Inside PPAI: Tech Summit Brings The Industry’s Top IT Pros Together

Above photo: Wayne Reynolds of Kudelski Security kicked off Tech Summit's education programming with a look at the current IT security landscape. 


Following the North American Leadership Conference (NALC), PPAI’s Tech Summit examined the most relevant, top-of-mind technology issues, challenges and ideas affecting the promotional products industry. The annual conference, which ran this year from August 13-15, in Irving, Texas, focuses on the needs and opportunities of industry IT professionals, decision-makers and executives responsible for their organization’s technology environment.

“The PPAI Tech Summit gives attendees an excellent opportunity for suppliers, distributors and service providers to work together to find solutions to issues that impact many others in the industry,” says David Jackson, director of information technology at Sweda Co, LLC and a member of the Tech Summit workgroup. “With top presenters and planned networking activities and events, the Tech Summit gives industry IT leaders and their teams an excellent chance to network with peers and learn how the latest technology is being applied to industry- leading companies.”

The conference began with a networking event and dinner at the AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, where attendees mingled with their peers, including those who attended NALC, engaged in catch, pass and kick games on the football field, and took stadium tours.

Tech Summit’s first full day began with a focus on security, with a general session from Wayne Reynolds, chief information security officer at Kudelski Security, whose eye-opening and in-depth investigation of the current state of the IT security landscape touched on the scope of the cyber threat, and how businesses can defend themselves through proper preparation and the cultivation of a proactive company culture. Reynolds was followed by Luis Rodriguez, enterprise sales manager at cybersecurity provider Mimecast, who spoke on balancing protection against “security fatigue” and finding the right balance while mitigating risk exposure.

Further sessions at Tech Summit included IT change management and leading a company through transition, the relationship between organization leadership and IT, storytelling with data and creating data visualizations, search engine optimization, intellectual property and industry integration, among other subjects. New to this year’s programming was a focus on content catering to developer team members at industry companies.

An established characteristic of Tech Summit is an emphasis on audience interaction. Speakers frequently followed up their sessions with Q&A sessions with the audience, and the schedule included time to revisit topics discussed during the day where attendees shared their own challenges and accomplishments. Tech Summit also featured a series of roundtables, with each table focusing on specific issues ranging from development to cloud-based products to industry integration to licensing, among others. The 90-minute session saw participants rotating to new tables and topics every 30 minutes.

“The Tech Summit gives industry technologists the opportunity to get together, exchange ideas and learn about the latest IT trends,” says attendee Eric Natinsky, CEO of SAGE. “There are very good IT conferences all over the country, but none of them provide the industry-specific focus that you get here at Tech Summit. It’s that industry focus combined with the sheer number of industry technology leaders all being in one place that really makes Tech Summit so valuable and unique.”

Bryony Zasman, co-founder and chief product officer of industry service provider ZOOMcatalog, attended both NALC and Tech Summit. She says, “It would have been a tough decision to choose just one of them. NALC is great for networking and meeting a lot of the owners of the companies we work with, but at Tech Summit I get to learn about the pain points our customers are facing every day. We are a technology firm and it is very relevant to us to understand how suppliers and distributors who have their own tech teams are running them, what they need and what resources they have. And if they don’t have their own tech team, it’s relevant to hear what it is that they need, so it is important for us to get that perspective. It’s a totally different mix of people as well. We work with a lot of the behind-the-scenes tech guys, and here we get to meet face-to-face with the people we work with.”

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James Khattak is news editor of PPB.

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