How to become an AWS Hero

It was on a Friday evening, and all of a sudden, I was receiving many notifications from Twitter on my phone, within a very short time interval. It was unusual, to see many people starting to follow me within a couple of seconds or minutes. So it is when I checked that I saw the tweet from AWS which mentioned I had been nominated as a Machine Learning Hero. And then I saw myself as part of the list of the new AWS Heroes for that batch-The first Machine Learning Hero in Sub-Saharan Africa, and currently one out of about 34 in the world.

What is common amongst Heroes of all categories is that everyone’s story is different and no one can clearly tell how they actually ended up becoming a Hero. But since many people have been asking me how to become an AWS Hero all this while, I decided to write this article, so together we can look in retrospect at 10 things I remember doing last year which could inspire you to find your own path to becoming a Hero or to coach someone to become one. Again this article is not certain to land you a nomination as an AWS Hero.

Nice!!! Now, that we are clear on that, let us rewind to see how it all started.

So how did it all start last year?

Before last year, I had hosted a few apps in the cloud, but never on the AWS Cloud. My first encounter with AWS was last year, during our first local AWS Meetup, and for the first time I saw what benefits the AWS Cloud was bringing to the table, but what I never saw was about a year later I could become a Hero. Seems like the length of time really does not matter right? Or maybe it does? But not in my case.

A couple of months after that first meetup, my friend and co-organizer of the AWS local Group meetup was nominated as the first AWS Serverless Hero in Africa, based on his contributions to Serverless space. Certainly, it was upon this nomination that I got that extra motivation, and I started to believe in myself that I too can. My passion for the field of analytics and machine learning had met with a strong motivation to become a Hero in that space.

If my nomination as the first-ever AWS Machine Learning Hero in Sub-Saharan Africa, from one of the most technologically nascent countries in the world, could motivate and inspire you and ignite that entropy of passion and motivation to set you on the route to becoming a Hero, then this article would have served its purpose and serve my purpose of inspiring you to be the best you can, especially as I am just as ordinary as most of us. Assuming my pep talk was good, now let us see how you too can based on some of the things I think I did right last year.

How could you become an AWS Hero?

Here are the 10 things I remember doing last year, which might have helped me become a hero. Again no one knows for sure how it works, but here are some of the things I did.

  1. Connecting with other Heroes:

Why would one want to become a Hero, and the first item on the list is talking about connecting with other Heroes? Aren’t we supposed to go directly and start sharing our knowledge with the community, that way we gain credits from AWS, especially as we know Heroes are not employees of AWS?

It is good to connect with past Heroes on social media. If not for the reason of getting some advice or mentorship, but also for the mere fact that by observing them for a while you would learn to see what they typically share and the kind of activities they do, which most of the time is not far from what they did before becoming Heroes in the first place.

The second reason for connecting with them is that they are still very influential and could submit your name to AWS after being pleased with your work. You know what that means when a Hero says they believe you merit to be the next Hero right?

  1. Commenting and sharing other people’s works:

Again aren’t you supposed to be sharing your work instead of other people’s work? At this rate when do you get to share your own works?

I only have a single response to this question, which is “Karma”. What goes around comes around.

If you see something good, why not share it? What’s the point. We are on social media and that is what we do on social media. In so doing you expand your network, build relationships and so you get more visibility and support when next you share your work. Easy right?

  1. Writing lots of social media posts about my experience with AWS Services

Sure this one should be obvious to you as this shows you have some knowledge of AWS and you are also willing to share your knowledge to help your community. How would AWS know what you know if you do not share?

Personally, I think I was obsessed with this one when I set an objective to post every single day on Linkedin, at least, for a very long period of time. And these are not just posts of 500 words or less. Rather, there were periods for a couple of weeks straight, I would write posts of about 2 000 words every single day of the week and share them on Linkedin and even on Facebook. I constantly shared my experience and tips about data science and analytics, but nothing stopped me from sharing about how the audience can stay motivated while aquiring more skills, and even about setting great goals for the New Year. I just made sure I was human and did not go too far from my major core topics. But anything I thought my followers would love around those topics whether related to AWS directly or indirectly I went ahead to share. This is important because we are not trying to spam people but to genuinely share what we believe would be beneficial to them.

  1. Writing end-to-end machine learning projects in my blog:

I a sure you already know that there are 02 main segments of Heroes (Community Heroes and Technical Heroes (including Machine Learning, DevTools, Serverless, etc). Community Heroes do not necessarily need to be very Technical, but Technical Heroes need to be very Technical. And how more could you show that better than writing Technical blog posts?

I wrote end-to-end machine learning blog posts. This starts right from framing a common problem in my locality scraping real-life data about it from local sources, and going through the entire machine learning lifecycle right up till deployment on Sagemaker. Lots of techniques are shared in these end-to-end projects, so the reader can get a more complete picture of what is needed to solve machine learning problems.

  1. Advocating for the use of the new Sagemaker Studio lab:

If you have identified the core services used in your field, If you read some articles about becoming AWS Community Builders or Heroes, you will see that they mention the point promoting newly released AWS services gives you credit in the eyes of AWS. This is logical and understandable. Every mother thinks the baby is the most beautiful. So if there is a new service, try it out and if you love it, then use it.

AWS updates and releases new services at a very high rate throughout the year. Especially after re:invent , you get a ton of new releases being announced. Sagemaker is to Machine Leaning, just like Lambda is to Serverless. So if you see something new about the core service needed in your domain of interest, why not test and advocate for it to the rest of the world?

I fell in love with the recently launched Sagemaker Studio Lab and was even using it to train my students (which is one of the value propositions for the service). So if there is a newly launched service you love or you think can help you then use it and share it so others can benefit as well.

  1. Participating in many AWS Workshops:

Why would we participate in Workshops organized by AWS, instead of focusing only on being the ones we organize and invite others to hear us speak?

When you do so, you not only get to connect with some of the organizers and speakers in these workshops or events, but you also get to see how good presentations should be made, how such events should be organized, and what is of value to AWS in these events.

Last year I participated in many AWS workshops including Alexa Skill Training.Asking relevant questions and sharing my ideas with the hosts and the audience as well. tHE hat got me to learn a lot and also connect with the organizers and stay Top of mind.

  1. Speaking and Sharing in the local AWS User Group meetups :

AWS Meetups are usually a good avenue to get visibility for your contribution to your locality. They are usually an avenue to share with beginners in the cloud journey about how to take the next step in. So I did presentations like “Introduction to Sagemaker” in our local User Group meetup. The good thing is such contributions are usually highly valued by AWS, as they encourage growth as part of communities.

  1. Actively Participating and advocating for the Global Disaster Hackathon:

If you see a competition being launched on machine learning with prizes worth over $50 000 and you are working towards becoming a Machine Learning Hero, why would you not join and even encourage others to participate?

Last year was interesting after re:invent 2021, there were many interesting announcements for machine learning. And one of them was the Global Disaster Hackathon, where participants had to use machine learning to prevent or mitigate the risk and losses due to natural disasters. So I participated in this hackathon and was actively advocating for others to join as well. I even created a special webinar on my youtube channel to share with my followers how to approach the hackathon challenge and some hacks to get a head start in the competition.

  1. Joining the Community Builders Program:

Not all Heroes come from the Community Builder’s Program, but most of the time more than 50% come from this program. So when you do the maths, can you see why you need to apply to join the next batch of the AWS Community Builders Program?

And besides only becoming a Hero out of it, there is a lot you benefit when you join this program. The biggest one is to network directly with like-minded builders and since many heroes were community builders before becoming Heroes, some would still be available here and you can get in touch with them very easily as a fellow community builder. It is interesting to be one of the first to get information about some services before they go public. Do not miss applying for the program whenever it is announced. But if you do not get in, all hope is not lost. Still a proposition of Heroes who do not come from this program.

  1. Launching the “Sagemaker Saturdays” weekly youtube series:

What about starting a youtube channel to share your projects and teach some basic programming to beginners in the cloud journey?

I know not everyone needs a youtube channel to become a Hero, but have you ever thought about it or given it a shot?

Though this is last on the list, it is one of the contributions I believe can have a huge influence on your eligibility. I was courageous enough to start a “Sagemaker Saturdays” Live coding series, where we build end-to-end Machine Learning projects from scratch till deployment on AWS Sagemaker. So every weekend I would host this youtube session for at least one hour, where together we build the codes from scratch most of the time and I explain why we are doing what we are doing as we build end-to-end machine learning projects. This was really heavy and I believe it also showed my dedication. Because hosting a live coding event can be an uphill task with lots of hours of work behind the scenes, and a big risk of something just going wrong mid-way. It is also very satisfying.

Apart from the fact that I was teaching while I was learning and building, above are the 10 things I can remember actively doing last year. Did you notice any underlying thing in all of them?

Let me help you out…..It’s consistency.

That is why every Hero’s story always appears different, but if you listen closely, you would discover that there was that drive and that consistent effort to get the knowledge across and help the community. So would it be easy and there would be times you do not feel discouraged?

No. But what should keep you going? The principle of using your head first and the heart will follow. Sacrificing and when the messages of gratitude and recognition for your work come, your heart will be filled and you will feel a sense of accomplishment.

In Conclusion ……

In Conclusion ……Remember the AWS Heroes program recognizes not only your technical skills but also your passion and dedication to sharing with your community. Even though everyone’s story is different, the only single and most important glue in all of them is “Consistency”.

So relax!!! Keep doing what you do and as you move on, do not forget this fact…You do not find the AWS Heroes program….. The AWS Heroes Program will find you…

Wish you Good Data Luck!!!

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