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 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.