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Redefining learning with Jam sessions at AWS re:Invent

Learn the difference between breakouts, hands-on workshops, and Jam sessions, plus get a look at the first generative AI Jam session at AWS re:Invent.

Dec 15, 2023 • 3 Minute Read

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  • Cloud
  • Professional Development
  • AI & Machine Learning
  • Learning & Development

As a newcomer to the AWS re:Invent conference, I was eager to dive into the plethora of sessions and workshops that awaited me. The sheer scale of the event was overwhelming, but what truly stood out were the various sessions that catered to different learning styles and interests.

In this post, I’ll cover my experience with three different types of sessions: breakouts, workshops, and Jam sessions.

Wondering what it's like to attend re:Invent for the first time? Check out my blog post on attending the event as an All Builders Welcome grant winner.

Table of contents

Breakout sessions at AWS re:Invent

The breakout sessions, led by knowledgeable speakers and panels, provided in-depth discussions on topics that piqued my curiosity. One session that left a lasting impression was the all-women’s panel titled “The antidote for doubt: Forging your voice and building your community.” The empowering insights shared during this session inspired me and underscored the importance of mentorship, sponsorship, and giving back to the professional community.

Hands-on learning workshops

Workshops, another integral part of the conference, offered a unique hands-on experience. These sessions allowed me to work with and deploy services within temporary AWS environments, eliminating any cost risks. 

The self-paced nature of the workshops meant I could delve into the material at my own speed, making the learning process both enjoyable and informative. I participated in one called “Building a serverless web application for a theme park” and it was very interesting even if it was a little over my head.

AWS Jam sessions

The sessions that stole the show for me, though, were definitely the AWS Jam sessions! These gamified learning events transformed the learning experience into a thrilling competition.

Picture a massive room filled with tables of four, each representing a team. The objective? To solve real-world problems and complete tasks with varying levels of difficulty. 

You get points for each task you complete. If you get stuck, you can use clues, but using clues subtracts points from your score. Once time runs out, the top three teams with the most points are pronounced the winners and awarded some special swag.

My experience at the first ever generative AI Jam

My first Jam session was AWS’s inaugural generative AI Jam. Generative AI is center stage right now in the tech industry, and it sounded like an interesting, albeit daunting, prospect for a relative newcomer like myself. 

The beginning

Since I came to the Jam session on my own and didn’t already have a team, I was teamed up with a table of three men who were strangers to me, all of whom had more professional experience and career mileage than I did. I couldn't help but feel a bit like I was out of my depth and had to resist my urge to preemptively apologize for what I assumed would be my potential shortcomings.

As the Jam kicked off, and I began reviewing the challenges, panic set in. I found myself thinking, “I don’t know how to do any of this!” I questioned my decision to participate and felt like I shouldn’t have come. However, none of the other members of my team had participated in a Jam session before either, and they were all trying to figure out how this was going to work as well. 

The turning point

The turning point came when one teammate and I decided to tackle an objective together. AWS had us working with their own AI coding tool, AWS CodeWhisperer, to complete some of the challenges. After a few minutes of poking around, problem solving, and exploring how to use it, I began to get a clearer view of what the intention was and how to approach each challenge. Suddenly, the tasks became clearer, and the learning process began to unfold.

The result

The beauty of a Jam session lies in its flexibility. Tools like Google and ChatGPT were allowed and became my allies as I navigated through challenges. In the end I was able to tackle a couple of the easy challenges on my own and even made it halfway through a medium-level challenge before time ran out. 

Despite our team not being among the top three winning teams, the sense of accomplishment I derived from solving problems and the knowledge I gained made it a thoroughly enjoyable experience.

Buoyed by this newfound confidence, I eagerly participated in additional Jam sessions, including the DevOps Jam and another Cloud Tournament Jam. Each presented unique challenges, fostering a deeper understanding of deployment, AWS services, and the art of troubleshooting. For those yet to experience a Jam session, I wholeheartedly recommend it.

Unlocking the power of collaborative learning

Ultimately, my re:Invent journey, marked by breakout sessions, hands-on workshops, and the exhilarating Jams, not only enriched my AWS knowledge but also solidified my belief in the power of collaborative learning and problem-solving. 

And going to re:Invent is definitely addictive. I’m hoping to go again next year! Not sure if I’ll be able to make that happen or not, but either way this was an incredible experience that I’ll never forget!

To get your own hands-on experience with AWS and generative AI, start a free Pluralsight Skills trial.

Amber Stevens

Amber S.

Amber is a Content Support Engineer at A Cloud Guru, now a part of Pluralsight, where she gets to combine her technical expertise with a passion for helping others. Her professional journey into the tech world began five years ago when she made a career shift from the hospitality industry by immersing herself in an intense coding apprenticeship to learn PHP and front-end web development. She now works mostly with cloud technology, such as Azure and AWS, and she's AWS certified. Outside of work, she's the proud mom of an energetic 8-year-old boy, an advocate for mental health, and an insatiable reader of fantasy and sci-fi.

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