MHTA’s High Tech, High Touch CIO Panel

Minnesota High Tech Association’s (MHTA) annual CIO panel brought, as promised, a wide-ranging discussion of the year’s top developments, along with challenges and opportunities they see in 2015. The event, held on December 11, at the Science Museum of Minnesota, covered tech perspectives from the sports immersion experience (Buffalo Wild Wings (@BWWings)) to expanding the social experience to enable a digital workforce (Accenture).

Margaret Anderson Kelliher, President and CEO of MHTA (@MAKMinnesota) and moderated by Dee Thibodeau, CEO of Charter Solutions and MHTA Board member, kicked off the event with an overview of MHTA’s ACE Leadership Program. ACE, accepting applications now, is an eight-session program covering public speaking, effective negotiation and adaptive leadership in tech.

MHTA's Oct 2014 WLIT Panel of Fearless #WomeninTech

MHTA’s Oct 2014 WLIT Panel of Fearless #WomeninTech

MHTA does a well-rounded job of covering all types of events throughout the course of the year from their Spring Conference (May, 7, 2015) to membership-building events like golf outings. My first MHTA event was their October 21, 2014, Women Leading in Technology (WLiT) panel, where four top tech women in our local community shared their stories specific to their career paths and overcoming challenges.

The CIO panel offered yet more insight into the Minnesota tech community and drove home that fact that technology is so prominent and integral to any business. Interestingly enough, three of the five panelists were women. Kudos! Panel members’ industries included restaurant, medical, construction and tech services and management consulting. The diverse range of topics and insights covered delivered at least a few nuggets that each of the audience members could walk away with and directly apply to their own business and role.

Buffalo Wild Wings
Karen Bird, VP of Information Technology at BWWings, shared how they’re using tech to drive customer experience in their restaurants with tools like tech at each table enabling games and more. Eventually, you might be able to order your adult beverages with one tap. Emcee Dee, a recent visitor to BWWings, recapped her positive experience.  As a mom who’s brought her two kids (ages 9 and 11) to BWWings for eats and not necessarily a “immersive sports experience,” I can second that. When I visit, I appreciate the atmosphere, service, wings and most especially my Guest Experience Captain, an individual skilled in conversation and catering to your needs who doesn’t need to rush off to wait on 10 other tables. Karen’s leading the tech charge to take their concept internationally with restaurant openings in Dubai and more in 2015.

St. Jude Medical
Mark Murphy, VP and CIP of St. Jude Medical, touched on big data, security, managed services and the cloud, citing the extreme petabytes of information collected hourly from companies like Walmart. A word of caution: the current systems an average business has in place are not going to cut it. One mammoth challenge, also brought up during the end Q&A session, centered around what do do with all of the data companies are collecting. Too many companies are suffering from analysis paralysis. Mark stressed looking at data and building cross partnerships in other industries. This type of approach ensures relevance and deliberate research to support innovative ideas, like St. Jude Medical’s Quadripolar Lead.

MHTA's CIO Panel Forecasting 2015 Tech Trends

MHTA’s CIO Panel Forecasting 2015 Tech Trends

Minnesota Department of Health and Veteran Affairs
Anita Scott, CIO of the Minnesota Department of Health and Veteran Affairs, shared insight on the process of bringing medical marijuana to Minnesotans. The forms and process flow chart she presented for players from facilities to care providers to the individuals was highly complex. Twenty-some companies invested a significant, non-refundable application fee to submit their companies to full the manufacturing and distribution roles statewide. Two were selected. Anita shared the video from Channel 12 TV, highlighting Maple Grove as one of the sites. One of the players happened to have their facility already built. At this news, my new friend next to me leaned over to note how interesting that was. We stifled our laughter.

Mortenson Construction
Robin Brown, VP and CIO of Mortenson Construction, from what I could gather, brought a breath of fresh air to a privately held, exponentially-growing construction firm. Mortenson, a respected name in construction in Minnesota since 1954, to its founders and leadership credit, has sought out expertise not only in construction, but other verticals. Delving into solar and wind power, for example, has helped them build relationships and value with their clients. They’re also using new technology (3D SketchUp) to bridge the gap in remote locations and job sites to bring more onsite manipulation of blueprints, process, materials and scheduling. More adaptable information and its quick dissemination is critical to solve some of their toughest challenges.

Andrew Wilson, CIO of Accenture, one of the world’s leading organizations providing management consulting, technology and outsourcing services, with more than 305,000 employees, is British. I mention this because I could listen to his accent no problem, which is made possible by Accenture’s own TV channel with weekly content. What I found most exciting was Andrew’s discussion surrounding how they share internal content through online company communities via software like Lync and Yammer. He said blogging, for him, is obsolete. He places content on their community-driven page and engagement goes through the roof.

Overall, MHTA inspired great tech conversations through this diverse panel and set the stage for programming and content we can look forward to in 2015 with events like Tech.2015, the WLiT quarterly series and the 15 years and running Tekne Awards (Nov 18, 2015). Here’s to heightening the conversation surrounding tech in Minnesota!


Joy: A Vitamin That Comes From Within

In a refreshing change of pace just in time for the holidays, I took time to attend MplsSt.Paul Magazine’s Tastemakers event on December 9. #MSPTastemakers, an event held almost quarterly, brings together an unusual concoction of panelists for lively dialogue. You can rest assured at any Tastemakers event you’ll find creative cocktails, fine eats and inspiring off-the-cuff conversations prompted by MSP Magazine’s own Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl, emcee and acclaimed food and wine writer.

Tastemakers Panel

Tastemakers Dara, Brenda, Cindy and Pilar

Past Tastemakers events from Finnegan’s to 45th Parallel and Tilia to Lucia’s typically revolve around the palate (the series is billed as lively discussions on juicy topics from our local food and drink community). Their recent event, #VitaminJoy, was about healthy lifestyle and a tasting of sorts — not a specific food or drink, but joy itself. It was a shot of reality offered up by three women who openly shared their insight, research and lifestyles surrounding the joy factor. Hint, it doesn’t come in a box nor from a store.

So many of us feel chronically overwhelmed and stressed. The holidays, meant to be a time of joyous celebration with friends and family, often add more pressure to the equation. So how can we experience joy? It’s not about attaining material things (we all know this, right?), but it’s about slowing down to actually enjoy and experience moments in our lives. Why is this so hard to do?

Panelists Brenda Langton, owner of Spoonriver and Mill City Farmers Market champion; Cindy Joseph, leader in the pro-age revolution and creator of Boom! product line; and Pilar Gerasimo, editor of Experience Life, Lifetime Fitness’ publication; offered us answers by giving the audience simple, attainable ideas for wellness framed in context with the obstacles society presents.

Avoid Toxic Carrots: Drink Agra Culture Juice

Avoid Toxic Carrots: Drink Agraculture Juice

Avoid Toxic Carrots
Pilar cited the toxic environments we’re all subjected to through constant media carrots like six-pack abs and Maserati’s dangling in front of us. Throughout the night, those two items became the tokens for material things we desire. If we can just get those things, we’ll feel better. We might not even care about the journey to get them. We’re just mindlessly doing. Pilar led us in a breathing exercise right then and there to return to mindfulness.

Love Your Veggies
Brenda cited a love affair with vegetables and how simply she’s learned to cook with and for her family. In teaching a three-series class once a year and coaching panicked people faced with forced diet changes due to poor health, she calmly acquaints them with beautiful, tasteful vegetables and gives them the skills to shop and share in the food prep and dining. She then posed the question, “Have we gone completely mad?” and answering with an emphatic, “Yes, you need to know how to cook!”

Recognize the Crazy
Dara jumped in with a statistic that reports 43% of Americans eat while in their car. At those numbers, if you’re not doing that, you’re already ahead of nearly half of the population — congrats! Surprisingly, when it comes to basic, human elements like eating, sleeping and exercise, we are not getting it right. We’re turning to miracle solutions and promises aimed at solving the symptoms, not treating the chronic disease or underlying conditions. If you want to be inspired to action, check out the app named RevoluntaryAct. I downloaded it months ago while reading my latest issue of Experience Life, but hadn’t used it yet. To give it context, I highly recommend reading the Manifesto behind its creation (my copy came in my swag bag) which flat out tells it like it is, “The Way Were Are Living is Crazy.”

Embrace Reality’s Fun Factor
Cindy Joseph then shared her compelling story from 63 years of perspective, 27 of those as a renown make-up artist for high fashion publications. After a job as a flaw-seeker and masker of what she saw as perfect creatures, she liked the reality behind the fantasy much more. At 49, she stopped dyeing and let her silver locks shine. Talk about aging gracefully and beautifully. Dolce & Gabbana even noticed and asked her to model for them. “There should be no fear, only fun,” she says, citing that it just makes sense that the longer we’re on the planet, the more experience and wisdom we have. Like the wisdom to only use one moisturizer for your whole body, which is the impetus for her creation Boom!

Revolutionary Swag Bag

Revolutionary Swag Bag

Collectively, they all talked about joy in many ways: how it’s distinctly different from happiness, which is a state of mind; and how it’s a pleasurable experience you actually need to slow down and enjoy because neurologically-cool things happen. Guilt, by the way, is present-time judging of past actions which you can avoid if you’re truly present in the moment at hand. With definition, context and role models, I can now go forth and enjoy not only the holiday season, but my life long-term. To paraphrase The Grinch who overcame his closed, joyless heart, “Maybe our joy, perhaps, doesn’t come from a store. Our joy, perhaps, mean a little bit more.”

— Wishing you all a joyous holiday season and a life filled with joy.