SEEKing Serverless with DevopsGirls

Some days you love where you work more than others. But I never thought that day would be a Saturday. If you work in tech, having to show up on a weekend isn’t normally a good news story. Thankfully, this was different. I went to bed the night before hoping my excitement wouldn’t keep me up too late. I set my alarm nice and early because the next day I was going to head into work to be part of something amazing. We were going to give a group of awesome women an opportunity to learn some new technical skills, and the company I work for had my back 100%. We’d planned every detail, well, almost …

Serverless bootcamp in full swing — Photos by Lachlan Munro

On February 16th, 2019, SEEK hosted a bootcamp with DevOps Girls. It was a day-long event to teach women some tech and all things serverless.

We posted the event on meetup.com, and the 60 allocated spots filled up in a day. At one point there were an additional 34 people on the waitlist. It was exciting to see so many women keen to learn some tech!

Getting the kids involved

About 2 weeks prior to the event, Robofun volunteered to run a bootcamp in parallel for the kids of attendees and volunteers. This was such a great idea. We didn’t want childcare to be a limiting factor for someone looking to upskill themselves in tech. Massive thanks to Robofun.

Jessie Wei getting the kids settled into the Robofun bootcamp — Photos by Lachlan Munro

But first, coffee!

On the day, the organising team swung into action at 7am. Tables needed to be set up, extension leads needed to be gaffer-taped, signs needed to be posted up and most importantly, the coffee machine needed to be prepped and ready to use.

Mark Nicholson and Ren Koh serving up some caffeine — Photos by Lachlan Munro

Just before the participants started to arrive, I started feeling those pre-event jitters. My nerves had me going through a mental list over and over again checking to see if I’d missed anything…

“how many people will turn up?”
“have I ordered enough food?”
“will the content be technical enough?”

Turns out, I had no reason to be nervous. We had a great turn out and the day progressed pretty smoothly.

Getting settled in

Upon arrival, attendees registered themselves and if they brought kids, they were registered for the Robofun bootcamp. The first 45 minutes of the day was spent helping participants to setup tools including a text editor and an AWS account. To get our brains prepped for learning, we had SEEK volunteers (SEEKers) working the coffee machine. SEEKers make some of the best coffees!

Manuel Weiss, one of the many volunteers — Photos by Lachlan Munro

Starting with the fundamentals

To ease everyone into things, we gave an outline of the day and set the ground rules for a safe learning zone. Then we started to delve into the tech learning by starting from the basics, then we slowly built up to more technical content.

Some of the key concepts covered were:

This session also covered the technical relevance of serverless. We wanted participants to see use cases where the concepts they learned could be implemented. We also gave an overview of the business use-case for severless to help people to sell it to their company.

Andrew Hatch taking us through relevance and cost — Photos by Lachlan Munro

Dispelling the magic

Serverless has a lot of things going on behind the scenes, so we showed the participants some of this ‘magic’. We did this by getting participants to click their way through the AWS console, also known as ‘clickops’. We wanted the participants to ‘feel the pain’ of doing things in a manual and not-easily-repeatable way. It’s fairly common for businesses to introduce tools that have so much built-in functionality, that you end up unclear about what you’ve actually achieved.

At midday we pried people away from their laptops for lunch. Time flies when you’re deep in learning. This gave people a chance to get to know the volunteers and other participants.

Shiva Narayanaswamy helping with the ‘clickops’ activity — Photos by Lachlan Munro

It wasn’t all about the tech

Learning new technical concepts can be really overwhelming, so we made sure the day included a non-technical session. This session was Theresa Neate’s talk, “A chat about imposter syndrome, anxiety and self-confidence”. Her talk encouraged us to re-think self-confidence and how to demonstrate this through being more outspoken. Theresa’s talk showed us that everyone has a story. By understanding this we learn to be less concerned by people’s judgement or criticism and are more willing to put ourselves out there.

Theresa Neate talking about being a bad ass — Photos by Lachlan Munro

Before we switched back to the technical content we took a short break to collect our thoughts and digest some of the messages from Theresa’s talk.

Getting into the code

We got our text editor and command line ready and started looking at the Serverless Framework. The aim was to achieve the same outcomes we had from the ‘clickops’ exercise, but with code and the command line. Herein lies the big technical take away of the day:

you want to build infrastructure that is repeatable and easy to maintain

The programmatic parts of the day allowed participants to get hands-on with ‘infrastructure as code’. This was a bit more technical for some and as volunteers we were extremely impressed with how well this went. The amount of variables that could lead to people getting stuck was quite high. We had roaming volunteers to provide a gauge of the participants progress, which was really effective. The roaming volunteers providing feedback also helped us understand whether we needed to provide more clarification on processes/concepts based on commonly asked questions.

Ryan Ling and Ben Jervis helping out — Photos by Lachlan Munro

Robofun wrap up

At about 3.30pm, parents and guardians popped next door to see the Robofun showcase and everyone else had a short break. The kids in the Robofun bootcamp were able to show off their robot creations and wrap up their learning. At this point parents and guardians were given the option to head home as it had already been quite a long day for the kids. So, before parents/guardians departed, we made sure to get a group photo to commemorate such an excellent day.

It’s hard to fit such an amazing group into one photo — Photos by Lachlan Munro

Next step: Lambda Layers

To wrap up the day, Shane Baldacchino from AWS took us all through some new AWS features called ‘Lambda layers’. This was a non-hands-on session to introduce some new concepts to people ready to take new steps with serverless. It was impressive that participants were able to take on even more information after a long day of learning.

Shane Baldacchino talking about AWS Lambda Layers — Photos by Lachlan Munro

Overall, the organisers of the SEEK and DevOps Girls serverless bootcamp were super impressed with how well the day went. I’ve already had really postive feedback from participants and organisers. If we could go back and do anything differently, we would have provided a content warning for the talk on self-confidence. Some topics discussed were triggering for at least one of the participants. This is a really valuable lesson for anyone running events. To avoid this happening again, DevOps Girls have committed to the following:

  • all content warnings will be provided prior to the event
  • every event we host will have a quiet space for people who need time away

I’ve been a participant and an organiser for events like this and I can truly say how inspiring and educational they are. I look forward to a lot more bootcamps hosted by SEEK in the future.


Thank you from the bottom of my ❤

A bootcamp like this doesn’t happen unless you have people willing to be generous with their time. I’d like to say a massive thank-you to the following people from SEEK and beyond.

SEEKer crew: Ryan Ling, Andrew Hatch, Ben Jervis, Jessie Wei, Laurence Tan, Mark Nicholson, Ren Koh, Simon Pilepich, Manuel Weiss, Dao Yang Liew, Amanda Leipa.

More absolute legends: Andrew Cosgriff, Shane Baldacchino, Mai Nguyen, Shiva Narayanaswamy, Theresa Neate, John Contad, Javier Turegano, Aashish Jolly, Raisa Hashem, Lachlan Munro, Lina Qasem (founder of Robofun), Meaghan, Miffy Wu, Benny Tang.

Thank you to AWS and Robofun for their contribution to this event.