Featured Member: Patrick Pierson

Patrick Pierson 1aPatrick Pierson is an Amazon Web Services (AWS) guy. He holds multiple AWS certifications, including AWS SysOps Administrator, AWS Business Professional, and AWS Technical Professional.  He uses and advocates for AWS in his professional job and he runs an AWS meetup group.  Just the mention of AWS in Patrick’s presence can spark an enthusiastic discussion.

But, there’s a lot more to Patrick.  He’s a self-described idea guy, dedicated, with a focus on high-performing agile environments, someone who likes to work with others towards a common goal, someone with unique insights into systems.

He volunteers as an “all-around IT guy” for Koolhof Earth, the non-profit arm of Straughan Environmental Services, a $25M company founded by Patrick's god-mother and his wife's mother that does environmental studies for organizations such as the Army and NASA. Koolhof Earth’s mission is reducing human impact on the earth’s vital natural resources necessary to support all forms of life.

Patrick was born in DC, but soon moved to Forestville and then Huntingtown, MD.  He attended Frostburg State University, then the University of Maryland Baltimore County, where he was supposed to study Computer Science, “but was really focused on being the chief engineer at the university radio station. I wasn’t ready for college. I needed to grow up.”  As an example, Patrick shared this story: “I actually forgot to go to class – I mean the entire class. At the end of the semester I realized I had an extra book I hadn’t even opened.”

So, Patrick dropped out of college and joined Army.  “I got on a bus. Three hours later someone was yelling at me.”  He completed basic training at Ft. Leonard Wood in Missouri and has benefited from the lessons he learned about discipline and dedication ever since.

Patrick received the highest possible score on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) test. “With that score, I could do just about anything. The Army was recruiting for counter-intel. It sounded like I’d get to be James Bond, so I went for that.” His first assignment had him collecting strategic intelligence in South Korea. Patrick found he liked talking to people and was good breaking the ice and building rapport. “I was even offered a hand in marriage.” (He diplomatically declined)  Next he was deploPatrick Pierson 4yed to Mosul Iraq, where he was embedded with the Army cavalry on foot patrol with Iraq units.

While in Iraq, his commander learned Patrick was a “computer nerd”. His lieutenant took a chance on him and it paid off.  Patrick set up the IT network in the building where his unit was stationed, allowing information to be shared much more quickly and easily with the larger Army infrastructure - and did so much in much less time than estimated by another contractor.

Why IT? Patrick’s father was a Navy Signal guy who did IT work, so Patrick was predisposed. One day his high school woodworking class teacher was out and the substitute, not knowing woodworking, brought in old computers and had the class take them apart. Patrick came home that day and asked his dad if he could take the home computer apart and put it back together again. When Patrick was finished, the computer still worked. He was hooked. He built his own computer from scratch. His dad taught him how to make network cables.  The rest is history.

Patrick’s current job is with IonChannel, a small startup company, where he is a DevOps Engineer. Patrick explained DevOps like this, “Traditionally, development (dev) and operations (ops) have been separate teams. Ops job is to keep things running. The dev team builds new features, which causes change and, therefore, risk. The two are inherently in conflict. Making dev and ops one team helps ensure they work together to add new features without breaking things. He and his team are building a product that uses information from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) database to automate detection of vulnerabilities, something that is largely done manually now.  He also integrates new AWS features into the IonChannel environment.

Patrick Pierson 5Patrick is married and lives in Frederick. Frederick was a compromise location, though one he really likes.  His employer at the time was in Chantilly. His wife’s employer was in Mt. Airy. They passed through Frederick a number of times going back and forth and ultimately decided it would be home.

Patrick learned about Cowork Frederick through a KeyLUG meetup held here.  At the time, he was working at Berico and had to be in the office. His new job at IonChannel came with the freedom to work most anywhere and he worked from home most days. “The dogs where noisy. It got too easy to work in in my PJ’s.  It’s just not professional.  I remembered Cowork Frederick and thought ‘Hey - I could cowork!’“ Patrick joined Cowork Frederick as a Part-Time member in January 2016.

Patrick started an AWS meetup after giving a talk on AWS to the Frederick KeyLUG, Python, and WebTech meetup groups and seeing a lot of interest. Within 3 days of forming the AWS meeting, it had 50 members.  Patrick’s focus for the group is education. “People are afraid, afraid AWS will take your job, but that’s not the case. It just changes how you do work. There’s no need to work in a data center anymore.” He continued, “I like to use this analogy: Don’t think about servers as pets. Think of them like cattle.  Servers are a commodity. If one goes down, there’s one right behind it to take its place.  It’s not the “Miss Piggy” server anymore – not something you build, are fond of and nurture. It’s just a tool.  I want to get people to think about systems in more advanced way, to stop worrying about why server isn’t working and delivering a great user experience.”