My first AWS re:Invent

This year, I went to my first AWS re:Invent and I had a fairly good time. Prior to a few weeks ago, I was excited to check out my first re:Invent and I had heard stories about how awesome it is.

Unfortunately, during the week of Thanksgiving, my maternal grandmother had a stroke and my boyfriend and I travelled to Wisconsin from Austin, Texas. I was close to my grandmother (although not in recent years, sadly), but while I was in high school, I researched our family genealogy and I learned a lot about her family and about WWII.

I literally told my boyfriend about 20 times that I didn’t want or feel like going to Las Vegas for re:Invent. I didn’t pack for the event and I downloaded the mobile app, but I hadn’t opened it yet or looked up anything about the conference.

We stayed in Wisconsin until Sunday and although it was really difficult to leave with so much uncertainty, I decided to go to re:Invent because my mom thought it was a good idea and she knew how much I wanted to go and that I “should go”.

My boyfriend went with me because it was much cheaper for him to fly with me to Las Vegas than it was going home to Austin. We stayed for five days and although I’m really happy we were there, I will be very upfront and state that my heart and most of my brain was not ‘feeling it’ in Las Vegas. I don’t think I acquired much AWS-related knowledge while I was there, but I do appreciate the experience.

My Highlights of AWS re:Invent 2017

Breakout Sessions

I consider these to be the backbone of the conference. The mobile app and the website listed sessions in various categories, so one can easily pick out the sessions they’d like to attend. Signing up for a session to attend opened in October (I believe), but I failed to pay very close attention to this, so some of the sessions I wanted to attend were already full. I figured out very quickly that there were walk-up lines for sessions, but I also despise waiting and standing in line for 30 minutes or more. I also was informed that many sessions could be viewed online at a later time, so I didn’t worry too much about missing them.

#WePowerTech

AWS celebrates diversity and they had various activities to promote diversity in tech at the conference. I went to several of the We Power Tech series talks held on Monday and I found them to be my favorite sessions at the conference. I went to one panel on underrepresentation and bridging the racial divide in tech and the panelists were very candid and shared stories and experiences that were very eye-opening to me.

Tech Evangelist, Tara Walker, with panelists at “Underrepresented: Bridging the Racial Digital Divide”

In addition to attending the sessions, We Power Tech had a booth at the expo, a happy hour event, and all attendees of the sessions were given a free T-shirt and a free AWS certificate exam code to redeem.

A giant Echo & my free #WePowerTech t-shirt

Expo & Meals & Pub Crawl

One thing the AWS re:Invent was not short of was the amount of swag or food/drink one could consume. I went home with more than my share of t-shirts and socks. I also ate more food than I should have and enjoyed the free Diet Coke cans. A few days, I took the grab & go lunch box and because I never ate the cookie or chips, I always made sure on my walk back to my hotel room, that I offered them to the homeless guys who were sitting on the sidewalk. It was a small gesture, but I figured it was better to give it away than to waste it.

The pub crawl took place on Wednesday at both the Venetian and MGM Grand. I went to the MGM Grand and spent 2 hours walking to all the places on the crawl. I didn’t drink alcohol during the pub crawl, but I did enjoy countless diet sodas and delicious appetizers and snacks. I also got to socialize and meet some new people and it was overall, a fun experience.

Reflection Room

Reflection room at the Aria

Most people probably walked by this and didn’t think anything of it, but when I saw this, I had to stop and appreciate whoever had this idea, and also, I had to use it. For me, the world can be very loud and I am very sensitive and the stress of AWS and the noise of the crowd and conference and the DJs playing music was sometimes too much for me to take in. When I found this at the Aria, I was really relieved because it provided some peace and quiet from the rest of the conference.

Tweetup & Board Game Night

At the Venetian on Monday night, there was a board game meetup that I thought was pretty cool. I actually was encouraged to attend it because my boyfriend informed me that there was going to be a Hearthstone Fireside Gathering and that I could get Nemsy Necrofizzle as a hero, if I attended and played some games (I’m pretty new to Hearthstone, so I didn’t really care that much about going, but I went anyways). I have to admit, this event was a lot of fun and I would definitely attend a nightly board game meetup if AWS had this as an option. There were beverages and snacks provided and the crowd of people were pretty cool. Also, one of the hosts of the event mentioned that the board games AWS provided would all be donated the next day to a local organization, so I thought that was pretty awesome.

Tweetup & Board Game Night hosted by Amazon’s Social Media Team

Areas of Improvement: What I’d Like to Change For Next Year

There are various things I’d like to change and plan for next year. First, I’m going to re-read this article (or look for an updated one next year), and I’m going to plan out my trip a little bit better. Since I wasn’t sure if I was going to attend, we booked a hotel room at the last minute and I didn’t want to spend a lot of money, so we stayed somewhere that was very cheap. Next year, I’d like to stay at one of the resorts because I found that I was taking a lot of time out just walking back and forth to the MGM Grand just to get on the shuttle.

I also think that next year I will plan on attending 5–7 sessions in total and then spend time checking out other things. I spent a lot of time at the expo, but I didn’t get to check out much of the chalk talks or any of the bootcamps.

I am not a fan of crowds and I was afraid I wouldn’t get a seat, but I was able to see the keynote from Dr. Werner Vogels, and I look forward to seeing that again next year.

Keynote from Dr. Werner Vogels on Thursday morning

I also think that next year, I will focus more on socializing and networking. Although I wanted to be more peppy and social, my anxiety got the best of me and I really didn’t network and talk with people IRL as much as I felt like I should have. I also think that next year, I will try to spend a day before the conference and check out the area around Las Vegas. I’m not a fan of Las Vegas itself, but the mountains and scenery looked beautiful and I think I would have appreciated checking out nature while I was there.

Overall, I’m very happy to attend, although it was a hard time for me and I felt very tense and uneasy through most of the week. My boyfriend and I returned to Austin on Friday morning and we were both very relieved to be home and our cat-child was very happy to see us.

Sparrow (aka “Real Life Grumpy Cat”) — She doesn’t look it, but she was very happy we were home.

The day we got home, my grandma passed away. It was very hard news to hear. I am happy that I got to see her again, and I’m happy that I attended re:Invent, despite everything going on.

I look forward to attending AWS re:Invent next year and I hope that I get to meet more people, attend more events and check out more #WePowerTech stuff. I also have feel more enthusiastic about AWS now and I officially signed up for my first certificate exam for the end of January.

If you want, you can follow me and my AWS journey on Twitter at AWSNewbie, or if you’d like to message me, please contact me via LinkedIn.

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