So Much to Talk About

Who’s excited to talk tech?! I sure am. We have so many productive topics coming to the table. So many ultra-qualified people and organizations to be part of those discussions. And, from what I’ve seen and heard, an absolutely amazing site at which to hold them.

Discussion topics are pending. And, frankly, we want you to be influential to what they are and how they unfold. However, many vendors, sponsors, and industry leaders have committed to involvement. Here are some to look for. (In order of appearance, as the schedule stands.)

The schedule is posted here. Only minor details remain to be finalized, so keep an eye mountainsymposium.com.

Due to feedback from past attendees, adjustments have been made to the symposium’s format. After all, this event is for you! Expect a higher degree of involvement (as you wish); we have scheduled more time for round table discussions, with mild moderation integrated. Also, carefully picked industry experts are queued up to kick off some thought provoking topics, designed to potentially seed further discussion. Who knows? You might end up deploying solutions you never thought you would before!

Besides business accomplishments, Jay Peak is going to have some fun in store for us, as well! I don’t know about anyone else, but I can’t wait to jump into that waterpark. Here are some photos.

Many other exciting things are happening this year. Take part in all the fun and conversation at the 2019 Mountain Technology Symposium at Jay Peak, VT. October 2nd through the 4th. Register now!

As with prior years, special room rates are available for the event. Studios start at $110/night, 1 bedroom units from $160/night, and 2 bedroom from $230/night. When booking online at https://jaypeakresort.com/reserve, be sure and specify group code 805352. Or if you prefer to call in your reservation, call 800-451-4449 and mention the Mountain Technology Symposium rates or the same group code. These rates have limited availability (Sunday, September 29th through the Sunday, October 6th). As an added bonus, event registration includes discounts that are also good before, during, and after the event is over. Thanks, Jay Peak.

We’ll see you in October.

Are you interested in hosting the 2020 Mountain Technology Symposium? Want to be part of the team? Please inquire here.

Keeping Culture Caught Up

Our end-user friends need an upgrade

“And here comes Technology, screaming ahead of the pack! Seems like no one can keep up with her, Bob.”

“I know what you mean, Jim. We’ve got Sys Admin trailing behind, trying to keep up. She sure does her best.”

“And then there’s End User. Way back there! Leaning up against a tree, smoking a cigarette. That guy really doesn’t know just how far behind he is, does he, Bob?”

“He sure doesn’t, Jim.”

For those of you that have been in IT since before it was called IT, you possibly remember the people that would say something like, “Yeah, I know just enough to be dangerous,” and then laugh. Because it was so funny when they broke things due to overconfidence. Problems that you had to fix.

One of our biggest challenges in technology management is born from this type of person still existing, combined with the fact that s/he is in a new, changed world—a much more dangerous one. A world where individuals and organizations alike are losing money, time, integrity. Under-education of users, careless computer usage, and lack of leadership to improve these things is resulting in far worse consequences than an eye roll from your company’s computer guy. Does your organization hold data that includes the names and addresses of children? Mine does. Being dangerous with the computer is not funny anymore.

For just a moment, I’m going to skip the part about the personal information of you and your loved ones being at risk. Let’s touch on financial risk. On October 21st, 2016, a double whammy DDoS attack brought down the internet for most of the East Coast. A botnet was engineered to take advantage of vulnerabilities in tens of millions of IoT devices. If we wanted to lay blame, some might point a finger at the assailants, stating that the attack was immensely complex. We might also consider the premiere victim, DNS services, and contemplate what could have been done on that end to avoid the attack.

If you research this event, one thing you may come across is blame upon the difficulty of changing default passwords. That is one useful perspective: don’t assume the skill level of end users. No argument from me there. But I’d like to present another angle that I believe to be equally legitimate and useful. If you never put the crutch away, you will always need the crutch. Largely, common users of technology have not been “taught to fish”. Those IoT devices can have the most robust, in-your-face, Credential Change Me mechanism ever, but the world is still wandering on dangerous ground when individuals don’t take charge of their own safety.

It’s hard to say what the economic damages were from the 2016 outage, but global damages were estimated at over $5 billion from just ransomware in 2017.

Here’s a recent bit from 60 Minutes on ransomware.

“Well, Jim, we can’t just walk onto the track and tell End User he’s in a race, can we?”

No, Bob. It wouldn’t be appropriate, or realistic, for me to go deeply into anthropological and psychological science. However, culture wasn’t created in college. Change starts with thinking outside the box, and is deployed when charismatic folk take action. We are leaders within our organizations, and have the potential to affect that culture. It doesn’t start with a mass email that will be deleted by 90% of recipients. And, no, it doesn’t start with a newsletter article, either. It starts with talking. Chatting with your users on their level. Discussing things they understand, like how there are sick people in this world that we don’t want acquiring personal information, especially that of our youth.

On the subject of training and communication, it’s important to remember that this “user’s level” I’m speaking of is not “lower”. Just different. In many cases, the end user truly doesn’t know they’re in that race. And often when we try to tell them how to keep up—to take precautions and self-educate—they think we’re paranoid, or that we should put them in a cart and push them down the track. The real challenge is showing people that information technology is not a thing that should always and forever be used by many and fixed by few, and that using devices should be as simple as pushing the buttons and waiting for it to do what is desired. We’re not doing users any favors by being the company computer guy, telling the person to “Move!”, then rebooting for them. If someone is hired to drive a car, and then say, “Oh, I’m not very good at this,” and expect someone to drive it for them, the employer will wonder why they applied for the job in the first place; if the employer is kind, they attempt some training. The personal computer is not new technology anymore. It’s been at large for over 30 years.

With both IoT and malicious internet activity accelerating, one of the most important upgrades we should be thinking about is an upgrade to the culture of technology usage. Let’s stop holding hands and walking people down the path, and start showing them the path. Show them the world they live in.

Take part in this conversation and many more at the 2019 Mountain Technology Symposium at Jay Peak, VT. October 2nd through the 4th.
Register now!

A Helping Hand for Hospitality

We are technology professionals. Our knowledge and skill-sets spread all over aspects of business and personal life. But what do we do? We configure things. Push buttons. Stare at screens until our eyes hurt. But at the end of the day, our core function in business is not rebooting frozen workstations or telling people how to do things they can find online. We provide solutions. And if a company is utilizing us properly and fully, these can be solutions to “problems” the company doesn’t even know it has.

The hospitality industry needs to get people through doors and gates. It needs to take money, keep customers safe, give basic information, and probably provide some set of products and services. These are things that almost all businesses do. You know where I’m going with this; hospitality is, by its very nature, more than that. Hotel staff can and want to give people smiles as they’re going through the door. Ski area safety personnel don’t just want skiers to be safe, they want them to feel safe. The job is getting done right when the customer feels that information is readily available without being invasive or obnoxious. Our business is beyond products and services. It’s experience!

Now, I could go into an essay of elaborate parables and metaphors that map the hospitality business to what we do in our services to the folks with whom we work. And then most of you would roll your eyes at how much of a stretch it all was until you just stopped reading. But in all seriousness, I think we can at least take some cues from the business model that provides us jobs.

As IT personnel, we need to get people through doors and gateways. We need to keep their data safe, guide them to Google, and empower them to take money. Our list of necessary services to the company we work for is longer than what is provided by that same company. Just sayin’.

Technology professionals, when doing the job right, want to do more! We want VPs and execs to feel like their company is safe (in part by educating them on what dangers there are). We want to increase productivity, efficiency, and bottom-line through quality solutions, not just what one can get from common or popular platforms. An IT department is the best it can be when staff are well informed, easily finding the documentation and training they need. And last but not least, I know I’m not the only one who wants to help my colleagues make the journey through the seasons enjoyable. Who doesn’t want less stress?!

This is why we invented the Mountain Technology Symposium. We are a community of professionals that truly want to be a part of creating an experience full of smiles. So as winter operations come to a close, and you watch all your company’s teams do their best to keep up momentum through to the end, ask yourself this: will in-person collaboration do anything but help us grow?

Unless you are that one person that doesn’t have any use of a helping hand from an industry colleague, please join us at the Mountain Technology Symposium, October 2nd through 4th, 2019 in Jay Peak, Vermont! Register here!

Keep an eye out for the May newsletter. I’ll be featuring either a sponsor or a committee member or both, and their contributions to the symposium and the industry.

Data and Adventure!

What do you get when you gather minds from all over the world to discuss what can be done with technology to grow the ski and hospitality industries? Collaboration? Solutions? Fun? The attendees at the 2018 Mountain Technology Symposium in Sun Valley, ID might give you a dozen different answers. And then they would debate the correct answer for hours until everyone still disagreed—because they are IT.

After the success of the inaugural event in Telluride, CO, the symposium committee of seven decided that continuation of the event was justified. For three too-short days during the weekend of Oct 13, 2018, IT experts from 4 countries, 22 ski resorts, all from 23 states and provinces, met in a beautiful Idaho area called Sun Valley. Our goal was to drive technology for resorts and hospitality facilities at a rate no one can do alone. The achievement of such a goal is difficult to quantify or grade, but when collaboration and communication between colleagues has increased, and new topic ideas explode onto an agenda for the next symposium, general success is clear.

The brain child for the first symposium in Telluride was Benjamin Whiting, IS Director. Chris Jaquet, Software Specialist for the same resort, took on planning, coordination, and a list of other cornerstone responsibilities too long to list in a magazine article. Between these two professionals and the rest of the symposium committee, they hit it out of the park. Compliments from attendees hardly stopped. Sponsors and presenters alike were more than satisfied with the turnout.

As one would expect, year one of the event was not flawless. Not all presenters were precisely aware of the desired presentation focus. There were some great speakers, and several sessions were both insightful and useful, but not everyone delivered problem, concept, and solution. Beyond that, from a higher level, the whole event was not exactly what it could have been for maximum benefit. In short, the hosts just didn’t yet know precisely what that was—what this seminar could be.

Due to dozens of discussion, loads of feedback, and one survey, these shortcomings were fixed for year two. Presenters not only discussed solutions, but also thought provoking concepts. Even the speakers that were praised in 2017 brought further improvements and fresh ideas to their sequel speeches. The community effort shaped year two into something that gave that community a greater awakening to the benefit a resort-focused technology conference than many imagined was possible.

The keynote by Sun Valley’s CEO, Tim Silva, was focused on the state of the industry and some fundamental challenges at its core. Let’s face it. Someone has to keep the professional goals of the technically minded aimed at the right target or they’d end up building brilliant machines that do amazingly expensive things that, well, might not perfectly serve the customer or the bottom line. Ultimately Mr. Silva expressed his appreciation for the event and how valuable he felt it was.

The symposium was not just about work, though. After a person has visited several mountain ranges around the continent, it’s difficult to rank them. Suffice to say, the views at Sun Valley are as uniquely beautiful as the rest. And as a business, the resort provides an impressive variety of activities and hospitality accommodations, including an ice rink, a shooting range, bowling, and a wide range of fine dining options.

No matter how much both Sun Valley and Telluride were adored, variety is at the root of inspiration. Year three of the Mountain Technology Symposium will take place at Jay Peak Resort in Vermont. 2019’s location has all the needed facilities and conveniences, as well as a full stack of bonus optional activities. The proximity to hundreds of hotel rooms, a reasonable drive to the Burlington airport, multiple linked conference rooms in walking distance from lodging should provide exemplary accommodations. To top off the experience, plenty of dining options, an 18 hole golf course, self-belay climbing for any skill level, and the Clips & Reels movie theater, the Pump House Water Park for all ages and categories of humans! It’s a good thing ski resort staff know how to balance work and fun.

After observing and experiencing the freshman and sophomore years of the Mountain Technology Symposium, including front row seats as a committee member myself, I’m not sure the junior year will be perfect. But I’m predicting it will be close. Don’t miss out! Keep an eye on mountainsymposium.com for updates on details. See you in October!