While most of the Digium family is still recouping from AstriCon 2013 (or already off to help with other events), one of our team members is still eagerly talking about all she learned at the event. Bekah, a member of Digium’s marketing team and today’s guest blogger, got to experience a different side of AstriCon – one sometimes overlooked: the Business Track. Here’s Bekah’s perspective on the less technical side of AstriCon – and she’s hoping to see you at next year’s business sessions!
Our marketing team is always hoppin’ during the countdown to the Asterisk User Conference, especially this year’s 10th Annual AstriCon! The demands come fast and furious, much like the madness of a retail store in the middle of the holiday season: “Pull numbers for this…We’ve made a schedule change…I need a photo for this person…Can we get a few more graphics?” In the midst of this year’s hustle and bustle I received an email from my boss – an invitation for a few of our team members to take a day trip to AstriCon. Me? A marketing specialist? Sure, our marketing team spends months planning and preparing for AstriCon, and it would be nice to see the final product of the many months worth of work. But, is there really any business value in sending me there for a day? I don’t write code. I’m not a developer. What could I learn from AstriCon?
My initial skepticism aside, I still could not have imaged the value I would gain from attending. It’s been more than a week since I attended a day of sessions at AstriCon and I’ve already begun collaborating with others on the team and putting together a plan of action on how to use the new ideas I discovered. If you missed AstriCon this year, or just didn’t get to attend the Business Track sessions, here are a few highlights:
“Increasing Security for Journalists and Human Rights Defenders in Mexico through a Creative Multi-Technology Approach” by Juan Carlos Fernandez
Juan Carlos Fernandez is Co-founder and COO of Telecomunicaciones Abiertas de Mexico, a telecommunications company dedicated to improving communications for Mexican enterprises.
As I read the title to this track, I had no idea how there could be any connection between Asterisk & Mexican journalists. Little did I know, I was in store for an eye-opening history lesson that left me proud to work for a company that developed and maintains the software that contributes to such an amazing cause. It’s a unique story, and not one you’ll find when doing a search on Google – although it deserves the attention. In Mexico, a career in journalism or human rights has become a dangerous profession. In 2012, the Mexican government passed a law requiring increased protection for journalists and human right defenders. Despite the law requiring increased protection, there was still an issue of how this would be achieved. Juan and his company answered the call by developing a cost effective multi-technology system based on Asterisk that allows journalists to send distress calls via a mobile device by simply dialing a pre-programed speed-dial number. Juan even demonstrated the solution on his own device, but forgot to tell his friends and family it was only a demo. His presentation was then humorously interrupted as he began to receive phone calls from those calling to check on him – showing how well the solution works. If that’s not a perfect demo – I don’t know what is! His solution was implemented at the end of 2012, and it has proven successful in helping increase the security and safety of Mexican journalists.
What’s the business value? Keep a broad outlook when it comes to the capabilities of your products and services. Don’t narrow your focus to one specific application or audience. Instead, consider what can be achieved when you integrate your product with other technologies. While the focus of Juan’s company is “improving communications for Mexican enterprises,” they were able to develop a product that works for a different group of people. This solution is not limited to just Mexican journalists and human right defenders – it is a platform that would work for any emergency type situation.
“Get and Keep the Right People for Your Asterisk-based Business” by Pete Cheslock
Pete is a talented speaker and delivered a fantastic presentation. Despite the fact that the subject of his session was not directly related to my job role, he had me hooked from the start. His topic was focused on recruiting and maintaining employees for Asterisk-based businesses, but his advice could be applied to any type of business. Pete’s key points included the importance of not only recruiting employees, but how to keep them once they are hired. He also debunked a few misconceptions regarding the true definition of employee culture, which is often confused as job “perks” or benefits. I gained tips for helping improve the culture in my own work environment, as well as noting some great presentation tactics.
What’s the business value? Be open to educating yourself on topics that may not apply to your particular job role – you’ll be surprised at what you can learn. While you may not specifically work as a recruiter for your company, your input should be valued when it comes to hiring in your own department. And, take note of presenters who capture your attention. There’s often a lot you can learn from them to help become a better presenter yourself.
“Using Social Media to Build Your Business” by Susan Elder
Susan Elder is Director of Marketing at Jenne, Inc.
My first impression of this track was that it would be a generic overview of the basics of social media. And while it did touch on some practical suggestions ideal for beginners, there were lots of additional tips I was able to take away from the session and apply to our social media strategy. Susan gave a detailed presentation, citing real examples of how social media has helped build the Jenne brand. She even shared how her own personal profile on LinkedIn helped land her current job role at Jenne.
What’s the business value? Learn from the experiences of others. If you are just starting to define a social media strategy for your company, find out what has and hasn’t worked well for other companies. Save yourself time and trouble by learning from the mistakes of others. If you feel like you already have a solid grasp on social media, always be open to learning how to continually improve your process.
There are so many more sessions that were equally great. For now, I’d like to say thanks to my boss for allowing me to attend AstriCon. It was so much more than I expected… Not only did I discover the value of being open to new experiences, I also discovered AstriCon is a conference that is truly designed for all types of people – even me!
* Be sure to check out the AstriCon website over the next few weeks as we add video of many of the recorded sessions!