AWS re:Invent 2019: Know before you go

By Helen Anderson

Heading to AWS re:Invent 2019? AWS Data Hero and Certified Cloud Practioner Helen Anderson shares her insider knowledge on making the most of your trip.

AWS re:Invent 2019 is only a few weeks away and promises to be a huge event, with more sessions on Databases and Analytics than ever before. Since there’s so much on offer, I’ve put together my top tips, and all the sessions, chalk talks and workshops I’m most excited about. I hope you find them interesting too.

#1 Don’t worry too much about where you’re staying

There’s a very regular and efficient bus service going between all venues. This year, the shuttles are running venue to venue between all of the sleeping hotels and the campus venues, with additional services during re:Play and major events. Check out the AWS Events app for near real-time transport schedules.

#2 Start planning

Spend some time looking through the session catalog and planning what you want to do for the week. This year, if you try and add sessions that you can’t get to in a reasonable time, the app will throw up an error. Try and plan your day around one venue; there are repeat sessions and overflow rooms throughout the week, which means you’ll have more than one opportunity to catch a session.

#3 Plan for a mixture of session types

Sessions are 60-minute lectures that can be at the 200 or 400 level, a high-level overview, or a technical deep dive. Sessions offer a great opportunity to explore services and projects you may not have so much experience in, and really get into those you do.

Here are some sessions I’m excited about:

ANT307 – Deep dive into Amazon Athena

This session covers the latest improvements to Athena, the serverless query service. I’m particularly looking forward to hearing more about concurrency, security, and query performance.

CMY304 – Data modeling with Amazon DynamoDB

Alex DeBrie, creator of DynamoDBGuide.com and an AWS Data Hero, will be running this session. We’ll learn the principles and steps to follow to model and structure data for DynamoDB.

ANT335 – How to build your data analytics stack at scale with Amazon Redshift

The team from Warner Bros will be leading this talk on how Redshift handles small datasets with large bursts of query activity, large datasets with complex queries, and a mix of frequently queried data and infrequently accessed historical data.


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#4 Get hands-on with Builders Sessions and Workshops

While sessions are recorded and available on YouTube later, the real value in re:Invent is getting some hands-on time by completing labs, and attending Workshops and Builders Sessions. This is the time to learn from the experts on a topic you’re interested in.

ANT413 – How to tame unpredictable analytics workloads with Amazon Redshift

This Builders Session is designed to offer a hands-on introduction to troubleshooting Amazon Redshift, as well as deploying solutions. Learn how to manage, monitor, and scale your data warehouse quickly and easily. You’ll also learn how to deploy and scale multiple independent clusters, and scale each independently to address different workload scenarios.

ANT404 – Build a single query to analyze data across Amazon Redshift & Amazon S3

This workshop covers the basics of this tiered storage model and outlines design patterns that you can leverage to get the most from large volumes of data. Learn how to build out your own Amazon Redshift cluster with multiple data sets to illustrate the trade-offs between the storage systems. You’ll also find out how to distribute your data and design your DDL to deliver the best data warehouse for your business.

ANT338 – Best practices for using popular BI tools with Amazon Redshift

In this Builders Session, Data Warehouse Specialist Thiyagarajan Arumugam will discuss tips and best practices to optimize Amazon Redshift with popular BI tools.

#5 Take notes to lock in your learning

Decide whether you want to take notes by hand, on a tablet, or on your laptop—and don’t forget your charger! Note that almost all sessions will be online at some point, but by blogging or making notes at the end of the day you’ll lock in your learning.

#6 Don’t forget the Expo

Make some time to visit the Expo area and the AWS Specialist area, where you can bend the ear of real, live AWS technical experts and ask them any burning questions you have, as well as meeting innovative AWS vendors and partners.

#7 Prepare for walking, walking, walking

If you’re walking between venues, plan for a 30-40 trek, including the walk through the casino, up the stairs, through crowds, and finally to the room. Invest in some comfy walking shoes for all the hiking you’re going to be doing during the week.

#8 Get Certified

AWS re:Invent is the perfect opportunity to get certified with an onsite exam, and if you need an extra boost, a Bootcamp to solidify your learning before tackling the test. If you pass, you’ll be eligible to go to the special AWS Certification Appreciation Reception. If you already hold a certification, you can RSVP for the reception now.


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#9 Give back

AWS re:Invent is also about giving back to the community, so don’t miss the chance to take part in a Hackathon and help build solutions to pressing real-world challenges. Hackathons are open to all skill levels, so be sure to reserve your seat and attend a mixer to build your team!

Even if you don’t want to hack for good, you can still give back by downloading the Fill it Forward app from the App Store or Google Play. With Fill it Forward, you can place the tag provided on the water bottle you receive at registration, and scan the tag with the app each time you refill it. As well as reducing waste from single-use cups and bottles, you’ll also help fund clean water projects with every scan.

#10 Don’t forget about networking

There’s more to re:Invent than learning from experts and sitting in on sessions: the social side of the conference is just as important. Get to know your fellow attendees at Midnight Madness on Sunday, one of Tuesday’s Restaurant Receptions, after-hours events on Wednesday, and get together with your peers at re:Play on Thursday to end the week with a bang.

About the author

Helen Anderson is a Business Intelligence Consultant based out of Wellington, New Zealand. A passionate advocate for data analysts, Helen is well known in the Data Community for writing beginner-friendly blog posts, teaching, and mentoring those who are new to tech. As a Woman in Tech and career switcher, Helen is particularly interested in inspiring those who are underrepresented in the industry.

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