Hire in-house, or phone a friend?


Hire in-house, or phone a friend?

By Nora Bright

Hire in-house, or phone a friend?

Image by Julianne Medenblik

The economic environment is still slow, and many companies are in a hiring freeze. If you’re thinking about hiring but not sure about making the commitment, bringing a new teammate on through a consulting or staffing agency could be a smart choice! Below are a few considerations to decide if an agency is your best bet. 

Go in-house 

You have a certain, long-term need. Hiring in-house is a great route if you need someone for the long haul and have the budget to support them. Once you train an in-house employee, you get to keep their knowledge within the organization, whereas a consultant is likely to move on more quickly. 

You want a transferable skillset. Even if you’re just hiring for a project or short-term need, it’s possible the person you bring into the organization may have a valuable skillset that can be used elsewhere in the organization. For example, if you’re bringing on a data analyst to evaluate the efficiency of your digital ads spending, there are likely other initiatives or programs where they could apply their skills. 

Your team has the bandwidth to support interviews. Hiring can be time-intensive for you and anyone else sitting in on interview loops. If you go in-house, make sure your teams have the capacity to meet candidates and participate in multiple interviews. 

You can wait a while. An FTE hiring process can take weeks to months, but can be worth the time and effort to find your long-term candidate. If you don’t have an immediate need—and can wait a while before the position is filled—going through the process in-house makes sense.  

Call up the experts and use a consulting agency 

You have a short-term need. If you need help with a quick project, hiring a temporary teammate through an agency can be a great option. You can skip a lengthy recruiting and interview process that might be overkill for a short-term role, and get someone started ASAP. Plus, your agency handles the  vetting process for you to save you the effort. 

You need a specialized skillset. Even in this labor market where employers have an upper hand, it can be a challenge to find someone with a specialized skillset. This is especially true in our world of marketing and creative roles, where motion designers, video editors, or marketing analysts may be hard to track down. An agency that specializes in your industry or function will have experienced talent ready to go for even hard-to-find skillsets. 

You’re in a pinch. Need someone, like, yesterday? Working with a consulting agency is going to be a lot faster than going through the typical in-house hiring process. You can skip the legwork of sifting through hundreds of resumes, emailing back and forth with candidates, and setting up loops with your team.  

You want to try before you buy. Whether you have an open role that’s hard to fill, or you want to work with someone before making a long-term commitment, a consulting agency is a great option for you. Most agencies offer a temp-to-hire option if you’re impressed with your consultant and want to keep them on for the long haul. If they’re not a fit, the consulting agency can find you a replacement quickly. 

Want to learn more about what a consulting agency can offer? 

2A’s Embedded Consulting practice matches tech industry clients with top-notch marketing, creative, and program management talent. Our superior employee experience and benefits put people first—and attract the best talent in tech. Learn more about our EC practice or get in touch

Gen AI—America’s favorite snack


Gen AI—America’s favorite snack

By Jane Dornemann

Gen AI—America’s favorite snack

Image by Evan Aeschlimann

Gossip (for nerds)

  • NVIDIA chips have become a hotter item than black market kidneys as companies “go to extreme lengths” to remedy the GPU shortage. In response, AWS is promoting its own AI chips and the adoption of Amazon Bedrock, which bakes chip needs into the offering. Meanwhile Microsoft is offering refunds to customers who curb their GPU usage.
  • If you don’t want to return to the Amazon office then get ready to like government cheese. Andy Jassey said that employees should forget about the Amazon mantra of “disagree and commit” for leadership’s push to return to soul-sucking cubicle life. This message was delivered in the bravest of fashions using the good old pre-recorded session.
  • SAP’s new global head of AI was previously the Microsoft VP of AI for the business and application platform group. She has a PhD from MIT…how mid.
  • A shake-up may be coming to the AWS Partner program. The cloud giant teased changes to partner-to-partner engagement and AWS Marketplace in relation to generative AI. I actually know about one of these changes and while I don’t have a PhD from MIT, I did major in KEEPING SECRETS at life university with a weighted GPA of 4.18.
  • Microsoft has changed its policy to allow customers to use Microsoft 365 on Amazon WorkSpaces. Why such a big licensing change now? The report speculates that the move may be a result of pressure from large customers and the EU’s ongoing examination of anti-competitive practices. Amazon WorkSpaces is on a shortlist of software that can now run on Microsoft 365, leaving other big firms, like VMware, to ask when it will be their turn.
  • AWS has hired two new executives to its senior leadership team, one for AI and one for EC2 (the third is for Amazon, check out her amazing profile here).
  • The whole “I’ll patch it in two years, MAYBE” security approach that Microsoft has had over the years is not flying with customers anymore, including the federal government. A mounting number of infosec professionals and vendors are getting loud about Microsoft’s lack of transparency, lack of urgency, and increasing occurrence of security issues. It’s gotten to the point where the US Department of Homeland Security has opened an investigation into Microsoft’s handling of a major attack on its Azure cloud infrastructure. This will definitely hurt the cloud company’s attempt to position itself as a cybersecurity leader.
  • It’s rumored that Google plans to release its contender to OpenAI’s GPT-4, Gemini, this fall.
  • More people with a 1.7 GPA in keeping secrets: Microsoft is planning to start selling a new version of Databricks software that helps customers make AI apps for businesses.

World domination

  • Africa: AWS opened its first international AWS Skills Center in Cape Town, South Africa. It offers free training to help people move into cloud careers. And startups from six African countries have been chosen to participate in a boot camp run by AWS and Harvard Innovation Labs’ NextGen Accelerator. 25 Black-led startups were selected in total, with founders from U.S. HBCUs also in the cohort.
  • Asia: AWS APJ is tapping Korean startups to be part of its six-week-long Generative AI Accelerator program. And AWS debuted a new Dedicated Local Zone in Singapore, which will help organizations in the public sector and regulated industries meet regulatory standards.
  • Europe: Finland’s Savings Bank Group is moving all of its data and systems to Azure. Boring news from a boring country. I love you Finland, but you are not the Friday nights of countries!

New stuff

  • AWS introduced HealthImaging, a HIPAA-eligible service that lets healthcare providers store, analyze, and share medical imaging data at scale. Wait, so I can just…get images? You’re saying, AWS, that I don’t have to call up my old neurologist at NYU and request my brain MRI only to be told I have to make the request in person, so I fly to New York City, sign a release waiver, wait two days, go to pick it up only to find out my other doctor needs it in a different format, then fly back to NYC again, except this time the front desk tells me oh sorry that lady you spoke to was new, we no longer provide imaging in that format anymore and then I just, I dunno, die?
  • AWS wants to teach its healthcare customers and partners in Latin America, Canada, and the Caribbean how to build solutions. It will do this through its pilot of AWS Industry Quest: Healthcare, which sounds a lot like you’ll be playing Tomb Raider instead of developing apps.
  • Microsoft feels like the one thing missing from this world is another male voice, so it added one to its Azure AI Text to Speech tool.
  • AWS launched an EC2 service powered by custom Intel Xeon Scalable processors, otherwise known as Sapphire Rapids.
  • Microsoft has announced the general availability of its Azure Operating Nexus for telcos. The explanation of what it does is a real snooze fest and my workday ends in 15 minutes so you’ll have to go without.
  • In its ongoing love letter to startups, AWS has unveiled AWS Build, a global program meant to help early-stage startups get their ideas off the ground.
  • Can’t leave frontline and shift workers out of the Copilot revolution. It must be high on their list of must-haves, well above cost of living pay raises and sick days, for sure. Fret not field service workers because now there’s a preview of Copilot in Dynamics 365 just for you.

Wheelin’ and dealin’

  • Are DDoS days the new snow days? Cyberattacks have increasingly led to lost learning in K-12 schools, so AWS has pledged $20M in grants for cybersecurity resiliency efforts in education. This is part of the White House’s increased federal support for school cybersecurity.
  • Digital pathology provider Paige has teamed up with Microsoft to build the world’s largest image-based AI intelligence model for identifying cancer.
  • AWS has announced that its Service Catalog now supports HashiCorp Terraform Cloud. This facilitates self-service provisioning with governance so that developers don’t have to wait on cranky IT folks to set their shiz up.
  • BMW chose AWS as the platform on which it will develop its next-gen driver assistance system, set to launch in 2025. Qualcomm will also play a role in development.
    • Separately, Qualcomm is touting its growing influence in the automotive sector, including a strategic partnership with AWS.
  • Microsoft and AI startup Synthetaic are working together to analyze data from space and air sensors. This was the same company that independently tracked the Chinese spy balloon, something that was on my shortlist of Halloween costumes but is now too obscure.
  • Aptos, a blockchain platform developed by a former Facebook employee (I bet it’s a GREAT place for women to work), is partnering with Microsoft to bring AI to blockchain. That includes building tools to help banks explore blockchain on Azure.
  • EVERYBODY AND THEIR MOTHERS are helping businesses accelerate AI adoption:
    • LeanIX, which sells a transformation platform that helps companies with visibility and governance, has partnered with Microsoft to launch LeanIX Assistant. The press release goes on to say it’s the first of its kind, but I’m gonna spoiler alert you and let you know that it’s not.
    • IBM Consulting is helping clients implement and scale Azure OpenAI Service. It will guide businesses in defining an adoption strategy and identify use cases.
    • AWS has “let me show you how to use this thing” collabs too! HCLTech will help AWS customers adopt AI using AWS services such as Amazon Bedrock and Amazon CodeWhisperer.
    • And government modernization facilitator CACI struck a deal with AWS to help the Department of Defense, the intelligence community, and law enforcement use AI to do things like share sensitive data to generate insights. SOUNDS LIKE A GREAT IDEA.
    • IT infrastructure services provider Kyndryl is working with Microsoft to launch an AI-readiness program that will enable the ethical adoption of enterprise AI solutions.


  • Have you ever offered to do something for somebody, and as soon as it came out of your mouth you were like, why did I just offer to do that? That’s Microsoft this week after saying it will accept liability for any customer’s copyright infringement over material generated by its AI software! The idea is to get more people comfortable with using the software. This applies exclusively to paying customers of GitHub Copilot, which creates computer code with generative AI, as well as Microsoft 365 Copilot, which applies AI to products including Word, Teams, and PowerPoint.
  • Amazon has acquired Fig, a startup that produces tools to assist developers. It will be folded into AWS.
  • Microsoft has ended unlimited storage for OneDrive business plans because you can never have too much money. It’s also ended Windows support for Cortana in favor of focusing on Copilot.
  • AWS is ending its low-code Honeycode service. The end-of-life announcement drew only six replies from customers. Is this like when Phish announced they were retiring in 2004?
  • Another reason why Europe offers a better quality of life: Microsoft will stop forcing Windows 11 users into the Edge browser.

Best Friends Forever

  • New to Microsoft Azure Marketplace:
    • Globalgig’s Orchestra platform, which helps businesses manage global network services.
    • DeskConnect, an AI/ML solution that extracts and analyzes text from documents, including handwritten ones. I know a former president who hates to read but loves documents who would have liked that about a year ago.
  • Red Hat OpenShift for the U.S. Intelligence Community is now available in AWS Marketplace. It will help the government innovate while also maintaining stringent security. Both of those things are new concepts to the government, so take ‘er nice and slow there guys. Also new to AWS Marketplace:
    • SOCi, which offers a platform that helps multi-location enterprises employ automation tools and data management to drive customer engagement.
    • Outreach, an AI-powered sales execution platform.
  • PingSafe, a CNAPP provider, has joined the AWS ISV Accelerator and so has ComplyAdvantage, a financial crime intelligence company.
  • Alfa, a finance software provider, joined the AWS Partner Network after passing the technical review.
  • HashiCorp has joined Microsoft’s Intelligence Security Association.
  • Consulting firm Protiviti earned its AI and ML specialization from Microsoft.
  • Data science and AI solutions provider Tredence has achieved its AWS Service Delivery designation for Amazon EMR and Amazon RDS. Analytics company SAS achieved AWS Digital Customer Experience Competency. Onebeat, which provides AI-enabled supply chain solutions for retailers, was awarded the AWS Retail Competency. And Zero Trust company Netskope earned its Security Competency status in the Infrastructure Protection category.
decorative headshot of Kate


Meet Kate: Our word perfectionist who weaves tech tales 

By Richa Dubey

decorative headshot of Kate

Image by Rachel Adams

The first meeting with Kate leaves you with the sense that she is not just deliberate in her choice of words, but secretly polishes each one to a high shine. She holds it up to the light, and only then, with the satisfied, tiny nod of a true expert, does she slot it into its proper place.  

As a language expert, Kate is 2A’s own lexical chef. With a master’s in linguistics, Kate has developed (and trained actors on) an authentic Dust Bowl accent for a play based on Steinbeck’s novel, Of Mice and Men; taught English as a second language in both Japan and the US at the university level; worked in academia; and simplified complex scientific and technical research into a comprehensible read for the layperson. All of this, of course, is in addition to excelling at 2A as an in-house storyteller on the agency side and an embedded consultant for Microsoft. As a former employee of both Microsoft and Amazon Web Services (AWS), she continues to dive into technology and produce stellar copy.    

Braiding stories from different threads 

When it comes to storytelling, Kate pulls three key threads to weave a tale. First, is connection. She knows how to string the right words together to make a good story great. She can connect directly with the reader, so the message makes a place in their mind and heart. And while the message may be interpreted a little differently by each reader, Kate searches hard for the nugget that strikes relevance.

Another strand in the craft of Kate’s storytelling is precision. “How can you use a word so there is no room for ambiguity?” she asks. “Different people use words and concepts differently, so I work to make sure that we’re on the same page with respect to what they’re trying to say, and I’m focused on using direct language.”  

The last strand is Kate’s imagination. “I think of things that might not have been considered with respect to the story,” she says. Drawing on the rich diversity of her expertise, she pulls disparate elements together, coaxing them to play nicely, and finally, buffing them to produce a finished product like this piece on AI and mixed reality for Microsoft.   

From tech to the deep sea  

When she’s not creating marketing content, Kate is kayaking, volunteering for the arts, or walking dogs at the Seattle Animal Shelter. Lately, she’s been settling into her new role as pet parent to her adorable three-year-old Havapoo, Charlie, a rescue who accompanies her on her adventures.  

Photo of the 2A team sitting on a stage


You can’t have collaboration without feedback 

By Jane Dornemann

Photo of the 2A team sitting on a stage

Image by Alejandra Maria Photography

Feedback is the cornerstone of the creative process at 2A, whether it’s an internal discussion on the best way to revise an introduction or debating how to integrate client feedback about a design. That’s why we asked Michaela Ayers of Nourish to lead a workshop on navigating “creative conflict” and constructive feedback at our company retreat this year. Here’s what we learned.

The Thomas-Kilmann Model is a great way to understand conflict management styles. Have you ever had someone steamroll your idea, and you stayed quiet? Or have you and a colleague experienced tension over opposing ideas you were championing, but tried to find a happy medium?  

We all have certain habits when it comes to navigating sticky situations based on our personality and preferences.  Understanding how you and your collaborators instinctively respond to conflict can help you be more efficient in your approach to delivering constructive feedback. (This writer NEEDS the compliment sandwich.)

The Thomas-Kilmann model below states that the way we work with others tends to fall into different behavioral patterns: competing (high in assertiveness, low in cooperativeness); compromising (high in both assertiveness and compromising); accommodating (low in assertiveness, high in cooperativeness); and avoidance (low in both assertiveness and cooperativeness). At the center of this graph is the golden ticket, collaboration. Often, our management styles will shift depending on the context of whom we are working with and what we are working on.  

Image adapted from the Thomas-Kilmann Conflict model

Each of these styles has pros and cons. None of these styles is better than the other, they are simply different, encompassing various “light” and “shadow” traits. For example, an accommodating team member may be able to resolve conflict faster and keep the peace but can later harbor resentment over their unheard opinions. A competing team member is a decisive, efficient problem-solver—but they can be ego-driven and dominating. (Hey, stop thinking of that person. Stick with us for the rest of this.)

What does collaboration look like? True collaboration is about working toward a win-win in which everyone feels heard, valued, and uses creative problem-solving. But even collaboration has a downside: it’s time intensive. And effective collaboration requires something that research has shown to be highly important in the workplace, which is psychological safety. Aligned with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, achieving psychological safety builds upon itself through stages—so fostering growth of these elements at work is crucial to effective collaboration based on well-delivered (and well-received) feedback.  

So…how do you build psychological safety? It’s not simple or overly prescriptive, but the overarching idea is to connect with the people you’re providing feedback to; observe their work and feelings; communicate the impact of the recommendations; listen to their thoughts, and then iron out a mutually beneficial solution. In our open discussion, we found that the collegial relationships we’ve nurtured with each other have laid a strong foundation for mutual respect and safety in expressing ideas (which might be why we have five stars on Glassdoor). 

After another successful retreat on the books, we’ve noticed that we’re already putting what we’ve learned into practice. And we bet our clients will notice, too. 

If you’re interested in hosting a workshop like this for your teams, reach out to Michaela

decorative image of a hot air balloon


Does your cloud worm need a scarf?

By Jane Dornemann

decorative image of a hot air balloon

Image by Evan Aeschlimann

Wheelin’ and dealin’

  • Multinational IT company Capgemini is collaborating with Microsoft to build an Azure Intelligent App Factory. It will help businesses develop responsible and sustainable generative AI capabilities that will generate “tangible outcomes.” Do they know what “tangible” means? Is the office building going to be smoother? Will the CEO’s skin get softer?
  • Occidental, an international energy company, is migrating to AWS. One of the things it plans to do is develop a system for its large-scale carbon dioxide capture plants…HURRY IT UP WE’RE ROASTING/DROWNING/STARVING OUT HERE!!!
  • Tackle.io, an end-to-end solution for B2B software companies, is co-selling a solution with AWS that will help ISVs accelerate their move to the cloud. It includes everything from training to system integration.
  • “Nonprofit” insurance provider Blue Shield of California has partnered with Microsoft to build a new data hub on Azure. It’s called the Experience Cube (sounds like a weird secret medical experimentation thing). It will bring together provider, patient, and payer data in real time so that services are more personalized. “In the Experience Cube, we want to see how many medical procedures people can withstand without anesthesia, while also remaining alive, so we can personalize approvals and billing,” one Blue Cross employee said, citing pain control for invasive surgeries as a “largely unnecessary” practice.
  • Trend Micro has seen sales soar since entering AWS Marketplace. Good for them I guess.
  • In a mutually beneficial arrangement, professional services firm Genpact will use Azure OpenAI to offer new capabilities to clients. This includes applications such as “transition management” in which an AI-generated likeness of Gary Busey tells you you’re fired. Anyway, I went through the release to see where Microsoft wins in this, but no dice.
  • Observability platform LogicMonitor has expanded its monitoring coverage across AWS services.
  • Caylent, a cloud services company, signed a strategic agreement with AWS to expand data and generative AI solutions for its customers. Caylent plans to use this collaboration to scale its Canadian presence, which will include requiring all employees to constantly say thank you, please, and sorry, as well as consume at least 5 pounds of maple syrup and Canadian Bacon (known as “bacon” in Canada) daily until they’re in good with our northerly neighbors.
  • Hitachi Vantara, a subsidiary of Hitachi, released its Unified Compute Platform for Azure Stack HCI. It helps businesses manage different environments and hybrid cloud setups.
  • The federal government has approved the use of Azure OpenAI service for projects involving highly sensitive data. LOL see you in the security section of this newsletter next week.

World domination

  • AWS launched a Local Zone Edge location in Phoenix. It has already melted.
  • And then it launched a new infrastructure Region in Tel Aviv, Israel. But that also melted!!
  • Brazil’s B3 stock exchange, one of the world’s leading financial markets, is migrating to AWS. AWS is one of the exchange’s three cloud providers (the others being Microsoft and Oracle).
  • Feel-good story time! An amazing 13-year-old in Nigeria just wowed the tech world by becoming Africa’s youngest Certified AWS Developer. He studied up to five hours every day for six weeks to pass the certification test. The youngest person in the world to achieve this designation to date is Karthick Arun, a ten-year-old based out of Arizona. Who has his own LinkedIn profile. Sorry about your melted Local Zone, Karthick.
  • UK-based Telecom giant Vodafone is expanding its work with AWS (primarily using AWS Wavelength) to bring low-latency services to several locations in Spain.

Gossip (for nerds)

  • Google is doing more poaching than a restaurant kitchen at brunch. It has recently hired a total of five big execs away from AWS and Microsoft. See who they are here.
  • European Commission has opened a formal investigation into claims that Microsoft breached EU competition rules by bundling together Teams to suites such as Office 365 and Microsoft 365. It’s not so much a bundling as it is more of a…hugging. They’re hugging each other. Don’t be a patriarchal Ken.
  • The former Enterprise Executive Strategic Advisor at AWS has jumped to digital transformation services firm GFT, where she’ll be SVP, Global Head AWS Sales and Strategy.
  • Amazon’s earnings saw 12% growth YoY in Q2—beyond what analysts expected—largely driven by its AWS division. CEO Andy Jassy said the revenue is coming less from cloud migrations, which many companies have already done, and more from those looking to innovate in the cloud. The other money maker was the release of Amazon Bedrock, which simplifies AI model deployment.
  • Meanwhile, Microsoft saw 8% growth in Q2 and a 20% rise in profit. However, it’s never enough for some people, so shares fell 2.1% after investors expressed disappointment about Azure’s slower than desired growth. (Wow this takes me back to 12-year-old Jane at the pediatrician’s office.)
    • Even still, Microsoft says it’s proud of the growth its Salesforce rival, Dynamics, has seen. Dynamics is growing faster than any of the company’s other major product categories. To drive even more sales, it is offering subsidies to potential customers.
  • In response to government concerns, Amazon, Google, Microsoft, and other large tech firms made a commitment to meet a set of AI safeguards. If this promise to the White House is anything like the promises coming out of the White House, we are in trouble.

New stuff

  • Do hyper-productive Oompa Loompas work at Microsoft? Because the company has announced a bunch of new products, short of a chocolate river flowing through Redmond:
    • Microsoft announced the preview of Azure Application Gateway for Containers and the public preview of Azure Deployment Stacks.
    • It’s also previewing Microsoft Azure Boost, which will improve the performance of virtual machines.
    • Microsoft introduced TypeChat, a library that enables large language model development.
    • It announced a more secure version of its AI-powered Bing chat. “We really need to protect the 17 people who use Bing chat worldwide,” a spokesperson said.
  • The “we can do it better than Google Maps” triad of Microsoft, AWS, and Meta has released its first “open map” dataset, which includes four layers: transportation networks, geopolitical boundaries (can’t WAIT to see what they put for Taiwan), buildings, and places of interest.
  • In the last cloud cover, I mentioned that Microsoft was partnering with Teladoc to do transcription things. Well, looks like AWS is doing it, too, with the announcement of HealthScribe.
  • While AWS and Microsoft have both opened education centers around AI for IT and developers, there is still more ground to cover. Which is why AWS has unveiled its free Skill Builder program for executives on its YouTube channel. Since it’s for executives the first step they cover is how to turn on your computer.
  • AWS has unveiled AWS Entity Resolution, which sounds like it’s an exorcist. But it just matches and links disparate records to create a 360-view of customers. This can be used for industries from finance to travel.
  • Amazon EC2 P5 instances for AI/ML and HPC workloads is now generally available. A result of the company’s collab with NVIDIA, the solution reduces latency and makes scale-out performance more efficient.

Ma’am, I’m going to have to call security

  • Zenbleed, which sounds like a Buddhist monk with a papercut, is a new vulnerability that could touch 62% of AWS environments. AWS is working on fixing it, but in the meantime, Google has released patches.
  • Tenable’s CEO is calling attention to Microsoft’s four-month-long process of releasing a still-nowhere-to-be-found patch for a vulnerability in Azure. He had some choice words for Microsoft, which you can find here. Cage fight!
  • Bad people have been controlling AWS System Manager agents by using a separate, maliciously owned AWS account. I feel like I maliciously own things, like my Brita that always, always needs to be refilled. Forever, until I die.
  • Check Point Research says Microsoft is THE most imitated brand used for phishing attacks (we’ve all danced with Microloft, haven’t we?). In a highly American move, Microsoft said it’s Russia’s fault, as it crushed a Bud Light can against its forehead while riding a tractor that mows down poor people. But one Senator disagrees, and is calling for a Justice Department investigation into Microsoft’s “negligent cybersecurity practices”—citing the company’s role in a recent disastrous attack by Chinese hackers.
  • Hacker group TeamTNT started targeting AWS environments before it expanded to Azure and Google Cloud. The TeamTNT has been improving their attack scripts over time to do everything from mining crypto to conducting straight up data theft. There are suspicions that the hackers are preparing to release an “aggressive cloud worm.” I WANT AN AGGRESSIVE CLOUD WORM. I’d dress him up in a little scarf and coat and he could sleep on a flower and maybe then he’ll turn nice.

Best Friends Forever

  • AWS has named CrowdStrike the 2023 US ISV Partner of the Year.
  • AWS needed more Cowbell and that’s what it got. SMB cyber insurance provider Cowbell (they HAD to know what they were doing) is now part of the AWS Cyber Insurance Partner Initiative.
  • ML tooling company Edge Impulse has joined the AWS ISV Accelerate Program while data protection and management solutions vendor Commvault has joined the AWS ISV Workload Migration Program.
  • Aquia, a SaaS company headquartered in the well-known and often-talked-about city of Millsboro, Delaware, has achieved Advanced Tier Services Partner status within the AWS Partner Network.
  • Skyflow, a data privacy vault company, has joined the AWS Partner Network and is now in AWS Marketplace.
  • Digital transformation firm Grid Dynamics has become a member of Microsoft’s Azure Migration and Modernization Program.
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Felip farms common ground, reaping rich benefits for clients 

By Richa Dubey

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Image by Suzanne Calkins

Equal parts passionate and intentional, Felip centers everything he does around building community and cultivating a shared understanding. “When I think about my profession, I don’t really think in terms of content or interactions with clients. It’s more about how I can use the skills and experience I have to align with their goals. This helps me better support their organizations and initiatives.” 

And it’s easy to find something to relate to when you’ve had such eclectic experiences. While still in school, Felip cared for dying Benedictine monks in Bavaria. He also co-started a tech education nonprofit for kids of color in Seattle.  

As a trade unionist, his father advocated for worker rights, and that helped inform Felip’s career trajectory. Working in economic development for the city of Grand Rapids, Michigan, Felip focused on diversification and training local startups in technology and entrepreneurship. “I see the results of that effort in the culture there today, and I am grateful to have played a small part in developing it.” 

From there, his next step was helping to navigate change at Microsoft. Felip worked with Microsoft 365 to review product changes with security and communication teams before rolling them out to millions of users. It was challenging, but it was core to the person that Felip feels he has grown into. “It’s a big part of who I am now. It taught me how to bridge cultures, navigate differences, and build empathy. That mindset is crucial for creating plans and roadmaps to move projects forward.” 

That emphasis on empathy and diversity anchored one of the biggest wins of Felip’s professional life: co-leading strategy at Purple Group. At this multicultural marketing agency, Felip and his team collaborated with multiple stakeholders to execute a five-year communication and outreach plan for the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA). At over $2 billion, the Red and Purple Modernization (RPM) Phase One Project is the largest capital project in CTA history.

Whether working with the community or within the technology industry, Felip excels at finding a common ground across peers and stakeholders. It’s no surprise we love having him at 2A, and the feeling is mutual. “I love the people here. Everyone is very capable, and that pushes me to be better. And it’s beautiful to see that capability buttressed by empathy and collaboration.” 

Decorative image of a hot air balloon with a title that reads cloud cover vol 16


Is Florida for sale? Because I know a newly rich salesperson. 

By Jane Dornemann

Decorative image of a hot air balloon with a title that reads cloud cover vol 16

Image by Evan Aeschlimann

Wheelin’ and dealin’ 

  • Tax, audit, and advisory firm KPMG has made a multi-billion-dollar commitment to Microsoft (OMG who got that sales comish?! Maybe that person can just buy Florida and put us all out of our misery already). The company will use the Microsoft Cloud and AI services to do things like run smart auditing, get more integrated access to data, and create specialized client solutions. 
  • Teladoc Health plans to integrate Microsoft’s AI-enabled notetaking tools for clinical documentation so physicians can auto-transcribe things like patient visits. OH NO, what if someone comes into the ER and says on arrival, “I’ve got a high temperature!” and the transcription doesn’t work so when the doctor says, “Patient said on arrival they were hot” turns into “Patient dead on arrival, they were hot.” Then someone goes out to tell the family the terrible news except the patient isn’t actually dead, it’s just a fever, and then in the courtroom during the ensuing lawsuit, the doctor is accused of sick thoughts for thinking a dead person was sexually attractive. Maybe we should hit the brakes on this one. 
  • Lacework, which always makes me think of grandma’s doilies, is expanding its partnership with AWS to offer anomaly detection with composite alerts linked to Amazon GuardDuty findings. It also includes integrations with Amazon Security Hub. 
  • In its “growing partnership with Meta…as a preferred partner,” Microsoft and Snowflake announced their support for the Llama 2 family of large language learning models (LLMs). Available on Azure and Windows, this will help developers build generative AI-powered tools. (Not to be confused with AI power tools, which don’t exist but should.) 
  • Snowflake and Microsoft are also working together to simplify their joint customers’ AI projects. The two are working on integrations with Microsoft products like Power Apps and Azure ML. A bigger deal is that joint customers will be able to use Azure OpenAI Service with records stored in Snowflake.  
  • Dell thinks Azure, Microsoft 365, and Dynamics 365 are too complicated to use together, so it’s offering professional services to show businesses how to do so successfully.  
  • Data development platform provider MongoDB is expanding its global efforts with Microsoft to include integrations, service options, and joint marketing initiatives. 
  • Splunk announced it will build its new cloud solutions natively on Azure. Splunk is also previewing its AI Assistant, a generative AI chat interface that is an improved version of the former SPL Copilot. 
  • Global banking firm BBVA will use AWS to deliver advanced analytics and data services in the cloud as part of its data and AI transformation process. Automated insights! Unified data! I can hardly contain myself over this new look. I LOVE makeovers and think this should be a reality show. It would be a Queer Eye meets The Office meets Billions meets Silicon Valley.  
  • In a new collab with Microsoft, Teradata is bringing its VantageCloud Lake to Azure, which will broaden Teradata’s generative AI use cases. 
  • French company Teleperformance, which provides digital communications services to businesses, is using Azure OpenAI in a $185M deal to improve its business communication services. 

World domination 

  • The ability to leave Ohio is no longer the best thing about it—AWS is investing $7.8B to expand its central Ohio data center.   
  • AWS has launched a CloudFront edge location in Lagos, Nigeria. It’s the first one in the country. 
  • In a pioneering act for Japan, banking firm Mizuho is rolling out Microsoft’s Azure OpenAI service to 45,000 employees. Staff are pitching ideas on how to use it, but some have already been using it for things like scanning wealthy client portfolios. I wanna scan wealthy client portfolios!!  
  • Leading African payments technology company Flutterwave is working with Microsoft to build its next-gen platform on Azure. 

Gossip (for nerds) 

  • Just as Microsoft dropped a hefty price tag for its corporate AI tools, AWS says it’s focusing on lowering the computing costs customers will need to implement AI, including the price performance of its chips. 
  • It’s a LinkedIn key party! Raejeanne Skillern is now AWS VP and CMO; former AWS data center exec Chris Vonderhaar is now VP of demand and supply management at Google; and once-AWS CMO Rachel Thornton is CMO at Fivetran. 
  • Analysts have no doubt that AI will be Microsoft’s cash cow, driving a potential $100B in revenue by 2027. That is like, 100 Kardashians. In turn, expect the stock price to jump about 25%. Within this broader AI push are six money-making strategies, which include AI APIs, telecom, “bringing Copilot to the masses,” and generative AI for government. (In fact, the company did just add AI tools for Azure Government.) Bing was also cited as a driver but hey, analysts can’t get it right all the time. 

New stuff  

  • Time to learn good! AWS is investing $100M in a generative AI center that will teach businesses how to create and deploy AI projects. The center is already working with companies like Ryan Air and Lonely Planet. 
  • At Inspire, Microsoft said some AI features are headed to Azure, most notably Vector Search, which uses ML to understand the meaning and context of unstructured data.  
  • AWS announced the General Availability of AppFabric, a no-code service that stitches together SaaS applications and security tools. Eventually, AppFabric will get AI capabilities powered by Amazon Bedrock, where The Flintstones live. 
  • Microsoft thinks people are a bunch of AI dumb-dumbs and that we need to get smart on the technology, so to motivate our lazy asses the company is doling out grants, courses, and toolkits for teachers.  
  • Laminar, which sounds like a cheap finishing that goes on my kitchen cabinets but is actually an agile data security platform, co-built a security solution with AWS. It automatically installs, configures, and integrates with native AWS Cloud Foundational Services across multiple domains. 

Ma’am, I’m going to have to call security 

  • It was not a great month for Microsoft security. Orca Security, forever the Microsoft tattletale, disclosed two vulnerabilities in Azure Bastion and Azure Container Registry. 
  • An Azure Portal outage affected 77% of users due to a DDoS attack led by the hacker Anonymous Sudan. But before you’re all like, stop being a jerk Sudan, it was actually Russia. ::Feigns shock:: 
  • Then, a Chinese cyber-espionage group known as Storm-0558 breached the emails of 25 organizations, INCLUDING the US State and Commerce Department. And Microsoft still doesn’t know how they got a hold of the keys they used to access an inactive Microsoft account. 
  • THEN, Microsoft admitted that a Russian cybercrime group called RomCom exploited a vulnerability that is YET TO BE PATCHED in a phishing attack against organizations attending the NATO Summit. The phishing attack “deployed payloads called RomCom Backdoor” which just…takes on a whole different vibe.  

Best Friends Forever 

  • AWS  
    • Multimodal synthetic data generation platform Gretel is now on AWS Marketplace. Can you imagine how boring a marriage to someone would be who works at a multimodal synthetic data generation platform company? I would DREAD the obligatory “what happened at work today?” question. Ugh, prepare my gallows. 
    • Planetscale, a serverless database management company, has joined the AWS ISV Accelerate program. 
    • Digital product engineering company Simform has achieved SaaS competency status with AWS. 
    • Snowflake achieved the US Department of Defense Impact Level 4 Authorization on AWS GovCloud. Sounds scary! Do they get to see Area 51, or what? If not, then ignore this news because it doesn’t matter.  
  • Microsoft 
    • Vector database company Pinecone is now available on Microsoft Azure.  
    • UK-based Sandbox provider NayaOne has arrived on Azure. It helps banks to accelerate solution discovery, prototyping, and scaling. 
    • Whatfix, a digital adoptions platform, is now listed on Azure Marketplace. 
    • Mobile app defense company Appdome has integrated its Cyber Defense Automation Platform with Microsoft Azure DevOps. 


  • TCS is training 25,000 of its engineers to certify them in Azure OpenAI.  
decorative image of fly fishing


Casting for clicks: Social media lessons from fly fishing 

By Mike Lahoda

decorative image of fly fishing

Image by Brian Dionisi

I’ve recently taken up fly fishing and it’s more complicated than I expected. There’s a whole host of variables to factor in: stream flow, temperature, depth, seams, riffles, pools. Not to mention a dizzying variety of flies and the puzzle of selecting one that effectively imitates a particular insect. It’s a mixture of relaxation and frustration. Connecting with nature and cursing at knots. Muttering absurd phrases like “that looks like some fishy pocket water, maybe I’ll try a hopper dropper with a chubby Chernobyl and a bead-headed pheasant tail” while standing alone in a crystal-clear mountain stream.  

There’s one variety of fly called a streamer, which mimics small fish the bigger fish like to eat. When fishing with a streamer, you make your cast, let the fly flutter in the current, and strip it back to tempt an opportunistic trout. One tip for increasing your odds? Add a little wiggle action to the fly during your retrieve. Fish love the wiggle.  

As it turns out, the humble wiggle can also be a successful tactic in your social media marketing. In a stream of static social posts, a touch of motion can be just the thing to motivate scrollers to bite on your content. At 2A, we call these posts wiggles. These short GIFs perform exceptionally well at reeling in traffic and linking to long-form content. A recent series we created for the Microsoft Power Platform team gained a cascade of impressions on LinkedIn and Twitter—and no one had to put on waders or spend hours standing in a cold river.  

Looking to cast your content further on social? The marketing guides here at 2A know how to read the water and help you land the big ones.    

Headshot of Suzanne with orange flowers, a record, and a blue car.


Suzanne perfects the art of client collaboration 

By Kate Forster

Headshot of Suzanne with orange flowers, a record, and a blue car.

Image by Emily Zheng

Community building with a creative bent 

Suzanne Calkins, a senior designer at 2A, always knew she wanted to follow a creative path. After earning her degree in studio art, she first worked as a studio assistant to professional artists. But something was missing. “I was drawn to educational environments and the community-building aspects of art,” she says. This landed her in the role of junior designer at a music and performing arts school.  

Driven by the desire to contribute, Suzanne also took a part-time job at a community arts nonprofit, which required her to commute hours from her home in Los Angeles to Joshua Tree and other small towns in California. She fell in love with those small desert and mountain towns and eventually left the city to settle in one of them. “I wanted to feel connected to the work I was doing and the effect it was having in the community,” she adds. “I can feel this impact much better in small towns. I ended up in a town where I could experiment and try a lot of different things when it comes to community building and the arts.”  

After a detour in environmental education, Suzanne found her way back to art as a freelance graphic designer. Eventually, she found 2A, whose community-centered values reflect her own. A natural collaborator, Suzanne was drawn to 2A’s culture. “I was impressed by how well everyone worked together,” she notes.   

A collaborative approach to design 

Suzanne enjoys the camaraderie of the creative brainstorming process. She also appreciates 2A’s approach to design projects. “Coming into a team with good processes in place and great communication has allowed me to fall back in love with graphic design,” she explains.  

A great listener, she delights in engaging with her clients, learning their vision, and understanding the emotional impact they want to make. “I love this phase because it allows me to pull in the storytelling element,” she says. She also has a knack for seeing the big picture while also managing the details—a skillset she honed as a freelance designer. 

Suzanne draws on her community-building skills when feeling out the aesthetic direction her clients want to go in—innovative and experimental, stylized, techie, human-centered, or something else—even if they don’t initially know. “Sometimes clients have a hard time verbalizing exactly what they want, so my role is to guide the conversation in a way that pulls out the core of what they’re trying to say,” she says. She then collaborates with fellow 2A designers to bring those ideas to life—whether it’s an infographic or ebook, or a full-blown visual identity.

Finding inspiration everywhere  

Outside of work, Suzanne finds inspiration in the natural environment that surrounds her home near the Sierra Nevada foothills. She also enjoys volunteering at her local radio station, where she hosts a show that spotlights talented, lesser-known artists. “I love nerding out about music—going to live shows and finding new artists to listen to. DJing is a nice way to stay involved in my community and share the things that creatively inspire me,” she says. 

Though Suzanne’s background is eclectic, collaborative storytelling and the arts are common themes. As she puts it, “I aspire to live a creatively fulfilling life, and working at 2A is a big part of that.” 

decorative image of a foam finger that says number one with a rainbow behind it


Eager to do more with less? Depend on the agency that abbreviated their own name. 

By Annie Wegrich

decorative image of a foam finger that says number one with a rainbow behind it

Image by Suzanne Calkins

Win more efficiently: hire our agency. 

Let’s get right to it. Things are looking up, but the 2023 macroeconomic climate started less than peppy. Tech layoffs in the first four months of 2023 exceeded 168K—that’s higher than all of FY 2022. Many business investments are paused. Yet, regardless of the size of your payroll, you can’t skimp on innovation. You can’t deliver less to your shareholders, customers, and team. So how do you do more without investing in a new tool or hiring an FTE? You need a cheer squad that can put that “rah rah” back in your workload. Need to do more with L-E-S-S? Now is the time to hire the B-E-S-T.  

You’re busy. TLDR, it’s a good time to reach out to 2A:  

  1. We have the experience you want to hire:  
    • Engage with a professional team of B2B tech experts, no employee onboarding required. 
    • Work with storytellers, designers, consultants, and expert program managers that are handpicked for your project. 
    • Rely on our practiced, tailored approach to asset and campaign creation.  
  1. We have the time you don’t: 
    • Tell us what your marketing goals are, then sit back and trust the guidance of your 2A consultant.  
    • Your consultant will bring you in at each stage. We’ll show you what we’ve been working on by set deadlines.  
    • We thrive on feedback and can iterate with stakeholders or meet with SMEs for you.  
  1. We’re here when you need us (and only when you need us): 
    • Connect with our bi-coastal team for breezy collaboration across time zones. You pick the platform (Microsoft Teams, Amazon Chime, Zoom, Slack).  
    • Add more assets to our workstream or change priorities. We’ll work with you to get it done.  
    • Reach out any time—we’re waiting for you.   

Resources might be limited, put us in, coach.  

At 2A, our expert team of creatives, project managers, and consultants form the perfect pyramid to power your marketing with fresh eyes and a lot of experience. Our number one passion is supporting the tech marketing goals of our clients and cultivating top talent by making 2A a great place to work. 2A is woman-owned business with a cup-winning culture. And, at our virtual table, everyone can sit with us. Let’s get started.  

Ready to rumble? Reach out to the 2A squad.