It’s great to be back in my second home, San Francisco, for the next few days while I attend Sungard Summit 2010. It’s an annual conference for users of Sungard Higher Ed products, such as Luminis, the portal platform I manage at BC Institute of Technology. Each year, the conference moves to a new city (last year was Philadelphia, the year before it was Anaheim), so I was excited to discover that this year was where I feel most at home outside of Burnaby.
Opening day starts with registration, which I was able to skip by registering last night, and then brunch in one of the giant halls at Moscone Center. The breakfast was great and I met folks from colleges and universities in Oregon, New Jersey and Texas as well as employees of Sungard. One of the people sitting at my table had an iPad, which he had downloaded all of the conference material (agenda, session info, maps, etc) onto. He let me play with it for a while and I have to say, even as a Apple fan, it was a pretty great experience.
After brunch, we heard the keynote from Ron Lang, the CEO of Sungard. It was typical fare, discussing the importance of collaboration, teamwork and how that needs to be part of Sungard’s guiding principles. He’s a good speaker, but there wasn’t much there that was a surprise or even unexpected. He did, however, have a great tip for travellers to San Fran: take a trip across the Golden Gate and check out the view from a rarely used road to get a sense of the beauty that is the pristine coastline just north of the city.
After Ron came the main speaker, Chris Gardner, author of “The Pursuit of Happyness“. He relayed much of his story which has been turned into a best-selling book as well as a feature film starring Will Smith. It’s an amazing story and, in many ways, better than the book which glosses over some of the more dire situations. The main difference is that his son wasn’t 5 years old when his struggles were at their hardest, he was 14 months old.
Although Chris isn’t a natural speaker, he is a compelling one. Perhaps because he isn’t the slick, highly scripted speaker that is often chosen for keynotes, he came across as genuine and personable in his discussion of personal struggles and the responsibilities of parenthood that rise above all others. I was moved by much of what he said, especially in regard to his discussion of not having a father and how important it was to be there for his own son, no matter what the cost.
After that, it was back to business. I happened to run into a fellow Luminis person from SIAST and we talked about portal ideas and the perils of presenting at Summit for a while. We made our way to the upcoming Luminis Kickoff session, where we found Josh Horner, the Product Manager for Luminis. It was a great opportunity to talk one-on-one about upcoming products, ideas for imminent releases and even planning for future conferences.
The Luminis Kickoff session was great, with a discussion of the coming Luminis 5 platform which included a demo of the product. To be honest, it’s not much different than what I’ve already seen, so I wasn’t blown away, but I am excited about the product and look forward to running my own demo at some point.
Things I have noted this year:
- Sungard is still using IE6 for conference kiosks. Seriously?! A technology company using IE6 is embarassing. Editing this WordPress post was very challenging using this ancient and unsupported browser.
- WiFi is spotty at best. In larger sessions, signal drops to nothing repeatedly, which kills sessions. Extremely frustrating.
- Rooms have been quite big and well miked so far. An improvement on some previous locations
- Wayfinding is excellent this year! Good job to those who have set up the signs and assistants
Now back to my hotel room to touch up my presentation for tomorrow and then find some dinner in this fine town. Suppenkuche, anyone?