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Editor's Notebook

Making a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Dash at HR Tech Show

I gleaned some keen insights into the current state of the industry and met two of our 2016 Workforce Game Changers.

Back to back to back to back. I know, four consecutive half-hour meetings at a conference is by no means a record.WF_WebSite_BlogHeaders-10

But I’m pretty proud of it, considering I had to dash from the farthest reaches of Chicago’s cavernous McCormick Place to the 30th floor of the Hyatt and then to the press room tucked in a downstairs corner below the expo floor. For future reference, I know where room 228 is now.

And so started Day One for me at the 19th annual HR Technology Conference and Expo in Chicago. I can honestly say that from the Hyatt’s highest heights to the bowels of McCormick Place, I gleaned some keen insights into the current state of the industry and met two of our 2016 Workforce Game Changers.

The overarching theme of the day seemed to be the challenges of women in technology. Fueled in part by stories that surfaced this week regarding women in the tech industry, a pre-conference session specifically targeting the topic drew an overflow crowd — so much so that an auxiliary room needed to be opened and apparently there weren’t enough lunches to feed the audience.

My first meeting was a floor above the conference room with Lisa Sterling of Ceridian. In the midst of an internal employee engagement overhaul at Ceridian, Sterling and her colleagues (including Game Changers Deb LaMere) talked passionately about how spinning the gender issue needs to start way before people enter the workforce.

“We have to focus on our children,” she said. “We have to work on behaviors, be braver as females. When they’re little if they want to be a princess that’s fine, but they can be a programming princess, too.”

Here’s hoping next year’s conference takes this topic prime time rather than pre-game.

The dash continued to the Hyatt and Bob Schultz, who recently joined IBM from VM Ware. We chatted all things IBM Watson and its potential to connect all things HR.

“We all know Watson’s learning capabilities,” he said. “Learning is key, and Watson learns from experts, listens across all these different channels and can teach HR.”

Fortunately, Fitbit’s Amy McDonough was patient enough to wait as I trekked the halls to the press room, and the conversation about corporate health was fascinating. The wearable device company recently released a white paper detailing in part the Dayton Regional Transit Authority’s wellness program success story.

Wrapping up the meeting marathon was Kathryn Minshew, cofounder and CEO of fast-growing career resource site The Muse.

I chiefly wanted to say hello to another Game Changers winner — two in one day! — but our chat lasted a good half hour, touching on a number of subjects, including women in tech.

Minshew was thoughtful and admitted that she has faced challenges launching The Muse merely because she’s a woman.

“I think most of us have faced some kind of a gender challenge at some point of our career,” she said.

Sterling advocated moving the women in technology session to a time when even more conference goers could attend. But she also wants to see rapid change in the industry.

“I hope we get to a point where there isn’t even a need for a session like this,” she said.

Rick Bell is editorial director for Workforce. Comment below or mail him at rbell@workforce and follow him on Twitter @rickbell123.

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