Tech Summit Brings The Industry’s Top IT Pros Together

PPAI’s Tech Summit kicked off Wednesday, with a full day of the most relevant, top-of-mind technology issues, challenges and ideas affecting the promotional products industry. The annual conference, running through this afternoon 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 the North American Leadership Conference (which ran consecutively with Tech Summit), engaged in catch, pass and kick games on the football field, and joined stadium tours.

Tech Summit’s first full day began with a general session presentation 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. Following his session, Reynolds was joined on stage by Ajay Kaul, application support manager at SanMar, for a Q&A session with the audience.

Security was the overarching theme of Tech Summit’s opening morning, as 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. The morning schedule wrapped up with a Q&A led by Jon Norris, vice president at Starline USA, Inc., and Dale Denham, MAS+, senior vice president and CIO at Geiger, members of the Tech Summit workgroup who revisited ideas discussed that morning, and attendees shared their own challenges and accomplishments.

“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.”

Reflecting the diverse needs of its attendees, after lunch on Wednesday, Tech Summit offered two breakout sessions to choose from. New to this year’s programming was a focus on content catering to developer team members at industry companies, and that directive was seen in a breakout session led by Rob Richardson of Richardson and Sons, LLC, on best practices surrounding the continuous integration and development of software updates. At the same time, Jim Maholic, author and strategy and value advisor of Oracle, presented a breakout session on IT change management and leading a company through transformation. As part of his presentation, he gifted audience members with copies of his book, IT Strategy.

Denham retook the stage with PPAI President and CEO Paul Bellantone, CAE, for an interactive discussion with audience members on the relationship between organization leadership and IT department goals and operations.

Tech Summit’s first day wrapped with attendees breaking up into 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.

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 is it that they need, so it is important to 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.”

Today, Tech Summit resumed with an early-morning session with author and Harvard Business Review Senior Editor Scott Berinato, who spoke on storytelling with data and creating data visualizations that capture audience members attention. Other subjects tackled today included search engine optimization, intellectual property and a panel discussion on industry integration. The conference wraps up this afternoon.

See more comments from Tech Summit attendees in these video clips.


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