Spending a day with unicorns at AWS GameDay

March 14, 2023 cinch careers

Michael Horsley, Principal Engineer – Oct 28, 2022

In October 2022, 50 of us attended the Amazon Web Services (AWS) GameDay. For those that didn’t attend, I hope this gives you a flavour of what to expect if you attend one in the future!

GameDay is a collaborative learning exercise that tests skills in implementing AWS solutions to solve real-world problems in a gamified, risk-free environment. This is a completely hands-on opportunity for technical professionals like us at cinch to explore AWS services, architecture patterns, best practices, and group cooperation.

Every GameDay is set out in the same way. Participants are new hires on their first day at Unicorn Rentals, the largest provider of mythical creatures in the world and a fictitious new start-up that’s starting to branch out into Infinidash, using Unicorns as a taxi service.

So, what did our first day entail?

Our challenge was to manage Unicorn Rentals API (Application Programming Interface) requests and ensure this new service ran as smoothly as possible. The engineers working on this before had left this project half-completed, so we were up against the clock to complete the work and earn as much money as possible.

We were divided into teams and given our own dashboard that tracked outstanding tasks to complete and monitored the number of unicorn taxis we had available, how busy we were and how much money we had made for the company.

The day was broken up by an engineer’s three favourite words: ‘Pizza is here!’ Even that, however, couldn’t pull us fully away from the game. Things were starting to get exciting, and people were starting to get competitive.

Most of the tasks were completed by lunch – so we did manage to enjoy the incredible spread put out by AWS. It then became a challenge to see how good you were at trading and making wise purchasing decisions.

The day went by as quickly as it takes to get a Unicorn to someone’s birthday party – very fast – and it came time to see who’d got the best results. There were three clear winners!

Team Slow, Late and Expensive, made up of @Sarah Weeks, @Afzal Muhammad and @Theo Petkov, who got first dibs on some incredible prizes.

As first days go, this one was ace. Days like this reinforce why you got into tech in the first place.

We really got to know each other, and it gave us a chance to sink our teeth into some real tech challenges and learn so much about the field we work in.

Take a look at the survey results here: AWS Survey Results

Here were my main takeaways:

  • Don’t mess with DNS – both your APIs can be down and you will not be making money!
  • Health Check APIs are there for a reason – you can check if your change is working before you change it in production
  • Teams want code freezes if they are earning money. Roll back, rather roll forward.
  • Take turns looking at the dashboard to spot things regularly – you may not be making money for a variety of reasons at any point in time.
  • Communicate, communicate, communicate!
  • You can go into debt (negative money) but that’s a good thing!

cinch’s engineering community is a vital cog in the machine. We love learning, we love challenging ourselves, and we love working in a culture that celebrates inclusivity and collaboration. If you want to find out more about engineering opportunities at cinch, head to our careers site.