AWS re:Invent 2019

Attending AWS re:Invent 2019 with We Power Tech

During the first week of December, I attended AWS re:Invent 2019, Amazon Web Services’ annual tech conference hosted in Las Vegas. This year, it hosted 65,000 attendees from all around the world! There are countless events, keynotes, sessions, and product announcements over the course of the week, alongside concerts, DeepRacer tournaments, and wing-eating contests.

This year’s re:Play concert event featured Anderson .Paak, as well as A-Trak, Jamestown Revival, Jen Lasher, Miya Folick, and STS9! (Sorry to say, I don’t recognize even a single artist in this list… Woops.) There were 4k and 8k races, pop-up playgrounds, ping pong tournaments, and philanthropy activities.

All in all, it’s a tornado of a week, jam packed with events, announcements, and networking for cloud-enthusiasts around the world. You can watch all of the Keynotes and featured product announcements on the AWS re:Invent 2019 Announcement Page!

AWS re:Invent: December 2~6 2019 in Las Vegas, Nevada

If you know anything about AWS re:Invent, you might know something else about it: It’s BLOODY EXPENSIVE.

The full conference pass was $1,800 for 2019, and that doesn’t even begin to include the other costs associated with booking a stay at one of the largest conferences in the world. Hotels, flights, and ground transportation all make a hefty dent in your wallet, not to mention the overpriced food and drinks available everywhere. Without a corporate backing from your employer, it’s almost impossible to afford the conference or the trip.

In my hotel, I saw bottles of water being sold for $4! What is this, Walt Disney World?! Where are my Mickey ears?! ?

Bottled Water being sold for $4.09 at Sbarro in Bally’s Resort

We Power Tech at AWS

Anyways, I digress. I was able to attend AWS re:Invent 2019 almost completely free (other than a checked bag and few Uber rides) thanks to a brand new scholarship program called We Power Tech Grant.

At AWS, we believe the future of tech is every color, gender, belief, origin, and community. The future of tech is accessible, flexible, and inclusive. We all have a long way to go before realizing this future. Join We Power Tech to meet allies and leaders who are powering the future. Build skills, get engaged with the community, and inspire the next generation. 

We Power Tech

For few years, We Power Tech had been sponsoring many diversity and inclusion related panels and events at re:Invent. I attended a few, and really enjoyed the content and breath of fresh air, talking about extremely important topics of how to better integrate marginalized and under-represented populations to make tech better.

After all, better represented the technologists creating innovation, the more creative, inclusive, and innovative the products will be!

This year, they went a step further and hosted their first scholarship grant that allowed technologists early in their careers from diverse backgrounds and countries around the world attend re:Invent where they would otherwise have been unable to.

One way of supporting a future of tech that is diverse, inclusive, and accessible is through our We Power Tech grant, which is geared toward underrepresented technologists who are in the first five years of their career. The grant includes registration to re:Invent 2019, travel, and hotel accommodations.

We Power Tech Grant

Thanks to the We Power Tech Grant, I was able to attend AWS re:Invent 2019 with my travel, hotel, and registration accommodated for. I can’t even begin to tell you how amazing that is, as a small-time freelancer trying to find her way in the ocean. The amount of money it would have cost me to attend re:Invent otherwise would have bankrupted my teeny tiny business of one!

For people like me, and many others, it is practically impossible to even dream about attending AWS re:Invent because of its prohibitive costs. Some large companies will pay for you to attend large conferences, but generally, perks like that are for the select few. The people at my previous employers who attended conferences were managers or high-level independent contributors, and little fish like myself would never have had the opportunity to attend such an expensive conference!

Created an Ecosystem of Small, Ambitious “Newbies”

Beyond the financial support, the We Power Tech Grant made my very first re:Invent experience from a potential disaster into something much more manageable.

We Power Tech Grant Recipients

Attending a tech conference of 65,000 attendees in an unfamiliar city with almost no friends attending (re: prohibitive costs for most people) meant that without the networking events and receptions that We Power Tech provided for its grant recipients, I would not have been able to find “my people.” The people I could look for in sea of faces when I attended We Power Tech panels or events, and people I could bump into and recognize when walking through the Expo Hall.

Another thing that was awesome was that whenever we met a leader at We Power Tech panels or receptions, when I introduced myself, they said, “Oh yeah! I read your application! We read every single application!” It’s such a genuine way to touch us, who are very often made to feel “unimportant” because of our minority status.

I met so many fellow grantees who are doing amazing things in all parts of the world, and I am so thankful for We Power Tech Grant for bringing us together.

AWS Community Leadership Grant

AWS User Group Leaders Reception

Aside from the We Power Tech Grant scholarship, I was also invited to events for AWS Community Leaders. While there were many familiar faces from the We Power Tech Grantee receptions, there were also many more senior people coming from all over the world. I got to meet more senior members of the community in smaller scale in these events as well, which was great way to learn about ways people were creating and managing user groups around the globe, and trying to make diversity and inclusion one of the topics of importance.

Volunteering at the AWS User Group Booth at Expo Hall

I was also asked to volunteer at the AWS User Groups Booth at the Expo Hall, which I felt would be a little awkward, but ended up being a great way to tell my friends and followers where I would be peddling stickers for few hours a day! I met a lot of people there, too, and had the opportunity to “forget” about the chaos of the week and just socialize with other attendees.

We Power Tech Booth

Pin from We Power Tech Booth

There was a rather large We Power Tech booth close to the entrance of the Expo Hall, which was great. I hope a lot of people stopped by to learn about the initiative, and maybe got interested! They were doing interviews to talk about how people decided to make career transition into tech, and while I didn’t get to take part in it, I’m looking forward to seeing what the finished product will be.

There, I learned about one of AWS’s career training programs, which I’ve discussed in an article about all the Career Training programs and resources I learned about at AWS re:Invent 2019!

Hiroko Nishimura
AWS Community Hero. Special Education teacher turned IT Engineer turned Technical Writer. Author "AWS for Non-Engineers" (Manning Publications). Technical Instructor "Introduction to AWS for Non-Engineers" (LinkedIn Learning).