on the PCs as well. I remember afternoon, we friends. One afternoon, we we learned something during the math course it was Wednesday. I'm from Belgium. So Wednesday afternoon, kids have no school. I was I was at school in the morning. And we we learn at the math class, the motherboard sets, motherboard set, it's a it's a fractal. It's beautiful graphic. Based on imaginary numbers. It's actually the formula is quite simple, actually. And we came back at home and I had a very what is now an old PC with CGA graphic cards for Kerberos or something like that. And we say hey, let's try to build a program that displays the Mandelbrot sets on the screen with with the corals that we have. And we start to program and the math part was not very difficult because the the formula of Mandelbrot is not super hard, imaginary numbers at that level is not super hard. But we had a bit of fighting with the graphic systems of the because we were drawing basically on the on the bottom left of the screen. And the coordinate system of the screen was not the one for for mathematical representation. So we struggled a bit with that. But eventually we did it after a few hours of fighting the two together. It took hours to draw to draw the thing on the screen and of course no printer at the time, they could not No no, no phone to take a picture. So if I want to see the the motherboard set again, I have to let my program running for a couple of hours on that PC to do it. But yes, that was my teenage years doing a lot of PC related stuff, a bit of programming. At the time, it was basic, mostly basic, Microsoft does the outdoors as well. That's the type of things I did at the beginning. And then when I finish secondary school, I had to make a choice form for high school. And it was not computer science was not the obvious choice for me because I had another patient in life was also DG in FM radio radio station. And just like most of the kids that love that start with a very, very small radio. You know the things that goes from one end of the street to the other end of the street and no further than that. But then moving from one radio station to the other. I move on to a national radio station in bed Jim, okay, national Indonesia, it's quite small, it's the country small. And it's divided by two by two language. So it's only for French speaking factor for the country. And I was working at the end when I was in my 20s, on how to contact which is music radio for for, for young people, the equivalent of energy in France. I don't know any British equivalent, like Virgin radio or this type of music and use radio, commercial radio. And around me, a lot of people are starting studies about radio, and TV, to be TV director or to be able to work in in the sound industry in the in the music and develop more in the sound sound recording. And so I had a choice to make what I want to do, and my dad being an engineer, as I say, make real studies before then after that, if you do, if you want to do your radio thing, you can do it your radio things. And so yes, I've registered to a university and I had a five years mastering in computer science. Know when I'm looked back at it, of course, to get a Korean to get money, it was probably the right choice. And I don't regret it. But there is still a bit the artistic part of me that is attached to radio to studio, I start a podcast, it's not, it's not by chance. That's one way for me to get back to my roots, and be able to talk in a microphone just like I'm doing right now. Yeah, my life would have been very, very, very different. If I made the other choice, but I guess it's the same for most of the people yet at the party on the podcast. At some point, you have to make a choice and decide what you want, you're going to so five years, computer science, not always fun. I heard a few of your previous guests that were saying I hate the math part. Yes, there is a lot of math. For me, it was to be generalist the first two years. So I also had classes of economy low. I learned some I do not regret economy, some micro economy was great. macro economy a bit a bit less great. Accounting, not a lot. But okay, it gives a foundation of general culture, which is interesting to have a bit later.

Sebastien Stormacq 12:27
Of course, I learned tons of stuff there. Like often in universities, the things that you are learning are not directly applicable for your first job. short cycles, like three year study sometimes are more practical. If you want to be productive day one, when you are hired by a company, at least it is in Western European in France, where you grew up in Belgium, where I grew up. With university, you have more like a theoretical background. But you're just a theoretical takes a bit of time to get real experience during your first job. But the good part of it is that you're super good generalist. I mean, you can you learn to learn, you learn to, to acquire new concepts and to to adopt a new concept quite easily. So it's easy to jump from from one to the other. Okay, where I am, I talk about my childhood.

Tim Bourguignon 13:20
Maybe one question there. You just said it was very theoretical. And so how did this the jump between your theoretical studies to the first job look like? Stay with us. We'll be right back.

Tim Bourguignon 13:36
Hello imposters. If you work in tech want to work in tech or are tech curious in any way you'll want to listen to this. We've launched a community of professionals who come together to share information and advice about jobs, roles, careers and the journeys we all take throughout our lives as the designers, builders, fixers investigators, explainers and protectors of the world's technology. We call it the impostor syndrome network. And all are welcome. So find the impostor syndrome network podcast wherever you listen to find podcasts, and look for the isn community on your favorite social platform. Hashtag impostor network.

Sebastien Stormacq 14:18
learning on the job, I mean, let's face it, computer, is it something where we're technology changing all the time. So I do not regret to not learn a specific technology. But learn the foundation that allows you to learn and to grasp any technology that will come in the future. All the technologies I'm not I'm using today in my job did not even exist when I was in university. Cloud, of course serverless. Of course, programming exists. But JavaScript did not exist. Python did not exist. Even Java did not exist when I was at university. Serena might be too old. I'm talking about university between 89 and it for the last century. So Java did not exist at that time. So having a good theoretical background helps grasp these new these new concepts. But one thing that doesn't change his algorithm, data structure, once you know that you I can crap, any programming language No. And most of the ones I'm using now, sorry, I repeat myself did not even exist when I was at university University, I did a bit of Pascal a bit of C, bit of COBOL. But I tried to forget that. So do not mention cut that part out of the podcast to know. No, it was mostly Pascal. At the time, I never use Pascal in my professional life. My first project where I'm ashamed of that, too, maybe I shouldn't say that there was a Microsoft Access in Visual Basic script, talking to an Oracle six database, I think at the time when record six and record seven just at the time I came out. But yes, once you know how to program a bit of algorithmic, once you understand the concept of networking of a database, of course, we learn the data structure relational models. So be it Microsoft Access Oracle, the concept that if you're not administrating the database, the concept for for programmers is the same. And that helps me to jump from one technology to the other. What I tried to do during all my career is to not over specialize in one fancy super cool technology, and try to keep a bit of distance to be able, my fear and still today is is to be locked down in something that becomes obsolete. So the only technology I really embrace and invest a lot of time was Java. But that was a bit later, like 9596. But again, it helps me to program it, it helps me to modify things in object oriented way. It helps me to, to understand client server to design server to design backends to understand scalability, transactional transactional behavior to understand how to go from one model like object oriented to relational, so I learned tons of stuff that I still can apply today. And it was not too difficult for me to detach from from Java, which I did probably 10 years ago. No, I'm not doing a lot of Java these days. But it's still a world that I like, and I understand and talking about application server when when we were chatting just before the recording, you talk about WebSphere Application Server, that's something I know quite quite well, of course, and remembers me a few years. But I'm getting ahead of myself there. So yes, university is theoretical. And Phil drops to get back to your question was in a consulting company, I sent dozens of resume. I spent interviews for banks, for materials for telco. And for a consulting company. And the first one that told me yes, you can come was a consulting company in Luxembourg. So I wasn't living in Luxembourg. It's a country next door. It's like 200 Kilometer drive. And I thought, Should I go? Should I not go at the time? No. Family? I mean, no, no kids. It's an easy decision. You take your car back and yes, you got to do some work. And I was saying, Okay, let's work for five years there. And then I go back to Belgium, and I spent 20 years of my career career in Luxembourg. So a country that I like it's stable, it's safe, it's predictable, low tax compared to the neighboring country, France, Germany and Belgium. Good Social Security. So why to move and a lot of jobs as well. So I work in consulting there for a company that doesn't exist anymore called ombre soft it was belonging to Olivetti I'm not sure if it still exists, or if it used to be a European computer manufacturer in the 80s 90s I think they start with typing machines right the typewriter machines typewriters and then they move to computer and because it was European they got a lot of markets in the European Commission European Parliament's it was public market. And I did a lot of projects for for public sector for European Commission, European Parliament a bit later European Investment Bank, European Court of Justice, all of these have their headquarter and exam broke. So, it was just going from one neighbors to student into the other and when it was not public sector it was banking because Luxembourg Yes, a lot of investment bank fund management, a bit of retail banking, but retail banking is not for me, it was not the most interesting it was I was quite interested by the the investment banking private banking and and all Hidden Secrets around it, it's quite, it's a funny world to, to, to observe with a bit of distance. So doing consulting, programming, these things, Microsoft Access, bit of PowerBuilder, they tried to put me on PowerBuilder for a period of time PowerBuilder was like a nice fourth generation language that is fully integrated with database. And yeah, it was quite popular at some some point I'm not sure it still exist, probably not. It should not. So if you're a fan of PowerBuilder, then I was assigned to a C project, someone told me Hey, you did C C++. When you were at university, we have that project starting the company I was doing was trying to build a product which was very different than doing consulting or trying to build a product to sell it was a resource manager to sales to congrats center to manage the rooms the resource, or the resource, you need to organize an event from from the catering to the projector. And so it was a typical client server application, C++ MFC, Microsoft foundation classes, SQL Server database, we were a team of four or five, I was in charge of one specific modules there every single about billing and and that was one project was eventually cancelled. That's less fun. But going back to the roots, and I consider C C++ has been the roots helps you to to be superstructures super organized. Super. Yeah. If you if you forget to, to free the memory you get. It's not only the application crashing is the entire operating system, blue screen of death. And you're done. Of course I'm talking about end of last century, second part of the 90s. Things aren't like that anymore. I don't think you can crash windows with just a C++ application, maybe you can withdraw us in any wish application, I hope you can note. So things were a bit different at the time. And it was the beginning of the web as well. So I made my first experiment with with Web. Remember, three, don't shoot at me. But I I developed DLLs. So dynamic extension in Windows in C to be attached to ISIS. So the Internet Information Server, the web server from from Microsoft, and in doing generating HTML. So it was before CGI and this type of stuff that's totally crazy things to do. Never do that. Again, it's impossible to debug. Because when something goes wrong, the web server just crash and you don't know why. So it's not the most productive way to make a web application.

Tim Bourguignon 22:57
I was worth try.

Sebastien Stormacq 22:59
Yeah, I learned stuff I learned about DLL and

Sebastien Stormacq 23:08
the and then Java and Java press release, I don't know in 9495. So probably the first bit ah, so I start to download that in my job and start to look at that and what is possible. And at that time, Jana was positioned like way to bring a bit of dynamic behavior on webpage. So instead of being static HTML, you can have a Java applet. So small Java application running. On the client side, we see things that move like buttons, something stupid I did. I don't know if you remember the time windows button. And when you click on the button, you have the graphical effect, where you see the button being pushed and released like a graphical 3d effect. I spent a lot of time trying to recreate that on webpage. And Java was my way to do that, to have buttons that to have webpage as looks like native Windows application bit pointless right now. Again, it was interesting in and then the company or within manage to we were three or four wishing that company to explore Java to to play with Java, Java and Linux that was to two things I was spending my evening trying to install Linux, I'm trying to install Java and program in Java. And, and with Java, I really learned the pure form of object programming, maybe a bit too pure, but understanding the concept of a class of inner returns and trying to design things that are clean in terms of, of, of design. So I learned both the language but also a philosophy of programming, reusable components isolating component from each other. Something which is useful when I'm thinking about micro service today. It has root there in creating a class, which is indepent expose a clear contract with the other classes. At that time it was objects within the same process. Now we are talking about process, different process running on different machines. But the concept is roughly the same. And because we were two or three, starting to do stuff with Java and demonstrating that tool management, one of the salesperson of that company managed to get a contract for a bank in Luxembourg, that was searching for Java programmers. And I was sold for six months to that bank.

Tim Bourguignon 25:33
As an expert, obviously, as an expert,

Sebastien Stormacq 25:34
of course, that's how it works. And I was super lucky there because it was the first bank in Luxembourg, doing a retail application for the customer. And at the time, it was an applet. So all logic was on the client side, it was an application download in the browser, the browser, if you remember the time, it was Netscape, Netscape browser and an applet, talking to something that we didn't call an application server but was an application server. I'm talking about the time before Java EE for those of you that don't understand Java, it's before a term entreprise edition. It's before WebSphere, it's before Tomcat. It's before IDE s at the time, there was one ide a, the name was Karwa on Windows, and the bank that we were programming on Sun Microsystems Solaris workstation, so as salaries workstation, I was using vi as my main text editor and make as the build system for for full project and a shared NFS repository. So there was no version control. Okay, talking about

Tim Bourguignon 26:44
prehistory, and all the time,

Sebastien Stormacq 26:47
the application server was from a German company called polecats comm with a cable cat, I don't know if they exist. And yeah, it's the concept of application server. So it has a couple of piece of code that manage transaction that the front end can call to get some function execute on the server side. And someone it was not my team built a gateway between that bull cat and the mainframe of the bank, where the transaction needs to do. So my team, actually, we were to, were focusing on the applet on the front end side of of that, and yet six months Java project with VI, so no code completion, no syntax in lighting, nothing of that you discover your mistake when you compile, or when you run. Make and and dealing with with applets appear to be differently from one browser to the other. At the time. This was the beginning of the Microsoft Virtual Machines in Internet Explorer, which was a bit different than Netscape was a super interesting experience. I learned a lot from from that. And I gained a reputation of like the Java mastering Luxembourg. At the same time, I created the Java user group in Luxembourg. And we start to have regular evenings with inspiration from the Java user group from from Belgium, B jerk and Stephanie incense. And we did the same in Luxembourg. And Luxembourg is a small country. So once people start to know you, everything works by networking. And bit by chance. I've been identified as the Java person in Luxembourg, which has me a bit later to knock at the door of Sun Microsystems, which was the maker of Java saying, Hey, I'm there. Are you searching for someone and they were searching for someone in professional services. And so that helps me to to join Sun Microsystems. And from there, I only worked for big huge American company Sun Microsystems, a racket a beater. I'm not really proud of that. But okay, so it has been acquired by record, I had no choice, IBM and Amazon Amazon Web Services. No, and I never left that. That type of of company.

Tim Bourguignon 28:57
And your question was one eye on the clock? Well look at your at your at your resume. You joined son as a software architect or a senior or senior architect. But then it seems to me that you went a different route in sales consultant in sales engineer, then technical trainer, and then you came back to code. Can you give us a rough overview of how that that pathway

Sebastien Stormacq 29:22
will accelerate on that path, but as I said, I was hiring professional services, hoping to do more Java project as a micro system was still what in the inventor of Java, and actually, at that time, so microsystem app, not a lot of Java project because they were quite expensive in terms of consulting. And because microsystem was a hardware vendor. So I ended up doing a lot of hardware installation, cluster installation, I learned a lot about uniques. About salaries about high availability cluster, I do not regret that. But in professional services for some for me, it was not fun. At the time, it was around year 2000. So I spent a lot of projects doing in project management for year 2000, to ensure that all systems are compliant and will not crash when the data is going back to 00, or the years is going back to zero. And that was not fun. So I quit. I quit Sun Microsystems, and I went back to consulting companies where I can program and I can lead teams and hire people. In fortune two, three years, I did more projects like that, in in banks, with with a consulting company in Luxembourg. So back to, to the basics running the user groups. But then I was, how can I say that without being pedantic. Most of the time, I felt the more senior person in the room, or the more knowledgeable person in the room, I don't want to say the most smart person in the room because other people were super smart as well. But I had I was the one with the most experience, and I was not learning anymore, not learning from the others. I was learning by my books, by the things I was reading, experimenting, sometimes experimenting at customer side, and realizing it's not a good decision, let's do something different. But that was not, there was not that emulation of having experienced people wrongly. And that's the part that I really didn't like. And then I decided to quit that company and move back to Sun Microsystems, but in a different role, because something I learned during this consulting year is I love to be in front of customer, listen to the requirements and try to map these requirements to a technological solution. We need to do that and that how can you help us and I was designed because I was the most current person I was participating at the process of selling a project. And setting the project means trying to have an initial design of the solution, what you're going to use and why to convince the customer that this is the right way to do and they should give us the contract. So I love that part. And at Sunday hire someone. As an Luxenberg Sun Microsystems example. They hired someone in the pre sales team for software, so men business of Sunwest hardware, but they had the software division. I will mention Netscape again, they acquired Netscape, which was a big deal with AOL and blah, blah. But at the end, Sun Microsystems got an application server got a portal. Yeah, nobody's selling portal anymore. But at that time, it was I think, an LDAP server. Okay, now, everybody use Active Directory, but almost, but at the time being an LDAP server was a big thing, a web server, which was the most used web server in the industry, the Netscape web server. So we had a quite strong software offering for the back end. And this is someone to be preset. So presets, it's a bit different than coding presets. It's exactly what they explained. Go meet the customer, usually, the doors are opened by the account team by the account manager. And at some point, the account manager cannot answer the customer questions anymore when it becomes technical. So they bring a person like me to say, to understand what the customer is asking for, and to make a technical proposal. It also involves doing demo of the product to doing product presentation, sometimes doing a proof of concept or minimum application. And I loved proof of concept. Because the boring part when you're developing an application, it's the long tail of small details and the maintenance of that code over three years, we have a proof of concept, you have all the fun part, which is the initial design, the initial structure, we fought all the boring path, which is to maintain that over a long period of time, so you can be creative, you can go quick, sometimes quick and dirty, and just do something that's Wow. And I love that wow moment in the eyes of customer. So I started to do pre sales as a as a job at Sun Microsystems in the software division. And I started to talk publicly as well, their Sun Microsystems was organizing a lot of conference for the customer. I was part of the European groups. I was struggling in Europe to deliver a speech about Java, about Java architecture about application server. I was invited in user groups all over the place in Belgium, Luxembourg, of course, that was close to me. But I've been in Romania to talk about different Java technologies. I've been to Java one, which was the big conference of Sun Microsystems every every year, I was preparing towards proposing tools that have been accepted. So I was talking Java ones. So I know that and that's probably back to my radio time. Being in front of an audience, publicly speaking is something I love to and but at the time, there was no role of developer advocate didn't exist formally. But I was kind of developer advocate for Java in Java server side technologies, working with my colleagues in France. My colleague in France was Aleksey Alexei machine, which is now a developer advocate at Google. That is the university in Belgium which is still at a record thing doing advocacy for Java. other record these days. So this was my, my network of, of people, people that I love to work with. And from there, everything was fine. I stayed eight, nine, yeah, eight or nine years at that at Sun Microsystems. And indeed one day boom, Oracle is buying Sun Microsystems hardware business was not going too well, but Sun Microsystems that acquire MySQL, they are Java. And the record was quite interested by that. And it's a clash of culture. So microsystem, which was an engineering company, brilliant engineers, a lot of inspiration, and never have the feeling to be the more experienced person in the room to the opposite. So I learned a lot, but a rapidly sought about financial results and numbers. And at the end, I cannot blame them because they are still in business. And my growth system is not anymore. So obviously, they did something better than than Sun Microsystems, having good product is probably not enough in this industry to survive. And of course, there are smart people at Oracle as well, it's a bit harder to find them engineering is more shields from from the sales groups. But most of the Sun Microsystems people I knew left a record after after one year, I did the same I, I stay there just to see how it's going to be to evolve in one day, sorry, I cannot do that. And customer were telling me when you're calling me, I'm afraid I say Oh, it's another audit license, license. Audit, I'm going to pay much more. That's not they also stop all the products, I was selling to my customers, I was spending a lot of time getting gaining the trust of my customers in Luxembourg, selling them solution. And then during one year, I visit customers saying, you know, the solution that you bought from us, a record is topping it, you need to buy a new version of the record equivalent of that. And by the way, you need to pay full license price again. And there is no technical solution to migrate from one to the other. So that was an a rebirth situation for me. Because again, look some broke, it's a it's a rebuild everywhere. But it looks on broke businesses made on people to people on trust. And I was building the trust of these customers in the last 10 or 15 years. And that was a super difficult moment for me to be and what time is okay, still progressing a bit. Then IBM, someone refer me former Sun Microsystems colleagues say hey, and so I always said I never want to work for IBM. But I moved to IBM, doing exactly the same job. So pre sales in the software area we talked about with the application server. There was also MQ, the time it was the fashion of entreprise service booths, and EI entreprise application integration projects. So I was doing that. But when I was at Sun, I discovered AWS and I saw one of my colleagues starting a virtual machine with just his credit cards and a common line and having a Linux machine available running somewhere in the cloud. And that was, wow, magical. And I want to be part of that. I understood the first day I saw that that's the future of it, of corporate IT. So before joining IBM, I tried to join Amazon the day for a developer advocate role, but they declined me to say no. Then I try a few months later to join as a solution architect, I think it was one of the first solution architect position in Europe. I was lucky that the headquarter of Amazon in Europe is in Luxembourg. So it was next door for me. I've not been chosen and say, OK, two times, no, IBM is there. I don't want to stay at a record. Let's go to IBM. And then one year at IBM, I was still looking at the Amazon Jobs website. And I saw a new position for technical trainer and I say, Okay, I try Solution Architect, which is pre sales. I tried Developer Advocate, that's really what I want to do.

Sebastien Stormacq 38:56
But it didn't work. Let's try it with training. I give a bit of training Java training, when I was at Sun salaries, some cluster training, I like to do trainings, let's try that. And that one worked. And that's how I get in, into into into Amazon. And I do not regret that first because I really like training. And second, because training is the best place to learn everything as a trainer because I had to learn all the technical, little theoretical details about everything. And at the same time I have my hands on so these three years of training were for me just a huge learning experience. Everything I knew I know today about the cloud and AWS is because I was giving course I was delivering architects is that mean developer, DevOps security course. And for each of these course, I had to learn the course by myself and assimilate that and learn and learn from that. And that's how I getting into AWS. But what I always wanted to do was developer advocate, and I was at AWS in training And one of the great thing of Amazon is they facilitate internal moves. Actually, it would be a mistake from a manager to block a move. If someone wants to move. The managers should or should encourage that. And that's a way to progress your career and to experiment different things. And it's a huge company. So there are tons of opportunity. So while I was in training at Amazon, one day, I was in Paris, participating to a hackathon. I think it was in school 42, I'm not sure. And a hackathon is, you know, a weekend where a bunch of geeks are building a quick prototype of solution, they are going to pitch the solution on Sunday evening and win a prize for those that have the best solution. I was there as a support person to help to answer any technical question and block them. And two, three teams came with solutions around Amazon Alexa, Amazon Alexa is the personal voice assistant from Amazon. It's this little speaker connected, you can talk to it, it gives you answer. But General future questions about the weather, play music, it's connect to your connected light bulbs, heater, you can say, Alexa, I'm a bit afraid device around me that are going to react. But turn on the lights. So I'm called increase the temperature in the living room or play music. And for me that wow, I went to the good things back to the opening of this podcast, you said if you want to sell something to me, it has to have an API. Alex has an API, you can write application for an exam. Just like for your smartphone, it has a bunch of application when you buy the smartphone. And then there is an app store where you can acquire more application that gives more capabilities to your phone. It's exactly the same with with with with Alexa. And so I found a job at Amazon as a solution architect in Europe. Because Alex, I was going to come to Europe. And so they were looking for pre sales solution architect to help third party developer usually big companies to bring their service or their franchisees to Alexa. And it was in UK because we were about to launch alexan UK in Germany, so I moved to London. And I help large customer like the BBC like just eat like newspaper or TV channels to build skills for for for Alexa, that was a fantastic time to learn about user interface and voice user interface, brand new fields, very few literature or expertise about that. So we have to invent we have to, to find and to document or best practice. I also built a team hire people become social architect manager in UK and then in Europe, when we launched France, Italy and Spain and repeat the process that I did in the UK in other countries. But after three years, I like science. It's cool. But now we launch our new language or new markets. So again, back maybe to what I said when when I say building proof of concept. No, it's more about harvesting. It's no more building. And I have to build. And one night, I think it was in Las Vegas, I was a bit depressed. It was it Las Vegas because I was at the at the AWS reinvent conference. And I was hanging out with people from AWS in France. And tell me hey, how are you doing with Alex, are you? Do you know we have open jobs in France, we are looking for developer advocate, what the first job I tried to enter at AWS was developer advocate. And I told you when I was at Sun, I love to be in conference and do stuff like that. So when I heard about that, I obviously apply for that job, I got the job. And I moved to Paris and became a developer advocate for AWS. So my job is to be in conference. Okay, there is a bit less conference two years. But to do video, Twitch podcast blog, to announce new AWS service or feature to talk with developers to inspire them to to i love the lightbulb moment you show something you show and demo and you see the eyes of your audience. Wow. That's and you see that when you're in a conference or training room. And that's the moment I'm looking after trying really to inspire to show people what is possible, and let them understand what they can do, what the cloud can do for them. How this technology can help them to to actually build solutions for them. And that involves building myself because I need to build demo. I need to show technically how it works. So I'm staying away from marketing slides and promises. And my favorite session is okay, let's open the code editor. Let's write some code together. Let's do something technically with the with the with the hands on.

Tim Bourguignon 44:57
Awesome. Sounds like you reached The end of your story. That's exactly what you want it to be the whole time, so it's happily ever after.

Sebastien Stormacq 45:05
Yeah, like the type of dream job for me where I can be in the media. But guest blog video, I'm also a press spokesperson for for AWS I can give media interview. But technology at the same time, having a lot of hands on super technical, still learning something every day, when I'm in the meeting at Amazon. I'm surrounded with smart people. And we can do a whole another episode on that impostor syndrome thing. Why me? Why? Seriously, I'm asking that question every week, why me? I'm learning every day. More than eight years at Amazon, no, I'm still learning seriously, every day, something something new and not only about AWS, of course, but also about architecture about how to build a system to make it resilient, scalable, secure. So that's, that's a part of I really like So is it the end? Not even 50. So I still have like more than 15 years to work in that industry. I really enjoy that work. So I'm not at the stage yet. Where I'm asking what I'm going to do next. I just know that it will be difficult for me to move away from Amazon, because I find here I'm learning stuff. I'm surrounded with great people. And honestly, I've if I joined a small company, again, like a consulting company, I might feel a bit limited bolt. I don't know. I like to if my playground right now is Europe. I like that kind of environment for for me. That's the thing I like I'm not saying that everybody would be comfortable there. And some people aspire different things. And I totally understand that. But yeah, this is where I am. And I see I'm going to stay for a couple of

Tim Bourguignon 46:53
years. Sounds like? Awesome. Um, I'd like to come back to 2111 thing you said that you applied twice to AWS before before it finally worked. So the third time you had this idea of developer advocacy for a very long time, but you didn't fully completely you went other directions? What would be your advice for listeners who have an idea, but it's it's just not working? Now? How can they can they live with that continue building continue advancing. And at some point in the future, maybe you reached this step just now.

Sebastien Stormacq 47:28
Never give up and continue to learn, never give up? It's not because someone tells you know, at some point that it's it's a definitive? No, it might be a yes at another company. Or it might be a yes at the same company. And I'm giving that advice to many, I'm doing a lot of interviews for Amazon. And I'm telling people, don't worry if it is not going through, look at my example. And I'm not the only one, many of us at Amazon, it took us two or three times to get in. So never give up. And continue to learn. Listen to the feedback from from your peers from from your customer. Try. And it's not easy doing that by yourself, you need a bit of help at the try to notice your your weak spot all the areas where you can improve your skills to try to measure the gap with between what is expected from you in that role. And what you can do right now, and might be a gap, you might need a bit of more experience writing experience in public speaking for this type of role, and try to fill the gap. And that's that's a conscious plan to take if you need better public speaking experience. Watch the other giving great talks, there are tons of books, watch the tech talks, for example, there are books about how to get prepared for TED Talks. And practice try to be invited in conference doesn't have to be a genuine or reinvent conference, it might be the user group. In your city, user groups. It's a fantastic playground for public speaker because usually you have friendly audience and limit tutorials like 2030 person, so it's a safe place to practice your skill and get feedback after that. Listen, I mean with an open mind that sometimes it's hard to listen to feedback, especially negative feedback. But that's the way to learn. So stick to it, what you want to do analyze the gap and get better at what you want to do.

Tim Bourguignon 49:26
This, this reminder is just I want to highlight that a no to a to an application is a no now for this company and for this role. And it might be different in the future that that's that's something we should all remember. It's very, very important. Thank you very much for that. And thank you for your story.

Sebastien Stormacq 49:43
You're very welcome.

Tim Bourguignon 49:46
So where can listeners find you online? Maybe contact you or start a discussion with you? Yeah, sure. LinkedIn.

Sebastien Stormacq 49:53
Search for my name Sebastian. So Mike, I'm sure you're going to put that in the notes of the podcast, Twitter steps to ACB sto and if you're French speaking the French AWS podcasts, weekly episodes about AWS in French,

Tim Bourguignon 50:08
awesome, and all that tradition or anything else you want to plug in.

Sebastien Stormacq 50:12
That's all for me. I think that a lot for the last 45 minutes. That's great. That's great. Well, thank you for having me. It was great. Do not hesitate to contact me and to send me message. If you want to be hired at Amazon. If you want tips, tricks to pass an interview, I can do that.

Tim Bourguignon 50:30
Oh, you heard him. So thank you very much. Bye bye. And this has been another episode of their pros journey with each other next week. Thanks a lot for tuning in. I hope you have enjoyed this week's episode. If you liked the show, please share rate and review. It helps more listeners discover those stories. You can find the links to all the platforms to show appears on on our website, Dev journey dot info slash subscribe. Creating the show every week takes a lot of time, energy, and of course money. Would you please help me continue bringing out those inspiring stories every week by pledging a small monthly donation, you'll find our patreon link at Dev journey dot info slash donate. And finally don't hesitate to reach out and tell me how this week story is shaping your future. You can find me on Twitter at @timothep ti m o t h e p or per email info at Dev journey dot info. Talk to you soon.