How to become an AWS APN Ambassador and AWS Community Hero

April 11, 2020

I was very fortunate to hold both positions at the same time last year. This year I lost the Ambassador status since I’m no longer affiliated to an AWS Advanced Partner (APN). Some folks asked a few times how I got selected to these programs, and if I could share some tips & tricks. Well, here they are.

First I’ll describe what both programs entail.

  • APN Ambassador Program. The APN Ambassador Program is a community of technical experts in the AWS Partner Network (APN) Consulting Partner community. APN Ambassadors are passionate about sharing their AWS technical expertise through public presentations, open-source projects, and social media. APN Ambassadors possess multiple AWS certifications as well as in-depth AWS knowledge. As APN Consulting Partner representatives, they work closely with AWS Solution Architects to migrate, design, implement, and monitor AWS workloads. APN Ambassador Program
  • AWS Hero Program. The AWS Hero Program recognizes a vibrant, worldwide group of AWS experts whose enthusiasm for knowledge-sharing has a real impact within the community. Heroes go above and beyond to share knowledge via social media, blog posts, open source projects, events, and user groups. AWS Community Heroes are passionate AWS enthusiasts. They use their extensive knowledge to teach others about all things AWS across a range of mediums. Their wide-reaching efforts to spread knowledge of the AWS platform have a significant impact within their local communities. AWS Heroes

It’s a Side-Effect

First and most important, it should NOT be a goal on itself to become an Ambassador or Hero. It’s a side-effect. A side-effect of what you do at your company, for AWS, and for the community. For example, one of the requirements is to write x blog posts a year. I don’t think you’re a true ambassador if you write exactly the number that is required. You’re an ambassador when you reached this number of blog posts in the first few months of the year and maintain a certain level of consistency in publishing.

Ask buy-in from your company

You likely work for a company that expects you to be billable most of the time. I always try to translate “billable” to “valuable”, to open the conversation. Being an Ambassador, for example, doesn’t bring in any money. It does add value to your company. Being visible in the market, being a valuable partner and contributor in the community. It will influence hourly rates, and increases the demand on you and your co-workers. You’ll also maintain a better position compared to competitors that lack an Ambassador or Hero.

I also adopted the “act first, apologize later” principle. It simply means; when I spend 4 hours in my free-time for work related stuff, I will also use the same amount of time during normal business days. I think that is a fair deal.

Could we make “value” a bit more tangible?

Let’s assume it takes you 8 hours a week as an Ambassador or Hero. You want to spend half of the time in your boss’ time. You work at a consultancy firm with 100 consultants, and an average hourly rate of $150. The four hours a week is $30K/year lost revenue. (4 hours * 50 weeks * $150 = $30K)

Let’s also assume the utilization ratio is currently 70% (aka billable percentage). There are about 1800 hours per year that you could work, so the total expected revenue is $18.9M/year (100 * $150 * 0.7 * 1800). If your company status and your personal branding increases the hourly rate by only $1 and the utilization ratio by 1%, it becomes $19.3M (100 * $151 * 0.71 * 1800). That’s an increase of $400K. A profit of $370K, instead of a $30K loss.

Ok, you might think this is a very bold calculation. Allow me to give another example. Let’s assume because of the investments, we want to increase our average hourly rate to compensate. So we add the 30K to 18.9M/year and then do the math: 18930000 / 1800 / 100 / 0.70 = $150,25. So we need to increase the average hourly rate by 0,17% to compensate the costs.

Team-up

Although the status is for a single person, you can only achieve it with a team. When I held both the Ambassador and Hero status, I asked my team who was up to take over the Ambassador position. I decided to quit before we were able to transfer the status, but at least it shows my mindset and I believe this is the right mindset. To give you an example; I took 100% credits for some meetups where I delivered 30%, while my colleagues did 70% of the work. Be transparent about this, and nobody cares. You’re still the facilitator, accelerator and success factor. There will be other times where it’s the other way around. Where you deliver 70% of the work, and they can take 100% of the credits.

Be patient

When I started the AWSug.nl community back in 2017, after a few weeks I asked somebody at AWS to nominate me for the AWS Community Hero program. I wasn’t selected, and I completely understood. Of course, I was disappointed too. After a few years of building the community further, I found out that a single nomination is not enough. When somebody else was elected, it reminded me to apply again. End of 2019, I was finally elected. People who know me can confirm I’m far from being patient. When I was a kid, I shared with my parents I bought a new computer or other toy or device, they always sang: “I want it all I want it all and I want it now” (Queen). They still do this, and it actually helps me to slow down some time. With buying stuff, but also with job promotion, or other achievements.

Practical checklist

Copy this list, create a monthly calendar item and paste them all in. Plan far ahead of where you are going to focus on. Time flies, and before you know it, it’s Christmas and you didn’t do a thing… After a few months, it becomes normal behavior.

  • Organize meetups
  • Present at meetups or conferences
  • Write blog posts
  • Organize webinars
  • Initiate (internal) learning events (exam-preps)
  • Open-source tools (or code snippets)
  • Activity on Social Media (and FAQs)
  • Influence certifications (colleagues you supported/coached)
  • Maintain a list of all things (title, date, link)
  • Maintain your one-pager resume/bio

Conclusion

To wrap up, keep in mind:

  • It’s a side-effect. Aim for more and you’ll get more, including the status. Like I often tell people how to pass AWS certifications. Don’t aim for a specific exam, just make sure you know it all and passing an exam is a side-effect.
  • Ask for buy-in from your company. If they are not convinced, ask for help from other ambassadors or colleagues. Or ultimately switch jobs.
  • Team-up. Don’t do this alone. Just like you should not be a superhero in your development team. Work as a team, every person has different goals. (Oops, now I’m making this hero title a bit controversial)
  • Be patient. But also don’t wait for it. Make sure you know a lot of people. People in The Netherlands should have a chat with Matthijs ten Seldam. Have a conversation with the AWS Evangelists / Advocates. They are all really supportive.

To close this blog post. What did it actually bring me? A few things I’m very proud of:

  • I did a talk at AWS re:Invent 2018.
  • I was one of the 3 finalists of the Dutch Cloud Architect Alliance (mainly because of the community contributions)
  • I was elected “top contributing ambassador” in 2019.
  • Werner Vogels sent us a video message when we celebrated our 2 year anniversary of AWSug.nl.
  • As a company, we won 2 AWS Partner awards (Rising Star and Innovation)
  • You will get all kinds of cool things like goodies, AWS credits, tickets for conferences, and they support you with expenses when your boss doesn’t cover it.
  • When covid19 is behind us, probably a lot more (a few things are in the works…)

Good luck all, hope to see more Ambassadors and Heroes in The Netherlands and around the globe.

-Martijn

Photo by Esteban Lopez on Unsplash

Author(s)
Martijn van Dongen
AWS Tribe Lead
Contact
Martijn van Dongen
Free Agent / AWS Tribe Lead

+31651175017
martijn@hitthecloudrunning.com
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