Altitude, BetterCloud’s annual IT conference, will be held September 23-25 in San Francisco this year. Thinking about attending? Let Ryan Donnon, the Director of IT at First Round Capital, persuade you that this is not your average IT conference.
How many Altitude conferences have you attended?
I’ve been to both previous Altitude conferences as well as the virtual conference, Cloud IT Live 2016, which you held before you had a physical conference.
What drew you to your first Altitude, and what keeps you coming back?
Besides my love for BetterCloud, I thought it was a good opportunity to network and spend time with other people who are also cloud forward. There aren’t many conferences that are very focused on what I do and that bring together other like-minded professionals, so that’s what drew me to the first Altitude conference.
I keep coming back because you get the same core people every year. You get to know the people you’ve met at previous Altitudes, as well as the people from the BetterIT Slack community who you virtually talk to all the time. Altitude is your once-a-year chance to interact with those people. Besides the people, the content is always great and it’s awesome to see the roadmap laid out for you. Overall, it’s a really good two-day conference.
What was your favorite part of last year’s Altitude?
The BetterIT Live sessions! It’s unstructured time to discuss real-life topics and problems with the people at your table. It’s so useful to talk to your peers and figure out what other people are doing, what problems other people are having, and what their solutions are to problems that I’m facing. The fact that we get actual time blocked off at the conference for these kinds of conversations is super helpful.
Everything is changing so fast now that there’s always new tools, new products, new security threats. Things are growing exponentially. It’s hard to keep a pulse on everything.
For me, specifically, as a solo IT admin, I have no one on a day-to-day basis to throw ideas around with. I’m located in Philadelphia, so there’s also a much smaller community to have these conversations with. The types of interactions that the BetterIT Live sessions provide are rare for me to get in person, so those are the most valuable for me.
Each year at Altitude, BetterCloud releases new product features and outlines the product roadmap. What is it like to be part of those discussions?
It’s great because you see the vision laid out in front of you. Sometimes, features won’t be out for a year or two, but you can see where the product is headed and you know that everyone in the room is on that journey together. I appreciate that you get to look so far into the future; it gets you excited about what’s to come because you know it’ll make your life easier.
The roadmap even makes me look forward to renewing with BetterCloud, because the roadmap discussion shows you that things can be different than how they are now, and BetterCloud will help you achieve that.
Sometimes BetterCloud describes a solution on the roadmap to a problem that I didn’t even know was a problem. It’s actually happened a couple of times over the years; I learn about the problem and an upcoming solution to it all in one sitting.
Additionally, when BetterCloud announces new features on the roadmap, it’s exciting to realize that I’ll have a way to address issues that I wasn’t able to before. It’s great because you realize exactly how the feature is going to make life better.
What’s the most valuable thing you’ve learned at an Altitude conference?
There’s no one specific thing—it’s all the little things that are the most valuable. It’s learning what everyone in the community is doing, taking that, and then being able to iterate on your processes to make them a little more efficient or a little bit more secure. Additionally, it’s seeing different features that are being launched and thinking about how you’re going to implement those to improve your environment.
I learn all these things, then I go back and immediately make changes. It’s taking all the little things you’ve learned that make very small incremental changes to your daily life and processes that ultimately make a big difference.
If you were talking to someone who is considering attending Altitude, but they weren’t totally sure, what would you tell them?
I would say that if you are part of a SaaS-forward business, going to Altitude is the best place to talk to a community of like-minded thinkers who are going to help you directly with your day-to-day job. Everyone’s using SaaS to some degree, but that doesn’t mean that everyone is fully versed in SaaS. If you are that person, then this is THE community that you need to be in.
And BetterCloud throws a kick-ass party.
As you know, Altitude is a sponsor free, no pressure conference. What’s it like to attend a conference like this?
I think the fact that there are no sponsors is super awesome. It’s nice to not have time eaten up by sponsors—time that could otherwise be spent learning how to better use the product.
Attending a conference that is void of all that and, instead, is a complete learning and networking experience is completely game changing.
BetterCloud, the BetterIT Slack group, and the Altitude conference—those communities are the ones that you absolutely have to be part of if you’re working in IT and use SaaS applications.