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The cloud project that made headlines
Also, mentoring signup!
We talk a lot around here about the value of cloud projects, both as a way to get hired and for ongoing professional development.
But not too many cloud side projects end up creating front-page news:
The “CPS [Chicago Public Schools] dad” in that article is Cloud Resume Champion Jakob Ondrey. He needed a little extra push to make the career transition to cloud last year, so while still working in the infectious disease lab at Chicago’s Lurie Children’s Hospital he decided to take on the COVID case count dashboard project I created at ACG. Instead of using the default US case numbers, Jakob scoped his project to focus on data reported by his local schools.
Fast-forward to a few weeks ago; Jakob’s a professional cloud engineer now, but still maintains his dashboard of CPS COVID cases. When the calendar flipped over to 2022, the numbers stopped adding up. He did a deep dive into the data and concluded that the Chicago school system had intentionally changed their reporting methods to undercount school-related COVID cases — right in the midst of an acrimonious fight with the teacher’s union over in-person learning.
Jakob’s viral tweet thread about the issue has already led to front-page news and calls for probes from public officials; while the school system claims they weren’t being intentionally misleading, they can’t argue with his data.
I’m shouting out this story for two reasons: 1) because Jakob is awesome and I’m really impressed by the work he’s doing, and 2) because his COVID dashboard is, like, the platonic ideal of how to do a cloud side project. Think about it:
He made something useful
It helped that he started with the ACG challenge prompt, which was built around widely-applicable ETL concepts. He didn’t content himself with a “hello world” tutorial; he dug deep enough into cloud services to ship an actual application, something with a defensible purpose in the world.
He made it his own
But Jakob didn’t just follow the prompt to the letter. He used it as inspiration to build something that was relevant to him as a Chicago dad: a case tracker for the local schools. This gives the project a unique reason to exist, and also gave him motivation to keep up with it over time. It took almost a year after the dashboard went live for him to catch the issue that catapulted him into the headlines. Who would nurture a side project that long, and pay such close attention to it, if it wasn’t personally meaningful?
Plus, he leveraged his domain expertise outside cloud; I’m not sure exactly how much of his previous experience working with COVID in the hospital system went into making this dashboard, but it’s clear he understands how to work intelligently with infectious disease data.
He made it accessible
There’s nothing wrong with building a side project that spackles over something deep in the inner workings of a cloud provider (I’m looking at you, Ben Kehoe and your endless series of useful glosses on AWS identity tooling). But those types of projects are helpful mostly to people who have experienced a very specific technical pain point. Jakob built something with a public interface that could be understood by hiring managers, angry parents, and obfuscating public officials alike. Long before he ever went viral, his skills had become undeniable.
Bottom line: this is why we need more career-changers in cloud. A hospital background + cloud ability helped Jakob discover an urgent public health issue that nobody else had spotted. If you’re new to cloud (or even if you’re not!), what’s your domain expertise? How can you stack your skills to build something useful and unique?
Links and events
I’m excited to announce that 1:1 mentoring is now available for those who have completed the Cloud Resume Challenge. It’s become clear this is the biggest need to help these self-motivated career-changers make the transition to their first job in cloud. As of this week, an amazing group of cloud professionals at companies ranging from Big Tech to small startups have volunteered their time to help with resume review, interview prep, or just general career advice.
If you want to be mentored through the program, do these two things:
Fill out the application form to be matched with a mentor.
If you’re a cloud professional and would like to give back to the community by sharing advice with someone transitioning into the field, feel free to sign up as a mentor and we’ll get you matched up with a Cloud Resume Champion.
In the meantime, check out my recent article on multicloud as a career path (or Matt Asay’s followon in InfoWorld). There’ve never been more possibilities for learning cloud, and it really does help to have someone farther down the path talk you through your options.