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Here’s What Makes Altitude Different from Other IT Conferences, According to PopSugar’s Senior Director of IT

Christina Wang

July 17, 2018

6 minute read

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Altitude, our annual customer conference, is taking place October 2-4 in Denver, Colorado. If you haven’t registered already, you should, because it’s a little different from your typical IT conference.

What you WON’T get: sponsors. We purposely keep Altitude free of vendors, partners, and resellers so you can speak candidly and not feel pressured to buy anything.

What you WILL get: Lots of time to network with like-minded peers — plus interesting, relevant panels and keynotes — and the chance to influence our product roadmap. (And we fit in multiple breaks throughout the day so you can respond to tickets if needed.)

Our conference received overwhelmingly positive feedback last year. I wanted to find out what really resonated with attendees, so I sat down with Bjorn Pave, senior director of IT at PopSugar, to learn more about his experience at last year’s Altitude in Austin, Texas. Pave manages an IT team of 8 for PopSugar, a media company in San Francisco with 380 employees.

He shared what makes Altitude a really “rad” IT conference — what he enjoyed the most, his major takeaways, and what attendees are guaranteed to get out of it.

To learn more about Altitude 2018, click here.

Q: What made you want to attend Altitude? What piqued your interest initially?

A: A lot of the reps and employees at BetterCloud have really been engaged with our business, trying to get us to use the product as best we can and get the most out of it.

Altitude was an easy sell with the lack of sponsors and the focus on the peer interaction.

And when you have a culture like yours where it’s fun, fast-moving, and very entrepreneurial, I think your customers want to engage with the company. Everybody there has a stake and feels like they’re a part of it. So I think that you guys do a really good job with the culture.

Q: Have you been to other IT conferences?

A: It’s all I do! I go to every conference under the sun. I was in Las Vegas five times last year for five different conferences. Generally, that’s how I keep up to date with the industry.

But with those Vegas conferences, you often have to jump on a bus to go from one hotel to another in order to get to the next session. And generally those sessions are very popular, so it’s either sold out, or you’re sitting way in the back or on the floor. It all feels very rushed and congested. I hate that part of it.

Q: What do you think makes Altitude different from other IT conferences?

A: It says a lot about Altitude that the second I got the email about this year’s conference, I pretty much said, “Yeah, of course I’m going to go again.”

The number one draw to Altitude is that there are no vendors and no insane schedules. It gives us a lot of time for that peer networking. When I go to conferences, I really seek out the peer connections. I look for other people in our industry to find out where our pain points align and what they’re doing about them, what their approach is.

It’s an easy schedule and an easy approach without vendors constantly bombarding you. It’s a comfortable setting, good location, engaged team. You get breaks. You don’t have to run across town to make it to the next session. You can relax.

I’ve been to a lot of those conferences where it’s like a field day for the reps and employees, but BetterCloud strikes the right balance.

Q: Which sessions in particular did you find particularly valuable or interesting last year?

A: One of your employees did a good session on various email security protocols. And then there was another good session [by MIT research scientist George Westerman] on how to demonstrate the value of IT and show our impact on business metrics.

Q: That’s the one where George highlighted Intel’s Annual Performance Report on IT, right? That report measures the business-critical services IT provides and helps remind execs that IT is an enabler, not a cost center.

A: Yes, that one was good for sure. And listening to your CEO David Politis speak is always a pleasure. He’s very real, very personable. I like that he’s very approachable too.

Q: Did you like the session about BetterCloud’s product roadmap?

A: Yeah, that was great, and it felt interactive with all the questions and polls. It felt like you guys were interested in hearing from us, and we have an impact on your roadmap priorities.

Q: You absolutely do have an impact. Speaking of which, last year all the attendees got to vote on the product feature you wanted to see the most. How did that feel, knowing that you all were actually influencing the features we’re building?

A: It feels really good. It feels like you’re listening, and we’re being heard. Obviously by investing in the product we have a stake in it, and it’s nice to know that the direction is something that we’re also in agreement with.

[Ed. Note: Activity-based alerts was the #1 requested feature at last year’s conference. Based on that feedback, we built it. Last month, we released activity-based alerts for Okta and Dropbox, with many more alerts on the way.]

Q: Have you ever voted for product features at other IT conferences?

A: Not so much, no. That’s rare.

Q: Did you have any “light bulb” moments during the conference — any times where you put the pieces together and thought, “Hey, I can start doing that today”?

A: Yeah, absolutely. There were some discoveries that your team was talking about around automating the onboarding process. Some customers had shared a little bit of their automation piece and what they’ve built. I immediately took that back to my team and told them we should be automating as much of the onboarding process as possible, which we’ve done.

Q: How have those automations worked out for your team?

A: It’s made things a lot easier, for sure. We used to have a very long checklist of onboarding and offboarding tasks, and now it’s nowhere near what it used to look like. It’s all built into BetterCloud, which is nice.

Q: Right. We often hear people talk about offboarding checklists that are 60+ steps long.

A: Yeah, that’s what it looked like. My IT manager loves the automations, so I’m happy. He was pretty excited to set that up across multiple SaaS apps.

Q: If somebody was on the fence about attending Altitude, what would you say to them?

A: I think the “no pressure” part of it is big. The fact that you’re immediately thrust into a group that helps each other is great. It’s super affordable. Great networking.

Q: What were some of the best takeaways from the conference?

A: One of the big takeaways was keeping the peer network alive through your Slack channel, BetterIT. Boy, did I underestimate what that was.

I’m in a dozen different external Slack communities — not usually vendor-related, more like IT peer groups — and none of them are as active or helpful as BetterIT.

Q: Wow, that’s great to hear.

A: If there were gift bags to walk away with, that was the best thing that you could have left us with — that we have the continuation of that peer network within your Slack channel.

Q: So you’re pretty active in BetterIT?

A: Yeah, I look at it every day, and I ask questions multiple times a week. A lot of it is just information gathering. There are some G Suite feeds in there, and instead of reading them from Google, I go to BetterIT to read them. It’s just easier to digest and I can also catch up on the conversations. And I’ve contributed a little bit. I created a #media channel for other companies that are in the media space.

Q: So it sounds like the most valuable thing for you is the peer aspect — i.e., other IT professionals managing similar SaaS environments, facing similar problems?

A: Yup. Definitely.

Q: How is BetterIT different from the other external Slack communities you belong to?

A: It’s more active, and it’s more relevant — almost every time — to what we’re thinking about and doing. I don’t know if that’s because everybody’s focused on the same products and release cycles, but it somehow is very relevant to whatever we’re working on, and I appreciate that.

Q: Anything else you’d like to mention?

A: At Altitude, you’re guaranteed to be with an engaged group.

And whether or not people are in the same verticals, you’re definitely going to get something out of it because everybody has invested their time to be there.

They’re not there just for the sake of the party and karaoke and travel. They’re going to share their knowledge, and I appreciate that.

Q: Fantastic.

A: Oh, I also want to add: I pet an armadillo, so that was cool. An IT conference where you go and pet an armadillo is really rad.

Bjorn with a new friend.

To hear what other attendees had to say about our conference, check out this 1-minute sizzle reel:

 

To learn more and register for Altitude 2018, click here.

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