So, I spent another week at AWS Re:Invent
Another AWS Re: Invent in the bag. I feel much more rested and energized following this event than I have previously. Las Vegas can be exhausting. Even for those like me who would prefer to read a book than to enjoy in all the adult activities the city has to offer. For the most part, I stayed focused on networking, learning, and brand building. I met a few interesting people. Learned a few new things. Affirmed things I already knew or suspected. And on balance, came away slightly better off than I did before I started. Am I $1700 better. No. But better nonetheless.
Below are a few of my key observations from the event that summarize my sentiment.
Blazers and Chinos. Lots of it. I always feel like I go to these events a bit under-dressed. I don’t bring any dress trousers, suit apparel, or blazers. Conferences are my opportunity to chill and be myself in a relatively professional setting. I try to keep it casual. Jeans. Tee shirts. Maybe a Henley. Things that say. I am here for knowledge and insights and not selling. I know I should likely step it up a few notches but sometimes you need to meet customers where they are and how they are. I try to be approachable. There were lots and lots of blazers. To me this kind of screams, “Casual is so uncomfortable for me. But I will compromise and meet you halfway.” I generally refer to this as ‘consultant uniforms’. I probably shouldn’t criticize being a consultant and all. But a little humility and self-deprecation can go a long way.
Ugh. Skrillex. I have an appreciation for all music. Particularly 90’s pop, classic rock, indie, and techno music. Surprise. Surprise. I thoroughly enjoy the Diplo, Electric Area, BPM, and Chill stations on Sirius Radio. With that said, Skrillex is not my thing. If you like his music, god speed. Your experience at the Re:Play likely fulfilled some creepy fantasy. If you are like me, and don’t have an appreciation for his “sound”, then you left the event after the first 10 minutes. Naturally I did not leave without snapping a few awesome pictures. Your music is not entertaining for me but your visual effects made for some great photo ops. Keep it up!
Demo hall Swagu. Thanks Kanye. Every year, vendors pull out the stops for swag and technology giveaways. This year I had a vendor even drop off a flier directly to my hotel room for a Nintendo Switch giveaway. Unfortunately, I already had a Switch, else I would have been all over that. My company swag was a little underwhelming this year. Soft cotton t-shirts, shoelaces, and socks. Meh. I was thinking that the swag level should be exclusive and premium. I was thinking something along the lines of corporate designed Gucci belts, luxury bag, or high-end tech gear (more practical). In addition to things that are bold and really standout. Digitized hoodies and t-shirts. Yes please. Something that screams creativity and audacity yet at the same time is stylish and logical. I saw some people walking around with light sabers. Novelty gifts aren’t really my thing. The crowd has an appreciation for the novel. Thankfully swag strategy is not my responsibility.
Design me a Castle. The people at AWS are generally a mix of technical engineers and developers. Depending on your role, the experience that you have may vary. I don’t fall into either camp. I am primarily there to observe. In my opinion there was sufficient content for both developers and engineers. Everyone should have enough homework to keep them busy for a few weeks or months when they return from the conference. I like to go to sessions that are a bit more technically deep than what I am comfortable with to better understand gaps that I can help address in the market. It also gives me good perspective into the various cloud architectures deployed. To me the architectural diagrams alone are worth their weight in gold. If all you do is take photos of architecture the admission fee pays for itself – depending on what you are trying to do.
Staying Alive. In typical AWS fashion, dozens and dozens of new services are introduced leading up to and during Re: Invent. This likely means that many of the services that you have been selling or developing are now officially obsolete – or soon to be. Whether you tell your customers that for another 6 months is up to you…but you know! I really appreciate the Amazon model of competing with their vendors and customers. It forces companies to constantly rethink their services and value proposition and get in front of AWS. If you fall behind, you will likely come crashing down. Slowness has no place in the cloud.
Pitch Competition. The one thing that I really appreciated about the event were the smaller, startup type vendors, who would send their relationship and sales people around the floor to drum up business via alliance partnerships. Occasionally, I would get approached by a business developer looking to pitch me their wares. I may have been the right person but often I would defer them to someone else to talk to. There are channels to go through for this type of thing, demo presentations at a corporate booth are probably not the best one. Nonetheless, for some I truly listened and learned a little bit about where people are carving out niches for themselves in the cloud. For those who are truly depending on the event for brand awareness and alliances – find out what those channels are in advance and have a plan.
Re: Invent 2018 was something special. I split my time between company sponsored activities and a few sessions related to cloud economics, retail, and analytics. I observed how others interact with my employer. And furthered my knowledge of technical areas that I am already familiar. I also filled in some of the gaps regarding how to make the economics model of cloud work. It is a bit more complex than hypothesized. Where there is complexity, there is also opportunity. I also had a little fun. Made a little money. And avoided the Las Vegas shenanigans. I left excited for everything to be over and ready to get after it.
As always, I am excited to learn about the experiences of others. If you have any thoughts, feel free to leave a comment.