Westin Seattle August 19-21
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, ...
Some of you might remember the above paragraph is taken from the start of A Tales of Two Cities by Charles Dickens written in 1859. It reflects what we are going through as AWS Developers Influencers today. Right now, we are on the precipice of the explosion of the use of the Cloud/Infrastructure/Services/Database/X as a Service. If you want to learn about the cloud and the concepts behind them - initially go for one of the big three - whether you're a Microsoft fan boi/girl (Azure), a Google disciple (GCP), or got for the standard bearer (AWS). There are other players and while they're up and coming, there's still plenty of room in the market for all. Remember, we have 20+ useful programming languages and I haven't seen any danger in consolidation yet.
As a Twitter and LinkedIn user, I usually follow tech news and read anything that might pique my interests whether it's about the emerging cloud market, architectural patterns, best practices, and accessibility. Because I've shared and openly blogged about my interests, did some talks on technical subjects, and engaged with the community at User Groups; I had somehow gotten an invitation to join a group of people to become AWS Database Heroes. This is an incredible honor and I'm trying my best to prove myself that I deserve to be a AWS Hero. The AWS Hero was set up to recongize those who are engaged with knowledge-sharing in the AWS Community.
As part of my invitation, I was asked to go to Seattle on AWS's expenses. In my mind, this is getting heady; thinking of all those things -- on THEIR dime, my knowledge, my passion, my enthusiastism, getting to engage with AWS celebrities-experts, and interacting with folks from AWS product teams. Holy moley. Now, this is cool! Before we attened, we had to sign a NDA (Non-disclosure agreement) so that way if any of the AWS teams disclosed what's on their roadmap that isn't ready for the public, we'd have to stay clammed up. "AWS Agent 007 reporting for duty." This is AWS's FIRST Developer Influencer Summit and I don't think the organizers don't even know what to expect either. I had imagined it to be more of a mini-re:Invent but with new stuff shared that hasn't been released to the public.
We had a group of initial AWS Database "cohorts" selected (we're not Heroes yet as of August!) and we shared topics for blog post ideas, quick start guides, future talks, and maybe something for Twitch. We all shared ideas among ourselves -- keep in mind, we're database experts, not serverless, or AI/ML, or whatever else there is out there -- and all of our topic ideas are vastly different. This tells me we're only tapping into the emerging cloud database market and no one database technology looks alike. The AWS database teams are virtually machines in releasing features during the year that made me wonder how they decide what to hold back for re:Invent.
Day 0, the day we all starting to arrive in Seattle -- we all went out to a bar for Happy Hour, then to a restaurant where we all finally met one other in the flesh. We all introduced one another over great pizza and drinks and I felt the bonding among us was instanteous. We all shared our stories on how we fell into being AWS experts and explained our passion for what we do. Suphatra Rufo, who spearheads the AWS Data cohort program, did a great job finding experts and making sure all of us jells together. While it was an exhilaring day flying in and meeting new folks, I had the energy to met even more folks (AWS celebrities, right?) over a nightcap at the hotel bar before retiring. We have a huge day of absorption ahead of us.
As an early riser, I, of course, woke up too damn early. Breakfast doesn't start until 8:45 or so. Checked in with work to be sure there's no fires to put out, satisifed, I decided to go for a short run to Lake Union and back. Seattle had autumn-like temps so that was nice. Back to do some odds and ends for work, finally it was the time to go to Day 1.
Day 1 started with a big room filled with 70 or so participants (thought there'd be 500!?) plus our AWS handlers. We all listened intently to the keynote speaker, Ian Massingham, then switched to speakers who showed slides introducing new goodies coming up in their respective domains (AI/ML, Containers, Serverless, Databases, etc). Some of the roadmap items they mentioned are too good to be true that I'm afraid my readers would not be able to handle it. (* in other words, cannot divulge yet) After a morning of presentations, we had lunch with Joe Idziorek, the guy who created DocumentDB. Joe shared advantages of using DocumentDB and how/why it was made. Neat how we had a glimpse of how the insides of AWS worked.
After lunch we had two more presentations to go through, one being the idea and how the AWS Hero program was formed with Ian M. and Ross Barich. They talked about what we can do as a community and provided some leadership & advocacy tips.
That afternoon, my group (the best group: AWS Database Cohorts!!) went outside (in Seattle?? Yup!) and sat on the lawn outside The Spheres -- what a setting -- took our shoes off, got comfortable, and discussed about what we can do on social media, as a community, and shared what the day meant for us. After a brief repreive back at the hotel, we all went marching along to The Spheres for food and drinks. The place is a virtual jungle in there with a nest to boot -- that was fun to experience! I pulled out my extrovert self and hobnobbed with other AWS experts from different group. Looking across the room at one point, I was looking at someone and I knew that person somewhere -- couldn't put a finger on it until I realized I saw her in a bunch of AWS videos! Now, that's what I call a celebrity sighting! As we have a more intense day the next day, time to head back to the hotel. As I entered the hotel, came across a sign for a hotel-organized group run in the morning -- mental note -- if I get up early, I'll do it.
The next morning I woke up with 15 minutes to spare to join the hotel group run. Perfect timing. Joined a small group running to Olympic Sculpture Park and back and in proper Seattle weather -- drizzling rain -- along the way we got to see the Seattle Space Needle and the foggy & spooky Puget Sound.
Day 2 starts with breakfast then being ushered into a side conference room where we discussed how we can do more community-led events, talked about what we can do to help the AWS Data Community at re:Invent, and doing some plain ol' side-splitting joking and bonding. We had database-oriented teams come in and do some presentations -- DynamoDB, ElastiCache, and RDS/Aurora. They shared their top-secret roadmaps and I know you will appreciate them! There were more talks at the main conference room, however we decided to bunker in and wrap up our work. To keep up our energy and momentum, we had food brought in while we continued our collaborations. (hey serverless cohorts -- we didn't go near pineapple pizza!)
The other teams went to the Living Computing Museum while we stayed behind and diligently worked until evening sets in. After we felt our tasks were done we breathed a collective sigh of relief and we started hugging and shaking hands and said our good-byes then and there as some have early flights the next morning. It was an exhausting day, but the best day! I really believe we got a good group of folks; some who are good with community engagement, some great with technologies, and some great with jokes.
Amazon/AWS provided tag teams of sign language interpreters the whole time and I am truly appreciative of them recognizing my needs. They truly go out of their way to make their customers happy and it reflects in their work as a whole and us individually. I had interpreters the whole time and if not for them I wouldn't be able to collaborate as well as I could since most of our work here was discussion-based and bouncing ideas off each other. THANK YOU AMAZON!! Another nice thing is that we weren't tied to our computers the whole time and that's what I think made the day go real well.
I want to offer special thanks to the following folks: Brendan Gramer who works as a UI/UX designer in Amazon for guiding me around the city the first afternoon and putting Suphatra in touch with the right folks in providing sign langage interpeters. Suphatra for the invite and believing in all of us Data Cohorts. S&P Global (+ da boss) for letting me go to the Summit, plus all of you cohorts for being such great people: Abhay, Alana, Alex, Álvaro, Brian, Matt, Rebecca, and Shannon.
Alrighty, time to stop, my laptop battery is drained and I'm sure yours is after finally gettting to the end of this blog.
Note: if you feel you're an AWS Database Expert and want to/already engage with the community, please reach out to any one of us; we want to know who you are!