My first Adobe Sum­mit: Awe­some­ness turned up to 11!


With Adobe Sum­mit com­ing up next month, I wanted to take some time to share my expe­ri­ence at my first Sum­mit in March 2009. I had spent years on the bench as an ana­lyst plug­ging away to chomp and bite my way up through the ranks for occa­sions such as these, and I was finally allowed to go. At the time, I was an Ana­lyt­ics Spe­cial­ist for the agency of record rep­re­sent­ing Dol­lar Thrifty Auto­mo­tive and my good friend Sandy Mar­tin had approved my trip. Dol­lar Thrifty was doing some ground­break­ing work in cus­tomer ana­lyt­ics and I was really eager to learn about other com­pa­nies and peo­ple try­ing to lever­age data in a sim­i­lar way. I knew sum­mit would put me square in the mid­dle of those dis­cus­sions and I could geek out on the awe­some­ness of the ana­lyt­ics com­mu­nity as a whole.

I remem­ber vividly some of the aspects of that very first Sum­mit that had me most excited. I was finally going to put faces with many of the names that I had come to know well via social net­works, con­sult­ing engage­ments, and Client­Care. I remem­ber vividly how excited I was to book my travel and have a con­firmed reser­va­tion and a sum­mit pass. I also was eagerly look­ing for­ward to see­ing the Rocky Moun­tains up close and per­son­ally in what I had been told was the majesty of Utah. Grow­ing up in Mary­land, by way of Geor­gia, I had not had much oppor­tu­nity to see real snow or moun­tains and as an avid out­doors­man this was going to rock!

Utah Mountains

Trav­el­ing out to Sum­mit was no big­gie, stan­dard Delta hop from Tampa to Atlanta and then on to Salt Lake City. I remem­ber vividly the cab ride from the air­port to the Grand Hotel and just how big and beau­ti­ful those moun­tains looked. I really was in awe and the scene instantly ener­gized my spirit and left me with a sense of opti­mism about the week to come.

The first night saw a wel­come recep­tion where I finally got to meet Ben Gaines who had grown to be a good friend and resource. Ben and I crossed paths first while I was work­ing for the St. Peters­burg Times. The Times was feel­ing the pres­sure of the chang­ing media mar­ket and we were short on resources to fund con­sult­ing, so Ben, then rep­re­sent­ing the com­pany as @OmnitureCare on Twit­ter, walked me through imple­men­ta­tion changes, best prac­tices, and archi­tec­ture goals  more often than I can count. Ben also intro­duced me to Brett Error, then the CTO of Omni­ture, and var­i­ous col­leagues of his—folks who instantly started me on the path of build­ing a strong net­work. I am still friends with these folks today and they are many of my strongest pro­fes­sional and per­sonal relationships.

I remem­ber the open­ing ses­sion as being ener­giz­ing and enter­tain­ing. The pre­sen­ters under­scored how thank­ful they were for the par­tic­i­pants, which instantly drew me into the fold and helped me feel part of a com­mu­nity rather than a sin­gle attendee. The break­outs were great, I was learn­ing about all the top­ics I wanted and buzzing around hav­ing dis­cus­sions with folks I had sought out. The pace of it was dizzy­ing but it was an excite­ment that I enjoyed. Finally, I was in a place where other peo­ple just as keen as I on the sub­ject of ana­lyt­ics were able to exchange ideas, swap sto­ries and help each other bridge the gaps faced individually.

One of the most impor­tant meet­ings of my career was facil­i­tated by Sum­mit. Dol­lar Thrifty Auto­mo­tive intro­duced me to the Adobe Insight prod­uct and started me down the path of true cus­tomer ana­lyt­ics. Out in Utah Sandy Mar­t­ing and I were afforded a meet­ing with Aaron Bird, the GM for Insight. This was a great set­ting, I was face to face with some­one who had direct links to the prod­ucts future and was lis­ten­ing to the opin­ions and ideas of an ana­lyst. Out of this meet­ing came the gen­e­sis of what became a user-friendly seg­ment export func­tion­al­ity, a tighter inte­gra­tion with Test&Target, and also the abil­ity to push and pull e-mail seg­ment data via Insight. These changes to the prod­uct ulti­mately allowed Dol­lar Thrifty to real­ize mil­lions of dol­lars in sav­ings and incre­men­tal revenue.

In one ses­sion, Sandy and I were blown away how a major retailer was lever­ag­ing cus­tomer seg­ments in Insight via the T&T inte­gra­tion. We imme­di­ately took away from that ses­sion a work­ing knowl­edge of exactly how to cre­ate, export and lever­age those cus­tomer seg­ments in T&T. For the first time Dol­lar Thrifty could tar­get con­tent based on known cus­tomer attrib­utes. This allowed for mul­ti­ple improve­ments to their KPIs includ­ing but not lim­ited to con­ver­sion, aver­age order value and con­sum­mated rentals.

The evenings were filled with enter­tain­ment, most notably the Killers per­for­mance in a small and inti­mate set­ting. Every­one seemed to be hav­ing a ball and the mood stayed light and fes­tive through­out the night. I have to say the karaoke per­for­mance was some­thing I will never for­get. Here were all these peo­ple, singing very poorly, and hav­ing a ball. That night I stayed up until the morn­ing hours sit­ting in the lobby and dis­cussing the chal­lenges asso­ci­ated with cross domain track­ing and ways to over­come it. The couches were full and every­one seemed to for­get time as we debated on the best approaches. Sum­mit for me was that moment, that small group, pow­er­ing through the night to tackle a topic that was plagu­ing many in our field.

I flew home the next morn­ing and slept most of the way. I was exhausted and remem­ber feel­ing like my brain was in dire need of a rest and some mind­less enter­tain­ment. When I got home I remem­ber the feel­ing of wish­ing I could return to that set­ting and know­ing with­out a doubt I would be back. Sum­mit to me cap­tured the excite­ment of a grow­ing field, per­son­i­fied by ded­i­cated and enthu­si­as­tic peo­ple, and play­ing out on a global stage. I felt then and still feel now, that at the core of our field is a belief and spirit that we can do any­thing with the right resources and time. We have come a long way as a com­mu­nity of users and thinkers and we have a long way to go, but get­ting together and get­ting excited seems to recharge my bat­ter­ies and oth­ers each year around this time.

I am now priv­i­leged and delighted to work for Adobe. Con­se­quently, my per­spec­tive on Sum­mit has also changed sig­nif­i­cantly. Now I get to work at a fran­tic pace to meet, speak with, and assist as many peo­ple as I can while the events are tak­ing place. I love our com­mu­nity and its spirit and strongly encour­age you to come take part in what has become an absolutely fan­tas­tic event. Adobe Sum­mit 2013 starts March 5 this year and there is still time to sign up at http://​sum​mit​.adobe​.com/​d​i​g​i​t​a​l​-​m​a​r​k​e​t​i​n​g​-​s​u​m​m​i​t​.​h​tml. This year we wel­come some great speak­ers as well as The Black Keys. Feel free to reach out to me on twit­ter via @jenkinsa and let’s find a time to meet face to face if you’ll be in town. I’m hop­ing to return the favor and make this Sum­mit as spe­cial for first-time atten­dees as it was for me four years ago.