Episode 93 – Exploring Space with NASA to the AWS Cloud with Randall Hunt

 In Podcasts

Phil’s guest on today’s show is Randall Hunt. Randall started his career working as a physicist for NASA and SpaceX. He is now working at Amazon Web Services.

His favorite programming language is Python, but he also works with C++. Over the years, he has worked in several different verticals, so he has a lot of business and technical experience. Randall helps developers to maximize their productivity in the cloud, especially at conferences and similar events.


­­­(1.16) – So Randall, can you expand on that summary and tell us a little bit more about yourself? Randall studied physics and a little computer science at Western Carolina University. He did a kind of internship at NASA and whilst there realized that software engineers earned a lot more than physicists. So, he switched careers. Randall had been programming as a side hustle since he was about 12 or 13. But, he only officially started his IT career in 2010.

(2.15) – Phil asks Randall for a unique IT career tip. Randall has worked for a lot of startups. He said that he definitely left a lot of money on the table with his first few jobs because of 90-day expiration window clauses. So, he recommends that people learn about contracts, so that they can make an informed decision before signing one.

(3.00) – Randall can you tell us about your worst IT career moment and what you learned from it. Randall answered this by sharing a particularly frustrating experience with the audience. It happened while he was working at SpaceX. The launch process involved the system going through a series of checks prior to the launch. But, there was an outage. Randall and the other engineers knew the cause of the issue and how to fix it, but the stakeholders took a lot of convincing. It taught Randall the importance of earning the trust of the stakeholders and the need to communicate effectively.

(6.53) – Phil asks Randall what his best career moment was. Randall enjoys the AWS re:Invent event. Every year, it gets better. For him it is great to see how customers are using the technology to do everything from cure cancer to build electric scooters. There is a huge range of really interesting and cool things going on.

(8.20) – Phil asks Randall what excites him about the future of the IT industry. AI is going to have a big impact on how we code. Intellisense style autocomplete features in IDEs are already available. So, we are not far off the point where you will be able to ask your computer to build a simulation using a simple command and a few basic parameters. Then, just leave it to “intuit the program”, including any of the defaults or variables. There will be savvy business folks who will learn just enough code to be able to use these systems. Many of the mundane tasks will disappear, leaving people free to focus on more exciting differentiated stuff. That is part of what the SaaS movement is all about. Businesses that use it are freed up to focus on innovating and growing.

(10.06) – What drew you to a career in IT? For Randall it was the money. When he saw an intern earning 9k a month Randall was stunned and realized that a career in IT was the way to go.

(10.30) – What is the best career advice you have ever received? “Think about where you want to be in five years and work backwards.”

(10.56) – If you were to start your IT career again, right, now, what would you do? Randall said he would get involved in AI and study it academically and pragmatically.

(11.16) – Phil asks what career objectives are you currently focusing on? Randall would like to do more live coding and live streaming on Twitch. He wants to focus on sharing his expertise and making it more accessible for everyone. Randall is also planning to scale up his outreach, so that he can take on more speaking engagements, which he will record. He wants them to be more accessible and interactive.

(11.55) – What would you consider to be your most important non-technical skill? Randall has an understanding of how startups and convertible notes work. This gives him a better understanding of what the stakeholders are trying to achieve and how they are getting it done. Being able to read profit and loss statements and understand what resources are available really helps you to make viable decisions. Having a little bit of business savvy is a very useful skill.

(12.37) – Phil asks Randall to share a few final words of career advice. He responds by saying “Ignore that 90-day exercise window in any start-up contract that you sign.”


(2.48) RANDALL – “I definitely left a lot of money on the table… because I had no idea how to do contracts”

(5.42) RANDALL – “The only reason we write code is to communicate.”

(6.06) PHIL – “The other important thing about communications, is making sure that you tailor it for the person who’s receiving it.”

(10.34) RANDALL – “Think about where you want to be in five years and work backwards.”

(10.49) RANDALL – “Don’t focus on short-term gains, you know, use long-term thinking.”


Twitter: https://twitter.com/jrhunt

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jrhunt/

AWS Profile: https://aws.amazon.com/developer/community/evangelists/randall-hunt/

AWS Blog: https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/aws/author/randhunt/


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