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How I became an AWS Machine Learning Hero

A little over 2 years ago, I set myself the goal of becoming an AWS Machine Learning Hero, and it has finally happened! This was a really important step in my career journey, and in this post I'll share a little bit of my pathway including the public-facing parts, and the behind-the-scenes elements.

According to the AWS Website, "the purpose of the AWS Heroes program is to recognize and honor the most engaged and influential developers who have a significant impact within the community". This is a broad description, but if you've ever seen AWS Heroes presenting at events or in online content, it should make a lot more sense! There's a really broad range of builders from around the world with different skills and experience, but overall it's a really impressive bunch and I can't believe I'm included in this!

Screenshot of Brooke's AWS Machine Learning Hero page. Text reads: Brooke is the Head of Enablement - AI/ML and Data at Blackbook.ai, and is an international conference speaker. With degrees in Mathematics and Data Engineering, Brooke specialises in researching & developing technically robust solutions that help “non-data people” harness the power of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning for their industry, and communicate this effectively. Outside of their ‘day job’, Brooke is a dedicated member of the AWS Community and is a regular speaker at local user groups, global events and guest lectures at multiple Australian Universities. They also make entry-level cloud career and technical content on TikTok, to reach broad audiences and diverse groups wanting to transition to careers in AI/ML and Cloud. Brooke is an Advisory Board member of Women in Digital, and strives to promote STEM pathways to young people in regional Australia & members of the LGBTIQA+ community.

There's a range of categories including Community Heroes, Container Heroes, Data Heroes, DevTools Heroes, IoT Heroes, Machine Learning Heroes and Serverless Heroes and these categories contain conference speakers, open source contributors, meetup organisers, authors, technical trainers and content creators.

At the time of writing this article, I'm one of just 34 AWS Machine Learning Heroes in the world, and by my count there are just 3 Australians including me in this list (😱). It's a huge honour to be included in this list, and hopefully this article will help some of you to make it on the list as well!

How did I get here?

Short answer: Working really, really hard!
Longer answer: The three main parts are my time as an AWS Community Builder, my content creation, and my global conference speaking experience.

Important note - This is just a guess based on my personal experience and I'm not in the room where it happens so I can't be 100% sure. The official website says some key characteristics of an AWS Hero include:

  1. Enthusiasm – An individual who regularly participates and engages the AWS community.
  2. Expertise – Being an expert in AWS and staying on top of trends.
  3. Leadership – Building relationships and strengthening ties within the community.

What worked for me might not work for you, but hopefully it's a start!

AWS Community Builder

The AWS Community Builders program is fantastic, and was a really key factor in my personal and professional development over the last few years. The program is application only, and if applications are closed when you read this I really recommend joining the wait list. If you're interested in joining, I also recommend reading Stephen Sennett's article 'How to Become an AWS Community Builder' for a thorough overview!

I was an AWS CB for around a year, and the key piece of advice I'd add to this article is that the program is called "AWS Community Builder" and not "Best AWS Builder" or "AWS Secret Builder" - it's not just about being good at cloud computing, it's about sharing this information and getting involved with your community in person and/or online. Don't let a lack of perceived technical ability or confidence stop you from applying, but also don't forget that if you are really technically proficient, this might not be enough for your application.

TL;DR there's no point getting the right answer if you can't tell anyone about it, and so being an AWS Community Builder does involve the community!

Content Creation

Being a developer is all about being able to learn new things on the fly, but most of us put off learning how to write Minimum Viable Blog Posts for far too long. I had been creating lots of content, both for myself and ghost writing for others, before I was in the AWS Community Builders program but it was a nice encouragement to help me accelerate output.

I publish content on my dev.to, on my LinkedIn, my Twitter and most recently on TikTok. This is probably a good time to remind you that this isn't what is stipulated as a requirement to become an AWS Hero, and it's just what I happened to do!

Also, it's important to note that I wasn't making this content because I had to, or because it was part of my day job - it's just what I liked to do! If you've watched my TikToks you'll know that I just genuinely enjoy this, and it's a really good way for me to connect with my community. I have even made two AWS themed aumented reality TikTok filters - including 'Which AWS Service Are you?' and this AWS Summit Crown.
Did anyone (at all!) ask me to make these? No
Did they have anything to do with me becoming an AWS Hero? Probably not
Did I have a great time making them? Absolutely!

Conference Speaking

Louder for people in the back: Please don't count yourself out of conference speaking if you are neurodiverse or if you have anxiety!
I can't stress this enough, but I'm not an outgoing or confident person by nature. And yet, I've done over 40 conference talks and speaking engagements over the last few years. Candidly, it was a multi year journey for me to just attend an event without having a panic attack, before I got the courage to ask questions as an audience member and then start to deliver my own talks. It wasn't easy, but it was so worthwhile!
This is very meta, but if you are interested in getting started as a conference speaker, I have an hour long conference talk freely available on Youtube from NDC Sydney called 'How to Become a Tech Conference Speaker' where I detail the entire process:

Speaking at conferences is a great way to improve your communication skills, but it's also a really good way to get more involved in your community! Conferences normally provide all-access passes to speakers, and so I've been able to attend so many fantastic events without needing to pay for tickets. I've learnt so much from other sessions I've attended, but I've also made so many friends in the community who I otherwise might not have met. I've also gotten to travel internationally to speak at events, and this isn't something I ever thought I'd be capable of.
It's difficult to start, but I promise it's worth it!

Bringing it all Together

The key theme is that it seems to be about being a leader in the AWS Community, not just an elite dev in private. It's about creating high quality content and making a positive impact on the global AWS Community. Get involved with AWS Community Builders, and with the Community & Developer Advocate teams in your region or area of expertise. Start attending and presenting at your local AWS User Group and overall, just enjoy yourself.

There's no one-size-fits-all solution, but this is what worked for me! If you have any questions, pop them in a comment below!

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About the Author: Brooke Jamieson is an AWS Machine Learning Hero from Brisbane, Australia. Learn more about their journey as an AWS Developer, watch this video, or view their profiles on LinkedIn, Twitter, Dev.to and TikTok.

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