Jeremy McClay, Customer Engagement Manager for FinOps
In this ongoing blog article series, Mission Team Spotlight, we interview and chat with our knowledgeable team members about their careers, time at Mission, and trends in their respective fields.
We recently chatted with Jeremy McClay, who specializes in FinOps consulting for Mission customers. Jeremy discusses his career trajectory and transitioning from AWS customer service to working as a FinOps Cloud Analyst at Mission, before his promotion to Customer Engagement Manager. He also shares some insights on what AWS customers can do for cost optimization within their cloud environment and the benefits of working with an AWS Premier Tier Services Partner like Mission.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Mission Team Spotlight at a Glance
Team Member: Jeremy McClay, Customer Engagement Manager
Location: Herndon, VA
Hobbies: Video gaming, tabletop war gaming, model and miniature painting
Fun Fact: Former semi-professional dart player on the east coast
How did you come to join Mission and what do you enjoy most about working for Mission?
After working in customer service at AWS for six years, I felt it was time for a change in my career. Others in my network had already transitioned to Mission and highly recommended it. I really enjoy working with Mission team members and their willingness to help.
Mission also offers a highly transparent work environment. We have weekly meetings, with leadership on the call talking about how different departments are doing, and how the company is doing overall. You know what everyone involved is thinking and saying because they are saying it in the meeting.
What got you into cloud computing? Are there any key moments along your career path that brought you to where you are today?
Initially, I had no knowledge or experience with cloud computing. I was just a computer nerd who knew a lot about computers. Then, a couple of years into AWS, I applied and got the concierge position, which introduced me to enterprise customers, and it was a different atmosphere than when I was working with SMBs in business support as a team lead. Now I had to take everything about cloud computing I learned in business support and turn the dial to 11 to provide support for some of the largest AWS customers. Before I recommended maybe one or two reserved instances (RIs) for customers, now I was providing recommendations for thousands of them, within multi-million dollar contracts.
I remember talking to a gigantic video game company releasing a new game, and they were talking about all these AWS cloud services, and things started to click like ‘Oh, this is what they’re using on the cloud. I get it now. This is why it’s important. This is what can happen.’ It was then I started connecting the dots and realized how all the AWS products and services worked together and the significant business benefits they provided.
What is FinOps, and what do you like about the field?
I like defining FinOps by talking about the challenge and how the term came into being. The AWS cloud has huge advantages, and one of those advantages is the ability to deploy new environments, at a low cost. But there is a new way of thinking when working on cloud spend. FinOps is the knowledge, techniques, and strategy to make sure what you spend in your cloud environment meets your goals, through removing idle resources, optimizing current resources, and then getting rates based on commitments to the cloud providers. While the AWS Well-Architected Framework is based on multiple pillars, FinOps focuses on the Cost Optimization Pillar, while keeping the others in mind.
And I don't just like the field, I love it! Helping customers turn their applications, and business ideas into something cost sustainable is very uplifting. Mission has a case study with Immunis.AI that I think is a perfect example, where we helped reduce costs, spend smart in the cloud, and now the company turned its idea into reality. Another example was a customer that had really strong cost optimization before talking to Mission. The customer told us about reinvesting their savings back into their employees with annual bonuses. I love to hear these types of success stories even if I'm not involved, about how customers saved money, and how they re-invest that money into their people, or new projects.
What is a typical day like working with customers in FinOps?
In FinOps, we make sure we are engaged with our customers, and that means having meetings to explain what we find. Our day usually starts with analyzing customer data, pulling out the details to provide cost recommendations on services, and putting it together in a presentation. Once the day gets moving, we meet with customers, discuss our recommendations, and answer any questions about their AWS environment.
How does Mission approach customer engagement regarding FinOps?
We’ll go through the customer environment and search for waste. The first time is difficult, and then it’s easier every month. The next part is determining whether your environment is set up the right way and then we look at savings plans, or commitments. We’re not just providing customers with a report, but talking about that report. I can definitely provide them with a written recommendation to change their instance types, but I also need to explain why. That’s why we want to have those meetings face-to-face
What should businesses know about FinOps? How does it help them to optimize their cloud spend?
When you work with a cloud managed services provider that offers FinOps, you’ll get an expert on the financial side of the cloud. With a partner doing all the work analyzing data and making recommendations, you just need to decide the plan for following those recommendations. This is more than just a reserved instance (RI) recommendation, it’s a review of all services and usage.
Customers get really excited about moving into the cloud and all the new tools and features they can use. Eventually, they’re going to wonder how to reduce the bill. Then they’ll look at a business intelligence tool like AWS Cost Explorer because it’s free with AWS. From there, customers want to know more specific things like why their Amazon EC2 or data transfer costs went up. These are great questions that we hear all the time. A partner will give you a deeper understanding of the condition of your environment. We’ll be able to provide more context than what you’d get from an AWS tool.
When you work with a FinOps Cloud Analyst, you don’t have to learn how to optimize costs yourself, you get answers. When you get these answers, you can just focus on making changes to your environment to get it to run more efficiently. You’re arriving at a decision point faster than you were when you were trying to do your own analysis. This allows you to focus on things like product development.
What are some things an organization looking to optimize its cloud spend can do?
You should focus on the usage of the environment instead of a dollar amount. The quick solution on how to reduce your bill might be purchasing RIs, or accepting some kind of cost reduction agreement. These might work in the short term, and they will definitely reduce your bill – sometimes up to 40%. But if your usage hasn’t changed, your invoice will creep back to where it was. So then, you’ll end up buying more RIs or sign up for a longer-term commitment with AWS to get a better rate. When really you should be focusing on AWS services like AWS Trusted Advisor that helps you find idle Amazon EBS volumes that you’re not utilizing and costing you money.
When you work with a partner like Mission, we’ll pinpoint the areas you’re spending money where you shouldn’t be. When we find those things, we’re helping customers save immediately. We’ll help you focus on eliminating waste, like those idle Amazon EBS volumes, or instances you’re not using. My team and I are here to help when questions arise, like whether to ‘change Amazon EC2 instance types to get a little lower cost with equal performance’ or ‘What caused my data transfer costs to go up?’ These are great questions that I hear all the time from our customers. What you get from a partner is a deeper understanding of where your environment is, and the tools to answer those questions that a native AWS tool alone might not have.
Cost optimization can be a difficult and time consuming process, especially the first time around. Also, trying to tackle this on your own when you’re not sure of what you are looking at or doing can end up causing more problems. You might not even be aware of all the areas of waste within your own cloud environment. But remember, you don’t have to go at this alone. Let someone like Mission help you optimize your environment and have confidence that your cloud is in good hands.
To learn more about how Jeremy McClay and his team of FinOps Cloud Analysts at Mission can help you spend less time on the financial management of your AWS environment, check out our AWS Cost Optimization and Governance and AWS Cloud Management pages. Mission is an AWS Premier Tier Services Partner.