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Follow The Builders: 21 hands-on AWS builders to follow in 2021

ACG Technical Editors Team
ACG Technical Editors Team

The future of cloud belongs to those who build. And online communities give us an incredible opportunity to learn from their experience in real time.

Over the next several weeks, leading up to the first-ever ACG Community Summit, we’ll be recognizing some of the people in cloud whose public examples inspire us to build better, more inclusive cloud applications.

Everyone listed here has wrought a tremendous positive influence on the community through their work, but social media “reach” was not a primary criteria for this list – instead, we sought active technical contributors to the cloud community.

First up, we’ll focus on AWS. Get your following fingers ready — here are 21 hands-on AWS builders you should be following in 2021.

Gillian Armstrong

Twitter: @virtualgill

Gillian Armstrong is an AWS Machine Learning Hero and a solutions architect at Liberty IT, based in Northern Ireland. (There’s actually a whole nest of great AWS builders at Liberty, including several more AWS Heroes – we recommend checking them all out.) Even in such rarified company, Gillian stands out for her pragmatic approach to machine learning and AI, her consistent blogging, and her helpful Twitter feed.

Learn more about Gillian at https://virtualgill.io/

Denis Bauer

Twitter: @allPowerde

Another AWS Hero – the first Data Hero from Australia, in fact – Denis applies her work in AWS to a variety of fascinating problems in the healthcare and genomics space – including research on COVID-19. Her cloud-native bioinformatics efforts utilize serverless, EC2, and more. If you’re interested in dealing with massive datasets on AWS (and, just maybe, saving the world), Denis is a great follow.

You can find out more about Denis’ work here: https://bioinformatics.csiro.au/

James Beswick

Twitter: @jbesw

James Beswick is a Principal Developer Advocate focusing on serverless applications at AWS. While we won’t be featuring a ton of developer advocates on these lists, James’ work is simply too valuable to miss. A regular contributor to A Cloud Guru, James is known for his hands-on serverless deep dives as well as his astonishing levels of output. From the Lambda Operator Guide to Serverless Land, his commitment to building and explaining AWS serverless applications is unmatched.

If you’re new to James’s work, start here: https://acloudguru.com/blog/author/james-beswick

David Boyne

Twitter: @boyney123

David is an experienced AWS developer and technical leader based in the UK. He caught our eye because of the remarkable AWS tools and utilities he makes freely available on GitHub, such as EventBridge Atlas and awstools.dev. David frequently shares helpful cloud tips and tricks on social media – if you’ve benefited from his projects, make sure to give him a follow.

If you’re new to David’s work, start here: https://www.boyney.io/projects

Ben Bridts

Twitter: @benbridts

Ben is a Principal AWS Technologist at Cloudar, based in the Netherlands. He’s also an AWS Community Hero, and for good reason: he’s one of AWS Twitter’s most active practicing developers, providing a steady stream of bite-size tips, feature requests, and conversation starters. He is a co-organizer of the Belgian AWS User-Group and frequently speaks at various other events.

If you’re new to Ben’s work, start here: https://www.cloudar.be/author/bbridts/

Marc Brooker

Twitter: @MarcJBrooker

There’s definitely a range of experience represented by the builders on this list, and Marc Brooker is among the most advanced. As a Sr Principal Engineer at AWS, he’s contributed to some of the most remarkable technical innovations in cloud computing. And even better for us, he’s gracious enough to publish many of his insights. We’re not gonna lie, some of his academic publications are a bit over our head, but every practicing cloud engineer can learn from his fantastic contributions to the Amazon Builders’ Library.

If you’re new to Marc’s work, start here: https://brooker.co.za/blog/

Nader Dabit

Twitter: @dabit3

Until recently a developer advocate at AWS, Nader Dabit has now moved to crypto startup Edge and Node. But he’s still blessing us with his trademark deep dives into GraphQL, Javascript, and more. Nader’s another of those builders who preaches what they practice; his tutorials usually don’t assume prior knowledge, but he packs a ton of information into each and every one. He’s also written for A Cloud Guru!

If you’re new to Nader’s work, start here: https://dev.to/dabit3/

Jaana Dogan

Twitter: @rakyll

Jaana is a Principal Engineer at AWS focused on monitoring and observability. You’ll frequently find her engaging on Twitter around open-source monitoring solutions as well. Jaana starts great conversations and backs her advice with experience as well as a far-seeing view of the landscape. If you’re doing anything DevOps-y in AWS, Jaana Dogan is a must-follow.

If you’re new to Jaana’s work, start here: https://github.com/rakyll

Luc van Donkersgoed

Twitter: @donkersgood

Luc is the head of AWS technology at Sentia; he’s also an APN Ambassador and an AWS Community Builder. He’s also 12x AWS Certified (no small feat!), but he’s far from just studious. As his frequent blogs attest, he’s hands-on with popular AWS tools and services ranging from DynamoDB to the CDK, and he’s committed to sharing what he learns.

If you’re new to Luc’s work, start here: https://www.sentiatechblog.com/author/luc-van-donkersgoed

Joe Emison

Twitter: @JoeEmison

Joe Emison is a serial entrepreneur and backend developer, currently the technical cofounder of Branch Insurance. As he’s known for his opinionated takes on cloud services and architecture, you might not agree with everything he has to say – but you can’t deny that it’s backed up by hard production experience. If you’re a startup engineer looking to learn from practice, not theory, there’s no better follow than Joe.

If you’re new to Joe’s work, start here: https://acloudguru.com/blog/author/joe-emison

Rick Houlihan

Twitter: @houlihan_rick

Rick Houlihan is behind some of the world’s most significant production NoSQL deployments at Amazon – so when he talks NoSQL, you’d better listen. Known for his ultra-popular (and information-rich) re:Invent talks, as well as popularizing the idea of DynamoDB single-table design, he’s simply the world’s most respected voice on DynamoDB. (But be warned: you just might have to play that voice back at 0.5 speed to absorb all his nuggets of wisdom.)

Here’s a recent A Cloud Guru event featuring Rick: https://get.acloudguru.com/nosql-for-grownups-dynamodb-webinar

Ben Kehoe

Twitter: @ben11kehoe

Ben Kehoe, the Cloud Robotics Research Scientist at iRobot, is a longtime AWS Hero – but that probably understates his contributions to the AWS builder community. His clear vision for AWS best practices, his consistent advocacy to AWS on behalf of the community, his deep technical knowledge, and his active engagement in community issues combine to make him one of the most trusted voices in the AWS orbit.

If you’re new to Ben’s work, start here: https://acloud.guru/series/serverlessconf-nyc-2019/view/yaml-better

Clare Liguori

Twitter: @clare_liguori

Clare Liguori is a Principal Software Engineer for AWS Container Services, focusing on developer tooling and experience. So it should come as no surprise that many of her biggest contributions to the AWS community have come in the container-adjacent space of CI/CD. Her Amazon Builder’s Library article about the Amazon deployment process is an all-timer, and her open source contributions include Spinnaker, GitHub Actions, and the AWS CDK. Plus, she’s a key leader in the evolution of service-to-watch AWS Proton.

If you’re new to Clare’s work, start here: https://clareliguori.com

Colm MacCárthaigh

Twitter: @colmmacc

Legends have it that if you say the words “shuffle sharding” a randomized number of times, Colm MacCárthaigh will appear. A VP / Distinguished Engineer at AWS, Colm’s known in the community for his deep dives into the inner workings of AWS’s legendary distributed systems, from cryptography to, yes, shuffle sharding. Learning from an engineer of Colm’s eminence is an extraordinary opportunity, so do yourself a favor and follow him now.

If you’re new to Colm’s work, start here: https://shufflesharding.com

Amy Arambulo Negrette

Twitter: @nerdypaws

Amy Arambulo Negrette has built web applications for a variety of industries including Yahoo! Fantasy Sports and NASA Ames Research Center. She now brings a decade of engineering experience into her role as a Cloud Economist at the Duckbill Group – and as a speaker and open-source contributor in a range of cloud and web development areas. If you’re writing code and shipping it in containers to the cloud, Amy’s a voice you want to be listening to.

If you’re new to Amy’s work, start here: https://www.amy-codes.com/

Teri Radichel

Twitter: @TeriRadichel

Teri Radichel, CEO at 2nd Sight Lab, bridges the cloud and infosec communities with an unwavering focus on business value. Her book on cybersecurity for cloud executives is a must-read (whatever your job title), but she also shares frequent wisdom from her pentesting and security assessment engagements via blogging and social media. Teri’s an AWS Hero for a reason – she knows what she’s talking about.

New to Teri’s work? Start here: https://acloudguru.com/blog/author/teri-radichel

Jared Short

Twitter: @shortjared

Jared Short is an AWS Developer Tools Hero and engineer at Stedi, where he builds daily on AWS and frequently shares his experiences. He’s also known for his unusual cloud learning hacks, like reading the docs for an AWS service cover-to-cover every week. On any list of serverless builders to follow, Jared should be near the top.

If you’re new to Jared’s work, start here: https://acloudguru.com/blog/engineering/cloudformation-terraform-or-cdk-guide-to-iac-on-aws

Ali Spittel

Twitter: @ASpittel

Ali Spittel leads developer advocacy at AWS Amplify. She also cohosts the Ladybug tech podcast and blogs in places like A Cloud Guru and We Learn Code. In addition to her leadership responsibilities, Ali creates extraordinary technical deep dives that tie together web development, serverless, and more. Any full-stack cloud engineer should be following Ali right now.

New to Ali’s work? Dive in: https://acloudguru.com/blog/author/ali-spittel

Jennine Townsend

Twitter: @jt7d

One of the best-kept secrets of AWS Twitter, Jennine doesn’t seek the spotlight – but she certainly deserves it. A career system administrator with experience ranging from Archer Education to Rent.com, Jennine maintains an active Twitter feed filled with deep AWS insight. If you want to learn something new about AWS every time you open Twitter, there’s nobody better to follow than Jennine.

Kesha Williams

Twitter: @KeshaWillz

In addition to her role as a Principal Training Architect at A Cloud Guru, Kesha Williams is the only person in the world who is both an AWS Machine Learning Hero and an Alexa Champion. Mix in extensive enterprise software development experience, and you have an AWS builder everyone should be following.

Learn more about Kesha at kesha.tech, or take on her recent #CloudGuruChallenge!

Matthew S Wilson

Twitter: @_msw_

Matthew S. Wilson has a long track record of building core services at AWS, culminating in his current role as a VP / Distinguished Engineer. Today, you’ll find him active on Twitter, particularly around the various open-source projects AWS participates in. Matthew’s only last on this list alphabetically, not in terms of his community contributions; you’ll find him helpful and patient with questions, even passing on support requests to the AWS team!

If you’ve read this far and still wonder if it’s really worth following all these people, consider that there are hundreds of years of engineering experience represented in this list. And every one of these people has demonstrated a commitment to further that experience while sharing it publicly. That’s an extraordinary opportunity, and we recommend you take advantage of it today. Follow the builders.

We’ll be back next week with our list of top Azure builders. In the meantime, what other amazing AWS builders do you follow? Tag them on Twitter so others can find them too!

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