Notes from AWS Summit

I attended the AWS Summit in Chicago this week. Like many other tech companies, we at Gesture use various AWS products so it was a nice opportunity to get exposed to what is becoming possible with their platform.

Additionally, looking into what AWS is up to is a great way to see where technology is headed in the near future (and the near future is looking increasingly like things you may have thought only possible in sci-fi movies)

Though many of their services are focused on backend and devops, as a front end developer, there were still many things that appealed to me.

Lightweight VPN for hosting simple sites. This is the AWS alternative to the various shared hosting providers out there. Want to spin up a quick WordPress server or marketing site? this is the AWS service for you.

Serverless, interactive query service that makes it easy to analyze big data in S3 using standard SQL. In other words, chuck a JSON file onto S3, define your data structure, then you can run queries on it. Would be cooler if they had a service that could look at a file on S3 and figure out the data structure on its own. Wouldn’t be surprised if they don’t have that coming out soon.

Rekognition, Polly and Lex
This is the next level stuff. APIs hooking into AI services. Rekognition does image analysis to make it easy to integrate things like facial recognition and object detection into your applications. Polly and Lex offer a killer combination of text into humanlike speech (Polly) and speech recognition and understanding (Lex) which allow you to add powerful conversational interfaces to applications (the same tech that powers Alexa).

Serverless (Lambda + API Gateway)
I’ve been following serverless architectures for awhile. It is a rapidly evolving area that is opening up so many different possibilities when it gets plugged into other services like those above.

Mobile Hub
Really cool configurator for building mobile apps, including mobile web which is more where my interests lie. Makes it really easy to get up and running with services like user authentication and management (Cognito), a NoSQL DB (DynamoDB), Storage (S3), etc. These baseline core services are low cost and scale. Lots of popular apps and companies have gotten their start with these and have continued to rely on them after scaling.

As I write this I am having fun doing the AWS Game Day challenge with my team at Gesture (currently we’re in first place!)

Guide to the Chicago Tech and Startup Scene

chicago-sceneFor the past 2 years, I have been curating a list of Chicago web, tech and startup events at It has been great to see the number of events, meetup groups and resources continue to grow as Chicago is coming into its own as the tech hub of the midwest.

I have just updated the site with information about the Chicago Tech Scene. Go to to find information on resources, conferences, meetup groups, coworking spaces, investment firms and more.

To keep up on what’s happening in Chicago tech, you can also subscribe to the Chicago Tech Events Newsletter and follow @chicagotechevnt

Announcing Gesture

Gesture_Stacked_RGB_StackedTag1Over the last month, I’ve been working on a secret project, to help rebrand my company and launch our new website. I’m thrilled to say that I now work at Gesture, and we make hope happen.

When I left my job at a big global corporation occupying a dozen floors in a high rise office building on Chicago’s Magnificent Mile to work at a startup in the suburbs called AuctionsByCellular, I wonder how many people thought I was maybe a little crazy.

What those people did not know is what I found when I first visited their small office space that they had just moved into (its previous tenant was a chiropractor). What did I find? An opportunity to be part of something amazing. This small team of smart and motivated individuals was onto something big and I wanted to be part of it while it was small.

John Polacek Lead Web Developer at GestureSo, I became full time developer hire #1. I went from working with 700 people in the middle of the city to sharing an office room with our CTO and a talented part-time UX/Front End developer who worked half days. There was so much that needed to be done. Have you ever felt like you were in exactly the right place at the right time? It was like every skill and piece of knowledge I had gained over my career were going to be useful in helping this amazing new team I found to make our vision of what this company could do into reality.

Coming up on two years later, I still feel that way. One thing has changed though, this startup that I joined is coming into its own. We are a bigger company, operating in more places, offering more products and services and helping more charities than ever. That’s the amazing thing. I get to do what I love (design and build web technology) in service of helping people help other people.

Big thanks to Listen for their help on branding and identity and Eight Bit Studios for their help with designing the website.

I cannot wait to see what happens next. Check us out at