Why Serverless

Farrah Campbell

It’s a new decade and we’re moving on a number of exciting initiatives at Stackery, but I continue to be humbled by the opportunities, serverless users/enthusiasts, and audiences who are interested in hearing my story!

Q1 is off to a busy start for me. I have a number of international talks planned and I have been working hard to continue to learn how to utilize more AWS services to continue my educational journey. The common thread across all the stories I’m sharing in the coming months is that, at its core, serverless is a mindset, not just a technology. This distinction matters because it opens up the conversation to many experience levels, from novice to seasoned expert.

I’m kicking off this circuit on January 24th at ServerlessDays Belfast with my “Serverless Mindset” talk. Here’s a preview of this talk for those of you who can’t make it to Ireland -- I’ll be sure to take pictures!

My background? The Serverless Mindset is all about focusing on what matters. What is the value you are providing to your company and community? Furthermore, how can you focus on the important, essential things in your personal life?

I am a single mom and have been for my entire adult life. As other single moms will tell you, this is never an “easy” job and it's made more difficult when you’re the victim of domestic abuse by my childrens’ father, as I was.

At 25, I was making $18-24 an hour and trying to maintain a normal life for my boys. All my free time was spent ferrying the kids back and forth in between overlapping practices (in different places!) Dinner then was a cooler full of sandwiches, cold pasta, or whatever was easy to eat in the car on the way home. Not having someone to rely on or fall back on taught me a lot about ensuring that I was using my energy on tasks and problems that mattered.

I have always had a strong drive to go after what I want and create my own path but when I found myself with sole custody of my boys with no one else to help me, complaining, focusing on the negative, and failing were not an option.

Common threads for success I share all of these emotions, past stressors, and history because all of it led me to serverless and frankly, a great deal of professional success. But how did I get from there to here?

When it comes to changing your life and your approach to software development, I think the approach is actually pretty similar. At the beginning of each week and each day, I review my goals and to-do lists to determine what requires my time. Then I can reallocate tasks as necessary to ensure that they align with what provides me with the most value. With each task, I am working to understand if the value is greater than the cost of the time spent, the cost of missed opportunities, and the cost to outsource it. This is not a perfect system as there are always hiccups but it allows me to focus my time on the things that matter and benefit from my involvement. This was my approach to finding a new and more fulfilling career to break my family away from the negativity of my life at age 25: focusing on small tasks. The philosophy of serverless is actually pretty similar: shift your focus from the messy and “impossible” big picture of a monolithic architecture and instead focus on microservices to become more efficient and effective. It’s a workflow issue for both spheres.

I am constantly analyzing how I work and what is working for me and what isn’t. You could say that I am tending to my own personal technical debt, removing behaviors or focus areas that are not in line with helping me to achieve personal or business goals. Rethinking, Rearchitecting, Reallocating and rethinking again.

For example, in software development or in life, you can embark on a new chapter (changing careers! Trying serverless development!) by choosing to let negativity, fear of the unknown, or doubt get the best of you.

Or, you can choose to focus on top priorities and bite-sized tasks that will actually serve you. Set goals, take a few steps, analyze where you are at, make changes if necessary, repeat to achieve them, and then take time to celebrate. Reframe challenges to learning opportunities.

Applying the serverless mindset The attitude of being ready to work even in the face of challenges and despite odds is what will make all the difference in your life and engineering abilities. I used to imagine engineering almost as a collective authoring team, all co-collaborating on chapters in a book, and that the majority of the time was spent writing code. But what I have learned through my own experiences is that it is working through problem after problem. And when you finally get something working and want to integrate it with something else, it breaks again.

Look at your problem-solving methods. Is what you are working on truly going to impact the company's bottom line? Is your own self-talk helping you get to where you want to be? Words hold a lot of power and personally, I used to engage in conversations about problems that had nothing to do with me and nothing that I could affect. Now, I use that time to practice yoga, spend time with my sons, learn more about building serverless applications, version control, git ... the list goes on.

I think that’s why I was immediately engaged with and fascinated by the serverless community: I love the forward-thinking and constant reassessment on whether or not you are still working towards the right goals. Knowledge is at our fingertips every day and it's up to us to take it, to learn, grow, and reassess making sure that we are focused on the right things. No one else is going to do this for you.

An essential step is getting out of the negativity that A or B technology (including serverless) is "hard" or "complex" and instead focus on the values and end goals to encourage yourself to just try it!

Yes, serverless is a technological goal for vendors to deliver hosting and computer power to their customers. But serverless is also a vision for how developers should be able to build services without their focus being totally sucked up by understanding hosting technology, patching old technology and so on. This community is essentially focused on answering a developmental demand for engineering teams to put their talents and attention to the true challenges of their business.

The new year is a perfect time to take stock not only of your goals but how you plan to achieve them. What can you do each day, that will lead to new skills and understanding or other forms of personal growth? The Serverless Mindset helped me pivot to real and meaningful achievements here at Stackery and it turns out I had been practicing this in my personal life long before joining this awesome team! I can’t wait to hear your stories during my serverless travels over the next few months. And if you have any Belfast tips, hit me up on twitter ;)

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