The AWS User Group North Meetup group came together again in September 2019, at Booking.com's offices in central Manchester. Against a backdrop of their Hula-bar / beach hut themed cafateria and break out space, we enjoyed four speakers on a range of topics within AWS's diverse Cloud offering.
As always the event was well organised with ample food and drink supplied by the sponsors - 27 XXL Papa Johns pizzas on this occasion.
Unfortunately the venue's only microphone was out of batteries, which made it somewhat difficult to hear, but despite this and with a bit of furniture rearranging to move closer, we enjoyed the talks from all the speakers.
Matt Houghton, Data Services Technical Consultant at CDL took the first speaker slot, with a detailed and eye-opening talk on combating insurance fraud and providing customer insights in real time.
Matt gave us some insight into how the insurance industry use big data to identify suspucious applications or claims, but don't necessarily automatically reject them - rather the data is used to bubble up anomalous requests to be verified by a human. This allows them to provide accurate quotes to the vast majority of customers extremely rapidly.
Alisha Fredriksson, Partnerships Associate at Generation gave an inspiring talk on AWS re/Start, the Amazon Web Services program for preparing unemployed and underemployed individuals for cloud careers through classroom-based training.
Alisha gave us a good overview of the re/Start program and how Generation use the 12-week course to support and train individuals in not only technical knowledge, but also the soft skills that are important for employability. Their program is growing, with many more cohorts of students being onboarded this year and in 2020. A key question at the end reflected on the long-term benefits - or costs - to employers and the success measures that will prove the concept works.
Mike Rizzo, Solutions Architect at AWS spoke about dynamic propagation of config parameter changes at scale, specifically for large horizontally-scaled containerised microservice architectures.
Mike presented several different approaches with their pros and cons, which is always a good way to understand the topic and begin to think about how the various techniques suit your own AWS workloads. His live demo (always a brave move!) worked to perfection and was helpful in providing real understanding of how to put his suggestions into practice.
Azizur Rahman, Senior Technical Architect at the BBC talked about how the BBC Voice+AI teams use Alexa skills to bring conversational interfaces to audiences. He spoke about the BBC's significant investment in Voice technology, with three teams around the UK working on a range of projects - including the long term goal of establishing a common interface for all the voice services such as Siri and Cortana to all cross-communicate.
All in all an interesting night! We'll look forward to the AWS re:Invent live stream event in Early December.
Join the AWS User Group North on Meetup: https://www.meetup.com/AWS-User-Group-North/
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