AWS re:Invent 2021. Hiro chat with (AWS) Heroes. Interview w/ Andrew Brown

Author Hiro Nishimura

Last updated 25 Jul, 2023

5 mins read

AWS re:Invent 2021. Hiro chat with (AWS) Heroes. Interview w/ Andrew Brown150

Hello, all! This is Hiroko Nishimura, an AWS Community Hero, founder of AWS Newbies, and Technical Instructor at LinkedIn Learning teaching “Introduction to AWS for Non-Engineers” series! While AWS re:Invent 2021 was technically my second AWS re:Invent as an AWS Hero, I was sadly unable to attend in person (last year’s was, as you may recall, 100% virtual thanks to a certain virus).

Tony Chan of CloudForecast and I were having AWS re:Invent 2021 FOMO from our couches, so I asked five different AWS Heroes from five different countries to chat with us about AWS re:Invent 2021!

Let’s call it… “Hiro chat with (AWS) Heroes” series! (I didn’t clear this with Marketing. I don’t know if it’ll go through.)

AWS Community Hero from Canada: Andrew Brown

First up is Andrew Brown from ExamPro Training Inc, residing in Toronto, Canada. He’s an AWS Community Hero, and has been running primary workloads on AWS for five years, but has been using AWS Cloud for about 12 years. He once broke all his toes kicking a soccer ball…

Hiroko: Hey, Andrew! Thanks for taking my interview! First off, a little background on your career as an IT professional. What was your first IT job?

Andrew: I worked in our family-owned computer repair shop. I did the onsite computer repair, computer training, and building websites for local businesses. I was never good at hardware repair. I never had the fine motor hand skills working with micro-screwdrivers, so I have a graveyard of old MacBook laptops in my house with stripped screws and hardware parts that never had the chance to be installed.

Also, re: breaking all my toes kicking a soccer ball… I have never played soccer since, and prefer sports like curling, bowling, skeeball… anything where you are rolling a ball.

AWS re:Invent 2021 Experience

Hiroko: Ah, I see. Well, let’s get onto the hot topic of the season: AWS re:Invent 2021. How many times have you attended AWS re:Invent?

Andrew: It was my first time at AWS re:Invent but not my first time in Las Vegas. The last time I was in Las Vegas was attending the Star Trek Convention for the 20th anniversary of deep space nine.

Hiroko: Oh, I see! Your first! Have you attended any other AWS-related events? And if so, did you see any differences between previous AWS events and this year’s AWS event?

Andrew: I have been to AWS re:Inforce and AWS Toronto Summit. In terms of attendance, it felt the same as re:Inforce, but the venue there was more craps tables and alot of more walking.

Most attendees I spoke to said previous years there were so many people that the hallways would be shoulder to shoulder with people, and this year’s reduced attendance made it much easier to get from place to place and find people.

Everyone having to wear masks resulted in a lot of strained voices. However, I was alright since I was sure to practice my straw phonation exercises I learned from my Speech Therapist.

Hiroko: Wait…What’s the straw phonation exercise…? Nevermind. Ok. What was the most exciting event or moment at AWS re:Invent 2021?

Andrew: The most exciting event at AWS re:Invent was the Developer Lounge had an Italian shuffle board. If you aren’t familiar, it’s essentially curling on a salted table top. Remember I told you I really enjoy sports where you roll a ball?

Hiroko: Wow. That’s really interesting. I’m going to have to look it up after I look up “straw phonation exercise.” What was your biggest disappointment at AWS re:Invent 2021?

Andrew: AWS re:Invent has this bizarre prep-rally party on the first night called Midnight Madness. Imagine a 65-year-old dad was the party planner.

Classic rock cover band, Chicken-eating contest, American marching band and Dancers dressed up like Bret Michaels. Not even an open bar can make you want to stay for longer than ten minutes. I guess Drake wasn’t available.

AWS re:Invent Announcements

Hiroko: Wait… What… I missed it the first time I attended in (2019) because there was no way someone on East Coast time was going to stay up that late but… I guess I didn’t miss much… Ok, moving on… Which AWS re:Invent 2021 announcement surprised you the most?

Andrew: New Sustainability Pillar for the AWS Well-Architected Framework. When you hear the CTO is driving a gas-guzzler across the US to get to the conference for fun, you think AWS doesn’t have sustainability top of mind.

The only sessions I had scheduled were sustainability sessions, but I never made it to any and will have to watch them when they are ready to stream.

Hiroko: Very true. And I’m annoyed because now I have to edit all of my courses/documentation/books… Boo! Here’s some documentation about the AWS Well-Architected Framework (now updated with the new Sustainability Pillar):

Ok, next question. Which announcement was your favourite?

Andrew: I think my favourite announcement was leaked prior to re:Invent. I don’t know if it was announced at re:Invent, so I’ll have to go with my second favourite announcement: Amazon SageMaker Studio Lab.

Amazon SageMaker Studio Lab allows you to use SageMaker in a free sandbox so you can learn ML on AWS without worrying about a big bill.

Hiroko: How mysterious. We shall never know what his favorite was. But at least for the second, here’s the link for any of you who wants to check it out:

Hiroko: Let’s get into our dreams. What were you hoping would be announced, but wasn’t?

Andrew: With over 200+ services, it is hard to think of a new service that I need or want. I think now I just wish for more integrations between AWS services.

Hiroko: Yeah, It’s definitely getting way harder to find new things to want. Ok, if it’s not a new service completely, what’s a service upgrade that you wish they’d announce?

Andrew: CodeCommit could use a lot of love.

  • Being able to render markdown
  • Being able to render read-only Jupyter Notebooks.
  • Easily trigger Builds or pipelines on git tags
  • Launch a CodeCommit repo to Cloud9, similar to Gitpod with Github

Hiroko: That’s actually some pretty cool feedback. I hope people at AWS are reading this! Ok. So what’s a question I should’ve asked, but didn’t? Go wild!

AWS re:Invent Newbie Advice

Andrew: Did I take home any good swag? Well, I got a re:Invent jacket for being the first 10,000 attendees to register. It is black with an orange stripe and makes me look like a race car driver. When I sit in my Dodge Caravan waiting for my van to warm up in the cold Canadian winter, I make race car noises and I pretend I’m the AWS CTO driving across the USA in a rad muscle car.

Hiroko: …. I want photos of this….

Ok… We’re wrapping up here, but we’re now onto the most important question… If a newbie is looking to attend for the first time next year, what’s your biggest advice?


  • Skip Midnight Madness, Don’t miss re:Play.
  • Learn how to play craps before your arrival and try to play a few games with AWS Employees.
  • Pace yourself. For most people, Wednesday is a recovery day.
  • Decide if the vendor swag is worth the aggressive spam the week later, don’t be afraid to say no to having your badge scan.
  • Plan for spotty internet, print out a map, and when your sessions occur.
  • Create a Whatapps group to stay connected to people at the venue.
  • If you encounter a Corey Quinn, remember not to panic, don’t run, or you’ll look like prey, and make yourself appear as big as you can and start talking about Oracle Cloud.

Hiroko: Wow. These are actually pretty poignant and really helpful. I know I had no idea how to pace myself in 2019 and was super exhausted. I don’t even know how I survived the week. I’ll have to definitely check out this Whatsapps group next time, because I know I got lonely not knowing who I can have dinner with or lunch with on any given day!

Thank you SO much for the good, bad, exciting, and boring of AWS re:Invent 2021, Andrew! And you can find him on social media here: LinkedIn and Twitter! You can also learn more about his company, ExamPro here. Example pro is a learning platform designed to help you pass AWS Certification exams.

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Author Hiro Nishimura
Hiro Nishimura, M.Ed. is a Special Education Teacher turned Systems Administrator turned Technical Writer. 24 Villages, LLC was founded in 2019 as an EdTech Consulting and Technical Writing Company.

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