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Our AWS re:Invent 2021 Recap

Marianna Noll

6 min read

Last updated on December 14th, 2021 at 10:26am

We're recently back from the smaller (but still a ton of people) AWS re:Invent conference. While we had a dedicated team staffing our booth, we also had several members of our engineering team checking out all the content. Here are a few insights and summaries of sessions. Plus, some links from others to help you catch up on all the pre- and at-show launch announcements.

A Few of the Big Themes

Our CTO, Joseph Spurrier, noted several big themes throughout the week:

  • More talk about machine learning (ML). Specifically, how to use models to predict (how many computers to buy, how many people we need on staff), forecast (how cloud spend will look over the next 6-12 months), and analyze (identify where your pet cat is from footage of 100 video cameras based on confidence levels). AWS SageMaker is where much of the machine learning can be performed.
  • Getting in on the no code/low code trend. AWS is lowering the barrier to entry to building websites or using machine learning for non-developer-types by providing drag-and-drop interfaces that don't require coding.
  • Support for specific use cases. AWS continues to build out services to help with very niche use cases, like their mainframe migration service.

Highlights of Enhancements and New Offerings

Joe also provided his take on some of the many enhancements and new offerings that were highlighted in Vegas.

Amazon CloudWatch RUM - All application developers can now use the service to monitor their front-end applications. "This is something that steps on the toes of many companies that do observability and monitoring in the app space."

AWS Karpenter - Not a new service, but an open source app that AWS released that allows Kubernetes to spin up new nodes in less than 60 seconds, which increases performance and the ability to scale quickly.

AWS WorkSpaces Web - This is a new dashboard that enterprises can use to provide quick links to all the applications available to an organization, "basically a one-stop shop for resources."

Amazon SageMaker Canvas - The SageMaker Canvas is a no-code way to build accurate machine learning models. "It's very clear that AWS is trying to lead the industry on ML and they keep making it easier for companies to leverage it to gain a competitive advantage."

Amazon DevOps Guru for RDS - A tool that will analyze your database and tell you where you need to optimize or where there are problems.

AWS re:Post - "This is community-driven Q&A. We've been using both AWS support and StackOverflow for assistance when needed, it will be interesting to see how this community evolves."

AWS Amplify Studio - "A no-code/low-code service that allows you to quickly build websites and mobile application interfaces from Figma, one of the leading design tools in the industry. We're using Figma internally at Kion."

Joe also found a bit of time to put Kion at the top during GameDay.

Kion on top of leaderboard at GameDay

Werner's API Lessons Learned

During AWS CTO Werner Vogels' keynote, these two points jumped out:

  • Make customers your API designers, not your engineers.
  • Breaking your API means breaking other people's business.
Werner Vogels API lessons AWS reinvent 2021

Securing Your Delivery Lifecycle and Growing Your EQ

Our head of DevOps, Cody Buell, found some good nuggets in several sessions. One that is an obvious topic given the event and one 'hidden gem'.

Best Practices for Securing Your Delivery Lifecycle

There is a lot competing for the attention of a DevOps engineer. You need to deliberately make time for security to ensure you remain on top of security.

Best practice: Treat your pipeline as a codebase:

  • Version control your pipeline
  • Have a review process
  • Limit access; use the principle of least privilege

The Importance of Emotional Intelligence

Cody attended a talk by Richard Hua on emotional intelligence (EQ). Richard is the Worldwide Head of EPIC Leadership at AWS. The EPIC Leadership Program is an initiative that trains Amazon’s leaders in emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence is the ability to get your emotions to work for you and knowing how to regulate them appropriately.

How to think about IQ vs EQ

IQ is what gets you through the door, EQ is how well you thrive once you are in (and how well you and your team operate together).

Why EQ matters for you and your team's development

  • EQ has a high influence on your earning capability.
  • EQ impacts effectiveness of the company as a whole.

How to cultivate your EQ

Especially relevant today is the importance of cultivating emotional intelligence to help avoid burnout (when you end up operating on pure emotion). One way to do this is by 'learning to be buoyant'. This takes two qualities: positivity and grit.

Positivity - think of this as floating on top of the waves. How to strengthen this quality:

  • Balance out your negativity bias. We often tend to latch on to negative things; try to find and acknowledge positive things.
  • Deliberately take a moment to recognize positive things each day. This can help your mind to naturally recognize positive things more throughout your day.
    • You can start team meetings with a positive moment. For example, allowing people an opportunity to express appreciation for something.
  • When something goes wrong, thing of it as specific, external, and transitory instead of pervasive, personal, and permanent. This allows you to be compassionate with yourself.
    • Put it into perspective: will you care about it in 10 minutes, 10 days, 10 weeks?

Grit is being resilient when you get pulled under, and the ability to keep going when times are tough. How to strengthen this quality:

  • Having a friend or two at work; there are some studies that indicate this benefits both the employee and the company.
  • Reframe with gratitude and generosity:
    • What can you learn from the situation? What should you take away?
    • Remember Hanlon's Razor: "Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity." Some bad things happen because of ignorance or neglect.
  • "Starting with why" - understand why you are doing what you do (a way of looking at the bigger picture and gathering perspective).
  • Make sure you manage your energy, not just your time
    • Be sure to build in recovery.
    • 3-4 hours of optimal thinking per day is about all you get.
    • Your energy cycle is 90 minutes, then you really need a break.
      • You get about 3 cycles a day.
      • Block you calendar and critical workloads to fit in those cycles.
      • Leverage slumps for administrative tasks, social catch up, etc.

General Tips and More Resources

As you plan your tech conference attendance for 2022, here are some good general tips from our team:

  • Pack a collapsible bag: you're going to be coming home with 10lbs of stickers, tshirts, socks, and other assorted swag.
  • When looking for sessions to attend, search for sessions on tech that are on the periphery of what you currently use or are advanced beyond your current implementation level to get a sense of where you can go next.
  • You'll often encounter sessions that don't seem to directly relate to the main conference topic (like the session on EQ above). Take some time to read the description, however - these can be hidden gems.

Lastly, if you're looking for more summaries of AWS re:Invent, here are a few choice recaps:

About the Author

Marianna Noll

Marianna is the Senior Director of Marketing at Kion.

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