decorative image of sanaz surrounded by skis, a note book, a laptop, running shoes, a calendar, and a dutch oven

01/31/2023

Meet Sanaz—our ace of grace, in projects and life 

By Richa Dubey

decorative image of sanaz surrounded by skis, a note book, a laptop, running shoes, a calendar, and a dutch oven

Image by Brandon Conboy

When Sanaz is in a meeting, it’s quite simply brighter. Brimming with energy, enthusiasm, and a willingness to jump in and make mistakes, Sanaz, in her own words, is “not afraid to experiment” if it means she’ll learn or contribute to the process.

“Sanaz” means grace in Persian, which is fitting, because she rarely messes up. She’s a great consultant who fields tight deadlines and busy schedules, then delivers what clients need and want.

Sanaz regularly whips up fabulous Persian meals for her family and shepherds three teenagers through everything (including setting up their own nonprofit that was featured on the local news). Then she hits the gym. She’s a pro at juggling a busy life and multiple projects all at once.

Insert classic question that successful women professionals get asked: How do you do it all? “I am a bundle of energy, and any physical activity—cue skiing, walking the dog—helps.”

After a decade of teaching middle- and high-schoolers math and science she quit because of the Covid-19 pandemic. “I missed the human connection and couldn’t handle remote teaching.” 

Sanaz then took a leap of faith and switched to a project management role at a telecommunications consultancy. She ended up being so good at it that she went from being a project manager to VP in under a year. But this is Sanaz we’re talking about, and she wanted to learn more, “I was at the level of a VP, running the company alongside the president, but felt I could grow so much more. What I needed was to move on and be better so when I met a friend (at the gym, of course) who works at Microsoft, and she recommended I try technology marketing, I jumped at it.” 

The rest, as they say, is history—just like her brush with the Iranian morality police in her youth. 

The first time Sanaz had a run-in with the morality police, she was barely 15 and not wearing the “right kind” of hijab. Picked up from her neighborhood and dumped in the back of a van along with her friends and cousin, she was luckily able to attract the attention of her parents who were just outside and got off with a warning and having to write a promissory note. 

But we carry our history with us, and Sanaz remains an outspoken advocate for gender equity in Iran besides actively volunteering in her local community. No surprises there, because beyond being all brain, this former biomedical engineering PhD candidate is also full of heart, fun, bravery, empathy, and always… grace.  

image of a paper calendar. The 2022 page is being removed, showing just the 2023 page

01/26/2023

Three stand-out technology trends for 2023

By BB Bickel, Richa Dubey, Mai Sennaar

image of a paper calendar. The 2022 page is being removed, showing just the 2023 page

Image by Thad Allen

A new year always presages new trends and developments in the constantly fluctuating world of technology. Since technology is part of 2A’s DNA, it’s only natural that we’d pick out a few trends to highlight. Three notable movements stand out to us, which were backed up by their featured prominence at the latest AWS re:Invent conference. They are:

  • Innovation can be experimental and disruptive
  • Responsibility and bias mitigation in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML)
  • Sustainable and renewable technologies

Solutions arise from falling in love with the problem, not the product

Technology companies are making high-quality, high-velocity decisions. The outstanding ones remain stubborn on vision and flexible on details. Those that focus on building features customers will love, whether or not it’s the easiest feature to make, will succeed. Experimentation is the holy grail this year, with the goal of being bold and disruptive while innovating. True innovation is agreeing first on what the customer would love, and then developing a product to address that desire (or need), not the other way around.

Innovation also involves a bias for action, with blessings to move ahead with 70 percent of the data. This goes back to the roots of AWS. As Jeff Bezos said in his 2015 letter to shareholders, “…failure and invention are inseparable twins…Given a ten percent chance of a 100 times payoff, you should take that bet every time. But you’re still going to be wrong nine times out of ten…Big winners pay for so many experiments.”

Thus, if technology companies are going to win big, they’re going to fail big too. They will walk through the door and close it behind them. It’s all part of the process. They will constantly reinvent themselves by keeping the dynamism of Day 1 and consider a Day 2 mentality as stasis.

Responsibility in AI and ML

Diversity brings more perspectives to the table and is therefore critical to building responsible and inclusive AI and ML. Only with truly diverse teams can a company mitigate bias in their algorithms. People are at the center of these technologies and drive the decisions; machines only make recommendations.

People-centric design has become a different model for AI, as it considers others and seeks out not only explicit but implicit bias. Today, leadership places emphasis on helping engineers develop the right skills so that fairness, integrity, and dignity become part of AI’s DNA. In fact, in December, Amazon’s Machine Learning University launched a new course, “Responsible AI—Bias Mitigation & Fairness Criteria.” It is an entry-level course for technical individuals and explains where bias in AI systems comes from, how to measure it, and ultimately how to mitigate bias as much as possible. Since AI and machine learning touch so many aspects of peoples’ lives, it’s crucial to build trust and prevent disadvantages among subgroups of customers.

Sustainability

Sustainability could conceivably be the most important word in our world today. The statistics on climate change are horrific and only a focus on sustainability and renewable energy will make a dent. Thankfully, wind and solar energy technologies are growing at an unprecedented rate, and there is a greater interdependence between gas and electricity. According to Gartner, 80 percent of CEOs who plan to invest in new or improved products in the coming year cited environmental sustainability as the third largest driver, making it a competitive differentiator.

Among the cloud providers, AWS has done the lion’s share of work toward sustainability. The company’s mandate is to achieve net zero carbon by 2040, ten years ahead of the Paris Climate Accords, and it is working toward 80 percent renewable energy by 2024. Amazon buys more renewable energy than any other corporate buyer on the planet. In addition, Amazon has already invested $2 billion in clean technology.

As we kick off the third year of what has been the most unpredictable decade of the 21st century, here’s to making disruption work for us—and our planet.

decorative image of a hot air balloon with the text cloud cover vol. 8

01/19/2023

Want some army goggles?

By Jane Dornemann

decorative image of a hot air balloon with the text cloud cover vol. 8

Image by Evan Aeschlimann

Gossip (for nerds) 

  • Remember when Microsoft face-planted with HoloLens and in a bid to still make it profitable, sold a gazillion of them to the military? Well, the dude who decided that was a good idea has left—and the initiative is in shambles. “I didn’t know I was supposed to LEAD this program,” he said. “I thought I was supposed to just riff on ideas from my swivel chair and let other people take the fall.” 
  • Investment bank UBS predicts a slowdown in Azure growth and has downgraded the stock, causing share prices to fall in a self-fulfilling prophecy. This follows Google’s report based on leaked Microsoft documents that estimated a $3B operating loss for Azure in fiscal 2022, then shared that with CNBC.  
  • Satya Nadella concedes it is going to be a rough ride for tech through 2025, stating that, unfortunately, average CEO pay will have to remain at 324 times that of their median workers. “Sorry, guys” Nadella said. 
  • But there’s a plan! Rumors abound that Microsoft is going to invest $10B in ChatGPT, to which this writing team says E tu, Brute? It would give Microsoft 75% of OpenAI’s profits, and the young company is soon to be valued at $29B.  
  • Why would Microsoft do this, assuming OpenAI has no intention of selling? To integrate ChatGPT into its products, including Bing. Except nothing is going to bring Bing out of the trashcan it belongs in, amiright. 
  • “They’re still trying to make Bing a thing?” said UBS analysts, who downgraded the stock again because Bing. 
  • Regardless, Satya says AI is the next major chapter for the tech industry, so expect more focus on this space from the major players.  
  • Microsoft is also pushing the metaverse, saying that we will eventually have a hybrid model of consumerism that is part IRL and part VR.  
  • AWS has, so far, remained blissfully untouched by Amazon’s layoffs, outside of its hiring pause. Most of the layoffs will happen in the company’s HR division, which is so on brand I can’t even.  
  • Microsoft has hired a chief sustainability officer who was previously with the National Security Council in the White House. In the meantime, Microsoft VP Teresa Carlson has left to join Flexport
  • You know what these female execs don’t have? The luxury of running with a headshot like this guy’s. A former Twitter VP, who strangely looks like Bradley Cooper and Santa Claus had a baby, has come onboard with Microsoft as a VP of design and research. Bonus points for drinking Sapporo. When can I get to a point in my career where a journalist covering my new role asks for a photo and I say “Here, use this one of me drinking Fireball while my dogs lay spread eagle on the couch.” 
  • There’s a reason those superhero Halloween costumes have to put “will not make you fly” on the package. I was raised by two lawyers and it seemed like adults just sued each other all day, and between Amazon and Microsoft, maybe lil’ Jane was on to something. Amazon’s Twitch has entered a patent-infringement lawsuit with an Israeli FOOD import/export company (???) BSD—just as Microsoft battles gamers IRL over Activision (please, please result in a courtroom full of LARPers). BSD has previously sued Microsoft and Apple. In the meantime, Meta is suing a different Israeli company over spyware. 

World domination 

  • Microsoft has acquired Fungible, a company that makes data processing units. For $190M, otherwise known as the going price for a dozen eggs, Microsoft will use Fungible’s tech team to improve Azure services. 
  • It is also investing in autonomous trucking startup Gatik AND collaborating with an Indian space agency. “We’re going to use the autonomous trucks to drive astronauts to and from the rocket ship, this way we don’t have to pay for an Uber,” said the guy who came up with the Army goggles idea. 
  • France just fined Microsoft $64M for cookies, and they don’t mean macarons. Great timing alongside the company’s rollout of EU data localization via its EU Data Boundary for the Microsoft Cloud. 

Best Friends Forever 

  • The Navy opened up its wallet and was like “here’s $724 million” to AWS. Sailors and stuff will get access to the cloud through 2028 and will work toward phasing out legacy IT systems per a mandate in the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act.  
  • Microsoft is making moves in automotive. Cognata, which develops autonomous driving technologies, has launched a new service on Azure so automotive companies can virtually evaluate their sensors. And General Motors will use Azure and AI services to simplify its software development. 
  • AWS is supplementing its hiring pause with even more emphasis on its partners. As a “critical part of our go-to-market strategy,” AWS says it will continue to invest in partners, especially partners who help customers adopt and mature on AWS. 
  • Speaking of partners: Montoux, an actuarial automation platform (SNOOZEFEST) is “strategically collaborating” with AWS so that customers can migrate and modernize their workflows with Montoux over to AWS. We could title the eBook: “Love, Actuary: Migrate and Modernize.” 
  • All other AWS Partner news in a nutshell: 
  • Entrust, which provides payment infrastructure, has put its cloud-based IAM solution on AWS Marketplace.  
  • Normalyze has hit AWS Marketplace. It’s a security platform that lets you see where all your data is in the cloud. eBook title could be, “Normal Eyes: Finally See Your Data.” 
  • Privacera, which sounds like a pharmaceutical drug with gnarly side effects for some embarrassing condition, is actually a company that provides a data security and access governance platform—and its earned its AWS Competency in Data Analytics.  
  • Cargo shipment optimization platform provider Awake AI has passed the AWS Foundational Technical Review.  
  • Solvo, which provides adaptive cloud infrastructure security solutions, has joined the AWS ISV Accelerate Program. 
  • Aspire, a global technology services firm, has become an AWS Advanced Consulting Partner. 
  • VMWare launched Cloud Flex Storage, a managed service for VMWare Cloud on AWS. 
  •  IoT solutions provider KORE is using AWS, including AWS IoT Core, to make and sell more secure stuff. 

New stuff  

  • AWS, Microsoft, and Meta want to break Google Maps’ hold on all of us with their Overture Maps Foundation that will yield “untold innovations for the benefit of the people,” a bold statement coming from a group that includes a social media company partially responsible for January 6th and COVID conspiracies. Among their WORLD-CHANGING efforts, which involves duplicating what Google has already done, is using VR/AR—appealing to my anxiety-ridden trolling of Maps for a place to park before I drive somewhere new. 
  • Even though Microsoft is all about productivity these days, it’s like they are testing our self-control, what with their new games on Teams and NOW, video filters! Yes, I am paying attention even though I just put a virtual top hat on my head! Yes, yes, I am listening even though I am presenting as an ear of corn.  
  • There’s a new AWS open-source tool in town called Finch. It’s cloud-agnostic and will allow devs to build, run, and publish Linux containers. The motivation for creating Finch? macOS and Windows make open-source container development difficult. 
  • To better compete with Amazon, Microsoft has released a pilot of the Microsoft Retail Advertising Network, which will help retailers sell your data even more monetize their website traffic. 

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

  • O happy day, S3 buckets will now be encrypted server-side by default! Which makes you wonder why that wasn’t a thing already!  

Miscellany 

decorative image of album stickers

01/10/2023

2A’s favorite albums of 2022 

By Nora Bright, The 2A Team

decorative image of album stickers

Image by Thad Allen

For the last few weeks, I’ve been looking forward to asking my coworkers to send me their favorite album of 2022 so I can assemble our annual round up. There’s something special and even intimate about hearing what songs have been keeping your colleagues company all year long. While I love working from home, I miss the casual interactions that happen in an IRL office, especially conversations about books, TV shows, movies, and music. The album round-up allows me to learn something new about a coworker I wouldn’t otherwise find out—and follow-up music chats are par for the course. 

Sometimes a coworker’s choice is a delightful surprise, and sometimes their pick feels perfect…as if I should’ve known all along that Al is a Beyoncé superfan or that Erin has a crush on Jens Lekman. 

This year we put together a playlist that highlights one song from each album. I hope you enjoy getting a glimpse into the music that speaks to your favorite 2A’ers soul (and strike up a musical conversation the next time you find yourself on a call with one of us)! 

The Linden Trees Are Still In Blossom – Jens Lekman 

I have a forever crush on Jens Lekman. This album is adorably awkward, semi-autobiographical, and a remix AND re-release of my favorite album of 2007, Night Falls Over Kortedala. It reminds me that our stories get more interesting and gain a new depth as we reflect on them with age.  —Erin McCaul 

Shringaar feat. Milind Soman (single) – Vayu, Raftaar, Aashta Gill, AKASA, Milind Soman 

Catchy beat. Danceable. This single features Milind Soman in a music video after 27 years. What’s not to love? —Richa Dubey 

RENAISSANCE – Beyoncé 

House music, celebrating black excellence, and Queen Bey… this album is sheer perfection! —Alyson Stoner-Rhoades 

Pompeii – Cate Le Bon 

I have never met a Cate Le Bon album that I didn’t like, and Pompeii is no exception. Drenched in dreamy synths, sax and clarinet, Le Bon’s pristine voice dances in the duality of light and dark, weaving through a lush musical tapestry that is both delicate and bold, angular and sweet, sad and hopeful. —Suzanne Calkins 

Brand New – Ben Rector 

I’m a sucker for song that tells a story. I frequently shed a lot of tears listening to many of Ben Rector’s songs. —Tammy Monson 

Midnights (3am Edition) – Taylor Swift 

As exciting as Swift’s rerecords have been, I am thrilled she dropped something totally new. The album is very self-reflective and has hit after hit! And the production stylings of Jack Antonoff are always a favorite of mine. —Julianne Medenblik 

age tape 0 – Arden Jones 

Youthful, angsty, ukulele. —Even Aeschlimann 

Un Verano Sin Ti – Bad Bunny 

Bad Bunny’s latest album is a quintessential curation of different types of summer vibes. Swaggering pop and reggaeton anthems are supported by a reflective b-side with plenty of unexpectedly good features and even a call for Zumba! This record packed everything I love about Benito’s cross-genre inspirations and is proof that good music requires no translation. —Madeline Sy 

The Guest 2 (Original Soundtrack) – Various Artists 

I love the 2014 movie The Guest, a devious genre-bender with a distinctive soundtrack that moodily mixed 80s goth rock and 21st-century synth jams. This April Fool’s Day I was surprised with the drop of a soundtrack album for the nonexistent sequel! It’s a lot of fun to imagine what the plot could’ve been by looking at the cover art and track titles, and this director-led “aural sequel” is a fascinating way to dive back into the movie’s unique soundscape. —Thad Allen 

Power Station – Cory Wong, Billy Strings 

When all the heavy hitters get in the same room and make noise together the result is this album. Jam packed with riffs that are sure to go down in history for the modern funk jazz era. —Matt deWolf 

Warm Chris – Aldous Harding 

The tunes on Warm Chris are just the right blend of off-kilter and catchy for my taste. Her songs are playful, strange, and beautiful—fitting for someone who chose the name “Aldous” as their nom de plume (her real name is Hannah Harding). —Nora Bright 

Stick Season – Noah Kahan 

I once saw a tweet that said Noah Kahan is “country music for the East Coast.” As someone who sort of lives in the country and once lived in New England, I can confirm that a) That is a rock-solid statement, and b) this album will hit home for anyone, no matter where you live or where you are from. —Emily Zheng 

Julianne lands in the 2A shop with some eye-catching pop

01/03/2023

Julianne lands in the 2A shop with some eye-catching pop

By Jane Dornemann

Julianne lands in the 2A shop with some eye-catching pop

Image by Brandon Conboy

Before Julianne Medenblik, one of 2A’s newest designers, found herself jazzing up eBooks and PowerPoint presentations that would keep anyone’s attention, she was memorizing monologues.

Starting out as an acting major in Chicago, Julianne eventually became disenchanted with the stage when auditions became draining and long-term career options seemed too few.

To find her path forward, she decided to return to her roots: she moved back home to Michigan and started taking art classes such as drawing and photography, something she remembered enjoying in high school.

“I call it the year of finding myself as an adult,” Julianne recalled.

Rediscovering her passion for creating art, and inspired by friends who had pursued graphic design, Julianne enrolled in graphic design school. “It felt like where I was supposed to be all along,” she said.

She did the intern thing, designing marketing materials, social media posts, and infographics for a small web development company–until they hired her full-time and she found herself frying bigger fish like designing entire apps and websites. From there, the pandemic landed her in a contractor role for a package design firm, where she tackled projects for big names like Mr. Coffee and Sunbeam. (Work perk: she got to see her stuff come to life on store shelves across the country.)

“While that experience was more corporate than my previous work, I learned a lot about the legal side of design—for example, did you know that any product sold in Canada is required to have both French and English on the packaging? And the font for each language must be the exact same size?” (No, we didn’t know that Julianne, but we will be using it to fill the void of small talk silences at some point!)

Julianne was crafting designs for a real estate company when she stumbled on a 2A job post, and the rest is history. These days she’s thinking of ways to add visual dazzle to our storytellers’ words, whether it’s for an animation or a product one-pager.

As a remote worker, her only home office companion is Louis, her Pomeranian. When she’s not impressing 2A clients, she is ingesting all things pop culture, listening to Taylor Swift and Lady Gaga, playing Animal Crossing, or indulging in “awful reality TV dating shows.” And the more she delves into design, the more she realizes that her penchant for mystery novels has boosted her creative process at work.

“Those books are about finding a solution, putting information together until it fits,” she said. “Sometimes, thinking about how to select visuals that make sense, and have them work together in one space, is like being the Nancy Drew of graphic design.”

Oh, and if you like stickers, check out Julianne’s designs on her Etsy shop. If you’re not a sticker hound, you can also peruse her portfolio.

It’s re:Invent’s world, we just live in it 

12/20/2022

It’s re:Invent’s world, we just live in it 

By Jane Dornemann

It’s re:Invent’s world, we just live in it 

Image by Evan Aeschlimann

re:Invent re:Cap 

What better way to recover from that Thanksgiving turducken than to attend re:Invent? Didn’t go? That means two things: (1) you didn’t get COVID and (2) we went for you (and got COVID). Here’s the rundown:  

  • TechCrunch felt the keynote was so bad that they led with a photo of a man yawning in a hoodie and then didn’t even bother to write a story, they just posted photos of slides. All I’m going to say is, I’m sure we could have helped. 
  • FYI, Amazon wants to end ETL. Which is why Amazon Aurora now integrates with Amazon Redshift, and Amazon Redshift now integrates with Apache Spark. 
  • AWS DataZone, which lets users discover, catalog, share, and govern data across AWS, on-prem, and third-party sources is in preview
  • Also in preview: AWS Clean Rooms, a concept I’d like to introduce to my Lego-obsessed nine-year-old. It lets users securely share and analyze data with other AWS customers in a “safe room.” No “age/sex/loc?” when your parents are asleep! 
  • Too lazy to think up your own damn rules for data tables? Preview AWS Glue Data Quality. So many previews it’s like going to the movies these days, where you sit there for AN HOUR watching trailers before the ACTUAL MOVIE comes on and by then your edible has worn off. Straight up tragedy. 
  • Whenever I hear Amazon SageMaker I just think of a hybrid robot/sentient being that mass-produces baby Yodas. But really it’s for ML. AWS has added features such as Role Manager, Model Cards, Model Dashboard, and Studio Notebook.  
  • Welcome Amazon Security Lake, which centralizes security data from the cloud and on-prem into a purpose-built data lake.  
  • Another security preview: Amazon Verified Permissions, a scalable, fine-grained permissions management and authorization service for custom applications. And then there’s AWS Verified Access…and at this point in the announcements, do you even care anymore? Is anyone even still reading this? Anyway, AWS wants to make it available to Apple products. 
  • Shortly after Microsoft announced its supply chain solution, AWS debuted its own. AWS Supply Chain gives customers a unified view of inventory, logistics, ERP systems, suppliers, and others to generate actionable insights. 
  • Speaking of supply chains, have you cried in the car after buying groceries lately? Well, dry your tears because the cloud can save corporations money, just the news we all needed to hear. The AWS CEO told everyone at re:Invent that if they double down on the cloud, they can cut costs. With tools like AWS Supply Chain, Selipsky said, “Grocers, now you can bump that gallon of milk to $9. And you know they’ll pay it because kids need milk. THEY NEED IT. Just do it already. In the cloud.” 

Best Friends Forever 

  • Open-source AI company Stability has selected AWS as its preferred cloud provider and will use Amazon SageMaker on top of its infrastructure. I just want all of these AIs to fight each other. 
  • AWS Partner awards went to a long list of companies, including Snowflake, Databricks, and Trend Micro. AWS named Splunk as the ISV Partner of the Year in North America, and Splunk announced an add-on for Amazon Security Lake. 
  • In the words of Ted “Theodore” Logan, strange things are afoot at the Circle K. After putting 50 of its solutions on AWS Marketplace, former(?) competitor IBM has added four more—at a discount. Find the newest additions here. IBM also got an AWS Partner award for “Most Likely to Cry Uncle and Fold…Hard.” 
  • And just as IBM looks to tone down the mainframe talk, Precisely moves in to work with AWS on its mainframe modernization service called Precisely Connect, which replicates mainframe data in real time. 
  • Rackspace is racking up the Microsoft Solution Partner designations, having now earned five—Data & AI, Digital & App Innovation, Infrastructure, Modern Work, and Security.  
  • Tietoevry, which reads like a Russian villain’s name but is actually a company that helps businesses transform in the cloud, has one-upped Rackspace with SIX designations
  • Slalom, which makes anyone sound drunk when they say the name, has expanded its collaboration with AWS. They are developing vertical solutions for several industries. 
  • AWS and Accenture are working on Velocity, a service that reduces the complexity of building apps in the cloud and “optimizes business outcomes by 50%.”  
  • Security and compliance automation platform Drata is now part of the AWS ISV Accelerate Program. And feature management platform LaunchDarkly has achieved AWS DevOps Competency and “is set to become the first FedRAMP-authorized feature management platform on the market as it delivers its platform to the federal space.” Prosimo is also doing some stuff with AWS. 

Wheelin’ and dealin’ 

  • American Family Insurance named AWS as its preferred cloud provider and will use it to complete the company’s digital transformation. “The cloud will allow us to deny coverage for completely reasonable claims much faster,” said the insurance company “We are super jazzed about it.” 
  • SymphonyAI, not to be confused with StabilityAI (again, please fight each other) has expanded its collaboration with Microsoft to further develop a product that detects and prevents financial crimes.  

World domination 

  • Snowflake is now available on Azure in the UK. There is a growing demand for cloud-based data analytics solutions because everyone in English IT is getting crumpet crumbs all over their keyboards and they can’t analyze good. 
  • Leave some crumpets for the folks at the London Stock Exchange, who will Microsoft Azure, AI, and Teams in a $2.8B deal
  • My Emerald Isle people are helping Microsoft go green—the company purchased a large amount of wind and solar to power data centers in Ireland. As they say, Tús maith leath na hoibre
  • Have you ever had a four-way? The Pentagon has, now that it’s splitting a $9B cloud contract among Google, AWS, Oracle, and Microsoft. I appreciate your open-mindedness Pentagon, just make sure no hearts get hurt. 
  • Germany is neining Microsoft 365. The country’s regulatory body, The German Datenschutzkonferenz, which you should say five times really fast and see what comes out, says users can’t possibly be compliant with data privacy regulations while using the system. And no amount of Hefeweizen and strudel is going to fix the fact that Microsoft “does not fulfill the most basic requirements of GDPR.” 

Gossip (for nerds) 

  • All I ever wanted in my life was to watch more advertisements, particularly ones like the new Lindsay Lohan Pepsi commercial where she tells us all to put milk in our soda. Looks like Microsoft can help, now that it’s planning to double the size of its ad business to $20B
  • Just as Microsoft’s Activision Blizzard deal seemed like it would be a go in the U.S., the government was like PSYCH!!! The FTC has sued to block the deal.  
  • To make things even worse, the tech giant is ready to make concessions to EU regulators so the deal goes through over there. And it’s offered Sony a 10-year contract for Call of Duty. 
  • This could be so financially damaging to MSFT that stockholders are wondering if they should bail. But analysts still say Microsoft stock is a buy, even if the deal doesn’t go through. Because when has the stock market ever reflected what’s going on in real life? Those pinstripes don’t live on these streets!  
  • A Microsoft VP for the Business Applications group is moving to the company’s Azure + Industry department. Taking her place is a guy who now has two jobs, since he is also still leading marketing for Modern Work. Ain’t that the truth. 

New stuff  

  • Microsoft is publicly previewing Role-Based Access for applications in Exchange Online. 
  • AWS released updates to AWS Marketplace that will “make it easier and simpler to procure” solutions in the store, which include services such as them just taking your wallet out of your pocket for you. 
  • AWS launched AWS Application Composer, a low-code tool for building serverless applications that are deployable in a few clicks. 
  • AWS is espousing ethical AI, which is increasingly sounding like an oxymoron rather than a potential reality. The cloud provider’s AI Service Cards aim to provide transparency and responsible use of AI, documenting things like gender and race biases in AI outputs. The ethical AI won’t fight the other AIs like I want because fighting is not nice. 
  • AWS has launched a biggie: Amazon Omics for precision medicine. The cloud giant has been pushing its involvement in precision medicine and genomics, and this has the potential to support breakthrough cancer treatment research and other medical advances. 
  • Amazon Connect is getting new ML capabilities, like forecasting, capacity planning, and scheduling features. 
  • Accessibility news: It is now easier for people who are deaf or hard of hearing to use Microsoft Teams.  

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

  • In a recent research report on hacks, Microsoft warns that password attacks have seen a huge rise and is strongly recommending using password encryptors. Hopefully, they’ll never be able to crack my favorite password, ourlastchancewasberniesandersnowwearealscrewedtheresnothingyoucandoheressomewine1! 
  • Another inroad that hackers now favor is Telegram. In a blog, Microsoft says that a hacking group is targeting Telegram users by asking for feedback on crypto fee structures, then sending a malicious Excel doc for them to peruse. Wait, a scam associated with crypto?? No, this can’t be real. I refuse to believe such outlandish nonsense. 
Storytellers / storied tellers in the house

12/05/2022

Storytellers / storied tellers in the house

By Richa Dubey

Storytellers / storied tellers in the house

Image by Julianne Medenblik

“Leveraging best practices for synergistically delivering elasticity across the content value chain to ensure that the asset is delivered to the client as committed priorly”—a gem that popped up in the 2A storytellers chat—makes as much sense as this line from a classic Bollywood film song: “You see, the whole country of the system is juxtapositioned by the hemoglobin in the atmosphere because you are a sophisticated rhetorician intoxicated by the exuberance of your own verbosity.”

And that, dear reader, is what we in the trade call a run-on sentence.

Our storyteller team chat is called the Storyteller Shuffle. Here, we dissect sentences, punctuation, usage, style guides, and grammar. We also like our wordplay, so the shuffle often turns into a rumba…

This is where we take a break, have fun, ask for, and receive, unstinting help from each other. Writing can be a solitary activity, which is why the wisdom, support, and camaraderie we find here is so important. The Shuffle is also where we collectively make your asset shine. If you’re wondering at the ‘collectively,’ try proofing an eBook you’ve written without going cross-eyed. You need a fresh pair of eyes.

Holding each other up, learning together, and having fun is at the core of our little group. Witness this (not entirely) imaginary chat: “I’m slammed for capacity. Can anyone help me with this case study?” Katy Nally, Director of Storytelling par excellence, jumps in, “Sure, I’ve only got a million things to do. But I can take this. And let me fix your calendar so that you’re not overloaded.”

Stuck for punctuation? Kimberly Mass generously weighs in on a hot debate about the merits of commas versus em dashes in a sentence.

Looking to sharpen your interview skills? Shadow Mai Sennar who, with her background in theater, exudes calm confidence while drawing out even the most reticent clients.  

Want to keep up with what’s happening with the cloud biggies? Jane Dornemann keeps us in the loop about all things cloud with her tongue-in-cheek newsy blog.

Wondering how to write about a completely new technology? Get a load of BB Bickel’s confident, successful approach.

Need to pin the client down to answer tough questions? See what happens when Editorial Lead, Forsyth Alexander, wields her trademark Southern charm to soften critiques as she reviews a section of Gandalf’s CV.

Description of the battle with the Balrog in Lord of The Rings, The Two Towers, Book III, Chapter 5, The White Rider: “I threw down my enemy, and he fell from the high place and broke the mountainside where he smote it in his ruin. Then darkness took me, and I strayed out of thought and time, and I wandered far on roads that I will not tell.”

Forsyth marks it up and inserts a comment in the Word document: “Your story is utterly gripping! I was wondering, though, can you explain this gap in your resumé?”

As you can see, it falls to us ask the hard questions. You can also count on us to coax answers out of interviewees, keep your head in the cloud (and feet on the ground), and match the perfect storyteller to your project.

We’ll dot your ‘i’s
And cross your ‘t’s
We’re better than fries
We’re the bees’ knees

Your content, we’ll align
And be sure to make it shine
We’re the bounce in basketball
So don’t you wait—just give us a call

decorative image of a hot air balloon and text that says cloud cover vol 6

11/28/2022

Judging a company by its holiday party

By Jane Dornemann

decorative image of a hot air balloon and text that says cloud cover vol 6

Image by Evan Aeschlimann

Wheelin’ and dealin’

  • The biggest Microsoft news item lately is the multi-year partnership between NVIDIA and Microsoft. Together they’ll build a new supercomputer running on Azure, and it will be the best supercomputer. It will train AI workloads like no other AI workload you’ve ever seen before. (Did you read that in a Trump voice? You should have).
  • In the name of national security purposes, Microsoft and AWS are going to have to work together at the Pentagon to upgrade our ground and space communications infrastructure with next-gen networking technology. Things I learned from this article: we actually have a “Space Warfighting Analysis Center.”
  • Who cares about space fighting, let’s talk about Earth fighting! Lockheed Martin and Microsoft made a “landmark agreement” to blow shit up all day!!!….by way of the cloud. Microsoft’s latest secure framework will make Lockheed Martin the first non-government entity to independently operate inside the Microsoft Azure Government Secret cloud.
  • No money for paying teachers a living wage (unless you’re a college president) but plenty for 5G, say Cal Poly, which is working with AWS to “enhance connectivity” on campus.
  • Formula 1 has raced to extend its collaboration with AWS to inform F1 Insights, an AI-driven program that detects vehicle speeds and displays them on TV broadcasts.
  • Deloitte has turned to AWS for help launching its digital banking services. Named BankingSuite, Deloitte’s new suite of solutions will leverage Amazon Connect and other services.

Best Friends Forever

Gossip (for nerds)

  • Amazon has a hiring freeze in place through Q1 2023 and is totally boosting morale with statements like “target low performers.” The company has reportedly asked managers to rank employees like they’re a bunch of dudes in a dorm room rating chicks from 1 to 10. Maybe AWS didn’t get the memo that the capitalist overload approach didn’t bode well for Elon Musk.
    • Word on the street is that Amazon layoffs will touch Amazon Alexa staff, contractors, cloud gaming (within the devices division), retail, and HR.
  • Maybe Microsoft was tired of all the attention AWS has been getting from employee harassment claims, so they’ve taken matters into their own hands (WHICH THEY WILL KEEP TO THEMSELVES). The company released a 50-page annual report containing recommendations for not harassing peeps. One example? If you’re dating a co-worker, we all have to know. Microsoft employees can send their juicy office romance deets to [email protected]. P.S. I am super jealous of whoever’s job it was to conduct a “misconduct audit.” I would wear a bowtie every day, have very slick hair parted directly in the middle, and wear poofy pantaloons and the shiniest shoes and nobody could mess with me because that’s what I’m there to audit.
  • Two big things are happening for Microsoft on March 23: I go on vacation, and it’s also the deadline by which EU regulators decide whether Microsoft’s Activision deal can go through—or not. European incels who spend way too much time playing Call of Duty, mark your calendars!

World domination

  • If you need another reason to come to North Carolina next year aside from having a blast at a renaissance fair with myself and Forsyth, you can soon visit Microsoft’s $1B campus just outside Charlotte. Somehow all that money will only generate 50 new jobs.
  • More North Carolina news: AWS has entered a partnership with Duke Energy, a company that loves to keep charging me for heating at my old address. AWS will supply the cloud technology for Duke’s new smart grid software and services.
  • There’s a new AWS Region opening in Spain, which, among other things, will help European countries comply with EU privacy regulations like GDPR because those countries actually care about the people who live there.
  • Microsoft is all in on data centers across 11 regions in Asia, and Satya Nadella is giving special attention to China and India. China offers the opportunity for Microsoft to work with more multinational companies, and India is generating a high demand for cloud-native apps.
  • In the ongoing race for telecom dominance, AWS has secured a lead over Microsoft.
  • AWS has 5G stuff to sell and potential customers might need a little inspiration following speculation that it’s not that much better than 4G. Targeting buyers with bloated budgets and bad decision-making skills, AWS joined a coalition with Dell, Splunk, and Cisco to get government agencies to adopt 5G.
    • But the UK is on the 5G bandwagon—Vodafone plans to expand its AWS Wavelength-powered technology to customers who need to be within a certain distance to a cloud or compute instance.

New stuff

  • While companies are laying off staff and leaving one person to do the job of three, Microsoft thought it would be a good time to release games on Teams for “when you’re bored at work.” Engaging in some Solitaire and Minesweeper with your colleagues (the ones who are left!!!!) can make you “20% more productive” according to research from BYU, a school that only recently removed “homosexual behavior” as an honor code violation, so should be legit.
  • Microsoft announced its Supply Chain Platform which fuses AI, low-code, SaaS, and collaboration tools to create supply chain agility. Mexican snack powerhouse Grupo Bimbo is among the user pool, so never will your local store be out of Bimbos. And we can all relax about cheese, too, ‘cause Tillamook is on board.
  • After talking about the release of SQL Server 2022 incessantly since the dawn of time, it’s now released, and nobody cares because we all know. We know, OK?
  • Less talked about than SQL Server 2022 (basically any topic fits into that category) is Azure Quantum Research Estimator. What does it do? It “creates and refines algorithms for quantum computers,” which will bypass computation limitations of future quantum computers.
  • Passwords are not cool anymore, says Microsoft, which has made it possible to connect to Azure Active Directory using certificate-based authentication. It’s meant to protect hybrid workers doing business on their own devices from phishing scams.
  • Microsoft is tightening security on Azure for DevOps with granular Personal Access Tokens. It provides damage control when credentials are leaked or stolen.

Miscellany

  • Gartner released its newest Magic Quadrant for cloud infrastructure and platform services, and the usual suspects made the cut. Tidbits:
    • 3 of the 8 providers originate from China
    • AWS has the most breadth and depth of capabilities but needs to refine its strategy for customers who want a multi-cloud solution
    • Microsoft customers are frustrated by increasing Azure costs
  • AWS is accepting applications for its next cohort, calling for startups with solutions that address healthcare worker burnout.
Illustrated image of a desk with an open laptop

11/15/2022

Yes, freelance writers, there is a perfect full-time job…at 2A 

By BB Bickel

Illustrated image of a desk with an open laptop

Image by Suzanne Calkins

“Would you consider working full time?” I never thought I’d jump at those words, but if I didn’t, I wouldn’t be the happy 2Aer I am today.

I was a freelance business writer for nearly 30 years and worked for big-name clients, like Johnson & Johnson, IBM, Pfizer, Motorola, KPMG, Novartis, Sun Microsystems (pre-Oracle buy out), …the list goes on. I did great work, clients loved me, and I made my own schedule. Get my nails done at 2 pm on Wednesday? Sure. Go clothes shopping at the mall all day? No problem. Play at the beach in the morning? Of course. I live in Fort Lauderdale, hence the beach.

There was a critical drawback though. Cashflow. I didn’t always have steady work and would have to chase down clients for payments. I couldn’t go on vacations—if I didn’t work, I didn’t get paid.

After nearly three decades of freelancing, thoughts of a full-time job started to dance in my head.

One day I saw a posting for a role at 2A Consulting, and I applied because it was 20 hours a week, remote, and it would be a steady gig. So off went my application. In time, I had my first video interview with Katy Nally, who headed up the storytelling team.

After we had talked for a while, she asked me, “Would you consider working full time?” My professionalism went out the window. I burst out, “I would love it! That’s what I’m really looking for!”

I then did tons of research on 2A and discovered I wanted to work there. After some interviews and writing tests, Katy scheduled another video call to talk about next steps. More writing? More interviews?

Nope. Katy started the video call by saying, “We really like you and we really like your writing. We’d like to offer you the job of storyteller.” I actually screamed! Yes, yes, yes!

Then I find myself ensconced in 2A. Moving from my own extremely flexible lifestyle to being at my desk eight hours a day, five days a week, had me in shellshock. Their onboarding process was intense but thorough. But 2A smoothed the way. They assigned me a buddy, Forsyth Alexander, for the first six months who I could go to with any sort of question. Since everyone works remotely, they offer random coffee chat pairings where you get to meet someone you don’t know. They also allow for incredibly flexible schedules so people can take care of their children or elderly parents or go to medical appointments or work in India for a while. But best of all, everyone, absolutely everyone, was so nice and so helpful.

The hard part—and this will sound odd—was being surrounded by other writers. After all, for nearly 30 years, I was the expert, the excellent writer that a company hired to write what someone couldn’t. Clients looked to me to sculpt their vision. I never compared myself to anyone. But now I was…and it made me question myself.

Then I had a talk with Kimberly Mass, a senior storyteller, who also had freelanced for years before coming to 2A. She’d gone through the exact same doubting experience I had. She taught me something very valuable. “Don’t compare. Look at the others as your support team. We all help each other.”

And that, my friends, is what 2A is all about. Helping each other. As I write this, I’ve been here six months. Still a newbie. But I feel completely included and so grateful that of all the companies I landed at, I have a place here. So, to other freelance writers, yes, there is a life that’s better than freelancing…it’s 2A.

decorative image of a hot air balloon next to text that reads cloud clover vol. 5

11/08/2022

From AI to earnings

By Jane Dornemann

decorative image of a hot air balloon next to text that reads cloud clover vol. 5

Image by Evan Aeschlimann

Wheelin’ and dealin’

  • Honeywell has integrated its Walkie Talkie app with Microsoft Teams for “highly mobile” frontline workers, but really this push-to-talk app will be used by those obnoxious people on public transportation who have directionless convos over speakerphone and make you cringe when you think about how you’ll have to fight them for a can of beans in the climate change apocalypse.
  • If the spoiled rich “Daddy can you put more money in my account and I’ll love you foreverrrrrr” kid was a person it would be OpenAI, which is asking Microsoft for additional funding to pile on top of its $20 billion valuation. The deal could help grow Azure usage while also keeping OpenAI from AWS and Google Cloud.
  • Swiss banking firm UBS is expanding its partnership—and cloud footprint—with Microsoft to co-develop solutions for the financial services industry. Apps like “subprime mortgage bundling” and “auto-open tax dodging accounts” are likely to hit the marketplace next fall.
  • Uniphore, a “conversational automation” company that specializes in parent-child exchanges such as, “How was your day?” “Fine,” is officially an AWS ISV.
  • D-Wave Quantum has sauntered into AWS Marketplace, as has asset visibility and security company Armis.
  • Finally, Snowplow, a data creation software company that probably pissed off Snowflake when it launched, is now on AWS Marketplace.
  • OpenLegacy has joined the AWS Partner Network and slapped a solution on Marketplace. It helps companies connect their legacy systems to digital services via an API.
  • Another new partner is Digital River, which is helping AWS commerce customers with critical back-office functions to enable faster growth.
  • AWS Marketplace also welcomes solutions from Sentient Energy, which sounds like the small business of someone who rubs crystals all over you while making a weird moaning sound to channel another frequency. This company is more about analytics and visibility for power grids on the edge.

Gossip (for nerds)

  • If sales of antiperspirant and whiskey have skyrocketed lately that’s because it’s earnings time! Microsoft is down 30% from last year which explains why my 401K performance graph looks like a toddler was drawing and then fell asleep at the end. Of note: the energy costs associated with providing cloud services are a real money suck for Azure.
    • But even with that, they want to give you a deal! Microsoft has created a new payment option called Azure Savings Plans for Compute that can save customers 65% more than the pay-as-you-go model.
    • Perhaps Microsoft feels sufficiently buoyed by its gaming division following a record year of Xbox console sales. And they are super excited about their expanding partnership with the recession when nobody will have any money to do anything but play video games, especially after they’ve been laid off.
  • Ah, the schadenfreude of watching powerful companies stumble on earnings calls. Like Microsoft, AWS cited rising energy costs and sluggish customer spending as a factor for its slowest YoY growth since 2014. At a measly $20.5B, slightly above what Azure pulled in over Q3, it’s hard times. Looks like Bezos might have to sell his yacht, you know—the one with built-in parking space FOR ANOTHER YACHT. Steps away from a Dickens novel, I tell ya.
  • Or, a great way to lower cloud costs is to get off it entirely, according to Basecamp and Hey (why would you name your company Hey?). Parent company 37signals (which is not an early 2000s emo band) says they tried all the cloud had to offer and it sucks, hard—and calls on other larger companies to think about alternatives.
  • OK, nobody panic, Forrester is here with some common sense: the cloud market will actually become more lucrative during a global economic downturn, the firm says. The report was based off an intern bringing in her Magic Eight Ball and asking it “Will cloud be OK in 2023?” five times until she got “It is Decidedly So.”
    • A reporter with Yahoo! Finance who probably makes $25K a year and has a master’s degree is also not worried about AWS, so we’re all good.
  • The AWS exec who led the company’s professional services arm has skedaddled after bullying, discrimination, and harassment claims—which have since culminated in a lawsuit from an LGBTQ+ employee. I combed through the filing so you don’t have to: a male co-worker called her a bitch; she alerted HR, he was promoted to a “Level 10” position like this is the Church of Scientology, and she was fired. Sounds like my first job on Wall Street in 2003! The Wolf of Wall Street was extremely triggering for me!!!
  • GitHub workers, be ready to call Saul because Microsoft “stole” some (publicly available) code to train its AI tool in Visual Studio. Like open-source nerds would, the GitHub group launched a website about the investigation, ironically biting off the Wall Street Journal illustrative style.

New stuff

  • Microsoft has brought AI-translated Teams messages in more than 100 languages to your mobile device. So, if you’re on the go and need to send a reminder about deadline to your collaborators in Inuinnaqtun, Zulu, or even in KLINGON for Dave in accounting, you can.
  • AWS has doubled the computing power of its Snowball Edge device, so, um, congrats to that thing, I guess!
  • The company has also made it easier to run batch workloads in the cloud with a new integration from AWS, which connects AWS Batch and Amazon EKS services.
  • There’s a new serverless option for Amazon Neptune and you’ll never believe it, but it’s called Amazon Neptune Serverless.
  • A new solution to the Microsoft scene is AKS Lite, a tool for running Kubernetes in resource constrained IoT and edge environments.
  • DDoS attacks, the method of choice for amateur hackers, my second favorite type of hacker after really good professional hackers, can be a thing of the past for SMBs with Azure DDoS IP Protection now in public preview.
  • Windows Dev Kit 2023, a device that lets developers build Windows apps for Arm using an AI processor and absolutely looks like something I would leave behind in an Uber, is officially on sale in select countries.

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

  • Trend Micro says threat actors are attempting to grab access keys from Amazon EC2 using a technique called “typosquatting,” an issue I also have until my eyeglass prescription gets updated this month.

Miscellany

  • Since AWS launched that big career training center last month, it has decided to shut down the teams behind the AWS online tutorials. Now what am I going to fall asleep to?? Maybe I’ll take a cue from my husband and drift off to that Japanese guy on YouTube who makes knives out of meat.
  • A Container Build Lens has become part of the AWS Well-Architected Framework, which is a fancy way of saying they updated a mind-numbing whitepaper that the noob in IT is going to have to read so they can be the human CliffsNotes for the CIO.
    • The noob should also earmark that AWS got a FedRAMP certification for High Authority to Operate for its cloud-based contact center service, Amazon Connect.