AWS re:Invent 2017 Report: On-site Activities Such as Workshop, Hands-on and JAM Session rather than Presentations

Hi, I'm Toshi from Cloud Product Development Division. I work as a software engineer at HDE.

This year HDE sent 6 software engineers to AWS re:Invent 2017 held in Las Vegas from November 27 to December 1. In this article, I would like to share my experience from this big conference. Since many videos and slides of presentations are already available, I will focus on on-site activities I had instead of presentations which you can watch right now.



Before referring to contents, I must mention a general activity that every attendee had: walking. A big conference usually requires walking from one room to another. On the other hand, AWS re:Invent requires walking from one huge complex to another. As you can see in the campus guide, AWS used 6 venues this time. Although we had checked the distance between the venues beforehand, it was way farther than we had expected. It took 30 minutes on average from door to door on foot. In addition, it took 15 minutes or more from the door you reached to a room you need to enter!


Reservation Strategy

Every attendee had to reserve sessions in advance; otherwise, you would be in a walk-in queue, which would waste a bunch of time. Since there were so many attractive sessions, we tended to reserve them at random. However, it is a bad idea to reserve sessions held in various venues because of walking time. In my opinion, walking 2 times in a day is the maximum. If you need to move more than 3 times in a day, you will waste time and your essential energy. So I recommend reserving popular sessions without caring about their locations at first and then checking reserved sessions to make sure of their locations and distances between sessions. Also, it is worth checking them from time to time because AWS keeps adding more sessions during the event.


Hands-on, Workshop, JAM Session rather than Presentations

Sessions include various contents like presentation, hands-on, workshop, hackathon, etc. As you can watch right now, presentations basically become available on the Internet after the conference. So I decided to reserve on-site activities rather than presentations as much as possible. Let me share what I have experienced.

Hands-on (AWS Glue, kubernetes)

I attended two hands-on sessions.

These were self-paced hands-on sessions, as you can see it in the slides above. The session organizer gave us a short presentation and shared a link to the hands-on documentation. The attendees, then, focused on it at their own pace. The documentation is well-written and everyone can give questions to the staffs. So you need not worry about your knowledge.

Hands-on sessions allow you to learn new things at your own pace. Moreover, attendees had enough time to talk to the AWS people about their own problems as well. I saw some attendees having deep discussions with them. They seemed to get some insights by talking to them.

Workshop (DeepLens)

I could attend a workshop of DeepLens.

NEW LAUNCH! AWS DeepLens workshop: Building Computer Vision Applications - MCL212 - re:Invent 2017

Everything had been set up on the table and attendees just tried to detect hotdog and send a notification via SNS message with a given documentation.

Since it is a new device, the entire workshop was just like a test site. Attendees gave many questions about the potential of DeepLens to the product team. Surprisingly, they gave away a DeepLens to each of the attendees who attended the DeepLens workshop. They haven't even put the DeepLens on sale yet! There was a trick to attend this kind of workshop.


Competition of Booking Workshop

DeepLens was announced in AWS re:Invent 2017 Keynote: Andy Jassy. After the keynote speaker mentioned DeepLens, DeepLens workshops popped up in the session list within 20 minutes or less. I luckily found it during the keynote session and there were 16 DeepLens workshops available. All the 16 sessions were reserved in less than 15 mins! I heard that every new session during the conference was walk-in last year whereas we needed to reserve it this year. An attendee told me that he expected a walk-in non-reserved queue only for the workshop, so he missed the session because he could not secure a seat. Keep a close eye on the session list during the keynote sessions, it might be updated with new sessions!

JAM Session

I attended a JAM session.

There were several kinds of JAM Sessions. All-In JAM is:

This is the opportunity to go all-in game on AWS – migrate data, re-platform and learn DevOps. This is blog-trotting adventure where you tackle technical challenges to close a series of data centers around the world as you embark on your journey to go All-In on AWS.

All attendees made a small team and competed for points which were given for solving challenges. AWS gave us access to a sophisticated website that was integrated with Qwiklabs. This JAM Session was also kind of a self-paced hands-on because I can also discuss a problem with teammates. Since the website could issue a new AWS account via Qwiklabs for each challenge, the working AWS environment was always clean and it gave me better understandings.

This was my first JAM session and I could only solve one challenge. The website actually provided clues but I did not know it until the session ends... If I can attend re:Invent again, I will have my revenge on these JAM sessions!


Talk with a Speaker after the Presentation

Whereas I believe that on-site activities are better than usual presentations that I can watch later, presentations are still worth attending if you talk with a speaker afterward.

I attended one of the presentations given by CodePipeline product manager, Curtis Bray.

After the presentation, many people always went to the stage and made a circle with the speaker and product team members who stayed in the room. I joined this circle and gave a question to one of the team members. They kindly welcomed any questions and feedbacks even though I can not speak English fluently. I also recommend joining this conversation even if you do not have a question. I could get what kinds of problems attendees were facing and how AWS product team responded to them. It might give you an inspiration.

Other Activities (IoT booth, Pub Crawl, re:Play, Casino, etc...)

There were many other on-site activities besides the ones written above.

f:id:doi-t:20171128090922j:plain IoT booth was so fun. There were many use cases of Alexa and AWS IoT services that I could actually touch.

f:id:doi-t:20171129190612j:plain Pub Crawl gave us a good chance to talk with other attendees. We shared our own experiences of AWS to each other.

f:id:doi-t:20171130233801j:plain re:Play was awesome!

... and I lost some money in Casino (Be careful. Blackjack is too fun).

Be Ready for re:Invent 2018

We enjoyed re:Invent 2017 so much. AWS has already announced the next re:Invent, November 26 - 30 in Las Vegas. I'm personally thinking to attend it even by myself to have my revenge on the JAM Sessions if possible. :-) I hope this report gives you some hints, so that you will be ready for AWS re:Invent 2018. Thank you for reading!