Here's why they do attend – for learning, for new ideas, for meeting peers
By Todd R. Weiss
PHILADELPHIA – Almost 500 attendees from all over the U.S., and some from as far away as India and Sweden, are here at the 6th annual Emerging Technologies for the Enterprise Conference (ETE).
What attracted them to attend this year's two-day conference?
And what have they taken away so far?
For Michael P. Redlich, a senior research technician for a U.S.-based petrochemical research organization, this is his fourth year in a row as an attendee.
"It's basically just the wealth of information that's out there, especially in the area of emerging technology," he said. "I never heard of the Akka platform until today so I went to see what it was about. It turned out to be about cloud computing. There's just so much to keep up with that it's hard to keep current."
That's where conferences like this one are a boon, he said. Redlich, who runs a Java user's group and uses the enterprise open source Spring development platform, said he also attended a session on Spring and came out with useful new ideas.
"There were some new things in there that I wasn't even aware of," he said.
Amir Tahvildaran, manager of systems and applications for Drexel University's Math Forum and Goodwin College, said attending the show helps him stay connected to the latest enterprise software developments.
"It's good to keep up on the newest things and technologies that you don't have time to keep up with at work," said Tahvildaran, who is here for his fifth ETE conference. "I hadn't heard of several mobile technologies, such as PhoneGap, or the Arquillian integration testing [tools]."
As Drexel looks at getting involved in more mobile projects in the future, these kinds of technologies could be very useful to explore, he said. "It was nice to come in here. People talk sense about why you would get into mobile."
Linda Kaiser, a IT manager for a Philadelphia-based investment company, was at ETE for the first time.
"I'm here because in my role [as the leader of a small R&D group] I'm generally interested in emerging technologies," Kaiser said. "We are very interested in the mobility topics that they have here at the conference."
One of the best sessions she attended, she said, was about "intentional emergence" and what large, monolithic enterprises can learn from the Web and from open source communities.
Presented by Jim Stogdill, a senior director of architecture innovation with consulting firm, Accenture, the session dove into the visible shifts in organizational structure as our society continues to move from the Industrial Age to the Information Age.
Stogdill talked about "how it impacts real organizations that are used to doing things from the top down" instead of in the reverse, Kaiser said. "We have been using Agile software development methodologies for several years now with varying degrees of success. Some of that has to do with the need for the organization to shift. There are definitely some interesting sessions here."
Steve Gass, a Web developer for Armstrong World Industries in Lancaster who is attending his third ETE show, said he's already learned some intriguing things to take back to work.
"I got a lot of insights into the mobile platform" and how businesses can find ways to connect with customers, Gass said. "It's something I'm just starting with" in his job.
One of the best things he comes away with, he said, is the wide range of ideas he hears from presenters and fellow attendees from a wide range of companies.
"I come for a lot of both technical insights and philosophical insights," he said.
Bruce Momjian, a database architect with EnterpriseDB, said he's been coming to the ETE conference for four years from his home in nearby Newtown Square, Pa., because the topics covered here are things he doesn't deal with every day in his work.
"What's neat for me is that this is a conference that is not in my specialty," he said. "When I come here, I learn about new things, like [the programming language] Erlang and about how to write mobile apps in a Web browser. The cool thing for me is that I get more out of this conference than I do just about anywhere else. It's a different stack."
Another key benefit of the ETE conference, Momjian said, is that it truly highlights some of the best technology innovations being developed right here in his backyard in Philadelphia.
"I learn about what everyone else is doing plus I get to develop working relationships with tech people in the area," he said. ""This gives me a chance to really be visible and to get to know a lot of the movers and shakers in our area. We have a lot of tech people here in Philadelphia, but we didn't have anyone to bring us together until now. That's why I think this is a core conference. I get so much out of this."
What were your reasons for attending this year's conference?
And what did you get out of it?
Please share your stories and lessons learned here in the comments section of the blog below.
Todd R. Weiss is a longtime technology journalist who worked as a staff writer for Computerworld.com from 2000 to 2008. Now a freelance tech journalist, Weiss contributes regularly to Computerworld, PCWorld.com and other publications. He has also written extensively for Linux.com, ForecastingClouds.com and TechTarget on a wide range of enterprise IT topics from Linux and open source to disaster recovery, cloud computing, virtualization, application development, IT education and mobile and wireless technologies. He began writing about computers in 1996 after a newspaper editor he worked for told him that "no one cares about technology." Apparently, the editor was wrong.