Listen to Identropy's Jim McDonald and Jeff Steadman on their podcast at "Identity at the Center".


Both Jeff and Jim have over a decade of experience in the Identity & Access Management space and guide companies on their IAM Program journey through Identropy's Advisory Services arm.

In this episode, Jim and Jeff talk with special guest Jaime Lewis-Gross, Global Director of Solution Strategy at Saviynt, about how they pick which conferences to attend, how they figure out which sessions to attend, and their personal strategies for conference swag collection.

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LISTEN HERE or read the full transcript below.

*Disclaimer from Identropy: These transcripts are produced using automated tools, so may not be an exact word-for-word transcription. (i.e. - if you read something that sounds wrong, it's the tool's fault!) As always, for a better experience, please listen to the actual podcast.

 Podcast #13 Full Transcript:

Identity At The Center #13 - Conference Attendance Strategy with Jaime

 Jeff: Welcome to another episode of Identity at the Center.  Jim and I are in Seattle this week for covering the whole Consumer Identity World Conference. That's a mouthful, Seattle since it’s out of Washington, We're going to talk a little bit about our strategies and how we attack conferences, in a good way, not a bad way.

You should probably re-phrased this group to the conference circuit.

This is not exhibit A for the lawsuit. No, it is the strategy of the conference. That's it. So we have a special guest. We have Jamie Lewis-Gross, global director of Solution Strategy at Saviynt, former Identropy colleague. And even before that, I’ve known Jamie for Ten to Fifteen years.

Jamie: Really closer to 15.

Jeff: That is how old I am, not Jamie, when I was at Walgreens. Jamie was my first project manager as her customer in IAM implementation, we’re doing so. We go way, way back, in the day you just happen to be in Seattle the same time we dragged her kicking and screaming from a dinner to know you're coming over to our very hospitality suite to record a podcast with us.

Jamie: Yes, And here I am.

Jeff: Here you are.

Jim: So the hospitality suite being your plus free upgrade.

Jeff: Free upgrade. It's one of the benefits of travel, as sometimes you get. And I say this is probably the nicest room that I've been in a very long time.

Jim: Yes, it's pretty sweet.

Jaime: I did not get the suffering.

Jeff: We have a sofa, a dining table, two bathrooms, two refrigerators. This is I could probably live here.

Jim: So, Jeff, in terms of going over strategy, going into conferences, I think even before that picking which conferences we attend, or want to attend, going into a year. Try a big one. Jamie, you work for a software vendor, some shoeing a lot of conferences you go to would be based on what your company is sponsoring and things like that. Maybe you could talk to us.

Jaime: It's really about; we want to demonstrate capabilities of the platform. S we really select conferences based upon where we are in the market, so, different partnerships. So there are different reasons why we select different conferences. But obviously we're always going to attend big hitters like the Gartner IAM summit. We're going to attend partner related conferences like the AWS Conference of Microsoft Conference and so on. So you'll generally see us at a lot of national events, global events and also regionally based events.

Jeff: What about more security focused ones like RSA? Do you guys have any presence? Is that something that makes sense? It’s more of like a just general information security. There are a lot of IAM vendors there. But what we see you there next year, hopefully, if we're able to attend.

Jaime: I think our philosophy being in cybersecurity, being in cloud security, those are the types of conferences that you're going to see. Is that because we definitely span across a platform, we believe in the unification of identity, the ability to context switch very quickly, ownerships or identities, whether they are logical related identities, whether they're bots, whether service account. So absolutely, we're going to play in all those different spaces from a conference perspective.

Jim: So, Jeff, you're pretty big into I mean, you love being uncomfortable. I mean, you start the year; you look at all the conferences as Crowley does. But you've got a several weeks. So how do you go about identifying the conferences that interest you and then prioritizing which ones are most important?

Jeff: Well, I think a lot of it has to do with what's your role?  So from an identity management perspective, I'm looking for conferences that are in that field.

It's a lot easier to justify, hey, I like you and IAM conference when you do IAM work versus .. I want to go to Pax West, which is an amazing conference out here in Seattle for like comics and games and stuff like that has nothing to do with anything that I do professionally.

But still find interesting is yet to find something that lines up with your role and then pick and choose the ones that make the most sense. So for me, I think RSA is a very good one. It's very big. It can be very expensive, especially since it's in San Francisco in hotel rates. San Francisco can be pretty crazy, but I think that one's still worth it just because of the sheer number of people who show up to that one. You could spend easily 2, 3 days just in the vendor hall going through all the different products are out there. From my perspective, I like to try and find something new. it's not that the current players are getting around them.

But I wonder, like, what's next?  We know SailPoint, we know Saviynt, We know Oracle, we know IBM, Microsoft, etc... What's the next wave coming out? And if these larger conferences, RSA, specifically Gartner sometimes isn't really had a lot of newer stuff, but they do have some things. They're Identiverse a good one that happens in the summer. So I try to space them out. We'll look for new things coming up there,  and then also from a good attendance standpoint. I tried to go with an attendee, not as a company man.

Although, that is part of the role that you may end up talking, I and Jim have been at conferences where, we're manning the booth, so to speak, and talking with prospective clients and stuff like that.

Jaime: I think especially now, so moving back into the product side. Certainly there's acquisition of knowledge for the purposes of conferences. But I would say more so, on the advisory side. Consulting, educating customer’s  conferences. In my perspective, the role that I played previously, it was all about how much information can you acquire in a short amount of time to be able to better educate customers? And like I said, certainly that's something that I still seek out. However, now being on the product side, you really want to immerse yourself as an organization to make sure that your message is heard. So that's a little bit of the difference.

Jim: one of the things I've been thinking. So different people are listening to the podcast and may not know some of these transitions. So Gartner, I think is kind of the leading IAM industry conference, I mean, it's the one that. I think the most who will go to their first getting into the industry or they're first taking over a role is like a IAM program manager gives you a real framework in terms of how to think about. I just kind of have been the heavy hitter over the years. For me personally, as I've been in the industry for 15 years, a lot of the fundamentals that they cover in the sessions are more basic for me. I still like to go every other year or every year for the networking aspect, but in terms of the content, I'm not getting a lot of new stuff. I know you guys think about that. And then also Identiverse seems to really be coming in on the scenes in terms of kind of one of the most popular IAM conferences.

Jeff: I like it at every conference. I think that is poised to become the IAM conference of the year, so to speak. Not that the other ones are bad or don't have a value, but I think Identiverse very specifically focused on identity. And it was started by paying several years ago. It's been rebranded to Identiverse. And I think Ping has actually done a really good job of making it, not a Ping sales conference.

It is more of identity conference. They have lots of good speakers. It is a more technical tract of presentations typically than what you'll find on a Gartner. Gartner is you know, I think it's I think it's Gartner sessions are more tailored to beginners in IAM executives were just kind of getting into it, and yet the networking aspect of it. But I think Identinverse coming on strong. It's pretty small still. Only, I’m not sure how many people. But, they did it in one small hotel in Washington, D.C. this year. And it was, a lot of the sessions were overflowing, but. I think it's about to become the big one.

Jaime: I agree. I thought that there was a lot of good material and it's very worthwhile for the space that we're in.

Jim: What do you guys think of? Well, let me answer a different question. What's the largest I.T. conference you've ever been to?

Jeff: RSA it's like thirty five thousand people or something like that, downtown San Francisco, Mosconi Center. It's a huge, huge thing. It's crazy expensive, but it's definitely the biggest one thing.

Jim: So is Oracle World. They have sixty thousand attendees and it was mind blowing. What's up?

 Jeff: Or Comodia? I think that was pretty big.

Jim: Yeah. And I mean, obviously, IAM only one small component for Oracle world up into CA’s conferences. That was also very large, and not just focus on IAM, I am not sure how many peoples attend gardener and Identiverse.

Jeff: Identiverse is still relatively small, I think Gartner is a little bit bigger but It's like anything else that's niche, right? It's IAM is the niche, So people who are interested in IAM or going to go to Identiverse in the summer, which is when they have it. And then Gartner's IAM Summit at least for the US and usually the first week of December is somewhere in that timeframe.

Jim: So the three biggest vendor conferences I've been to have been Oracle's C-A, Microsoft, Microsoft partner companies. And one thing that sets us apart is that because of their large scale, we'll do some really cool stuff that is outside of the conference track, things like concerts and entertainment, kind of cool. Yeah. I mean it's like a fun experience anyway. Whereas for Microsoft, when they had Carrie Underwood play at the Washington National Baseball Stadium, they. Sealed the place off just with Microsoft conference in D.C. is pretty cool.

Jeff: I guess we got Microsoft money can do that.

 Jim:  Yeah, right, exactly.

Jeff: I think the most important thing, though, is really the Swag that comes out of the conferences.

Jim: Conference Swag is a very important feature. What's your philosophy on that?

Jeff: Most of it sucks a lot of just crap out there that people give away our self-included. Sometimes we don't.

Jim: one year we had, I think, the worst giveaway ever, I mean, they might have been memorable because of how much they saw.

Jeff: I think it was before I joined Identropy.

Jim: they look like people thought they were like a cheap solo cup.

Jeff: So how do we describe this for people who are listening so a red solo cup? But it's thicker, heavier duty, a quality solo cup. Is that how you describe it? But orange, so orange, right? Because you know the Identropy cover, etc. I have two in my house.

But Swag is important one, the bigger the conference, the better the swag. I have noticed a shift now where it used to be that there was a lot more stuff being given away and a lot of change changed like raffles, right. I did win both headphones one year, which was kind of cool. I had already left the conference. I had to walk from the Luxor all the way to Mandalay Bay. I'll be right there.

Jim: Recently, I make a big effort to get stuff in. T shirts were one that I really like, but I found that those t shirts, once you washed them once or twice, they just.

Jeff: You mean it's not a high quality T-shirt?

Jim: No, no, no, what’s your philosophy?

Jaime: I've never been one to take home paraphenalia, I do think that we have one good piece of swag and that is the tie-pin when it comes in very handy.

 Jeff: Tie-pin?

Jaime:  It's very useful, but no, I haven't been the type of person that likes to collect and bring all things in my suitcase.

Jeff: If you want to see people who do that, go to RSA, because there are people who that are there. I think that's their job. There's no reason to go to each booth and get something. They walk out with bags and bags and bags. So I don't know how they're gonna get that, but they I mean, we're not we're not talking small bags, like huge bags full as they.

Jim: If they have stress, they have a stress relief now is going to be said, yeah, we're getting a good swag for Identropy.

Jeff: Is it happening?

Jim: Yes.

Jeff: You know what? We have good swag coming with that because we don't want to let competition in. How good are our upcoming swag? Maybe.

Jaime: Good point.

Jim: So we should focus then on. Kind of the philosophy you go into conference with, so start with networking is your goal to me as many people as possible. Make a few quality networking contacts or you don't care about that at all.

Jeff: Jamie, you go first.

Jaime: So I would say it depends upon the role in which I'm in at the conference. So if I am in a role where, it’s about acquiring new customers.

Then I want to probably meet as many potential opportunities as possible, get the message out there. I would say generally speaking, however, my personality is all about acquiring knowledge. And I would say that I want to focus in on the right amount of subject matter expertise that I'm looking to acquire and therefore the contact points would be lower, very focused in nature.

Jeff: I would say I'm relatively summer when I attend the conference. My main mission is to attend the sessions, right? Find something, bring something back, learn, etc... I would rather do that. Be honest with you. Then try to do networking. That's something I'm typically interested in doing because I find that that takes time away from the other. Because a lot of times these conferences and, you'll be in a session or there's a session come up you attend. You may get pulled off to go and talk to the prospective customer or something like that, which that's fine, right? That's part of the job in the business. But it's taking me away from my purpose there is to learn stuff. I think that's sometimes we know what clients want to as you're attending conferences on their behalf. What did you see in here at RSA, Gardner and identiverse? Not consumers anywhere on those sorts of things. And that's just my own personal philosophy.

Jim: My philosophy is not go and do it like a people person attitude, like you didn't realize it. I'm the kind of guy you wind up sitting next to me on the plane. I'm going to come up with some small talk until yell to you on the chit chat, and they're going to be people at the conference who was a chitchat or wall,  and I'll meet people who, maybe a prospective customers or maybe a contact that, stay in touch or I might learn one or two things or maybe not. Maybe it’s all just learning something from me, but I just go and do it kind of, being friendly.

I find that works for me.

Jeff: Being friendly.

Jim: Being friendly.

Jeff: It's a shocking idea.

I like Jamie’s answer, though. I mean, I answer. That's fine. It really depends why you're at the content site.

Jim: Yeah, that's true. So the other topic would be. When you go and you look at the agenda and I know the different conferences, you're going to present differently, but a lot of times of conferences you'll have tracks. And one of the tracks might be let's just put a fictitious example out there. You've got a track that's like your lane.

This is what you do for your job is your interest area. And then you've got to track that. It's just interesting to.

How do you just how do you divide up your time? So tomorrow or in the conference that we're attending, he's got one track. Thing is sometime tomorrow or Thursday where it's focus on consumer identity management. That's definitely my lane. That's the area of focus on.

But then they've got a track at the same exact time on IAM bots and marketing. And I'm like; I'm just so interested in that. I'm so interested in the idea of attracting people and then how that information is taken and, used to predict your next move and then how the air plays with privacy.

So I'm going to put it to you guys first and then I'll talk about how I would divide up my time.

Jeff: Ladies first.

Jaime: So I'm going to go back to what capacity and my acting and do I need competitive intel? Do I need to understand future positioning?

I would say, I tend to like to stay in my lane, but I have to force myself out of my lane. So I think I would gravitate towards the things that are visionary, future forward and relatable to some of maybe the more basic and rudimentary concepts that I can at least take what's futuristic and apply them back to what we're doing now, but how customers can evolve.

Jeff: I definitely do not look to attend things that I already know. If I'm going to go to a conference, I want to learn something new.

So if it's something that's not necessary, my wheelhouse and it's something that I think is interesting as far as personally but also professionally. I will go to those now. How does a lot of time, though, is sessions get scheduled and there's like eight different things all at the same time that want to go to. And then there's like nothing like the next hour or so, it's just something that happens every conference that I attend anyway. So I have a lot of flexibility where I try to balance between different sessions. So if I'm sitting for five minutes in one session and it's not going the way that I thought it would give me the slides, I'll go the next, go to a different session.

Jim: You can get the slides afterwards. The way I kind of think about it is that if there's something in my lane,  probably 75 percent or more of what's going to be discussed. I already know.

So I'm not there to hear confirmation of the beliefs I already have. I'm there to understand new perspectives. So I think going into this particular session where it's one or the other, I'm going to choose to do the AIs because it's just sustenance or Siri, And I think it's something that is going to have a great influence on IAM going forward.

Jeff: So you're going to the AI tomorrow?

 Jim:  I think its Thursday.

One of the things that I find hard is really just clearing off my work calendar to be at a conference. I mean, and this is actually I feel like this week I'm the worst offender that I've ever been. Normally, I can get down to like one meeting a day and got some work like two hours meetings and back to back days, I just think it's bad timing on my part, but kind of what is your philosophy on that?

Jeff: Yeah, it’s tough. Sometimes you have to balance being available for work and customers and having just get, your normal work done in addition to trying to set aside time for conferences. I try to reschedule things as much as I can, but sometimes just doesn't happen. And you have to kind of duck out of a conference, which stinks. But it is what it is. But I do try to be proactive about it. Look at my calendar weeks, months in advance, write and block time so that people don't schedule it or move things around if something comes up that is relatively new.

Jim: So it feels like more the conferences we attend are on the West Coast and I'm wondering, is that intentional so that people can shift their day three hours? Or is that just, do you think it's better weather?

Jeff: I think conferences are better attended when they're in a location that is either cheap to get to or is a destination.

Jim: The other thing was a lot of the tech companies are in the Bay Area and then they have their people go to the conference, but they don't have to pay for a hotel.

Jeff: I think most conferences shift around. There are a few that are static. RSA has traditionally been in San Francisco, although they sent a survey out last year after was over, pulling people for other locations so they may be looking. I don't know they're going to do it or not. But it sounds like they're at least considering. Do they move? I'm just gonna go somewhere else. Gartner is typically in Las Vegas. I know that people don't necessarily care for Vegas. I think it's great for conferences. They have everything you need there. I love Vegas and it's entertaining if you can avoid the distractions, but at least it has all the services that you need. Plenty of hotel rooms, plenty of restaurants, plenty of conference facilities, etc. They're designed to handle mass amounts of traffic.

Jim: How do you feel about Vegas?

Jaime: I don't love Vegas.  I feel like the least amount of time I can spend in Vegas, It's not my preference.

Jim: where's your favorite conference?

Jaime: My favorite conference spot, I would say. I've been to conferences in Chicago, but Chicago's just.

Jeff: Throw a crap shoot for weather.

Jaime: Yeah, exactly, but I can say that some Chicago personal city favorite of mine.

Jim: Orlando does a good job with conferences.

Jaime: Yeah,Orlando is good.

Jeff: You can stay indoors.

Jim: Yeah. You don't like the weather even in January.

Jeff: I like San Francisco. if I had to choose, it would be Seattle, San Francisco, San Diego or Vegas, any of those spots are great.

I've never been to Denver for a conference, but I hear that's pretty good. I think Identiverse is actually gonna be there next year, so that'll be my opportunity.

Jaime: I like them.

Jim: Jaime, Jeff, so what are we going to do our next podcast on? We're going to do a wrap up of this conference. We're going to try and.

Jeff: Try to put together some thoughts around, Consumer identity world and what we came away with. And if these plans or not, if we sign thing, it's interesting out there and come back with a recap on that. Probably next week, I'm thinking. Give us some time to soak in and put it together.

I think also if you're listening to podcast and you have any thoughts, if you're like screaming into the radio, you're your little suit to the idea. If you were listening, I tracked what you wanted to say something. Send us to us so we can do like a mailbag kind of thing.

Jeff: Yeah, we've gotten some good feedback is the e-mail address we read everyone. And surprisingly, people do e-mail us best with very nice words of encouragement and ideas for topics. And we certainly take those topics and it generally takes a few weeks to get into the rotation because we have things kind of planned out, but we do listen in and read all those and appreciate the feedback that they're getting. So tell your friends like subscribe. I feel like a stupid YouTuber, like it's star. Yeah. Oh, brush with greatness today. For people who know MKBHD on YouTube. Marquez Brownley. I saw him at the Seattle airport as I was leaving my gate. He was going to his gate, the moving walkways. I saw him fist bump on the way passes are going through. So I think this trip is months of suffering, great. Guys like he has liked nine million subscribers on YouTube. That's huge, others who.

Jim: Yeah, never heard of.

Jeff: Never heard Promesa Tuckey's attack. YouTuber does not reduce this.

No, I don't need the necessary plug in show because he said he wants to always critical like, oh, that's so once I recognize him right away,  Jamie, thank you very much for staying up,  staying with us.

Jaime: Yes. Thank you for having me. I enjoyed the podcast. And I be more than happy to be a special guest in the future.

Jeff: You should see the look on her face right now, a forced smile, all right. We're going to call it at this point. Thank you very much for listening. And we'll talk in the next one!




Jim McDonald & Jeff Steadman

Jim McDonald & Jeff Steadman

Jim McDonald is a professional with over 15 years leading teams through business-critical technology initiatives. Technical Strategist, Leader and Champion of Change with history of crossing organizational boundaries, cultivating strategic alliances and building consensus and alignment among diverse constituents to leverage IT as strategic asset and deliver solutions that rejuvenate and advance global business’ financial performance. Also as part of our advisory practice and with over fifteen years in the identity and access management space behind him, Jeff Steadman helps develop realistic IAM strategies and provide vendor agnostic recommendations to move the needle on IAM maturity for organizations large and small.