To be completely honest, I forgot that they made a 5 o’clock in the morning. Had I not double-checked the two alarms I set before going to sleep the night before, I would have sworn that I had been asleep for five minutes tops. But it was the day of the Environics Analytics User Conference and there was a lot to do before the official 8:30 start. In addition to waking up at the crack of dawn, I had been “voluntold” a day earlier to write a blog entry documenting my first user conference, which only added to the quiet nervousness I already felt about the day ahead.
You have to understand where I am coming from here. At 23 years old, I have spent three-quarters of my life in school. Since saying my goodbyes to academia less than a month ago, I have been working full-time for Environics Analytics (EA) with a great team of people involved in everything from research to marketing. Everyone has been welcoming and encouraging, and I truly could not ask for anything more. But this would be the first time I would experience the culmination of months of hard work and take part in this celebration of minds.
Grace—and Wool Overcoats—Under Pressure
My assignment for the Environics Analytics 2011 User Conference was to work coat check. Some of you may laugh, but I’d argue that manning the coat check at a conference, particularly as a newly hired employee, is one of the most important responsibilities. Others may say that it is a rubber-room of sorts, a place to collect all the low people on the totem pole. What you may not realize is that I, along with the others tasked to work coat check, made up a select group of EA employees who got to interact directly with almost every single conference guest. It was really great to see how diverse the group was and to recognize the common thread of excitement; everyone was eager to hear from a range of speakers and industry leaders.
While I was only able to sit in on one presentation, that of Dr. Brenda Jones, Chief Social Scientist at Parks Canada, many conference attendees were particularly vocal about how much they enjoyed the variety of topics and discussions on the agenda. A number of them also noted that this was the best EA conference they had attended; they said they were looking forward to seeing the new product offerings like BigMaps Canada and learning about how social media is being incorporated into segmentation-based marketing.
Cloak Room Confessions
In addition to meeting the attendees, I got to know my coworkers on a different level. Even though I have been in and around the office for the past ten months as a part-time staff member, it can be difficult to strike up conversations with people during the workday. But in the coat check room, a few strategically placed chairs proved to be an irresistible draw for my fellow employees looking to take a quick break during the event. Among the overcoats, my coworkers told me how the iconic EA Geek came to be (legend has it he wandered into the office and began creating complex algorithms for the fun of it), how he has evolved (two years ago he was given a girlfriend; this past year the Geek couple unveiled their daughter), and the marketing role he plays (the go-to guy for any company’s data challenges). I heard about a couple of coworkers’ educational backgrounds (sociology, environmental studies), what they do outside of work (travel abroad as often as possible), and some of their aspirations (graphic design, marketing). And they were all quick to talk about all the fun they have had working at EA.
Perhaps the most fitting conversation ended my day. The very last guest to pick up his coat gave me some simple advice for my tenure at EA. He told me how important it is to continue to learn from my peers, and I can tell you with utmost confidence that I will have no trouble finding a wealth of information and creativity within a stone’s throw from my desk. After all, we’ll always have the coat check room to remember.
In the end, I came. I saw. I hung up coats and I conquered — and I hope to do it all again next year, by which time I am sure I will conveniently have forgotten all about that 5 o’clock-in-the-morning thing.
A Client Advocate, Uschi Erne helps transform EA research and analysis into successful marketing programs for customers in the finance, insurance, telecommunications and travel industries. She is expert at uncovering critical consumer patterns and profiling target groups to help clients communicate with their customers and reach untapped markets.