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'Mr Serverless', Yun Zhi Lin, joins Contino APAC as VP of Engineering
Yun Zhi Lin

'Mr Serverless', Yun Zhi Lin, joins Contino APAC as VP of Engineering

Yun Zhi Lin reveals how he brings about change in massive enterprises, the biggest challenges in the space and his tech predictions for 2018

Tell us a little bit about your background?

My tech background can be summed up in three stages:

  • Container Microservices
  • Serverless Architecture.

I started working in the tech industry in 2002, at the end of the dot-com bubble. And spent the first decade of my career as a enterprise application integration (EAI) expert, working with all major enterprise service buses (ESBs) across diverse range of enterprises such as Telstra, Westpac, Optus, Barclays, BlackRock and Macquarie Group.

I moved out of enterprise into startups in 2014, to embrace DevOps, Cloud and Docker Microservices. I created the production infrastructure behind multiple successful PropTech, FinTech, and FoodTech startups. It was an interesting journey which I summed up in a keynote talk for Docker’s 4th Birthday in Sydney. My views on simple and fast container management can be found in both the Sydney and Melbourne Container Debates.

Towards mid-2016 at Amaysim, I led the adoption of both Event Driven Architecture and Serverless Framework in my teams. This new programming paradigm overcame the typical dev and operational overhead of traditional full stack server-based APIs. Lambda Functions together with Kinesis fueled the rapid integration of new Amaysim business verticals in weeks instead of months. During this time I wrote serverless-golang and gave a co-talk on the subject at Serverlessconf NYC ‘17.

At the end of 2017 I joined Contino to continue my adventures. Aside from business technologies I also tinker around with Unreal game engine and Amazon GameLift.

Why did you join Contino?

It’s a combination of three things: tech culture, the people and opportunities.

I’ve done a fair bit of research on Contino before joining the company. After reading the blog and watching various talks, I was quite impressed by the engineers who wrote/spoke about the topics they are passionate about. Contino encourages blogging, talks, and sponsors many meetups. This culture of celebrating engineers really appealed to me.

In terms of people, I enjoy being surrounded by extremely skilled and motivated people who I can learn from and also share a consistent vision. Contino people are not afraid of having fun along the way either. Since joining I’ve been to some really awesome parties and events hosted by Contino. Even our mascot is a party parrot!

Lastly, I truly believe there are unique opportunities in APAC right now. Opportunities to work on interesting projects in untapped markets and grow APAC business from early days into a fantastic unicorn.

How do you bring about change in massive enterprises?

First of all, change in massive enterprises requires a thorough understanding of the relevant regulations and partnership with solid service providers. Followed by a combined effort between top-down mandate and bottom-up delivery.

Before setting off, strategic partnerships with the right vendors and tools are fundamental to the success of change delivery. Standing on the shoulders of giants takes care of a lot of heavy lifting, such as navigating through regulations, understanding client needs, purpose built high-level services and reference architecture.

Next, I would gain top-down mandate by pitching to the business at the senior and board levels. Then to kick off the bottom-up delivery phase I normally start with an inception meeting to share the vision with all relevant stakeholders and teams and bring everyone on the same journey. To influence the teams I believe in a ‘train the trainers’ approach. This means upskilling a selection of motivated individuals through pairing or mobbing. This allows professionals to become change champions themselves and influence their peers.

Typically, while all this is happening, other teams in the organisation would see the changes that are taking place and the benefits they bring. Eventually they will approach either myself or another change champion to learn how they can adopt new practices. Change will begin to spread organically!

What's the most challenging part about your job?

As a company that specialises in Enterprise DevOps, we work in some of the largest, and most heavily regulated organisations in the world. Navigating the regulatory requirements can quite challenging.

However the challenges are equally rewarding. Since heavy regulation tends to also imply material workloads, significant volumes, important data and large customer base. Which means if I can overcome regulatory challenges and forge a path of compliance, I will get to build a world-class solution that is massively scalable, and make a difference to the end customers.

What's your favourite part about your role?

Those that I have worked with know that I hold my engineering work in high regards and aim to exemplifying three virtues of a programmer in all deliveries. As VP of Engineering, I’m involved in all aspects of the consulting pipeline with a emphasis towards technology leadership. It gives me great satisfaction to be able to oversee and influence multiple teams and projects. So that all APAC engineers understand the importance of automation and documentation (laziness), leverage high level or managed services such as Lambdas or EKS when possible (impatience), and the clients will say good things even after we leave (hubris).

What do you think will be the biggest tech trend of 2018?

In my opinion the biggest trends will be serverless and data.

In terms of serverless, 2016 was the year of adoption and 2017 the year of tooling. In 2018 I think it’s all about widening the Serverless Spectrum to cover more traditional services. Recent examples include containers orchestration (Fargate), SQL (Aurora Serverless), and ML (SageMaker). As the services moves to higher levels, basically all that’s left is the data.

Data, or specifically Proprietary Data Sets + IoT + AI, are now more relevant than ever. Sports teams are optimising their players' performances based on IoT data collected on the field, FinTech startups are leveraging deep learning gain better understanding of risk and offer better rates than the traditional banks, and retailers are (or should be) relying on A.I. to compete on customer experience, especially in light of the recent Amazon Australia launch.

In the end, companies that mine and own proprietary data will always outcompete those who don’t. And companies who leverage serverless technologies will always get to the data faster.

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