Tech Summit Delivers Robust Education To Industry IT Pros
For the past two days, more than 100 industry IT professionals, decision makers and executives responsible for their organization’s technology environment have been convening in Washington, D.C., for the PPAI Tech Summit. The annual educational event offered a variety of expert-led sessions exploring the most pertinent technology issues affecting the profession in general and the promotional products industry specifically, as well as opportunities to network and learn from each other.
“In our field you can go out and get technology education anywhere,” says Jon Norris, vice president at Starline USA, Inc., and chair of the Tech Summit Work Group. “What we bring that is different are industry-relevant topics, a sense of community and networking. We really tried to focus on opportunities for attendees to interact with each other. The industry can do cool things when the tech community works together.”
Futurist and author Ian Kahn, who’s also a three-time TEDx speaker and Forbes contributor, opened the conference on Wednesday by giving a broad overview of the technological and transformational forces shaping our world, including cryptocurrency, augmented reality, virtual reality, artificial intelligence, the Internet Of Things and personal big data, among others. He spoke about the accelerating pace of change and exponential growth in computing power, and the importance of future proofing businesses given the speed of change. “What is the potential that we are sitting on and what should we do about it?” he asked listeners.
Next, attendees chose one of two breakout sessions. One was led by Mike Knapick, CIO at SanMar, who moderated a panel discussion on choosing a software/consulting partner with panelists Eric Alessi, president and CEO of Essent; Dino Bangiorno, application development team lead at HALO Branded Solutions; Ken Phu, VP of technology, Hub Pen and Anish Varghese, founder and CEO of Binated, Inc. Another panel discussion, led by David Shultz, VP of operations at DistributorCentral, explored cloud computing trends with panelists Paul Fleischman, technical lead at PCNA, Steve Luisser, VP of research at Essent Corporation and David Jackson, director of IT at Sweda Company, LLC.
In the final session of the morning, Eric Natinsky, CEO at SAGE, presented an overview of SAGE products. After lunch, attendees had their choice of roundtables where they discussed a variety of topics including compliance, data management, disaster recovery and others. Two more breakout sessions followed: building a technology roadmap presented by Sweda’s Jackson and a panel debating third-party vs. internal development with moderator Paul Elfstrom, PPAI’s director of technology and panelists Trent Grandey, Micah Matteson and Humayoon Mohammad—all members of PPAI’s IT team. The day wrapped up with a session that’s become a popular tradition at Tech Summit: 30 tech tips in 30 minutes, a fast-paced interactive session led by Dale Denham, MAS+, CIO at Geiger.
This morning, the second day of the conference got under way with a comprehensive look at data breaches with cyber security expert Scott Augenbaum, and continued through the afternoon with topics including PromoStandards (the industry’s leading integration standard), General Data Privacy Regulations, threat detection, resolution and recovery, ecommerce, IT recruiting, and Web2Print. The event wraps up late today with a closing session on visualizing data with speaker Scott Berinato, senior editor at Harvard Business Review. He will lay out the case for why making good charts is a need-to-have skill and includes the principles needed to turn typical data into compelling stories.
Now in its fifth year, Tech Summit was designed to provide content that applies to the C-level executive as well as to the technical guru, says Norris. “It has always been important to [the Work Group] to provide relevant content for today but look forward to emerging technology. I think this is the strongest agenda we have had yet,” he adds.
Christy Ridpath, executive director of solutions integration at ASI says, “I liked that in the session on cloud computing they shared the different tools they use in the cloud to work across their enterprise; I thought that was really helpful.”
Javier Franco, IT pro at Edwards Garment, got his first “aha” moment during Wednesday’s opening session on transformational change. “I really enjoyed the section on finding your purpose in life and the way to go about doing that using the Ikigai diagram. It really boils down to taking a look at who you are, what you love to do, and putting it all together and deciding what you should be focusing on given your talents and interest, not just to benefit the organization but the world at large.”
Sanjeev Kashyap, senior manager at ArtworkServicesUSA, traveled from his company’s headquarters in Mumbai, India, to attend the conference. For him, being able to meet face to face was most valuable. “We usually interact by phone and emails, so it’s good to put a face with a name and make a connection with our customers,” he says.
Denham, who is also PPAI board chair, summed up this year’s conference by saying, “The value gained at this conference cannot be overstated. The networking alone provides value to every industry firm and the education brings even more value. Security and integrations were very popular topics—every attendee will bring back practical information to improve their business.”
Norris adds, “I hope that the attendees come away with a greater understanding of industry projects like PromoStandards. This is an excellent example of the power of our industry working together to solve common goals and not just trying to benefit a single company or entity.”