3 minute read     |     Emerging Technology, Artificial Intelligence

OnPoint Perspectives: ELC23 Blog Post

Connections & Confections: ACT-IAC Imagine Nation ELC 2023

Authored by: Jeff Mercurio, MS

This year’s Imagine Nation ELC 2023 hosted by ACT-IAC in Hershey, PA on October 29-31 was not just a conference; it was a celebration of technological evolution, a testament to the collaborative and dedicated spirit of the tech community. As a proud sponsor of this annual conference, OnPoint has been at the heart of the convergence of innovative minds from both the private and public sectors. As an enthusiastic techie, I was super excited to jump into conversations about all things Artificial Intelligence (AI), cybersecurity, and everything surrounding the implementation of new tools in existing systems.

From the very moment I stepped into the venue—the beautiful and sweet-smelling Hershey Lodge—I already noticed the tangible energy surrounding the event. At the evening’s s’mores networking session, we had the chance to break the ice with the other attendees, which is critical in such a massive event (hosting just about 1200 attendees).

As I savored the melting Hershey bar in my gooey s’more (and did my best not to get it all over my face and clothes while I met others), a tasty parallel struck me: this conference was much like a s’more itself.

Just as a s’more is more than the sum of its parts, Imagine Nation ELC 2023 brought together the essential ingredients of the tech community to create something delectable. Each participant was a marshmallow—unique and full of potential, ready to expand their thoughts and perspectives when warmed by the fires of innovation and collaboration. The chocolate represented the rich, diverse ideas that melted and merged among attendees. And the graham crackers served as the foundation—our shared objectives and values—holding everything together. Together, around the glow of shared ambition, we crafted the perfect s’more: each bite a testament to the delicious results of a unified vision of progress in technology (full disclosure: this comparison was my own, but I asked ChatGPT to help me make it more poetic).

The agenda was dense with relevant topics that spanned the current state of technology, ranging from Zero Trust to demystifying AI to growing the cyber community. Starting the night was the motivational Art Jackson, who provided an introspective philosophy tackling how we may define success vs. defining significance. He left us with a powerful quote, “You have everything you need to commit to your intended level of greatness”, encouraging the audience to challenge what it means to be significant in our own eyes.

Each panel, even with playful titles like ‘Data Witches and Wizards’ and ‘People, NOT Zombies’ offered a chance to deep dive into the collective experiences of the leadership community. One session that was particularly captivating was titled, Potions, Spells, and Technology Tales: DEIA and the Employee Experience. It was a powerful pivot from the many tech-focused narratives surrounding the AI hype to instead focus on the complexity of the human element—the core of all technological strides. The session discussed how technologies are only emerging because of the people who create them. It’s a theme that resonates deeply with us at OnPoint: We believe that technology is a tool forged by human creativity and ingenuity. This session underscored the importance of nurturing a workplace that champions this belief.

In this panel, Renee Wynn, former CIO at NASA, articulately stressed the active pursuit of company culture to foster employee growth. She also left us with a creative metaphor to shift our typically myopic perspectives – Next time you’re upset at being “in traffic”, take a moment to consider… You are the traffic. This simple line highlighted the importance of actively taking a step out of our own bubbles and acknowledging the whole view.

A brief discussion about the hybrid work environment was another area that sparked much of my own thoughts on company culture. The panel underscored the need for dynamic company cultures that adapt to the changing tides of our professional landscapes. What’s more, it presented the compelling question of how we can actively curate a culture that not only adapts but thrives in these conditions, fostering a sense of belonging and productivity regardless of physical location.

Wrapping up, Imagine Nation ELC 2023 was an extraordinary experience, and I personally had an absolute blast attending. The seamless blend of professional and personal interactions, the learning, and the unique opportunity to witness first-hand the ever-evolving state of technology we live in and how our nation’s leaders are thinking about these topics was a huge highlight of 2023. It was also a remarkable place to be on the day President Biden announced the Executive Order on AI regulation (more on that to come). We at OnPoint are already excited to see what’s in store for everyone next year. Until then!

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Jeff Mercurio
Strategic Partnership Coordinator

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