I got to attend AWS’ re:Invent conference again this year. As expected, it was even larger than last year. Instead of focusing on sessions and announcements, I’d like to discuss a bit of a perspective shift I experienced.

Normally, attending a conference means two things for me. First, I need to pick the most relevant session for each time slot during each day. Second, I try to find the most fun networking event to attend each evening. At re:Invent there are also lots of fun things going on throughout the day. But, since I’m typically attending at my employer’s expense, I try to stay away from that to maximize my learning.

This year, I attended re:Invent in a vendor capacity, representing API Systems. I want to talk about how that changed my experience at re:Invent 2018, and what I wound up doing instead of attending sessions during the day and networking at night.

Catching up with clients

We do a lot of consulting at API Systems. Naturally, our clients attend a lot of the same conferences we do. Re:Invent 2018 was no different. The majority of our work is done remotely, so we were happy to meet with our clients in person for a change. Meeting clients for lunch or dinner took the place of lunchtime sessions and evening networking events.

We also had the opportunity to attend a “Meet the Experts” reception for WorkSpaces, AppStream 2.0, and WorkDocs at which we received a leadership award for being one of the first partners to complete the AWS EUC Navigate program. Many of our clients and partner contacts within AWS were there to cheer us on.

AWS Leadership Award

Working the floor

We were fortunate to be invited to present at the AWS Marketplace and Service Catalog Experience. There was an entire day focused on migrations, and our contacts with the Service Catalog team thought it would be great if we could talk about our work integrating with ServiceNow and using the AWS Service Catalog Connector for ServiceNow.

In addition to our presentation time, we also got a monitor and a bit of desk space to discuss the service catalog and our services with attendees throughout the day. What a fantastic (and tiring) experience! We were on our feet for eight hours straight, but we got to have some great discussions with conference attendees and really get to understand some of the needs that are emerging in the market. The highlight here was being able to demonstrate our product, Conn3ctOps, and show people how it can simplify the deployment and management of Amazon WorkSpaces in their organization.

Another interesting part of the experience was our stickers. Yes, we brought stickers to hand out! I enjoyed seeing how the diminishing stack size revealed the popularity of each of our three designs. By the end of the day, we had completely run out of the most popular design. I can’t wait to run into one of our stickers on a laptop out in the wild!

Choosing sessions strategically

Normally, when I go to a conference, I try to attend a 70/30 split of sessions. 70% sessions related to current or impending work for my employer. 30% sessions on potential future work or something I just think is cool. I wanted the information to be 100% new across all sessions. Attending as a vendor, not only did we have limited opportunities to attend sessions, the sessions we chose to attend were different as well.

We were only able to attend two or three sessions each at re:Invent 2018. And, they  mainly focused on the WorkSpaces service. Most of the sessions held no new information for us, we chose them for other reasons. In some cases, the sessions were lead by Amazon employees we work with closely in our partnership and we wanted to come out and support them. For other sessions, we wanted to see the level of interest from attendees. In all cases, we wanted to be present in case there was an opportunity to discuss our experiences and get generate some buzz for API Systems.

Attending re:Invent 2018 as a vendor was a very different experience. But, I still found myself just as busy and engaged. I didn’t get to attend as many sessions or go on a pub crawl. But, I continued to deepen my connection with my clients, and meet some potential new ones as well. I found looking at things from a vendor perspective very interesting, and I hope you’ve also enjoyed seeing a glimpse of it as well.