4 Key Takeaways from Fast Company’s Innovation Festival

Earlier this month, we had the opportunity to travel to New York City for Fast Company’s Innovation Festival. During the four-day conference, we trekked all around the Big Apple to take part in conversations and activities around the latest innovations in the tech industry. Featuring over 150 speakers and plenty of networking sessions, the second annual Innovation Festival was grounded in the theme of “Find Your Mission, Deepen Your Purpose.” From the keynotes featuring celebs like SJP and Cher to panel discussions centered around diversifying tech recruitment, this mission was ingrained in all of the sessions we attended.

Not only did this conference expose us to some of the biggest names in business and technology (and even a little bit of pop culture), it also provided several valuable lessons. Here’s a look at some of our favorite sessions and key takeaways:

  • Trust your intuition: Professional golfer Jordan Spieth and Under Armour Founder and CEO Kevin Plank discussed how taking risks and honing their intuitions have contributed to their success. In just 20 years, Under Armour has become a major player in the highly competitive athletic wear business. The company made early bets on Stephen Curry, Misty Copeland and Jordan Spieth, all of whom have gone on to become household names. When selecting these athletes, Plank said Under Armour has followed its intuition and selected athletes based on their personal connection and attitudes. This a reminder that when making decisions, it’s sometimes best to simply trust your gut. IMG_5914

    Plank also said the only thing that will get you fired from the company is to say, “But, that’s the way we’ve always done it.” Plank credits this culture of innovation as a core driver behind Under Armour’s success.
  • Question your current process processes: The future of human resources and hiring was another major discussion point at the conference. General Assembly, the global education company specializing in 21st-century skills, educates individuals and helps companies source talent, discussed how companies can unlock access to top talent by focusing specifically on skills-based hiring practices that expand the talent pool beyond those found through traditional screening methods. The two presenters discuss how companies need to blow up the “Top 20 School” paradigm, and explore other methods for finding the right talent. One suggestion was to assess the talent you’re getting differently and look where you haven’t looked before. For example, when dating, singles that look for dates through multiples avenues – social events and organizations, friends and dating apps – increase their chances of finding someone. Similarly, hiring managers that seek talent through a variety of methods – recruiters, references, hiring websites, networking events and educational institutions – open themselves up to a broader range of talent.

    Another panel consisting of Black Girls Code founder Kimberly Bryant, Pinterest’s head of diversity Candice Morgan, and Global Citizen Year founder Abby Falik explored the type of tech knowledge, leadership skills for hiring and managing diverse workforces that companies are going to need in the future. The group discussed a number of challenges holding companies, especially tech organizations, from having a diverse workforce. One challenge they touched on was the confirmation bias, which is when people favor information that resonates with their established beliefs. For example, when an interviewer forms a distinct opinion about a candidate based on information like the college they attended before the actual interview. Based on these biases, some candidates may not make it to the interview or be perceived as less competent than others. To prevent confirmation bias from impacting their chances of hiring great candidates, Morgan of Pinterest discussed how they’ve implemented rules requiring hiring managers to interview a set number of women and a set number of ethnically diverse candidates for each position. By setting these parameters, companies open up their talent pool and gain a more diverse perspective. Morgan said these rules are part of how the company found its new head of engineering.

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Friday Five: 11/21 – 11/25

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Happy Black Friday! Here are some of the top headlines in tech news from this past week:

This is Snapchat’s new Spectacles store in New York City – TechCrunch 
Snapchat Spectacles are now available at a pop-up retail storefront in New York City. Previously, the eccentric smartphone-connected glasses, which allow users to post to Snapchat’s platform in first-person style, were only available from randomly located specialized vending machines. From Venice Beach to Oklahoma and elsewhere, the vending machines would pop up unannounced, and attracted long lines during each appearance. Snapchat made waves in various media outlets for not distributing the glasses to the press prior to releasing them to the public. But the rollout has proved to be a wise move, as the lines to buy the company’s first physical product are long. The store, located at the southeast corner of Central Park, right across the street from the Apple store, will be open until New Year’s Eve.

Instagram Introduces New Features That Mimic Twitter and Snap Tools – The New York Times

Instagram, the ever-hip social media platform owned by Facebook, launched a new live streaming option for users. More importantly, these live streams can only be watched in real-time, unlike Facebook’s live streaming platform, where the video is saved to a user’s profile for later viewing. Also included in the update is the option to send self-destructing direct messages to other users, akin to Snapchat messages. Developers hope these new features will lead to more content being posted by users who are not celebrities or public figures. Recently, Instagram and Facebook have updated the respective platforms with features directly out some of their competition’s playbook, Snapchat and Periscope. Time will show how popular these features end up being among users, but we are getting closer to an all-out development war between some of the most popular social media platforms.

Google will tell you how crowded your favorite bar is in real time – The Verge

Google will now be able to tell you how crowded your favorite restaurant, bar, or coffee establishment is in real-time. The feature takes anonymous user location data into account, allowing for internet browsers to see if the venue is considerably busy at any given moment. Google has previously implemented a feature showcasing the times when a location has historically been busy, but this nifty new addition will certainly help consumers make a more successful decision on where to get that vanilla latte during the morning rush hours.

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Why Best-of-Breed MarTech Solutions Aren’t the End of the Road

One of the most striking findings from our most recent study on the State of Marketing Technology was that the vast majority of marketers are embracing best-of-breed solutions in their roles. Nearly half (48 percent) of those surveyed have embraced best-of-breed solutions, compared to 21 percent who were using a single-vendor suite and another 21 percent who had embraced limited piecemeal solutions.

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Viewed at face value, implementing martech seems like an end game. Sure, companies may face implementation challenges or ultimately change solutions, but adoption is what the industry and individual companies have been focused on for at least a decade.

Yet the popularity of highly designed, descriptive slides of a company’s martech stack and a corresponding award indicates another problem. The average marketer uses 12 distinct tools – a number that’s struck me as low after seeing countless “typical” stacks of 20+ solutions.

In our study, 21 percent of marketers said that they were using best-of-breed solutions – but those solutions are fragmented. Coupled with the number of marketers using piecemeal solutions, this indicates that in 2017, marketers will be looking for data infrastructure and addressable marketing solutions, for example – showing that organizations will need to bridge the gap between their existing solutions and show they can coexist.

Here’s how B2B marketers can anticipate what marketers will be looking for in 2017:

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Happy Thanksgiving From Walker Sands: What We’re Thankful For This Year

Between opening an office in San Francisco, launching some of our biggest campaigns to date and an exciting award season, 2016 has been a big year for everyone at Walker Sands. As we approach the end of the year, we wanted to take some time to reflect on what our employees are most thankful for — both in and out of the office. Before heading out for the long weekend, take a glimpse at what we’re thankful for this Thanksgiving:

Thankful Collage_ScreengrabSome of the teams and strong friendships that exist within Walker Sands also took some time to express their gratitude towards each other:Thankful Collage 3

Check out our full Facebook photo album here for more photos of our employees giving thanks!

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Team Spotlight: Erin Jordan

I sat down with Erin Jordan, an account director at Walker Sands and lead of the retail and e-commerce technology team.

Erin has been with the company for almost five years! While she’s busy looking for ways to grow her team’s practice areas, Erin took the time to give me a glimpse into what life is like at Walker Sands for her.

Here’s what she had to say!

1. What is your role at Walker Sands? What does your day-to-day look like?

As the account director for the retail technology team, I ensure my team has everything they need to service our clients and get great results. I also help keep the team constantly up-to-date on trends in our space. Other activities I work on include survey research to demonstrate our expertise and expand knowledge within the retail space, working on new business and coaching my team to help them grow in their own careers.

Erin-Jordan

2. How has Walker Sands changed since you first started at the company?

The company was much smaller when I started. We only had 15-20 people. One of the best things about Walker Sands is that while the size has grown, we’ve maintained the scrappiness and ‘no idea is too small’ mentality that comes with having small teams.

We’ve come a long way in our expertise and great work. We now have the infrastructure and experience to handle bigger team projects. Growth of our practice areas is one things that has led to our success, and it has helped evolve our knowledge across different client industries. It’s also interesting to see how much our digital team and ecosystem of services have grown alongside PR.

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