From AWS Newbies to AWS Hero

This is my journey of going from “AWS Newbies” to “AWS Hero” in two and a half years. I am extremely thankful for everyone in and outside of AWS who have tirelessly advocated for me over the past two years!

In spring of 2018, a friend introduced me to a career growth hack: Get the AWS Solutions Architect Associate certification, and your career can take off! 

After 3 and a half years working in the tech industry, having begun my career as an IT help desk engineer, I was beginning to seriously contemplate where I wanted to take the next decade of my career, so this suggestion was well-timed. As the friend told us about his experiences and excitement for his new role and career, I was also overtaken with excitement. 

“This all sounds super cool!” I agreed. “So…. What’s AWS?

I’d heard the acronym being thrown around at work often, as my employer at the time, a tech startup in New York City, was considering migrating to AWS.

However, as a “tech transplant” with background in special education, “AWS” held the same significance to me then as many other tech related acronyms floating around: SaaS, DNS, MDMSSO… Something I kind of vaguely knew what it was or what it did, but not exactly.

That spring encounter began my half-year struggle of trying to make sense of what exactly AWS was, and how to study for and pass a certification exam. Following my manager’s suggestion, I set my eyes on first passing the AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner Exam, which was fairly new at the time. Unfortunately, try as I might, I just could not figure “AWS” out.

Of course, I quickly found out core information about AWS, like how it stands for “Amazon Web Services,” and how it’s a “Cloud Computing Platform” that “basically can do everything” for you.  After a while, I “got” that Cloud Computing was part of our daily lives already, whether we knew it or not, and that it held almost limitless potential.

But as for the nuances, like the services, their names, and how to differentiate between similar services… That was all a big blur. 

Creating “AWS Newbies”

After trying to digest countless video courses, official and unofficial documentations, blog posts, and YouTube videos, I took a step back to re-evaluate my situation.

I was registered to sit in on the exam in just two weeks. And at the present point, there was absolutely no way I could pass the certification exam when I could barely identify some of the most common AWS services. I needed a different plan.

“How do I learn best?” I asked myself.

Watching videos and taking notes was only getting me so far. I may have had a notebook full of notes, but when I read some of the pages, I was just as clueless as I had been before I watched and took notes. 

Pulling from my background of teaching and accommodating for my brain injury and executive function disorder as a college student after my brain surgery in my early 20’s, I realized that I learn best by teaching. I learn best when I am regurgitating the information back in my own words.

As a life-long writer and blogger, I decided to create a blog dedicated to learning everything I needed to know to pass the  AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner Exam. And that’s exactly what I did. 

The blog was awsnewbies.com

And the rest, as we might say, is history!

Within the first few months of the blog’s launch, it was pulling in thousands of visitors every month from Google Searches, which was a wonderful and extremely unexpected surprise.

When I decided to leave the blog up after my certification exam, I was hoping that it will help perhaps one or two people in a year find the information they needed to better understand what Cloud Computing and Amazon Web Services “are” even if they did not have extensive technical backgrounds.

Turns out, I had unknowingly identified a “pain point,” and had begun my first step into a career pivot that specializes in exploiting common pain points and alleviating them for others.

As AWS Newbies began to be noticed in the industry, I started receiving messages from tech companies asking if I’d be interested in working as a technical writer for their documentations. Until then, I had no idea that what I did as a hobby was something that could be transferred to a whole career path. Not to mention, one that paid fairly decently!

While I did not feel like I was ready to make the leap from hands-on IT work to technical writing yet, since I felt that I was still in my learning phase, I did accept an offer from LinkedIn Learning to create introductory Cloud Computing video courses for people with non-traditional technical backgrounds.

When considering creating these courses in partnership with LinkedIn, something that my Content Manager said to me has stuck with me, and became the foundation of how I work today.

She told me that their company has instructors with amazing credentials and decades of experience, who are extremely effective at teaching intermediate to advanced contents in any topic. However, teaching beginners, especially complete beginners like I was looking to do, takes someone who still retains the “Beginner’s Eye.”

I had the unique combination of an education background, technical background, and the ability to synthesize complex technical content in a language the “lay person” can understand.

In short, because I also come from a “non-technical” background, I inherently understand how it feels to not understand.

LinkedIn Learning Instructor

Armed with the knowledge that my struggles could be beneficial for others going through similar struggles, I accepted the partnership, and in spring of 2019, released “Introduction to AWS for Non-Engineers” courses.

A year later, I re-released the whole entire 4-course series to bring someone with no technical backgrounds to exam-ready for the AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner Exam.

The “Learning Path” that takes the student from “What is the Cloud?” To sitting for the certification exam is broken down into four courses, with each course going over one domain featured in the exam.

Countless number of students have reached out to me after taking the courses, and quite a few of my friends have even taken them to help begin their journey into Cloud Computing and AWS from related fields. It fills me with so much gratitude and happiness every time someone tells me that my courses helped them pass the exam, have easier time following their coworkers’ conversations in technical meetings, or even better: gain confidence about their abilities.

Community Building

Earlier this year, I founded Cloud Newbies to alleviate another “pain point” that I experienced when I began my Cloud journey.

I was looking for a community or forum where I could pop in and ask the “dumb beginner questions” that I was stuck on so I can quickly resolve issues to move on and continue learning.

Unfortunately, most forums and communities I found were mostly abandoned. When they were active, they were for non-beginners.

Cloud Newbies was founded so that “Cloud Newbies” and Cloud Professionals can come together to share information, resources, and answers to each others’ questions while studying for certs or learning to build in the Cloud.

I think it’s been a phenomenal success, mostly thanks to the fabulous members who are extremely generous with their time, resources, and knowledge. Every time someone’s burning question is answered, or I witness someone spending hours helping another member, my heart is filled with gratitude and pride at what we’ve created together over the past year.

AWS Hero Hiro

Through my work creating awsnewbies.com, Introduction to AWS for Non-Engineers, and most recently, cloudnewbies.com, I met so many amazing people and had experiences I’d never imagined possible (Hello, taking a trip to Las Vegas to attend re:Invent 2019 as a scholarship recipient!)

And today, 2 and a half years after becoming introduced to “AWS,” and 2 years after founding AWS Newbies, I’m extremely proud and pleased to announce that I’ve been selected to join a cohort of extremely accomplished peers in the AWS Heroes Program as an AWS Hero.

You can check out the official AWS blog post on the AWS Blog here, and my AWS Hero profile here (how cool is that?!) 😍

The AWS Heroes program recognizes a vibrant, worldwide group of AWS experts whose enthusiasm for knowledge-sharing has a real impact within the community.

AWS Heroes | AWS Developer Center

There are a few different AWS Hero types, and I am an AWS Community Hero. I think this is a perfect categorization for me, because though I am not the most knowledgeable person in the room when it comes to any specific topic or industry, I’m able to bring a community together, and will probably be able to help to find the answer you’re looking for from my community of friends.

I am so eternally grateful for all of my friends and supporters who have been advocating for me over the past 2 years, and it’s extremely gratifying to feel that my mission to create a community and bring Cloud Computing to “more people like myself” is being noticed!

I swear it’s not just that I’ve been wanting to make the AWS Hero Hiro pun forever… 😂

Hiro Nishimura
Special Education teacher turned IT Engineer turned Content Strategist and Technical Instructor. Arteriovenous Malformation, Brain Surgery, and Brain Injury survivor. Currently on a quest to manage Rheumatoid Arthritis and Chronic Pain by making lifestyle changes. Contact: hiro@24villages.com

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