AWS re:Invent 2021. Hiro chat with (AWS) Heroes. Interview w/ Ben Bridts
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 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 re:Invent FOMO from our couches, so I asked five different AWS Heroes from five different countries to chat with us about 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.)
Ben Bridts: AWS Community Hero from Belgium
Let’s welcome Ben Bridts! A Principal AWS Technologist at Cloudar, based in Belgium! In addition to his full-time job at Cloudar, he’s an AWS Community Hero and is a co-organizer of the Belgian AWS User-Group.
Hiroko: Hey Ben! Thanks for taking this interview! I think you have a fun trivia fact for us, right?
Ben: I have an (identical) twin brother. This is something that doesn’t come up very often in day to day conversations, and as a result I have been chastised by friends for not telling them before they met him. In my defense, the look of confusion the first time they see him is usually worth it.
Hiroko: Wait, so you’re telling me that the few times I’ve met you in person… It could’ve been your twin brother in disguise?! Ok… Well, as I digest that potential… Let’s move on to your first IT or cloud-related job. What was it?
Ben: I worked almost a year as a PHP developer at a SaaS company before switching to my current job (which is all Cloud focused). I don’t write PHP anymore, but it is nice to have had exposure to multiple programming languages.
Hiroko: Nice, nice! Let’s get onto the hot topic of the season: AWS re:Invent 2021. How many times have you attended AWS re:Invent?
Ben: This was my 4th time at AWS re:Invent. The event was a lot more compact (spread over three places that were relatively close to each other). I was able to walk to every session I wanted to attend, which made it a bit more relaxed to get around. The vendor expo felt a lot smaller too, which wasn’t unexpected.
Hiroko: I think I would definitely have liked to attend this one, because everyone tells me it was a lot “calmer.” The chaos of the week definitely was way too much stimulus overload for me back in 2019…
Speaking of changes, what did you like or dislike about the changes that happened with re:Invent 2021?
Ben: I think the event experience gets a little bit better every year. There were a lot of minor annoyances that were solved. It was easier to get around and the mobile app worked well for me. I also think that AWS should consider how they want to expand the virtual experience to make it something that encourages more interactivity. There is a big opportunity here to give access to a global audience, but the bar should be higher than a way to watch a live stream.
Hiroko: It’s good to hear that it’s improving every year! What was the most exciting event or moment at re:Invent 2021?
Ben: I loved all the people I was able to meet. There are so many smart and kind people working in and around Cloud, and I appreciate them making time to listen to my crazy ideas.
Hiroko: Did you hand out your butterfly IAM pin again? Ok, on the flip side! What was your biggest disappointment at re:Invent 2021?
Ben: There are a lot of people that didn’t make it to re:Invent this year. All for very good reasons, but it still feels like I missed out on some great insights and company.
Hiroko: I missed everyone too Which re:Invent 2021 announcement surprised you the most?
Ben: Amazon CloudWatch Evidently, a service for feature flags, was a big surprise for me. This used to be a gap in the services that AWS offers, and a little bit before re:Invent they released AWS AppConfig Feature Flags in preview, so I wasn’t expecting a second thing in this space.
Hiroko: Their naming sense never fails to amuse me. Here are links to the new announcements:
- Amazon CloudWatch Evidently: https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/aws/cloudwatch-evidently
- AWS AppConfig Feature Flags: https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/mt/introducing-aws-appconfig-feature-flags-in-preview
Ok, next question. Which announcement was your favourite?
Ben: AWS Amplify Studio looks very promising. I’m not a front-end developer, so anything that makes it easier to create an application looks interesting to me. The demonstration during the keynote looked great, so I’m looking forward to trying it out.
The new S3 features, like Event Notifications via EventBridge, will probably be the biggest quality-of-life improvements for me, as those are immediately useful in the things I work on day to day.
Hiroko: I think that’s a common one! Here’s the link to AWS Amplify Studio for those of you interested in learning more: https://aws.amazon.com/amplify/studio/
Let’s get into our dreams. What were you hoping would be announced, but wasn’t?
Ben: The biggest announcement AWS could make is a redesign of the Free Tier. Actually building things is a great way to learn Cloud, but I’d love to see a way where that doesn’t require a credit card.
Hiroko: That’s true. There are a lot about the newbie onboarding experience they could definitely be improved. Ok, if it’s not a new service completely, what’s a service upgrade that you wish they’d announce?
Ben: This might be very niche, but having billing being separate from organizations would improve my life a lot. Running different workloads in different accounts has become a best practice, and allows a good separation between different environments.
For tools that work across the whole organization (like SSO, Service Control Policies, Control Tower), there is no good way to have a test environment without taking on a lot of administration (and loss of tiered pricing).
Hiroko: 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?
- Don’t be afraid to talk to people. There will be someone there that can save you a lot of time with a few pointers, because they have been in your shoes before.
- I’ve attended some great sessions, but the learning during re:Invent isn’t only from presenter to attendees, but also between attendees.
- More practical: wear comfortable shoes (everything is farther away than it seems), bring chapstick, and drink enough water.
Hiroko: Drinking water, having a snack ready, and having chapstick are definitely 3 biggies. And shoes. Don’t try to dress fancy. Just wear the most comfortable clothes you can possibly find!
Thank you SO much for the good, bad, exciting, and boring of AWS re:Invent 2021, Ben! And you can find him on Twitter and LinkedIn! He has also written great resources on the Cloudar blog.
A bit about Cloudar: “We are a team of highly skilled AWS Cloud Architects, offering rock-solid solutions for any type of business. We design, build and operate highly available and scalable cloud infrastructures based on Amazon Web Services.”
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