Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Confluence 2014 in Santa Clara

On March 5th, I attended Confluence 2014  in Santa Clara. 
First thing first: I must give thanks to the organization of the event, who contacted me and was kind enough to invite me to attend. It was a day very well spent. 

The title of the event could appear pretentious anywhere else than in Silicon Valley: "The Future of Engineering: Better, Faster, Smaller". Here, it felt just right. While I feared to be blown off by topics way out of my comfort (i.e. expertise) zone, the agenda's keynotes and panels hit right home, and I learnt a lot from a roaster of exceptional speakers. 

A full day taking a roomful of business leaders through the challenges of leadership adaptation to new management (and project management) styles, innovation approach. 

In fact, many of the debates were anchored around very familiar subjects. Talent acquisition, acqui-hires, talent scouting were all in the focus of the discussions, mentioned in the key notes and then expanded on during panels and networking - HR is definitely a hot topic these days. 

I keenly remember the keynote by Shawn Farshchi, CEO of Saba, covering product portfolio management. Saba's portfolio growth has recently taken Saba from niche e-learning provider to an integrated Talent Cloud solution, through acquisitions, development and a careful assessment of needs, thought leadership and development agility. Staying closer to the needs of the users and not only of the leadership's team (aka, the buyers) has definitely been key to the end-to-end talent lifecycle approach that has earned Saba's products multiple awards.

A fantastic panel discussion on attracting and retaining talents gathered Dayna Parker, CHRO at Experian, Todd Shaw HR VP at PayPal/eBay and Pranesh Anthapur HR VP at Wal-Mart. Each of the panelists could have been a sole speaker - everybody had so much to say on the specifics of their approach to Talents - Ms. Parker and the way analytics allowed Experian to pin-point ways to retain talents, sometimes in contradiction with each other and forcing to make painful choices; Todd Shaw looking at acqui-hiring and the sauce to integrate the new talents in the corporate culture; and Pranesh Anthapur, eloquently describing multi-pronged approaches to attract young talents to an old-er corporation such as Wal-Mart, perceived "un-sexy". 

Beyond these clearly topically relevant items, one additional keynote stays with me. 
Ayan Mukerji, SVP at Wipro Technologies, provided the audience with an almost science-fiction-like approach to engineering and technology. A different take to keynote delivery, but not only. Hinting at the Data Privacy issues so popular these days, stopping to ponder about the recent acquisition of Nest by Google (an Internet of Things acquisition that touches so closely the Privacy of our homes, as from the settings of your home thermostat it's possible to know presence/absence; and once Big Data analysis is thrown in the mix, the sky is the limit), to finish on the Happy Planet Index approach for sustainability, Ayan took his audience travelling through the planet, through the options and the alternatives that technology is opening for us, and outlined clearly that "with great-er power come great-er responsability".

Building on all this, I am waiting to see what the 2015 session will bring, and I thank all the speakers for taking time out of their busy schedules to share their experience with us.