Episode 61: Fernando Hönig on AWS and Cloud Computing for Spanish Speakers

If you come from a predominantly Spanish-speaking country or anywhere in Latin America, you may already know about the harsh realities that students and people face when trying to access information about IT. It doesn’t matter if the information is books, industry-related magazines, or documentation on how to do something. The problem is always the same. The information available is most often only available in the English language. While that might be fine if you’re already familiar with, or lucky enough to have fluently learned English, that is not the case for most Spanish-speakers in Spain or Latin America. This dilemma usually results in holding Spanish-speakers back from gaining access to valuable knowledge that could potentially progress their careers, enhance their current knowledge, or even open up new opportunities. Now, someone is doing something to change that.

The information available is most often only available in the English language. While that might be fine if you’re already familiar with, or lucky enough to have fluently learned English, that is not the case for most Spanish-speakers in Spain or Latin America. This dilemma usually results in holding Spanish-speakers back from gaining access to valuable knowledge that could potentially progress their careers, enhance their current knowledge, or even open up new opportunities. Now, someone is doing something to change that.

Meet our next guest, Fernando Hönig. Fernando is originally from Argentina and fully understands the challenges that Spanish-speakers around the world face in the IT industry when trying to learn new information and ultimately get ahead. He has found a way to give back to the Spanish community through his AWS program and social media channels. Listen in to episode 61 while Fernando and Mentoring Developers co-host Sara Ines Calderon discuss cloud computing and AWS in the Spanish-speaking IT world.

Fernando’s Bio:

Fernando is an experienced Cloud Infrastructure Solutions Leader with over 18 years of extensive IT Architecture and Management experience in a variety of market sectors. He has an in-depth understanding of Information Technology services and technology in conjunction with their related markets and strategies.

Fernando is an accomplished professional in designing, implementing and configuring a wide variety of hosting, web, applications and systems solutions. He has proven experience in managing multiple large-scale infrastructure projects across matrix environments and multi-phased, complex migration programs.


You can find Fernando on YouTube, LinkedIn, the LinkedIn group AWS en Español, or Twitter.

Episode Highlights and Show Notes:

Sara: Why don’t you introduce yourself, tell me your name, where you work, and how you got into technology?

Fernando: All right. My name is Fernando Honig. I’m originally from Argentina, but I’ve been living in London since 2014. I have a strong infrastructure background. So I come from the infrastructure type of the IT field. I have more than 15 years of IT experience. Lately, I’ve been getting more into the cloud technologies and the cloud aspect of the IT system. I work in cloud infrastructure solutions architect for a company in London. So, that is who I am.

Sara: Cool. When we were talking earlier you told me about how you came into technology and you said that you had started when you were very young. Is that correct?

Fernando: Yes. So, back when I was 16 or 17 years old, I started back in the ages. I’m 36 now. I started two centuries ago. People were using modems and connecting to the Internet using the U.S. Robotics 56k modems to start browsing. That was the old Internet then. It was, I think, 1.0. So, I started doing that. I was going to customers and basically installing pieces of hardware. So it was a long journey when I started doing that and then I later got interested in Linux. That drove my passion about all the Linux and open source technologies then I became a DBA.

Sara: That’s awesome. So, how did you learn? You mentioned previously that it was in Argentina in the 80s and we had Internet 1.0. How did you learn how to install modems and then continue?

Fernando: It was really hard. I remember when I had to install my first Linux. I bought a magazine and installed it with some CDs. Everything was in English, so I was really lucky that I had started in English by that time. After 15 years. I can now say that I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to learn a second language and start to progress my career by having magazines and browsing the Internet and finding books by that time. Every book was in English. There was no Google at that time. There was another another search engine, but there were no self-learning that I could take.

Sara: That’s really interesting. You had mentioned that there was some stuff on the Internet in the pre-Google Internet as well. I’m assuming that you went to college in the late 90s or early 2000’s when may be a little more information was available. I know that there were some online communities at that time that were specifically talking about technology. Tell me a little bit about how you grew with the Internet when you were looking to learn new things like my SQL or the next new thing in technology. Did you start finding communities online to help support that?

Fernando: Not really. As I had mentioned, I was in Argentina and I was, not in the bigger city of Argentina. I was in a second one. It was kind of a university city. So there were a lot of people who were interested in understanding these new technologies. There were people who were just coming out of Oracle and were starting to work on MySQL. It was free, open source by that time. So you could basically go to the MySQL website and screen in the manuals and view all the changes online for every new version and install that new version and all kinds of things. It was the same thing with Linux versions. It was more like a trial and error to see if it would work or not. I remember back in the day when we had to compile your kernel with a support for the latest graph and interface. Sometimes I just try to explain things to people who were new in the IT world that it wasn’t always as easy as it is now with a working server.

Sara: So, you said that you were in a university town and there were a lot of students and people who were on the bleeding edge of technology. Were there meet-ups or online message boards or anything?

Fernando: At that time there was no Slack or Iceberg or anything like that. So, we worked together on a typical IFC and we were discussing things like the kinds of issues that we were having. So, it wasn’t a proper meetup. We were a group of friends who were all interested in technology. We were the typical geeks of the city and things like that. So, it was not like a formal meet up.

Sara: Yet, you guys were still working together to help each other out. It sounds like to me that from the very beginning, you were collaborating with people to learn these new technologies.

Fernando: Yes. It was always my passion to help somebody else get on board. That’s basically what drives me to learn things, to pass it on to somebody else and to try and connect a bridge to connect technology with people. I think that is one of the things that I’m really passionate about.

Sara: That’s cool. For those who are listening, I met Fernando on Twitter and through a Mutual Friend over at Cloud Guru. Fernando has been doing some really cool work trying to bring people who may not speak English, but who may speak Spanish as their dominant language to specifically enable them to learn more through AWS. In case people are listening and don’t know exactly what you do, could you explain quickly about what the cloud is and why being able to bring that information into Spanish is relevant? For example, you did mention that being outside of the US, you may not always be able to get manuals or textbooks or YouTube tutorials or official documentation in any other language except English. Even if you do use a Google translator or something, it’s not going to be as precise as you might need. That’s my understanding.

Fernando: Yes. The lack of documentation in other languages, not just Spanish, is gruesome. I do get that English is the universal language, but sometimes, some communities are not able to learn a second language. Basically, that is postponing this progress on their professional careers in IT. I don’t know if you know this, but 516 million people worldwide speak Spanish. There are about 57 million Spanish speakers in the US. So, it’s a lot of people. Basically what I’ve been trying to embark myself on during the last two years was that I needed to give something back to the community and try to leverage the cloud computing technology across people who speak Spanish. So, I’ve been trying to create meet up groups in Latin America and Spain and also create and translate different documentations on AWS. So, the intention is more about enabling people as the first step into developing to get cloud computing knowledge and help them grow in their career.

Sara: Sure. So, I wanted to ask you a follow-up question. When you say that you want to bring more Spanish speakers into cloud computing, is that because you haven’t run into a lot of native Spanish speakers or have you talk to people who have said that this was a barrier? What prompted that for you?

Fernando: Yes, one of the things is the language barrier. The other thing is that it is hard for companies in Spain and Latin America to find properly skilled people in cloud computing. So, it’s a two-way thing. It is companies who are trying to hire and develop the right kind of people who have the right skills and also people who want to get onto this new train, but they feel that it is passing very quickly and they struggle to catch up with everything that is happening daily. So what I am trying to do is fill that gap by injecting content in Spanish and providing people with the right training and documentation.

Sara: Sure. So, you said that you are starting some meet ups and places. Can you give me one or two examples of what that looks like? You did mention the AWS documentation that you translated. I’ve seen some of the posts that you put online and translated. I’m trying to imagine this as in I’m trying to do cloud computing. I’ve read about it online and I think its super cool. My English is okay, but it’s still hard to understand technical documentation, even if you’re an English speaker. So, that’s probably difficult. I know that I’ve done this where you just look and look online and try to find somebody who will help you. Tell me, if you will, some of the feedback that you’ve gotten from some of this work.

Fernando: Yes. So, one of the things that I’ve been trying to do is grow a LinkedIn community. We have an AWS in Spanish LinkedIn group with more than 800 people already. We just launched two or three months ago. So, it’s growing incredibly well. We are also running an online AWS meet up in Spanish. So what I’ve basically tried to do with this online meet up every month is bring people from AWS and the community from different companies who are implementing cloud solutions and AWS. So, we look at server solutions or how to put your application in the marketplace and make money with AWS. So, what I’m trying to do essentially is connect people who are lucky enough to have the experience with cloud computing and AWS with people who are just beginning this journey.

Fernando: One of the really good feedbacks that I’m receiving from people who are taking my courses or people who are participating in this LinkedIn community is quote thank you for helping us to have training on this in Spanish.” That cost less than a pizza. We cannot forget that South America and Latin America are not the richest countries in the world. So, having access to affordable training is important. For me, it’s very fulfilling. Knowing that they are using it to get a new job or gain new skills for the job that they have. So, it’s really rewarding for me.

Sara: That’s so cool. So, just to reiterate for those who are listening and want to follow up in case they’re interested, you said that you have an AWS in Spanish group on LinkedIn and you have an online meetup group for AWS in Spanish services. Is that correct?

Fernando: Yes. That’s correct and we also have it on a YouTube channel under the same name and people can go and subscribe to that. We also have all the user groups in Spanish that are uploading their meet ups and are streaming to the same channel. We had 10 or 12 videos right now. So anyone can go in and watch what people are doing, and all the different places across the globe in Spanish. That’s the most important things.

Sara: That’s awesome. I didn’t want to get back to something that we had discussed earlier. Can you explain to somebody who has just been doing web development and doesn’t really do backend services, what is cloud computing?

Fernando: It’s difficult to explain what cloud computing is because people might understand what the cloud is, but you still have servers. So, cloud computing is a way that you could rely on somebody else to do the heavy lifting on buying servers, installing servers, cabling servers, and having people to manage the physical security on your hardware so that you can just focus on the things that you are good at. So, as a developer, the good things that you have to be doing coding, making your code more secure, making your code faster, and getting your code out there as soon as possible. So that is the basic principle of it all. It’s all about getting your code out there as soon as possible.

Fernando: Cloud computing is definitely helping to have this in place. It allows you to put the core of your business in front of all of the heavy lifting and managing of servers. I think that companies who provide cloud computing are changing the way that IT is being presented to more people. So, I think that more people are able to interact with the technology because of the removal of the heavy lifting on the hardware piece.

Sara: That’s awesome. Thank you. So, I wanted to get back to what you were talking about within the meet ups. I wanted to talk a little about mentorship since you started sold young and you did have these communities and now you’re building this other community. I’m sure you’ve managed people and hired people at this point. I want to get your thoughts on mentorship in informal settings like the meetup or via formal settings like the workplace. How has mentorship helped you and how do you feel as a mentor in the workplace? How is that important to other people’s careers?

Fernando: Every role that I’ve played in my career, I have always try to look for mentorship. I’m always trying to find mentorship opportunities in every company. It’s not always specifically on technology. Sometimes you just need mentorship on other things like public speaking or how to do presentations or even how to study. Sometimes you just need somebody to help you understand the best way to use your time to study for something, as an example.

Fernando: So, sometimes, it comes down to learning how to give or receive a mentorship. Whenever I’ve always had a mentor, I’ve always tried to get the most out of it, and then I’ve tried to pass that knowledge on to somebody else. In my previous two or three roles, I was in a team lead or manager role. I try to leverage people skills and put some specific goals on how to improve their careers and how to communicate better with colleagues. It’s like being a respected player within the company. That is something that is really important when you want to collaborate and create a good culture in your company.

Fernando: The idea behind the meet-ups sometimes is having someone present in a specific docket, but also trying to find someone who can help them on getting a better result to get something done. I think that is something that the industry is lacking a lot of. Sometimes we meet people who do things rather than just talk.

Sara: That’s awesome. I’m not super familiar with all of the exact technologies that you use, but I know that Linux is a little different than AWS, for example. So, when you were trying to learn these things, how did you learn and how did you find mentorship? You said that you always try to find mentors. So, how do you find mentors? What do you look for in a mentor? Also, once you learn these things, do you just wait for someone to ask you for mentorship or do you seek it out like in the case of the AWS in Spanish?

Fernando: The cloud journey was interesting because I joined Rackspace a few years ago and I realized that this was definitely a cloud player. So trying to understand how people were moving over to cloud was an interesting learning curve. So, I try to understand the other new technologies around cloud and then had to explain that to customers and new peers there. It was a really good team back at Rackspace. Everyone was very supportive and explained things and gave examples and provided new training. After that, I was trying to understand how I could pass that knowledge on to somebody else.

Fernando: The important thing was for me meeting Ryan Kroonenburg from A Cloud Guru. His idea was that the way to teach people is to offer it is in a way that is similar to talking to people in a one on one session, only in this case, it was for thousands of people. So that is what I tried to do with the solutions architect training in Spanish. I was looking for a way to build it so that it would not resemble a product or a prototype. I wanted it to be more like having a conversation with the students. That is how I really enjoy explaining things and showing examples and answering questions. This is what helps people to better understand new technologies like this.

Fernando: Less than 10% of all people working in IT are working on the cloud. The rest are still working on physical data centers and physical servers. These are on premises and some companies even have their own data centers on promises. When you are so connected with cloud people, it’s easy to think that everyone is on the cloud. The world of technology moves so fast. Two years ago, no one was talking about the cloud. Now, everyone is talking about artificial intelligence, machine learning, and becoming server-less. Things move so fast and we don’t want to forget that not everyone is moving at that pace. We need to help people to afford that train and then guide them as best as we can.

Sara: Yes. That’s awesome. How did you find mentors? I was interested in what you were saying about how you sometimes needed a mentor to do other things like presentations or etc. How do you assess what you need? How do you find mentors? That’s something that I’ve had problems with. For example, I worked on the team as the only woman and I kept trying to look over other people, shoulders, but they were too busy. I would ask for help, but they would be too busy for that as well. So, I try to find people on Twitter and some people would offer to help, but then never respond back. I think we talk a lot about finding a mentor, but how do you find one?

Fernando: I think to become a mentor; you need to be passionate about it. Sometimes people who are really good at one thing might not make it good mentor. Mentoring is like teaching. It is like trying to explain something in your own words. I’m not going to say that it’s simple, but when you join big companies like Intel, Rackspace, or IBM, you always tend to have these mentorship programs. You find these extremely nice people who are willing to help, maybe not specific technical things, but how to reach that place to be able to learn specific technical things. The mentorship is about how to get to that place to learn something.

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