User group communities at re:Invent – Inspiring me to up up my Chicago AWS game

This is the second year I’ve been invited to participate in the global community of fellow user group leaders. This is the key part that makes re:Invent a must for me. It’s like going to summer camp – I see folks who run user groups around the world and even though we spend about 36 hours together we have a very strong connection.

I didn’t realize how much I had to both share and learn from other AWS ugroup leaders until last year. Ross Barich, the grand poobah of all things Community at AWS and an all-around awesome person, invited me to do a quick 5 minute talk to fellow ugroup leaders at last year’s event. He just asked me to share my thoughts on what makes Chicago unique and if there were any tips I thought other leaders might benefit from, especially the newer leaders.

The leader session was Wednesday night off in the Palazzo and the 40-50 person room was packed with people from Japan, Germany, Thailand, Salt Lake City, South America, and everywhere in between. Everyone was very nice and quick to introduce themselves. I sat between the ladies who run Thailand groups and a guy from Southern New Hampshire. What a mix! My talk was what is important for the Chicago ugroup to keep it going monthly – check it out here.

This year, like last year, after the short talks Ross had us suggest a few topics and break into little discussion groups. A few of the same topics come up again: how to get sponsors while also not letting talks become sales pitches; how to get reliable attendee numbers (do we charge fees?!); catering events to groups like students or women-only nights; etc. The breakouts do quickly devolve into just chatting with other leaders about what works best and swapping experiences.

I personally learned about Community Days from the Japan user group (Japan AWS, or JAWS, the coolest megagroup out there) and German leaders. They had both put on community run, community-focused multi day events. Thanks to them, and mostly to Ross, the Midwestern user group leaders got together and put on the first ever Midwestern Community Day in June 2018. The JAWS group also inspired me to up my Chicago ugroup logo game – now we have killer stickers with deep dish pizza, complete with little clouds as cheese bubbles.

Stickers from user groups around the world - JAWS Osaka, Kobe, and women; Nordic AWS, Thailand, Korea, Vietnam and Chicago!

Stickers from user groups around the world – JAWS Osaka, Kobe, and women; Nordic AWS, Thailand, Korea, Vietnam and Chicago!

Other groups inspired me to step up my game in Chicago and it’s definitely been a benefit for the user group as a whole. This year was the same, and now I’m inspired again to do even more to help my local AWS users feel involved and included in a booming group of AWS users. I’ll be printing up more stickers (and now business cards) for 2019 soon. I’ve got ideas, topics, and inspiration for next year already and I haven’t even deplaned from re:Invent.

community at reInvent 2018

Our “Inclusion in user groups” discussion group was all (short) women until (a very tall) Chris from New Hampshire joined us!