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My Love Affair With Alexa

Ryan Kroonenburg
Ryan Kroonenburg

In December of last year I was still working for Logicworks, a premier AWS managed service provider based out of New York City. I was lucky enough to attend their Christmas party in Soho where every one of the staff at Logicworks received an Amazon Echo. I live in the UK normally, so this was the first time I had even heard of Amazon Echo, let alone used one. I was very skeptical at first and quietly thought to myself “I’d never use this”.

A Cloud Guru Levels Up on Alexa with new Cloud Training

Anyway the next day I decided to plug the Echo in and to start configuring Alexa. There were a few issues (mainly that my Amazon Prime account was UK based, not US based) but once I figured out how to get round this, I started using Alexa — and so did my kids. In fact my kids LOVED Alexa straight from the moment she first talked. Alexa would play nursery rhymes and songs for their bath time each night.

We as a family started using her more and more and I noticed that my daughter (who had delayed speech) vocabulary and pronunciation starting to improve. Alexa became a daily part of our lives and around June of 2016 I decided I wanted to start writing some skills for Alexa. What better, I thought than releasing a skill to help people study for their AWS Certified Solutions Architect — Associate Exam, our most popular course on A Cloud Guru.

And then I got the Alexa developer bug. I started developing all the skills in the Alexa Skills Kit Samples on github. Once I had done that, I decided to a course teaching people what I had learnt about developing skills for Alexa. I wanted to make it so that anyone, literally anyone, could make skills without any programming experience necessary.

Once the courses were finished, I decided I wanted to upgrade the A Cloud Guru skill to handle all 5 exams — Solutions Architect Associate, Solutions Architect Professional, Developer Associate, Sysops Administrator Associate and Devops Professional. This was a little bit out of my comfort zone, so I engaged Oscar Merry & Jess Williams, the co-founders of Opearlo. Opearlo is one of the first European digital voice agencies that specialize in designing and building Alexa skills. Oscar also runs the Alexa Developers London Meetups.

Anyway after a bit of going backwards and forwards with the Alexa certification team, we are very pleased to announce that the new A Cloud Guru skill is now live. You can now practice all 5 exams using our Alexa skill.

Amazon Echo and Echo Dots are now available in the UK & Germany as well as the US and I highly recommend trying them out, especially if you have young children. My son is not even 1 and a half yet and I kid you not, he can say Alexa so well that he is constantly activating her!

Developing with Alexa is also a great way of learning not just AWS but also serverless principles. So go check out our AWS Alexa Skill Builder Essentials Course to test your AWS knowledge!

Ryan Kroonenburg is a UK-based Solutions Architect and the founder of A Cloud Guru, a community which is dedicated to teaching all aspects of the AWS platform. Together with his brother Sam Kroonenburg, Ryan has taught AWS to over 100,000 students. They also designed one of the first Serverless Learning Management Systems and help organize serverless conferences and meetups all over the world.

Ryan created courses for A Cloud Guru to allow beginner developers and non-developers to learn how to build skills. He regularly shares his passion for Alexa at events like ServerlessConf or the Alexa Devs Dublin meetup.

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