I attended TechWeek Chicago at the historic Merchandise Mart Plaza on Thursday and Friday. It took up the entire 7th floor! Attendees included a mix of techies, reporters, corporate executives and startup entrepreneurs.

The Expo floor was made up of app companies, recruiting firms, IT consultants, software developers/providers and marketing agencies. Scattered throughout the floor were vending machines where you scan your ticket’s QR code and get a free sample (tide pods, shampoo, etc). The Tesla on display constantly had a small crowd surrounding and admiring it. There were stations to relax, play video games, watch the World Cup, etc. Everyone was competing for the attendees’ attention with bright, interactive displays, unique swag and social media contests.

PANELS ATTENDED: 

Thursday: 

Trends in Enterprise Mobility 
  • Enterprises are taking advantage of mobility and using data to drive competitive advantage. Consider a Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD) policy and designing a customized app for your business.
  • Mobility in the enterprise means increased cloud use and greater industry innovation. Think Internet of Things (IoT).
Sustainable Agility: Dynamic Strategy for Success
  • Organizations need to adopt the Agile Movement and stop treating people like machines. If you continue to treat people like machines, you will lose them.
  • We need to be constantly adjusting our overall business strategy to be fluid and effective. As change occurs, the rest of the company should seamlessly evolve with the change.
  • Active listening is key for dynamic success. Constantly be rephrasing and repeating what others on your team say, whether in your head or aloud.
The Contextual Marketing Era: Location-Aware Tech 
  • Location-aware tech is changing the way we interact with consumers. For instance, I could walk into a store and receive a notification on my phone, “Hey! That lamp you pinned is here, and it’s on sale!”
  • Gathering data on personal preferences such as music, fashion, hobbies, etc. will allow brands to better cater to their target customer.
The Age of Data in the Cloud 
  • Data has previously been stored in controlled environments consisting of mainframes, which are made up of connectors to tap into the mainframe and leverage data. Sometimes that data is bad.
  • Maintaining the mainframe is problematic, as there is the issue of “over-architecting”. In this age, we are creating a divergence from this outdated, ineffective method. Data within four walls is out!
  • HIPPA and PCI are warming up to cloud storage. Modern day apps accrue and leverage massive amounts of data at alarming rates. Wearbles are helping you realize what you’re doing all day and night in trends, then pull analytics to help you optimize your lifestyle.
  • The Internet of Things (IoT) is directly tied to cloud computing. Imagine a grill that is programmed to tell you when when you’re meat is done, or a fridge keeping an e-grocery list and notifying of expiration dates/low stock.
  • Cloud is integrated into media/gaming/m2m/mobile/music, and it’s making our lives connected and easier.
  • We are collecting data with no use for it now, and we don’t know if we will ever have a use. We need good, clean, honest data. For instance, sales people should be updating their CRM data honestly.
How Technology can Rebuild and Innovate America’s Education System 
  • The cloud may be as important as mobile is to the evolution of tech in education. The cloud is what will enable us to capture and use data from anywhere in an efficient way.
  • 1871 CEO Howard Tullman suggested Chicago could become the place for changing the face of education using technology.
  • Widespread adoption of education apps will depend on the extent to which technology and mobile devices are available to the students and institutions they wish to serve.
  • E-text book rentals for $5 may soon be a reality.
Panoramic shot of Techweek Chicago ’14

 Friday: 

Managing Social Media in the 21st century 
  • Sprout Social gave a casual presentation on succeeding in social media today. An interesting topic they brought up was in regards to joining a niche social network. Join it early on and quickly gain a loyal following, which will only grow with the network.
Women in Tech-Defining the Issues & Driving Solutions 
  • The lack women in the tech industry, especially at the mid-career level, is a major problem and mentorship is not practiced or rewarded enough. Companies should focus on implementing leadership-development programs designed to catalyze female employees’ progress.
  • Mentorship relationships should be paired off based on similar ultimate goals. You will motivate each other!
Innovation and Women’s Empowerment: Lessons Learned
  • Women need to possess confidence and a strong sense of competition in order to succeed in a male dominated industry. We should be encouraging girls from an early age that a future in tech will take them very far.
  • Sexual harassment in the workplace has been going on for far too long, in companies of all shapes and sizes. 20 years ago, people turned the other cheek on the matter. It’s time to shine light on the issue and speak up.