AWS’ re:Invent ’22 wrapped up last week and I had the awesome opportunity to attend with a colleague. First off we had a fantastic time at all of the sessions, enjoyed the catered breakfast and lunch and then enjoyed nightly meals at all of the Vegas restaurants. I wanted to spend a bit of time in this week’s post to not only recap what we experienced but also share some thoughts that hopefully encourage more people to attend in ’23.

Arrival

Arriving at re:Invent the very first thing you need to do is get your badge and check in. This can happen in a few of the hotels or you can do it right in the airport. We chose the airport as the line was short it was super convenient as we rolled off the plane.

Second thing (once you check in) is to head over to the main Swag, Expos and launching area. This year it was at the Venetian Hotel. This is where you pick up the essential AWS Hoodie and any other swag they are passing out. It’s also really cool as you get a sense for just how many people are going to be attending for the week. I arrived on Sunday so just a tip but get there early in the afternoon so you have plenty of time to get these items knocked off the list so you aren’t scrambling during the conference to get Swag and get your bearings on how everything is going to go.

Backing up just a bit

In my opinion, the most essential thing you can do for your week is plan your sessions and get them blocked/reserved as soon as the catalog releases in the fall. What this means is that each session (breakout, chalk talk, workshop, builders showcase) is list in the catalog and only has so much seating space allotted to it. And you must reserve a spot in the session. Now some sessions don’t fill up and you can just walk up but every session I attended was full and it was sure a nice thing to have a reserved seat. My first time to re:Invent I was unaware and I waitlisted on many of the sessions I wanted to attend and ultimately only got into a few. And this year I saw some lines being 500 + people deep for only 10 or 20 spots. My point is, plan your week. Come up with a strategy. There are a few approaches I could come up with

  • Book all sessions for that day in the same hotel. This is what I did this year and I ended up taking some that were outside of my “track” but it was super easy
  • Plan around the keynotes. I didn’t attend them live this year because my calendar didn’t allow it. If keynotes matter to you … then leave ample time for traveling from the keynote to your session
  • Pick a track/course level and scale back your sessions to allow for more travel. I’ll probably do this next year honestly. Opt for less content but more targeted content
  • Roll the magic eight ball and enjoy the ride. 🙂

I’m sure you could come up with a bunch of others but I can’t underscore the importance of planning your week out and taking into account travel. I think I was in 5 hotels this week and I’m pretty sure that content was in 6 so I almost touched them all.

What each day looked like

I’m not going to bore you with each of the days I attended but wanted to sort of outline what a normal day looked like so you can plan accordingly

7 – 8AMEnjoy some free AWS catered breakfast
8 – 8:30AMTravel to my first session (I’ll talk about travel below)
9 – 12:00PMAttend 1 or 2 session
12 – 1:00PMEnjoy some free AWS catered lunch. You get the choice of boxed or hot lunch.
1 – 7:30PMMore sessions!
7:30 –Dinner with friends (this is on your own)

So as you can see, it’s a pretty busy day. But it also can be as light as you want. For instance, I blocked 3 hours on Wednesday to hit up the Expo. That’s where you can meet vendors, get more swag, or just bump into AWS community and employee contributors to chat about anything from storage, compute, serverless or whatever else you want to. Even cost savings 🙂

Traveling around

So this one is a big one. As your schedule is really dependent upon how you travel and how quickly. So AWS provides shuttles from hotel to hotel. Most of the time they are running about 15 – 30 minutes between venues so you need to keep that in mind as you plan your sessions.

Another option is the Las Vegas monorail I’ve got to be honest here. I was unaware this excited the first time I attended and this time I rode it probably 85% of the time. Each day during the conference it is 100% free and it gives you a little more flexibility in your stops and pick up times. I’ll be doing this again next and leverage the shuttles just as needed

Lastly, you can always walk! I took this option a couple of times as I just needed to hop from my base at the MGM to say the Mandalay Bay. Worked out just fine

Personal Favorite Sessions and Talks

  • Event Driven Architecture by @edjgeek. I’ve been following Eric on Twitter for a while and I just enjoy the way he shares, connects and delivers content. I’ve personally been doing EDA for a while so this talk was more about just seeing him live but I did pick up a nugget or two about Event Bridge I wasn’t aware of so I’ll all it a win win!
  • Chalk talks – this is more a broad category but I liked the smaller sessions where the presenters asked questions of the audience and also do some white boarding. I attended a session on DynamoDB Design Puzzles which I really enjoyed
  • Builder sessions – these are where you get to be hands on in a lab with the presenter and actually drive some of the tech around the cloud. I use these for things I haven’t done before or it hasn’t crossed my design thinking for whatever reason in addition to getting a more 1:1 block of time with the instructor if I’ve got a lot of questions about the topic. These can be so much fun
  • Architecting Secure Serverless Applications by @joshuaakahn. Even after doing serverless for many years, I picked up a couple of tips that I’m going to bring back into my current builds

Connecting with People

One of the most important things I found during the week is the chance to connect with people that you only know online or rarely see throughout the year. Often times when people visit I’m distracted by all of the “other” things I have to do around our office. But at re:Invent, I’ve got nothing else to do but take the time to spend with folks. This week I had the chance to connect with several Amazonians on everything from strategy, to individual service offerings and even talk some design about specific use cases I had. Can’t underscore this enough.

Members of the Data Team

Wrapping up the week

And what week wouldn’t be complete without a gigantic party! re:Play was hosted at the Las Vegas fairgrounds and was a multi-tented extravaganza that included lots of food, drink, games (dodgeball, wall climbs and more) and two live stages. Got to see Zach Person on one stage and Martin Garrix on the other. Was a really great time and an awesome way to wrap up the week. This happened on Thursday night and went until midnight so just a tip, book a noon flight on Friday

Final Commentary

I love re:Invent. Even with it jammed into the busiest of seasons of the year and in one of my least favorite of locations … the conference is so amazing. The sessions are great, they treat us all so well and most importantly it’s nice to be able to connect with people that you often only connect with online. Being “IRL” is just a nice pause from the digital world that my career has kept me in for the last 25 years. Don’t get me wrong, I love my code, cloud and slack … but nothing beats those times you want/need to be in person.

Bottom line, if you can make the time and spare the dollars, plan to sign up for ’23. You’ll have an amazing time and learn some things along the way.