6 Breakout Sessions I Plan on Attending at re:Invent 2019

AWS re:Invent is just around the corner and will bring together tens of thousands of attendees from around the world, including professionals in the cloud computing community, journalists covering the industry, and others interested in learning about the latest developments and best practices in cloud computing.

This year’s event, slated for December 2-6, 2019, will be held in Las Vegas and will host over 2,500 breakout sessions, workshops, chalk talks, and builder sessions covering AWS core topics and emerging technologies. With approximately 43k attendees in 2017, over 50k in 2018, and more expected to attend the 2019 event, it’s the biggest cloud event of the year.

I’ve been attending AWS re:Invent since the launch of the very first one in 2012. Developers in the cloud world have referred to re:Invent as a “Koolaid party and a great forum for learning.” And as the CEO of IOD, a tech content research firm, there is really no better place to gain insight on trends and make meaningful connections with new clients and strategic partners. I’ve witnessed first-hand the conference’s growing success, which has paralleled the rapid development of the cloud computing world.

Each year, the number of breakout sessions has increased and the lines to these sessions have gotten longer. That’s why it’s critical to plan your schedule in advance to ensure you don’t waste valuable time waiting in lines for sessions that may not be relevant to you.

While re:Invent is popular among developers, engineers, system architects, and other technical decision makers, it also has quite a lot to offer marketers like me. Let’s take a closer look at why marketers should allocate time and resources to attend the event, despite the fact that the sessions are not directly marketing-related.

Why Attend AWS re:Invent Breakout Sessions as a Marketer

All too often, there’s a disconnect between marketing departments and tech teams, which makes it difficult for marketers to truly understand their product or service and the needs of their target audience. Running a company that offers high-quality tech content focused on cloud, DevOps, data engineering, cybersecurity, and AI, requires an understanding of the subject matter we’re dealing with and the needs of our customers. Delving into the world of IaaS and AWS are an important part of this learning process.

Every year, I fly halfway across the globe to attend re:Invent in order to expand my expertise in the field; to educate myself on the latest AWS updates, products, and trends; and provide my clients with better, more valuable content. Brushing up on my knowledge in the field strengthens my connections with the tech professionals we work with and helps me better serve my clients.

Marketing professionals don’t need to become experts, but we need to be able to identify and recruit experts with hands-on experience in these fields and to work with them effectively. And as a content strategist, listening to these talks tips me off to new ideas for blogs and white papers to suggest to our current clients.

This year, I’ve decided to reserve spots at a number of different breakout sessions focused on  topics I believe will give me a good overview of where the industry is headed. Below are some of the sessions I’m excited to attend.

1. DevOps Essentials: Introductory Workshop on CI/CD Practices

This workshop will focus on continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD) and how to leverage AWS services to improve productivity and reduce time to market when deploying new product capabilities. I’m looking forward to learning more about best practices for making the software release process faster, automated, and more reliable. I’m also interested in expanding my knowledge about AWS developer tools and third-party solutions, such as AWS CodeCommit, AWS CodeBuild, AWS CodePipeline, and Jenkins. We write about these topics often for our clients at IOD, and I’d like to learn more about the latest features, trends, and best practices.

Scheduled for: Thursday, Dec 5, 3:15 PM – 5:30 PM

2. Amazon’s Approach to Running Service-Oriented Organizations

What is a “two-pizza team”? The term was first coined by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos during the company’s early years, with the idea that teams should never be bigger than what two pizzas can feed no matter the company’s size. This methodology has stood the test of time and is still relevant more than two decades later. Smaller teams connect and communicate more efficiently, are more productive, and drive innovation.

When I first entered the field of tech content, it was a one-man show, but even as the firm grows and we add more teams, the “two-pizza” rule is something I still implement and strive for.  This session, I hope, will offer valuable insights about the challenges enterprises face when managing thousands of micro-teams and how to implement strategies to coordinate efficiently at scale without stunting innovation or compromising on the quality of the service offered.

I’m also curious to see how mature the AWS user base is when it comes to microservices and service-oriented organization.

Scheduled for: Monday, Dec 2, 10:00 AM – 11:00 AM

3. Amazon.com: Enterprise Database Migration at Scale

Large data-oriented companies like Amazon aggregate and analyze massive amounts of data every day in order to provide their customers with more personalized experiences and services. Moving databases at scale is challenging. The larger the database, the higher the risk. This is something some of our clients’ services and products are out there to address, so the subject is of particular interest to me and attending will allow me to be more in-tune with their needs.

The session will cover the use of AWS database services like Amazon DynamoDB, Amazon Aurora, Amazon RDS, and AWS DMS (Data Migration Service) in order to achieve “database freedom.” Another part I’m looking forward to are Amazon’s “lessons learned” from peak retail events such as Prime Day, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday. With the session scheduled just a couple of days after Cyber Monday, it should, I expect, offer fresh insights.

Scheduled for: Wednesday, Dec 4, 4:45 PM – 5:45 PM

4. Transform the Way You Search and Interact with Enterprise Data Using AI

Natural language processing (NLP) is a field that has really taken off in recent years. The machine learning technique is used in search engines to provide a more intuitive way to search vast amounts of data using natural, everyday language. This session will explore how NLP can help build enterprise search solutions and improve customer service and knowledge sharing across departments.

I attended a number of AI-related breakout sessions last year, but there’s been significant progress in the field since then. As enterprises struggle to adapt to the new world of AI,  with new data-related positions being added (e.g., chief data officers (CDO) and teams of data scientists) and AI becoming a part of our daily work lives, this session really peaked my interest. Meeting AI experts and learning about how this transformation is affecting companies and the products and services available will be of great benefit.

Scheduled for: Tuesday, Dec 3, 1:00 PM – 2:00 PM

5. Predict Future Business Outcomes Using Amazon Forecast

With AI/ML trending, startups and enterprises are turning to us to generate content on the subject. Amazon Forecast uses machine learning and time-series data to produce forecasting models capable of highly accurate predictions. This session will discuss how machine learning is being used to improve forecast accuracy. With constant advancements in the field, it’s important to stay on top of the latest industry developments.

Scheduled for: Tuesday, Dec 3, 2:30 PM – 3:30 PM

6. Bonus Session: Marketing Your Open-Source Project

This session caught my attention because of the person who will be leading it: Deirdré Straughan. Deirdré is the Open Source Content Lead at AWS. She also manages the AWS Open Source Blog and @AWSOpen Twitter handle, and is a certified AWS Speaker. At this hands-on session, Deirdré will be sharing insights from her 30 plus years of experience creating open-source marketing at scale, including developing outline plans, content, and social media.

AWS is very deliberate in how it invests in open source. There seems to be a contradiction between the world of open source and commercial vendors such as AWS, but in reality, AWS supports, accelerates, and greatly contributes to it. It will be fascinating to hear what she has to say and see how she meets the challenge of generating content in this arena that combines both open source and AWS.

Scheduled for: Monday, Dec 2, 3:15 PM – 4:15 PM

What Happens in Vegas Doesn’t Stay in Vegas

This will be my eighth consecutive year attending AWS re:Invent. From the very first year, the event has proven to be of great value to me as a marketer. In any field, staying up-to-date is key for professional growth and relevance.

Attending the breakout sessions, learning about the latest industry developments, making valuable connections with professionals in the field, and many thought-provoking discussions have always made the long trip worth it. I’m sure the event won’t disappoint this year either.

What happens in Vegas won’t stay in Vegas. I will take this knowledge with me, apply it, and use these valuable insights to help my company and my customers grow and succeed. If you’re headed there too, reach out to me on Twitter. Maybe we can meet up!

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