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.

Accenture
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!

Networking Pre-search and Planning

So many events, so little time. I understand exactly how this overload happens. Get a room full of enthusiastic people together around a cause, and the topic eventually trends toward throwing an event. But enthusiasm doesn’t necessarily translate into a good event worthy of your time and energy.

Good events have the elements of learning, clearly communicated objectives, schedule of events (SOE), logistics, communications and follow-up all sussed out. It’s up to you, as the event-goer, to discern if it’s an event that aligns with your personal and professional networking strategies and goals. This process is called pre-search.

Fanaticon Event Brought Brands Together to Talk Fans

Fanaticon Event Brought Brands Together to Talk Fans

For the purposes of this exploration, I’m focusing on business seminars and events with formats based on learning and networking in a professional environment. I’ve already reviewed networking effectiveness (a checklist of what to look for before rsvp’ing), networking formats and networking timeframes in previous posts. Now I’m getting more in-depth on the pre-search portion.

EVENT PRE-SEARCH

When doing pre-search on an event, consider the host and partners involved, the event format, attendee make-up and your networking goals.

Event Host
Are you familiar with the hosting and partner organizations? If not, check them out online. If there are speakers, check them out too. Do you have people in your network that are connected to the host, partners or participants in some way? Ideally, someone you know in your network might recommend the event and give you a little insight on the format and the audience you’ll find there. It’s worth asking if you’re unsure.

Event Format
What’s the schedule of events? Is there time for intentionally networking before or after a learning program or is it solely to network? Is it an annual or celebratory event, focused on learning or a format tried and true that’s on a more frequent basis, like a monthly event? This will give you cues on what you can expect and plan for during the event.

Event Audience
Who is likely to be there? Are these the type of connections that would be beneficial to you personally or professionally? Do you want to re-establish your existing network or broaden it? Generally speaking, a balance of both is healthy.

Your Goal
What’s your goal in attending the event? Are you there to meet people who can help you find a job or work? Are you there to sell your services at a business to consumer level or business to business level? Or maybe you want to learn from others to educate yourself on a new topic or gain new skill sets?

WLIT Panel Brought Women in Tech Together to Talk Fearlessness

WLIT Panel Brought Women in Tech Together to Talk Fearlessness

MONTHLY PRE-SEARCH and PLANNING

At a very top-level, you can do this pre-search for events as they arise, but making a more concerted effort to pair your business networking goals, like on a monthly basis, with events tends to make you more intentional and deliberate in your efforts. And remember, you also need to build in time for follow-up!

Understanding the how and why of building your network will help you select the events most worth your time. It will also help you go into events with realistic expectations, read the tone of the room and determine how you go about networking and follow-up. Long term, it will ensure you’re balancing re-establishing and building on existing connections with time and resources to branch out to new connections.