How I Get the Most Out of AWS re:Invent 2018

I am not an expert, and I only went to re:Invent for the first time last year, but I have been to a quite a number of conferences over the years.

So here come my thoughts about making the most of the crazy week in Vegas.


The (regular) sessions

Contrary to what you might think, going to sessions where you have a speaker (or speakers) up on stage going through a slide deck, or a panel of speakers talking about a subject - is where you should be, is not a good use of your time.

There are currently 2358 sessions and activities listed on the portal (a good portion of them are repeats - but hell that is a lot of content)


Almost all of the sessions (I will get back this in a few minutes) are recorded and therefore can be consumed after the event - in the car, on the bus or train - or even in the air during your travels.

Here is a podcast feed ( for all 2017 sessions for your listening pleasure.

That is why you can spend your time better elsewhere.

The Builder / Chalk Talk / Workshop sessions

Here is where I would spend my time. The cost of re:Invent (if you paid the full price) is $1,800 for 4.5 days (Friday is a short day). These are the sessions that will not be recorded and where I will probably get the most benefit
(and here are some of my interests). The value I receive is from doing things that I learn from, not by being a passive listener, but by actively participating in a discussion or an activity.

Chalk talks

This is similar to getting a design session and time with an AWS expert in their field and diving deep into a specific subject. Most of the sessions are level 300/400 - which meant they are advanced and highly technical. The rooms are small - usually no more than 50-100 people and the participants there are usually people that are looking for a very specific answers about the journey they have embarked on - or are about to.

ARC210-R - SaaS Jumpstart: A Primer for Launching Your SaaS Journey
ARC213-R - Architecting for the Cloud
ARC216 - SaaS Operations: The Foundation of SaaS Agility
ARC301 - Cost Optimization Tooling
ARC306 - Breaking up the Monolith
ARC310-R - From One to Many: Diving Deeper into Evolving VPC Design
ARC317-R - Reliability of the Cloud: How AWS Achieves High Availability
ARC325 - SaaS Analytics and Metrics: Capturing and Surfacing the Data That’s Fundamental to Your Success
ARC326-R1 - Migrating Single-Tenant Applications to Multi-Tenant SaaS
ARC408 - Under the Hood of Amazon Route 53

Builder Sessions

Looking for some personal time with an SA on a specific topic, and even better - you get to build the solution at hand with the guidance from the expert on-hand. Pure learning experience.

ANT402-R - Securing Your Amazon Elasticsearch Service Domain
ARC415-R - Building Multi-Region Persistence with MySQL


Again - a hands-on learning experience - 2-3 hours of sitting down on a specific topic getting my hands dirty…

ARC404 - Designing for Operability: Getting the Last Nines in Five-Nines Availability
ARC315-R1 - Hands-On: Building a Multi-Region Active-Active Solution
ARC327-R1 - Hands-on SaaS: Constructing a Multi-Tenant Solution on AWS
ARC403 - Resiliency Testing: Verify That Your System Is as Reliable as You Think
CMP403-R1 - Running Amazon EKS Workloads on Amazon EC2 Spot Instances
DEV303-R2 - Instrumenting Kubernetes for Observability Using AWS X-Ray and Amazon CloudWatch
DEV306-R - Monitoring for Operational Outcomes and Application Insights: Best Practices
GPSWS402 - Continuous Compliance for Modern Application Pipelines
GPSWS407 - Automated Solution for Deploying AWS Landing Zone
NET410 - Workshop: Deep Dive on Container Networking at Scale on Amazon EKS, Amazon ECS, & Amazon EC2
SEC331-R1 - Find All the Threats: AWS Threat Detection and Remediation
SEC337-R - Build a Vulnerability Management Program Using AWS for AWS


Want to geek out and build something, play a game or solve a whodunnit quest? This is where I will get my game on.  Some are for fun, some are for fame, and others just for plain doing some good.

Giving back

Being at re:Invent is something that is fun, and usually something that can involve consumption of many things. Food, alcohol, entertainment and even your hard earned cash. Me being me - I prioritize giving back to others  as part of my daily life. Spending a week at a conference only receiving is not something I am comfortable with.
So as a result I will be spending some of my time here

The BackPack for Kids program provides bags of nutritious, single-serving, ready-to-eat food items each Friday to children who might otherwise go without during weekends and long breaks from school. Come by the Venetian Sands Foyer to get involved and help put together a backpack or two! Learn more about Three Square here.


Event though the keynotes can be consumed from a live stream - there is something about sitting in a room (or a huge hall) with a boatload of people - where Andy Jassy goes up on stage and bombards you with all the new features that are coming (some that will only be available sometime in the future). But still it is quite mesmerizing and if you have not been in one of these keynotes - I would suggest you go. It is quite an experience.

The Certification Lounge

As Corey Quinn just wrote a few days ago

it’s a $100 lounge pass with a very odd entrance questionnaire

If you have an AWS certification - go to the lounge - it is a place to get away from the other 49,000 others in the hallways and the constant buzz around you.

The Expo

Do not under any circumstances miss going to the Expo floor. To really make proper use of the floor - I would say you will need a good 6-8 hours of your schedule (don’t do it one shot though). Go to the vendors, especially the smaller ones that don’t have the huge booths. Look at your competition, speak to people, make yourself known. Yes you will be bombarded after the show with sales calls - but all it takes is a simple “Sorry not interested anymore” and most vendors will leave you be.

Social media

I don’t think I could get by without following what is going on in Twitter.
I have a search column dedicated for re:Invent (already for the past month)


I will also be checking the og-aws Slack channel to co-ordinate snark about the announcements and on-goings at the event and also some face to face meetings with some of the people that I only have met through their avatars.

(And as always the great set of posts at the Guide of Guides is invaluable.)

See you all in 2 weeks!