All Builders Welcome Grant: Attend AWS re:Invent for Free!

All Builders Welcome Grant: Attend AWS re:Invent for Free!

First-hand experience of applying and getting a unique opportunity to learn, network, and grow in the tech field

Published Jul 11, 2024
October 20, 4 am. I am waiting in the passport control line at Gdansk airport, I just returned from a vacation trip. Exhausted, I am scanning my social media feed and checking my inbox. Oh, a new email. Congratulations, you won the All Builders Welcome grant. All I wanted at the moment was to just fall asleep. No more exhaustive trips. Period.
Happily, I started to realize things quickly. Wow, isn’t it a once-a-lifetime opportunity I always wanted to obtain? But there is so little time remaining, AWS re:Invent would be in the last week of November. And I didn’t have a USA visa. What if I lose my chance?
What does 'the chance' mean?
  • scholarship program for technologists in the first 5 years of their career (I had already 4 years)
  • complete free entry pass to re:Invent (ticket costs more than $2000)
  • return flight to Las Vegas, Nevada (around $1500)
  • 5-day accommodation in a hotel (around $1500-1700)
  • lounge for grantees and reserved seats for keynote talks (priceless)
  • special events dedicated to grantees and mentors support (2xpriceless)
  • special swag (oh man, I got sooo many questions about my cool backpack)
  • $75 Uber card and $250 gift card
I was at home around 7 am and just ruined on my bed. When I finally was awake, I started to craft my plan: the first thing was to contact the USA embassy and see what slots they offered for visa application.
To my great relief, there was a place at the beginning of November. I had 2 weeks to prepare my documents. US embassy if you read this, special thank-you: I enjoyed clear-worded instructions with the most important information printed in CAPITALISED LETTERS.
Friday: my appointment went quickly and well - several questions about family, work, and the destination. Next Tuesday: I got my passport with a US visa!
Then, I booked 5 free-of-charge nights in the Treasure Island hotel. The AWS team booked flights for me. We had a special Slack channel where all communication and support were happening. And tips-pickled webinar where all grantees received useful information starting from the how-to-arrive and ending with what-shoes-to-put-on. I cannot express how warm-welcomed and well-cared I felt: Jessica Gulledge, Norma Stevens, and De'Rell Bonner knew their job!
The re:Invent experience is worth a separate blog post, I will share it later. One thing is for sure: it is like a magic bag. Close your eyes, make a wish, and pull whatever you want from the bag. I was inspired, motivated, happy, tired, amazed, more open-minded, learned a lot technically, learned even more career-wise, met brilliant people, and had fun.
How to get the grant?
You need to apply via the link.
There would be 3 essay questions about your experience, motivation, and goals.
My take here would be:
  1. Tell a story to showcase your enthusiasm
  2. Don't be shy while talking about your achievements: given talks, pet projects, education, job accomplishment
  3. Special part: how did your skills and knowledge help the community? How are you going to share what you learned? Do you target supporting equity, diversity, and inclusiveness?
All Builders Welcome Grant 2023 recipients
All Builders Welcome Grant 2023
Am I biased about the re:Invent? I went ahead and asked other grantees about the program.
Oksana Lipkovska says that her main highlight from the re:Invent was that it helped her to believe in her powers more and feel more confident. She also got a salary increase. Oksana believes that sincerity and desire to learn and improve helped her to get the grant. Her tip: "Application takes an effort, just go till the end, provide as much info as possible, and be open about your goals, it'll be worth it."
Meghana Sai Vattikuti highlights re:Invent: "Meeting so many different people from different sectors in life and meeting such courageous women transitioning into cloud careers! I learned how to deal with imposter syndrome better; it inspired me to pursue something of my own".
The secret sauce for the application? "Passion for cloud came through on my application. Take time and don't rush through it. Your passion has to be shown through your application."
Faith Ajibade: "I was able to meet a lot of people from different countries and thereby expand my network. Professionally, attending re:Invent gave me a free pass to write a professional exam through the voucher given and I also gained a lot of professional knowledge from the sessions and jams I attended."
Any advice on the application? "In my essay, I highlighted my work experience, what I've done in the AWS space and how it relates to the work I currently do. I also highlighted the benefits I hope to gain from the re:Invent for myself and my organization. re:Invent is a big event that exposes you to a lot of things happening in the cloud space. Why do you want to attend the conference and what do you hope to benefit from it? How do you plan on sharing what you've learned with others?"
Re:Invent pictures: treasure island hotel, S3 bucket, lego certified swag
Emi Ichimura shares her take: "What left the biggest impression on me was learning that people from various backgrounds and professions attended re:Invent, all sharing a passion for AWS and cloud technologies. Before attending, I thought the event would be dominated by engineers and developers, but in reality, there were also consultants, sales professionals, and others who were sharing how they use these technologies in their respective regions. The enthusiasm of all participants to promote cloud technologies was palpable. As an undergraduate student, this experience was a significant opportunity for me to think about my career path after graduation."
Emi encourages you to apply: "In my opinion, the most important thing is how you overcome barriers. In my experience, only 10% of the students in my university's Computer Science department were women. This ignited my strong passion for increasing the number of women in tech. Because of this, I highlighted my internship experience, where I supported Japanese female students pursuing careers in IT. If you are a student or at the entry level, please share your experiences, no matter how small, especially if they relate to the All Builders Welcome grant."
Hazel Sáenz: "In the mornings, I shared breakfast with someone from Boston, had lunch with someone from Germany, and dinner with people from Italy, Brazil, Chile, and Mexico. Meeting so many people from different backgrounds who share the same passion for knowledge was impressive and gave me a personal energy boost. It made me realize that any goal is achievable. On a professional level, the knowledge gained from the sessions and the inspiration behind the keynotes were wonderful. One day you’re a developer writing code, and the next, you see how a single line of code can change a person’s life and even change the world."
Hazel believes that persistence is important: "In my case, I applied for the grant in 2022 but wasn't selected. I tried again in 2023, and it became a reality. I believe two key factors helped me get selected. First, I focused my application on the impact my content and talks have had on the community, providing real numbers and data. Second, I highlighted how I would use the knowledge gained from the event. I was intentional in my approach, and I think that made all the difference. Be yourself. Let your application tell your story, and if you don't get selected, it's okay. Try again next year. Don't give up."
Andreea Merariu considers re:Invent "an amazing experience! The community feeling and impact were one of the strongest I have seen! After a week at re:Invent I left inspired and feeling like part of something great!"
Andreea's application tip: "I included in my application all of my contributions to the community and highlighted why I enjoy contributing and why I find value in the power of the community! One tip from me would be always to make sure you talk about your achievements and their impact! And to always keep on dreaming and working on your dreams!"
Re:Invent collage: hotel view, lego AWS architecture, grant event hall
Brian H. Hough: "I am so grateful for All Builders Welcome grant - it truly changed my life. It made me realize that it was possible to become a software engineer and dive into the industry. Not only did I finally find others in tech like me, but I also found some of my closest friends, colleagues, and mentors through the grant. I will always remember how it felt to "be in the room" with so many brilliant technologists and how I was just soaking in the information like a sponge. After I flew back from re:Invent, everything changed. My mind had been opened to so many possibilities, I was enriched with new skills for building real, enterprise applications, and I was empowered with a community of folks where we could all support each other. I started dialing into new areas of work, started applying for more roles, and ended up getting my first full-time job!"
Brian shares his thoughts on how to get selected: "When I applied, I was at a point where I was trying to get started in the industry, so what I think helped me in my application was my desire and ambition to make it work. The biggest takeaway for the application in my opinion is to be authentic and to show up as your truest self. In a world of ChatGPT, and AI writers, you cannot fake passion, desire, and a dedication to learn. That is what the grant is about - learning, building, and creating technology together as a community. Do not feel like you need to have XYZ type of job or ABC achievement to apply. If you are ready to grow, transform, and elevate while surrounded by others who want to do the same and support each other on their journey, then this is exactly why you should apply! On my channel Tech Stack Playbook® I hosted a YouTube live where we dove into the application process and our experiences through the grant at re:Invent."
Julia Chotkiewicz: "The grant opened me up to new possibilities and ideas, boosting my confidence in sharing my experience and embracing imperfection. I won't elaborate on the fact that the journey itself, crossing the ocean and staying in Las Vegas, was amazing and unforgettable for me. During the re:Invent, I met many incredible people, had numerous inspiring conversations, and learned various stories that motivated me to keep doing what I do. I also had my first live Twitch conversation about breaking into the tech industry. After the event, I obtained the AWS Security Specialty certification and am preparing for another one. I started developing my blog to share my cloud security experience and thoughts on IT development. In 2024, I was accepted as an AWS Community Builder in the Security and Identity category. I'm continuously learning to be a better Security Engineer and inspiring others to explore technology. Participating in the grant has significantly empowered me to develop myself and my career."
Application advice from Julia: "What helped me get selected for the All Builders Welcome grant? I believe it was mainly my authenticity and various activities aimed at becoming a better version of myself, as well as those that built my knowledge and experience in cybersecurity and broadly understood technology. Be yourself, take on challenges, and learn from them! ;)"

Are you inspired? The application will close on August 2, 2024 at 5:00 PM PDT. Apply today!

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