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AMELIA HOUGH-ROSS for AWS Community Builders

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Recapping Re:Invent 2023

The yearly AWS Re:Invent conference is truly a labor of love. Those who repeatedly attend look forward to it for many months, and then spend a few months recovering. After the American Thanksgiving holiday, we all descend upon Las Vegas and are quickly reminded of all the walking, networking, amazing content, and wonderful surprises that arise during the week.

Some of us old timers remember the year it was held in October and when it was small enough to fit into the Venetian and Sands Expo Center. This year, Re:Invent was a true joy because earlier in 2023, I joined the AWS Community Builders. In past years, I have usually been on my own, the only attendee from my organization, and I have spent much of the week making friends as I go, and eating with random strangers who inevitably become solid LinkedIn contacts. But it was always an empty feeling when I went home, never sure if the connections would materialize or continue into the next ReInvent.

The AWS Community Builders program has significantly changed my return from Re:Invent to one of invigoration. I felt fulfilled knowing my connections would lead to more projects and conversations.

To understand my journey this year, I’ve shared my daily play-by-play for Re:Invent.

Flying American Airlines was so painful this year due to mechanical issues on both my flights, missed connecting flights, and lack of access to food. After being awake for 12 hours, I finally made it to Las Vegas. This trip is normally a 5-6 hour direct flight. It didn't need to be this hard. Note to self, fly direct, to avoid connections and missing all the fun with AWS Community Builders.

Re:Invent CheckIn

Grabbing my badge at the airport was the fastest I can remember in recent years, luggage was waiting for me, and there was no wait for a cab, and the hotel was amazing enough to grant me a room early. I was wrecked after being up for so long and figuring out new flights, so I had a laydown and rested before going to pick up swag.

Swag Pickup

The peace of Sunday night in the Sands Hall was appreciated because hoodie and water bottle pickup were easy and uncrowded. I met up with a friend and noted Jeff Barr was meeting with people. I met Jeff for the first time this year and thanked him for his support of the AWS Community Builders. This was my first time riding the Datadog slide, with a picture worthy of cringe. Met with folks I only see once a year, and planned my schedule for Monday.

DataDog Slide

Jeff Barr

There were so many choices for wonderful sessions all at the same time, that tough choices were made, however, the universe stepped in to validate my choices in many ways. First, I tried yoga at 6:30 am, which was one of the most popular events all week. Sad to say, the doors were closed when I arrived. Many other folks missed out on this as well. AWS got the message, and I think next year there will be a larger space to support mindfulness and a retreat space. Missing Yoga meant I was in the right place at the right time to talk to AWS contacts who recommended Experience Based Acceleration (EBA’s) as a means of migrating some on-prem projects into the cloud for sharing as open source. This looks like something my team will benefit from and I’m going to be exploring this in the coming weeks. Additionally, I have some new ideas for hackathons and ways to showcase our cloud-smart focus with the support of our leadership team.

My first session after breakfast was a workshop and thus not recorded. ENU301 – Using Generative AI on AWS to Accelerate Energy Solution Development. The session was not what I had in mind, not in a bad way, just different. It was more of an overview to understand what type and style of questions would lead to better results from Anthropic's Claude model. The session consisted of 2 parts and I was able to head over to Mandalay Bay for the Women in Tech programming.

Arriving at Mandalay Bay was super easy in the morning, and took ~15 minutes. Traffic was light. It took me a few tries to get my bearings once inside the facility since there is a "north" and "south" area, but it soon became easy to navigate and I attended a Women in Tech panel.
After the panel, many of us waited for an awesome networking lunch.

I met many strong women from all over the USA and we were discussing new employer benefits including egg freezing and reproductive support. These are great conversations and make the women's content so valuable. (At what other tech conference can you talk about reproductive benefits?) After lunch, I checked out the AWS Escape Room for Certified Cloud Practitioners and successfully escaped the toothbrush factory, and then spent some time in the Expo to chat with a few vendors.


I chose to hang in my room to stream Adam Selipsky's Keynote so I could listen and submit a few month-end reports for work. I was happy that some of Adam's announcements were related to previews granted to AWS Community Builders. Check out the top announcements here

After the keynote, I traveled to MGM Grand for a luncheon with Pluralsight at the SkyLofts to visit with old friends, Faye Ellis and Drew Firment. I saw Ryan K. too! As a two-time Guru Of The Week from the A Cloud.Guru days, I enjoy learning what's changing within the Pluralsight platform.



On my way back from MGM, I saw Brooke Jamieson in passing and then ran back to talk to her. I shared my partyrock apps with her and she gifted me a friendship bracelet (secret swag) based on PartyRock apps created in advance of the Re:Invent launch.

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In the evening I met with fellow AWS Community Builders at the Mixer in Buddy V's. This was a wonderful opportunity to meet new friends, say Hi! to old friends, and learn about future support within the Community program. Oddly enough, I received outreach to help set up a local User Group in my city. So all the things came together this evening for a wonderful night catching up over good food and drinks. There was even more secret swag, if you know, you know!

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Today was tough! I had a game day and a women's mixer with the Community Builders at the same time. The mixer won out as did playing the Builders Card Game and a return to Mandalay Bay for the first AWS Jam & Escape Room. During this Re:Invent, I was investigating gamified learning options to bring back to my organization.

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I chose to listen to Werner Vogel's keynote, and found it enjoyable. I appreciated his sentiments and felt his message echoed discussions I've been having with peers related to cloud architecture, technical debt, and billing. Check out highlights here

After the keynote, I was scheduled to record a video for AWS Skillbuilder marketing which was a lot of fun to shoot; keeping my fingers crossed it will turn out well!

After the interview, I was back on the bus to Mandalay Bay for my final AWS Gameday with PartyRock. This was one of the better gamedays for me personally as well as for my team. We finished in the top 3 and had first place for a bit. I took on a challenge and was able to answer the questions, despite the coding portion not working out as I had planned. The whole experience was lots of fun, and I can't wait for next year's Re:Invent to see what new challenges exist. Jeff Barr even stopped by our GameDay!

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Re:Play Party

Everyone knows Thursday night is the AWS Re:Play party with great performances and bigger-than-life games. The games were paired back this year, while the music was off the hook. I enjoyed dancing with friends to Major Laser and running into old friends from Cleveland. It was a fun night and one that didn't go too late, which helped me get to sessions on Friday.

I usually depart on Friday to head home, but this year the flights were better to leave first thing on Saturday. This meant I could attend sessions on Friday, and I am glad I did! Hearing from
Clare Liguori was amazing! DOP228
Her story and presentation were engaging and I learned a few things about Q that I wouldn't have gathered otherwise. The session also allowed me to witness the excitement of many developers to hear from a woman in tech. This session and the experience, made my day!

I returned home on Saturday with minimal flight issues, although I came close to missing my connection due to delays. Again, note to self, fly direct next year!

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