Josefina Amaro, Cloud Data Analyst: Making the Cloud More Accessible Through Data Analytics

Josefina Amaro, Cloud Data Analyst: Making the Cloud More Accessible Through Data Analytics

When I first became interested in coding, I was working as a senior accountant creating month-end financial packages. Half of my month was working as an accountant, while the other half was spent performing business analytics and building intricate dashboards in Excel. I quickly noticed a lot of my deliverables required a dynamic approach to accurately tell the data’s story.

Ultimately, my research focused in on analytical strategies and the power of using a variety of input fields and statistics to create formulas specific to the department’s unique variables. My coworker and boss at the time supported my potential and recommended I seek out training in a technical field, which is when I discovered Data Analytics. Confident and driven in my decision, I left my job as a Senior Accountant to commit myself to Columbia University’s certified Data Analytics program.

Even though it felt like a gamble and I was faced with an overwhelming amount of knowledge, languages, and software to learn, pursuing my education left me feeling empowered and positive that my hard work would lead to a brighter future. 

Now that I’ve found my place at Effectual, I’ve been introduced to so many new opportunities and always volunteer to take on ambitious tasks. My programming skillset also strengthens my ability to make the cloud more accessible for Effectual customers.

Rethinking your cloud usage

The cloud can sometimes seem like an unapproachable, ethereal concept, but it often only requires a mindset shift in how we approach it.

As a cloud data analyst, I get to dive into how different companies are using their cloud spend, or how they’re preparing for a move to the cloud. I like to tackle the cloud like I tackle a coding project: by looking at the problem I’m trying to solve and seeing if there’s a more efficient way to do things.

Companies will often look to reduce their cloud spend. But that’s not always the right choice – you don’t want to spend less money if it means you’re not progressing. Instead, I look at where inefficiencies can be shored up.

I like to tackle the cloud like I tackle a coding project: by looking at the problem I’m trying to solve and seeing if there’s a more efficient way to do things.

For example, many AWS users are familiar with Amazon RDS or Redshift Database and use them frequently. As AWS continues its rapid pace of innovation, it regularly releases new services that might be beneficial for certain projects.

One of those new releases is Athena, a query service where you can gather data from Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3). Alternatively, you can use Kinesis Firehose or Elastic Map Reduce; all those services let you process data without using a database. If you can have your data in S3 and use that mixture of services for your end product, you can reduce the processing time needed – and thus, streamline your costs for the cloud.

By looking at where inefficiencies lie, you’re increasing the accessibility of the cloud to help where it would be most impactful. Taking a step back and really looking at the “why” behind your solution is critical.

Putting your data to work

Once you have that understanding of your cloud spend, you can also look for other ways to make your processes more efficient. For example, a lot of us working with infrastructure are building services that could be standardized, so we’re exploring AI and machine learning solutions. Those solutions use infrastructure as code to build without having to involve an entire cloud ops team.

We also use AI and machine learning to help us make agile projections that aren’t normalized merely based on what a customer has shared. Of course, our solutions are tailored to each individual customer, but that doesn’t mean they need to be misinformed.

By looking at customers with similar platforms or customer bases and using data from those situations, we are able to make better recommendations for that customer when they’re moving to the cloud. And we present those recommendations in ways that are easily understandable and demonstrate why our strategy is the correct decision.

Continuing worldwide growth

One of the reasons I love working at Effectual is the way we empower companies to come into the market. I’m always excited to hear about new customers getting into the cloud or expressing an interest in coding or data analytics. Even if it’s a smaller business or a government agency, we want people to feel like the cloud is accessible.

For new developers looking to get into the field, this work can be challenging at first. But when you get into it, you can own your skillset and create unique solutions.

Despite not having the most “traditional” background in coding, I’ve always felt welcomed and invited to be a part of new projects and groups in my career, and it’s taught me more than I ever would have thought.

I’d encourage everyone with any interest in technology or learning how to code to go after those passions — you never know what you’ll build!

Josefina Amaro is a Cloud Data Analyst at Effectual, Inc. 

Josh Dirsmith, VP of Public Sector: Leadership – An Essential Trait for Cloud Success

Josh Dirsmith, VP of Public Sector: Leadership – An Essential Trait for Cloud Success

Early in my career, I served as a Platoon Sergeant and Network Manager in the U.S. Marine Corps under Former Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis. I was stationed in Egypt, and one aspect of my role consisted of doing network checks every morning before we headed up to parts unknown in the Middle East.  

My interactions with General Mattis, who was a one-star general at the time, were brief. They were mainly two-minute conversations where we made sure everything was good to go for the day, talked about general training and discussed our Meals, Ready-to-Eat (MREs). The conversations never really veered from these topics. 

On my 24th birthday, however, General Mattis stopped me before I left. “Hey, Josh,” he said. 

I was shaved bald, but if I had hair on my head and neck, it would have been standing up straight. Marine generals do not address Marine corporals by their first name, so I merely responded, “Sir?” 

“Today’s your birthday, isn’t it?” 

General Mattis had me sit down and we talked about life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Then, he wrote me a recommendation for Officer Candidates School. It was one of the finest moments of my career, and I still have that letter framed. 

We had never had a lengthy conversation before, but him knowing that it was a special day for me and gifting me that time showed me how much he cared about his team. I’ve carried that mindset with me throughout my career.  

My number one job is setting my team up for success, learning how to leverage their strengths and mitigate their weaknesses. 

Mission accomplishment, troop welfare

The U.S. Marine Corps has a mantra of “mission accomplishment, troop welfare.” That’s what drives me as a leader. My number one job is setting my team up for success, learning how to leverage their strengths and mitigate their weaknesses. 

I’ve had people I’ve worked with previously come work with me at Effectual. I think that speaks volumes to the respect they have for me as a leader. 

What’s my secret? I treat them as people. I respect them and their goals, I set them up to succeed, and we have a bit of fun doing it. 

The value of leadership within the cloud

That leadership serves me well in the public sector as I work with federal, state, and local governments, educational organizations, and nonprofits. Leadership is an essential trait within the cloud. When we work with companies and organizations, we start by assessing where they are. Again, it’s getting to know them, their strengths, their weaknesses, and figuring out what’s best for their unique situation. 

Once we’ve determined that, we’re ready to move them into the cloud through some combination of professional and managed services. But that move doesn’t go smoothly without the measured leadership of someone who fully understands their challenge areas and objectives. 

You may not know your exact mission within the cloud just yet, and that’s okay. Partnering with someone who can get you there is the first step. I’m excited to continue to grow, refine and expand our customer partnerships, and introducing the public sector to all the cloud can help them achieve. 

Josh Dirsmsith is the Vice President of the Public Sector at Effectual, Inc.

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Stephanie Lanning, Director of Channel Sales: The Importance of Keeping Good Company

Stephanie Lanning, Director of Channel Sales: The Importance of Keeping Good Company

I’ve been at Effectual for almost a year, but I have a long history with the leadership and engineering teams who founded the company. I followed the Effectual story from the start, because I knew the people here were talented and I always appreciated how communicative and transparent the leadership team was when we worked together in the past. I also knew this was a group of people I wanted to work with again.

I am inspired by the people around me, and it is easy to find that inspiration given the talented people I get to work with every day. We all value collaboration and know how important it is to share information. It gives us constant opportunities to learn from each other, making the overall team stronger. One of Effectual’s core values is having a “Can Do” attitude, and it is immediately apparent that part of that is built on a foundation of working together. Collaboration is truly how you find the best solution to a challenge.

I am inspired by the people around me, and it is easy to find that inspiration given the talented people I get to work with every day.

People who are drawn to IT seem to have a strong thirst for learning. I have that thirst and like to understand how things work, so a career in technology has been a great fit for me even though I have a different set of skills than some of my colleagues. IT changes quickly, and that’s not news to anyone. Being successful in this industry requires a broad skillset to fully grasp technology’s potential. You need to be willing to constantly learn and expand your skillset to remain relevant.

It’s great to be surrounded by so many intelligent, ambitious, and enthusiastic people you can trust – people who share your same professional goals, motivations, and appreciation of technology. It helps you keep pushing toward self-improvement and continual learning. You’ll realize you can push beyond what you thought were limits and you’ll keep growing, day after day.

Stephanie Lanning is the Director of Channel Sales at Effectual, inc.

Todd Helfter, Director of Database Services: Lessons Learned as a Long-Time Remote Worker

Todd Helfter, Director of Database Services: Lessons Learned as a Long-Time Remote Worker

Working remotely is not a new concept. Until the Industrial Revolution, most people didn’t travel for their livelihood. It was only when production shifted from farms and local workshops to mills and factories that the nature of work changed overnight. It wasn’t until the Digital Revolution when new technology once again allowed us to reevaluate how (and where) work was done.

I’ve been working remotely full-time for over 15 years, and it’s significantly easier now than it was back then. That’s not to say there aren’t challenges, but the technology we all rely on for telecommuting is a lot more advanced than it was even just a few years ago.

I’ve been working remotely full-time for over 15 years, and it’s significantly easier now than it was back then.

When I started working remotely, VPN and remote desktop technology didn’t have the necessary capabilities to properly support telecommuting. Instead, we had to put together our own solutions to fill in the gaps however we could.

For example, we customized open-source instant messaging tools to allow people using *nix operating systems to communicate easily. Even having an office phone took a little ingenuity. We used double-sided tape to attach a dedicated VPN router to the back of an office phone to create a secure tunnel. We called it “The Frankenphone,” but it worked!

Today I can do more on my smartphone than I could on my old desktop, and I even have a comparable work experience because the tools are designed for multiple platforms. I definitely don’t miss the experience of working with email attachments on an old BlackBerry. I’m thankful we have all kinds of SaaS tools to keep us connected and properly equipped to do our jobs.

With COVID, more people are working remotely than ever before. If this is the first time you’ve spent a significant stretch working from home, you’ve probably noticed that the technologies and infrastructure available are more than capable of letting us do our jobs remotely. However, we are also facing the unique challenges of sharing our home office with children and partners adjusting to working and learning from home.

Even during these times, I think the most important aspect of making remote work successful is finding (and maintaining) your work/life balance. I know it can be difficult to step away from your computer when you work from home and you’re a stone’s throw from your desk – especially when you genuinely like what you do.

Even during these times, I think the most important aspect of making remote work successful is finding (and maintaining) your work/life balance.

Still, simple things like keeping regular working hours can make a huge difference. It was hard for me to do this at first, but I make sure to have dinner with my family every night. That’s not to say I don’t put in the occasional late night or early morning, but I prioritize keeping that balance. It can be really easy to fall into the trap of thinking “I must sit at my desk 100% of the time so that it’s clear that I’m working and being productive.” Be mindful of these thoughts and don’t feel guilty about taking breaks. You have to establish healthy boundaries and realistic expectations so you don’t burn yourself out.

Technology has made the world smaller, and as companies become more global their employees are likely already working with people they don’t see in person on a day-to-day basis. Telecommuting obliterates the limits of geography, giving people access to opportunities regardless of location as well as giving companies access to a much larger pool of talent. In addition, the same technology that facilitates remote work makes it easier to engage with customers.

I think the general perception of remote work has changed for the better. Companies are starting to realize what my team and I have known for well over a decade – if done properly, remote work won’t have a negative impact on job performance and can even result in increased productivity. Providing employees with the right tools (including SaaS- or cloud-based applications), maintaining consistent communication, and trusting them to do their jobs remotely has been proven to not only increase productivity and engagement, but can also reduce stress and increase general well-being. It’s win-win for companies and their employees.

I’m curious to see if the trend toward remote work will continue once people start feeling more comfortable working out of office spaces again. I certainly hope it does.

Todd Helfter is the Director of Database Services at Effectual, inc.

Shelby Cunningham, Director of Professional Services: Building High Performing Teams & Trusted Customer Relationships

Shelby Cunningham, Director of Professional Services: Building High Performing Teams & Trusted Customer Relationships

When I look back at my extra-curricular activities as a kid, I realize they were probably foundational for my current role leading app development teams at Effectual. From tap dancing to cheerleading, piano playing to water skiing, I learned coordination, team-building, creativity, and how to adapt quickly in a “fluid” environment. Most of all, they were both challenging and fun, which is how it feels to lead a large development team for a growing entrepreneurial company.

Tech has always felt like a natural fit for me. I started my career managing marketing and overseeing development teams for software startups, which evolved into having my own strategic consulting agency. Those experiences led to management roles in client success, partner relations, business development, and product marketing –positions that required a balance of tech know-how, business skills, and relationship-building with customers, partners, and employees.

I joined Five Talent as a program manager several years before the company was acquired by Effectual. As a custom software developer, we always had a high volume of projects with really diverse use cases. This pipeline and our partnership with Amazon Web Services (AWS) made continual learning a strong cultural value for us. To deliver the best solutions for our customers, we had to keep pace with innovation. This is why our developers hold so many high level AWS certifications and why they continue to pursue this expertise as part of Effectual.

Today, I lead Effectual’s professional services app development team. My responsibilities include driving project management and continuous improvement as well as ensuring we are meeting (and exceeding) the expectations of our customers.

The best part of my role here is cultivating long term relationships with customers knowing that our team can build solutions that will have a real impact on the success of their businesses. From the time we start our discovery process to when we launch a product, I want our customers to know we are partners working towards the same goal. That kind of authentic collaboration yields amazing results, and it isn’t hard when your team includes some of the smartest, most talented people in the industry.

The best part of my role here is cultivating long term relationships with customers knowing that our team can build solutions that will have a real impact on the success of their businesses.

Our team is expanding fast as Effectual grows. Because of this, I am focused on building high functioning teams where people are engaged and challenged in their work but also have time to explore new technologies that interest them. Keeping up with innovation is critical to what we do here.

My new interest outside of work is riding motorcycles with my husband. I’ve got a Yamaha now but have my Harley picked out. It isn’t water skiing, but it’s the perfect metaphor for where I am in my career. Moving fast, enjoying the ride, with miles of open road ahead.

Ryan Comingdeer, CTO: Problem Solving Through Continual Learning

Ryan Comingdeer, CTO: Problem Solving Through Continual Learning

My introduction to computer science was a 7th-grade programming class where I learned BASIC. The class opened up a new world to explore that had me immediately hooked. By the time I started high school I knew I was going to follow a career in technology. Some people have a more circuitous path to their vocation, but I was fortunate to discover mine early on and seize the opportunity to build a really fulfilling career doing what I love.

In my opinion, the most important skill in this field is the ability to solve problems through continual learning. Technology is always changing, and the pace of innovation demands constant attention in order to stay ahead of new tools, services, and solutions. That is why 40% of my job every single day is dedicated to learning-and why it is such a huge part of our company culture.

Technology is always changing, and the pace of innovation demands constant attention in order to stay ahead of new tools, services, and solutions.

Learning and curiosity are values that also extend to my role as a father to five daughters, age 8 to 14 years. By teaching them computer science, I am trying to give them the confidence to learn about technology and apply it to real world situations and challenges. This is one of the ways I stay involved with their personal lives and hopefully prepare them for the future. It also helps me stay relevant because I have to do my research to understand what their world is going to look like when they become adults.

Teaching my own kids about technology has led to other opportunities to inspire the next generation of innovators. To support students in the Bend community, I teach a 5th-grade technology-focused STEM program at my children’s school, host local Hour of Code events, and work with the Oregon Department of Education to integrate computer science into the K-12 curriculum. At work, I mentor recent computer science college grads starting their tech careers as part of the Apprenti internship program.

For myself, continual learning includes going after new AWS certifications, training in other cloud platforms, understanding the pros and cons of multiple stacks, testing new services, and keeping current on industry trends. However, the best opportunity for ongoing learning is working with our really talented developers on a broad portfolio of diverse projects.

Our professional services team typically has 40+ projects underway at any given time (IoT, mobile apps, web apps, big data, system integrations) that use 10-12 languages and multiple cloud providers. Even if I am not working directly on a project, I meet with my technical leadership team every week to review what we did, what worked, what did not, and to figure out what we can do better. This gives me a chance to learn alongside them and gather lessons learned as reference points for when I am talking to customers or recommending a new architecture.

For in-depth analysis, I like to pick a topic such as AI and do as much research as I can to understand what the top 5 vendors offer, the benefits of their solutions, the use cases, and the lessons learned thus far. I also follow a dozen blogs that cover new design patterns so I can compare technology stacks and spend at least an hour a night researching how to stay forward thinking on cloud native architecture.

If you want to deliver a relevant, valuable technology solution, you have to start by understanding the problem you are helping your customer solve.

Still, it is not enough to be a technical expert. As professional services providers, our job is to enable business outcomes with measurable results. If you want to deliver a relevant, valuable technology solution, you have to start by understanding the problem you are helping your customer solve. This includes pain points, opportunities, target audiences, business requirements, the competitive landscape, and more. That is why our solutions architects and developers are skilled technologists as well as big picture thinkers interested in how businesses and market dynamics work. I encourage us to ask WHY we are building something as much as HOW.

After spending the last 15 years focused on professional services, I am excited to embark on the next chapter of my career. Working with Effectual’s Modernization EngineersTM is giving me a whole new understanding of the life cycle of a technology solution. I am gaining a more comprehensive view of how to properly manage and monitor the solutions we build in a cloud environment for the long term. The collaboration is making me a better architect and a better technologist, with more learning ahead.

Ryan Comingdeer is the Chief Technology Officer at Effectual, inc.