From November 24th till December 1st, I was in Las Vegas to attend AWS re:invent for the first time.

AWS logo

The conference did not start until Monday, but I flew over a bit earlier to meet up with a friend who I worked with earlier in IBM Cloud. Hanging out with him and his girlfriend over the weekend was awesome. We had a chance to catch up and connect again as well as being able to do some exploring. The thing I liked most was the trip we took to the Grand Canyon. Cannot recommend it enough! The 2-hour drive over there is nice and being in the Grand Canyon is nothing short of spectacular.

Nate and me

Monday, the conference started and I was attending it together with a colleague from Amazon. I was mostly interested in serverless and CDK. Unfortunately, and even though I was warned, I procrastinated on registering for the sessions I was interested in so I did not get to see or do everything I wanted.

The sessions I did manage to attend were really good and all of the speakers delivered a great talk. The talks I attended were also on point. Sometimes in conferences, there are talks that only really touch on the commonalities everyone already knows and they devolve into some strange marketing pitch where the speaker is basically just reading out loud whatever the sales team put together. This was not the case for my sessions. I walked away from most of them with new ideas on how to do stuff and they got me thinking about things I could improve on next time I launched something.

Two other things that I really enjoyed were the self-paced labs and the interactive sessions. The self-paced labs were absolutely brilliant. I did 5 or 6 and they were pretty involved and very well crafted. In one of them, I had a lambda listen to data coming off of a Kinesis shard. Then update a DDB table to have that stream updates to another lambda that would update yet another table. Another example of a lab I did was where I used AWS glue to crawl a bucket and transform the data prior to putting it into a database and then creating an Amazon Quicksight dashboard from that data. Just 2 completely random examples, but I hope it shows that the type of labs available are just a really fun way to explore what AWS has on offer and how you can build things with it. There are also experts in the room that you can reach out to and ask for help. I sat the self-paced labs together with a coworker and it was just great hanging out together.

The other thing I really enjoyed was the interactive sessions. I did 2 that involved the CDK and I really loved them. I sat them together with a colleague and it was just fun. Some chitchat while you work on the scenario’s on offer. Really recommended!

Walking around in Vegas on the strip was fun too. It was not the first time for me in Vegas and generally, I kind of view the whole spectacle as a bit much and over the top. Despite that, I still enjoyed it. Especially the time we passed the Las Vegas High Roller and someone saw we were wearing our conference badges. She yelled ‘he we have a no-show, you two wanna join? Open bar and all’.

Hell yeah! I may have downed a dark and stormy or 5 too many. The culinary highlight was definitely the Hakkasan. The food was amazing and I will let the pictures at the end speak for themselves.

The only really bizarre thing was that there was someone standing in the restroom the entire evening. As soon as I entered the restroom, he would walk up and say something like ‘he buddy, anything you need, I will take care of it ok? Just let me know. He where you from? You ok?’

And then after exiting the restroom, while walking up to the faucet to wash my hands, he would hurry and make sure he was there first and press the soap dispenser for me. An absolutely useless and awkward addition. Despite this though, do check it out and reserve your spot there and get a few ‘Han Dynasty’ cocktails. They are brilliant.

Some short tips to make the most of your stay for AWS re:invent:

  • Check all the session in advance and make a list of session you want to join
  • Ensure that the sessions are in the same hotel or that there is enough time for you to shuttle to the session in the next hotel
  • As soon as registration opens, select all the sessions you want to attend immediately. Don’t think ‘I will get to this next week’, chances are your favorites are gone
  • Consider spending a day extra and visit the canyon
  • Go with 1 or more colleagues. Had I attended the event alone, I am not sure if I would have liked it as much. There are tens of thousands of attendants, so I did not feel a type of vibe where things are intimate and setup to easily connect to others.

Here is a little impression of the trip:

Vegas Vegas Vegas Vegas Vegas Vegas Vegas Vegas Vegas Vegas Vegas Vegas Vegas Vegas Vegas Vegas Vegas Vegas

Hakkasan Hakkasan Hakkasan Hakkasan Hakkasan