What you missed at Cyber Security Chicago 2017

Two weeks ago in Chicago’s McCormick Place, Cyber Security Chicago 2017 wrapped up after two days of influential security professionals and career hackers sharing their security secrets.

With 43 exhibitors from across the security industry and thousands of attendees, Cyber Security Chicago set the stage for a great event of learning and networking. If you weren’t able to make it to the event this year, don’t worry! The show will be back next year from September 26-27, 2018, and you can sign up here.

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Highlights of the Event

Cyber Security Chicago 2017 featured several high-profile security keynote speakers, including:

  • Kevin Mitnick: Known as the world’s most famous hacker, Kevin Mitnick was once one of the FBI’s Most Wanted because he hacked into 40 major corporations simply for a challenge. Kevin is now a trusted security consultant to the Fortune 500 and governments worldwide, and he performed his “live technology magic show” for attendees  as Wednesday’s keynote speaker.
  • Confessions of a Hacker: On Thursday, attendees got the rare opportunity to listen to an anonymous professional hacker as he shared his techniques and examples of how he defeated both the latest cyber security technologies and physical security measures. The hacker even started off in the crowd and walked to the stage unnoticed where he sat behind a distortion screen – right under our noses!

Key Takeaways

In addition to the countless lessons learned from the keynote speakers, there were two overall themes attendees were able takeaway from the event:

Your people are your weakest link: We heard this line several times at the event. The anonymous hacker during Confessions of a Hacker said that despite all of your complex security solutions, hackers will still breach your networks through unsuspecting employees. This hacker has breached a number of large companies, banks and medical data centers through not only the organization’s’ digital networks but also their physical securities. He advises the best way to guard against hackers is to enforce digital and physical security policies and to teach employees how to spot phishing emails, social engineering hacks, etc.

You’ll never truly be safe in today’s day and age: Some said it was cynicism. Others said it was realism. But, almost all attendees we spoke to agreed there was a universal feeling in the air during presentations: you can never truly protect your information online. Many of the presentations touched on how the Internet of Things is opening society up to more and more vulnerabilities, so regular people like you and me need to start preparing for worst-case scenarios. One speaker on this subject, Steve Overko, from Kaspersky Lab, gave some key ways to avoid risk when you live in a connected home, including:

  1. Installing endpoint security software where possible
  2. Limiting app permissions and using authentication
  3. Limiting information gathering by encrypting and/or storing it locally

It seems like we hear of a major breach every other week. It’s important as our world develops and moves more data online to be cognizant of our security. The anonymous hacker pointed out that there will always be someone coming after your data – be it for malicious purposes or simply for the thrill of it.

Walker Sands Communications was proud to support the media coverage efforts of Cyber Security Chicago before and during the show. It was a great event that invited attendees to think more deeply about cyber threats and how they can protect themselves and their organizations from them. If you’re interested in learning more about our expertise in the event and cybersecurity fields, please contact us here.

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‘Ann’ Event for the Books

This week we hosted our third annual Just a Book (book club for marketers) event and were thrilled to have Ann Handley, Chief Content Officer for MarketingProfs and author of the WSJ best seller, “Everybody Writes”. Throughout September and October we shared around 100 copies of the book with marketers across Chicago and came together with colleagues, clients and friends for the closing event.

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This year’s book focused on why writing is an essential tool in every marketer’s toolbox and gave tips and tricks for fulfilling your writing potential. We broke down the content in her book each week by the philosophy of writing, grammar rules and story guidelines, publishing and writing for marketing, ending the series with Ann at the American Writers Museum.

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Ann was such a pleasure to collaborate with and we are still reeling over what a privilege it was to share the room with her. Through our Q&A, she talked about her ideas from the book and then some. Here are a few of our top takeaways from the event:

  • Use your voice – As a marketer speaking and writing for a brand it’s easy to get caught up in style guidelines and blindly slip into sounding like a robot; however, this doesn’t have to happen! According to Ann, “writing in a brand voice doesn’t mean you lose who you are.” You can still tell your brand story and adjust your own voice and style to do it. 
  • Keep Jargon to a Minimum – Jargon, it’s the catch-22 of marketing talk. Despite denying ourselves from using agile and scalable for the umpteenth time, Ann believes there is a time and a place for it. If the jargon and words you’re using mean something to your audience then use them! But, if it feels like fluff, drop them. This generally works best when speaking to a niche group of people.
  • Technology makes you a better writer – There is no denying that social media has not only revolutionized the way we communicate peer to peer, but it’s changed the way we approach marketing. Why not use it as a tool to be a better writer? In Ann’s own busy life, she uses instagram as an outlet for writing. She’s thoughtful about every word she types, and treats her account as a micro blog for maintaining her brand (And we totally recommend following her, @AnnHandley).

Thanks again to everyone who joined us for this memorable event. Check out photos here! It was an honor getting to fill the room for Ann with Chicago’s brightest marketing brains. Missed us this year? RSVP here to be included in upcoming events.

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Techweek 2017 Takeaways

Last week Chicago’s thriving technology scene was ignited with the annual Techweek conference that took place over the course of several days all over the city and culminated in the Techweek Gives fundraising competition ending ceremony.

Before getting into the new learnings and themes we took away from this year, we want to take a moment to reflect on the expansion the Chicago tech community has seen. There is something to be said about the strong community network that has developed out of the tech scene in Chicago and successful events like Techweek make that base thrive even more. Year over year, we’ve been able to ingrain ourselves in the lively tech culture and network and for that, we are thankful.

From this year’s summit, here are a few of the sessions Walker Sands employees attended and the points they gleamed from discussions in Data, AI and Enterprise Technology:

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Data Intelligence Presented by Atidiv This session was lead by a panel of CEOs from YCharts, Narrative Science, LQD Business Finance and Civis Analytics. Here are a few major takeaways from the discussion:

  • For data intelligence apps to thrive, full integration is the future.
  • Companies should be mindful of AI and the hype behind it.
  • Companies will need to adapt infrastructure before fully integrating AI.

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Customer Acquisitions for Enterprise – Jeff Ellman of UrbanBound & Hireology, Kevin Kent of ReviewTrackers, Erik Severinghaus of SpringCM and Kristi Zuhlke of KnowledgeHound joined this Techweek panel to discuss their perspectives on acquiring B2B customers. Here’s what we learned:

  • Don’t underestimate the process of qualifying leads.
  • Customer acquisitions have a long pipeline and it can be expensive.
  • Don’t waste time with leads that don’t care and aren’t qualified.
  • In the sales pitch, don’t be afraid to make clients vouch for you via logos and use cases

Picture3Taking time to participate in these events always leads to a regeneration of excitement for our team. This was most obvious by the group who participated in the discussion with Mayor Rahm Emanuel who shared plans for integrating technology into the infrastructural future plans of our city. So many years later and we still find ourselves getting giddy over these kinds of advancements.

Thank you to everyone who worked so hard to pull off a dynamic event that continues to bring together the tech minded community. As a team, we took away great new learnings and are looking forward to what the rest of this year has in store for the Chicago Tech community

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Admin Appreciation Week at Walker Sands

There’s no doubt Walker Sands has THE BEST admin under the sun. Trish Kalchbrenner, our executive assistant, has been with Walker Sands for two and a half years, and let’s just say it’s a miracle we survived the times before her.

In honor of admin appreciation week, we asked our employees to share what they love about Trish. This post would go on for days if we included all the responses! So, here are the top five reasons why we are lucky to have Trish in our lives.

1. She gets the job done no matter what

“Not only is she the most organized person I’ve ever met, but she’s scrappy — if you need something done, she’ll find a way.” A

Trish constantly goes above and beyond for every person at Walker Sands. Whether it’s coming up with creative solutions to mundane office problems or working her magic to make the impossible seem like a breeze, there’s no problem too big or small for Trish to handle. And not only that, but she is killing the working mom game.

2. She always has a positive vibe

“I’ve never seen Trish with anything but a positive attitude.”

We all know the stereotype of the grouchy admin who is just there just to punch the clock. Lucky for us, Trish is the complete opposite. It can’t always be easy (or fun) managing an office of 80 employees, half of which are millennials, but Trish comes to work every day and radiates positivity. If you’re having a bad day, she’ll lend an ear and know just how to make it better (probably by showing you an adorable picture of her son or recommending the best spot to grab a donut).

3. She knows how to have fun

“She is literally a ray of sunshine and goes out of her way to cultivate our office culture, whether it’s through the company-wide scavenger hunt or simply grabbing a beer in the kitchen on Friday at 5.”  

On top of keeping Walker Sands running, Trish goes out of her way to make sure we all have a little fun throughout the work week. Trish reminds us enjoy the little things in life by organizing our weekly Game of Cones or helping us celebrate holidays like National Pancake Day. Oh, and she is the queen of GIFS (no email from Trish is complete with the perfect GIF).

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What EdTech Stakeholders Are Talking About: Lessons from SXSWedu 20

As a former teacher, education PR professional and current learning and development manager at Walker Sands, I was ready to nerd out at SXSWedu 2017. Thousands of experts gathered for 4 days in Austin, Texas to address trends in edtech and have honest conversations about the challenges facing the education industry as a whole.

Between education celebrities such as Dr. Brene Brown and John Maeda wandering the halls, and one interesting session description after another, my FOMO was at an all-time high. I attended as many sessions as I could and walked away with solid insights into the current state of edtech.

What EdTech Stakeholders are Talking About Now

1. What can VR do for you?

VR, AI and MR (mixed reality, combining the first two) technologies are eliciting intrigue across all industries, education included. While some educators are embracing the possibilities for deeper engagement (major buzzword alert), others worry about the risk of losing touch with reality.

If we can transport students to anywhere in the world with one swipe of a finger and a cardboard box, what’s to become of physical field trips? Will students further lose themselves in a solitary, virtual vortex? Will VR have a significant enough impact in the classroom to warrant any of this?

Teachers who have begun implementing these technologies in the classroom have noticed students prefer to explore them in groups. The social component of education remains significant. Regarding impact, all signs point to VR/AI/MR transforming, specifically and certainly, the med school experience and many healthcare practices.

In the traditional classroom setting, the technologies will allow for deeper exploration by bringing more concepts to life in new, interactive ways. One thing most can agree on is that these technologies are often intuitive enough to make implementation and integration more accessible for educators.A

2. What does the future hold for higher education?

The notion of the 21st-century job, in which you choose a specific career path and then go to school for it, is fading. Companies are instead seeking employees with relevant skills, such as creative problem-solving and good communication.

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