AWS re:Invent 2023 — Prepping for The Big Event

John Martinez
7 min readSep 28, 2023


2023’s AWS re:Invent will be their 12th event, and except for the last 3 years (basically, the COVID era give or take), I went to every AWS re:Invent conference from the first one in 2012 through 2019 (I even spoke at a few, including my largest ever session in 2013), and every year, the conference grew much bigger in attendance than the one before it. I attribute that to the massive growth in adoption of AWS Cloud over the years.

I look forward to attending again this year, along with my amazing colleagues from StrongDM.

AWS re:Invent is a massive event.

And Las Vegas is…well, Las Vegas…Viva Las Vegas!

Viva Las Vegas!

Both as a customer attendee, and eventually as a partner/sponsor, I’ve seen pretty much everything there is to see at AWS re:Invent. For me, it’s not just a time to see what’s new in the AWS universe, but it’s also a time to catch up with colleagues and friends of old. The “hallway track” is worth the price of admission. It’s also a time to meet new fellow travelers of the cloud. It’s a time to learn new ways of thinking about how to do AWS, and solve the complex problems you need to solve at work.

I hope the following tips and tricks, stuff that I’ve picked up over the years, steer you towards a pleasant, memorable, and learning experiences … and allow you to stay safe in Sin City.

Keynotes — Don’t miss out

The Keynotes are when AWS announces new services, partners solutions, customer testimonials, and where they put on the BIG show. You’ll hear strategy from AWS management. You may even get to see a CEO DJ a set. Werner is a hoot to watch on stage. I feel like you lose out on the energy of the crowd by staying in your room and streaming the keynote, so I attend in person. That said, streaming the keynote and being productive (reading work email, slacking, etc.) is not a bad thing at all.

Sessions — Reserve your seats early

Yes, you can check out the catalog now, but make sure you’re on top of when reserved seating becomes available…because they go fast! I recommend you make it to the session room in person, but if you can’t, because you’re way down at Mandalay Bay and the session is at Wynn, it’s ok to hit an overflow room if it’s available for your session. Plug: Come see me and our CTO for our lightning talk on Zero Trust — at 5:30pm on Monday November 27 at the Security Zone in the Expo Hall during the Welcome Reception!

Bring comfortable shoes and wear the hoodie

I can’t stress this enough…bring the most comfortable pair of shoes you own with you to Vegas. If it’s the old style sneakers you’re worried about … nobody will judge whatever that means to you. There’s going to be TONS of walking. There’s going to be TONS of standing. Your dogs will be tired, I guarantee. And while we’re at it, the temp swings are gonna be insane. Some session rooms will be meat locker cold, some will be hot. You’ll be walking outdoors between casinos. Dress like you’re going on a hike in the mountains in the Spring. AWS has been giving out hoodies at registration for a long time, but in case they don’t this year, just pack one…or if you’re confident, pick up a swag hoodie from one of the vendors in the Expo Hall. Also not guaranteed, so just pack a hoodie.

Networking and fun

re:Invent is the place for where AWS practitioners, technologists, vendors/partners, product managers, and others gather. Chances are, you will meet people there, will become friends with, will at some point work with, and who you will keep in touch with for the rest of your career. Even if it’s once a year. Take advantage of this. I know I’ve made life-long friends at re:Invent. The “hallway track” is probably one of those most valuable tracks to attend! Also, if you’re into events…wow, you’ll get plenty of that! Lots of AWS-sponsored events for sure, including re:Play (wow!), but also tons of partner-sponsored events. Besides the hallway track, I’ve had coffee and dinner with friends outside of the venues. Who knows, you may also find a new job there! (plug: StrongDM is hiring!)

Just go get your swag (Expo Hall)

Face it, we all love the t-shirts, stickers, and tchotchkes in the Expo Hall. At some point in time, I had more vendor t-shirts than I had normal t-shirts. Also, it’s a great gathering place for your group to grab a beer or a coffee, depending on what event is happening in the Expo Hall. Believe it or not, the many AWS sponsors there are eager to have a conversation with you! We thrive on our personal interaction with you, because at the end of the day, it’s all about the personal connection. On the topic of connecting, come see me and the rest of the StrongDM team at booth 123!

Health and Comfort Checklist

Here’s a quick checklist of the things to have handy at re:Invent that will make your event way more comfortable:

  • Water — lots of it
  • Comfy shoes — can’t stress it enough
  • Chapstick — Vegas is a desert, remember?
  • Throat/cough drops — smoke and all-day talking can irritate your throat
  • Sanitizer — fist bumps ended last year? Are we shaking hands again? (I take hugs, TBH)
  • PPE — COVID is still a thing, and so is the flu, colds, and many other bugs — make sure all of those bugs stay in Vegas
  • Massive amounts of caffeine — Gotta stay awake, and my first ever nitro cold brew was in Vegas

Personal Safety and Security

We’ve all heard of the MGM Cyber Attack by now, so I’m going to get that out of the way. The truth is, casinos aren’t the only targets for the bad guys. You, personally, are a target. Attackers know you probably have elevated privileges and capabilities at work, and you’d be a great way to get to some nice, juicy data. Here are my tips for protecting yourself, your family and your business while you’re in Vegas learning and having fun.

  • MFA All the things
    I’m not just talking SMS codes, I’m talking actual auth tokens and passkeys … I am very impressed with the recent MFA and passkey support in 1Password. Makes it so easy even my parents can use (and they DO!)
  • Protect your company resources
    If you need to access your company’s resources while in Vegas (we’ve all been there, even if I’m at re:Invent, I’m still on call!) use StrongDM — a Dynamic Access Management system that allows on-call and developer engineers (among others) to securely access corp infra without ever exchanging credentials and only for the time that access is needed.
  • Be aware of social engineering
    If you’re like me, you’ll probably talk to tons of random people … not necessarily conference attendees, but your random Vegas person … be careful what you share about your personal life! Social engineering applies to meeting someone at a blackjack table just as much as a random phone call from someone pretending to be your IT department! Your conference badge has your company name…remember that when you’re out in public areas.
  • Protect your methods of payment
    If you’re going to gamble, bring cash. And if you need more, find a branch of your bank in Vegas. Even if it’s off-strip. The last thing you want to do is use some random ATM machine by the restroom that WHO KNOWS WHO has tampered with. Better yet, leave your debit card at home. Digital wallets make it hard to steal credit card numbers. Protect your cell phone while you’re at it.
  • The buddy system works
    Pair up with someone, especially if you’ll be leaving the venues for dinner, drink, gambling, etc. I’ve had one too many to drink in Vegas before, and having colleagues around to help and protect me, and vice-versa, is the way to go. Make sure your colleagues and friends have your cell phone number. And while not a buddy system tip per se, use location sharing and check-in features on your device with friends and family.

Reserve some time for fun (or sleep)

We all have different ways of expressing fun. I enjoy cocktails, cheap blackjack tables and zombie apocalypse airsoft battles. In no particular order. The AWS re:Play show is an amazing experience, and as of the last time I attended, was inclusive of more than one genre of music (although I do enjoy the big name DJs that perform). There’s games, drink and conversation. A great place to meet those new contacts you made. That said, I’ve also known someone close to me who went to re:Invent to get some sleep because they had babies at home. Your choice! If you’re going to leave the venues for fun…you’re in Vegas! Do the Vegas things!

In Conclusion

You’re attending AWS re:Invent because you care about perfecting your craft, you want to meet up with friends of old and make new ones, you want to see what’s new from AWS and partners, and you want to have fun. Stay safe, get your learn on and have a great time!

I’d love to meet you at re:Invent! Swing by the StrongDM booth at the Expo (booth #123 — super easy to remember!). Reach out to me with any questions or while you’re in Vegas!




John Martinez

Cloud Security / Lover of Coffee / House Music DJ for fun / Latino on a Mission ~ DAM Evangelist @ StrongDM