Double the Event Half the Time: Backstage at UC Tech 2022

Photo of CIOs at UC Tech welcome

By Miguel Rodriguez. Making a truly memorable experience comes from imagining the impossible, identifying the reality, and finding a point on the line between those that gets closest to the dream. I was on-boarded as UC Tech Committee Chair in January 2022, halfway into the planning year. We also ended up planning for a hybrid conference, essentially two events happening concurrently. Now that we have concluded, I wanted to use this opportunity to compare a vision and an accomplishment, and to thank all members of the community – from those planning to those on-the-ground and those learning and connecting real-time as the conference unfolded. 

My ultimate dream was to make the most of a hybrid experience:  to try to blur the experiential line between in-person attendance and virtual attendance. I was trying to imagine the impossible. With the support of a team I would call miraculous, we were able to navigate reality and deal with some serious obstacles in order to arrive at a result that generated the feedback that, “this is the best hybrid I have ever been to, and I’ve been to a lot!” 

This year, more than 1,000 people attended the event, with an equal proportion attending in-person as they did online. Attendees included CIOs, sponsors, staff, volunteers, and speakers. Not bad for a conference put together in a few months. I send my gratitude to speakers and attendees, and all others involved, who ultimately supported our learning curriculum. 

No event would be complete without keynote speakers to galvanize ideas, set tones, and expand possibilities. I wanted to be extremely deliberate about our speaker choices, but also somewhat unexpected. In both cases, we exceeded expectations and I have received enormous praise regarding their presentations. Thank you to Lera Boroditzky, UC San Diego Cognitive Scientist, whose opening ceremony discussion of language and cognition was an absolute smash hit. Thank you, also, to UC San Diego Chief Privacy Officer Pegah Parsi, who delivered an eye-opening and passionate address redefining what many of us know about privacy and the real-world (and timely) implications of ignoring our privacy rights. 

To foster an inclusive and collaborative community of IT professionals that continually improves services, and places the University of California system at the forefront of higher education, research, patient care and public service.

– Conference Vision Statement

It is with no small share of pride that I consider UC Tech 2022 Conference, the 40th Anniversary, to have met the challenges set forth by our leadership, and by my own plans: 

  • A vision of collaborative community and continuous improvement
  • The dream of a stronger, more inclusive, event, thanks to a hybrid experience
  • Our objective to program a selection of curriculum tracks that give weight to the variety of IT specialties found across the University of California system

Did we accomplish our goals? Yes!

In the end, 97% of our audiences said they would try something they learned during the conference, and 88% said they would be happy to present on what they learned to others.

UC Tech attendees

It is one thing to get the job done and check all the boxes. It is quite another to complete it with finesse, style, kindness, sincerity, and compassion. Those qualities distinguish us not only as institutions of higher learning, as facilities for research, and as leaders in health care, but also as Californians in 2022.

We accomplished our goals last week, and I wish to spotlight those who made this happen. Please explore our web site to learn more about the directors of each committee. And there were many more, including those listed below:

Vidal Espina was our project manager. If I was the insane dreamer, he was the counterbalance asking the questions for steps to realize the dream. Without him, they would have remained dreams. 

Christopher Gerrity was asked to evaluate our A/V plan for our Hybrid presentations. He ended up becoming the leader of all those production teams in every room, working with vendors and the campus to ensure all rooms had the right equipment, and basically ensured the actual curriculum of UC Tech was presented at the highest quality possible. 

Ynez Hicks and her team knocked it out of the park with the logistics of collecting swag and creating gift bags, getting them ready, keeping track of registered guests, and of course getting folks registered and providing the first faces of the event throughout the conference!

Jessica Hilt arranged the call for session proposals and, as UC Tech Ambassador herself, kept in constant contact with the other ambassadors throughout the UC System. She ran the process of getting the sessions judged and ranked. As it so happens, she was the conference chair in 2017! 

Ronise Zenon was a superhuman coordinator of some of the most complicated parts of any event: arranging shuttles, organizing tours, and probably most importantly, serving as a liaison for our keynote speakers and other VIP guests. 

Maria Andrade was instrumental in building and troubleshooting everything with software, from brainstorming the best ways to use software to presenting hybrid sessions and creating sessions in both Aventri and Zoom, as well as ensuring the virtual experience was stellar throughout the week. 

Elizabeth Maraan jumped on board to own every session we offered that was only presented virtually. Perhaps one of the biggest challenges of a hybrid event is keeping the remote speakers and audience constantly in mind. Elizabeth was the person who always provided a face for them, support for all, and a liaison among all the virtual staff we had supporting us behind the scenes. 

UC Tech Conference

Patti Honda-Nations was our leader ensuring the event was adhering to COVID-related protocols, stocking the necessary supplies of sanitizer and masks in every bag, and coming up with contingency plans should the pandemic shut us down. 

Ashish Pandit and I worked together tirelessly to consider the presenter and attendee experience. His dedication to this particular facet of the event was critical, and kept reminding me what the most important parts of any event are. 

Csilla Csori created one of the most comprehensive, well-designed, and well organized event reference books I have ever seen. It was called a binder by our group, but it was no binder. It was a genuine tome in full color, and it was perfect. 

Lexie Searle, Susan Collier, and Matthew Milne could be seen at any part of the event in any capacity. When folks got sick leading up to the conference, they were always there to keep things from falling apart and helping prevent disaster!

Please let me know if there are any others I may have inadvertently not included.

UC Tech attendees

The directors listed on the website led teams of people, participated in weekly meetings, and basically turned imagination into reality. They include:

Melissa Fitzgerald handled logistics, which basically means getting the details right on just about everything from food, to lodging, to venue coordination, and probably a million things I am not thinking about. If someone asked me a question, I was pretty likely to say, “let me ask Melissa.”

Andrea Maydahl is listed on the site as the Programming Director. When Jessica Hilt joined the team, Andrea was able to focus on Games and Activities, including the wonderful spaces outdoors and the Dance Studio meditation and yoga room. She also helped Patti with Covid protocols and helped clear up some significant challenges involving budgets and payments. 

Elaine Fleming led the tremendous effort of recruiting, training, and leading our considerable force of volunteers. We had five major categories of volunteer staff, each with specialized needs. 

Shannon Prior was our sponsorship and vendor coordinator. She not only contacted and supported our partners and vendors, but helped design graphics and other materials to uniquely brand our event. 

Mark Hersberger not only took on his role as the manager of communications, lending his entire department to this effort, but made sure we had a developed plan for registration, including how much we had to charge, how many we could accept, and how to leverage in-person and virtual attendance. 

Douglas Bonilla designed the structure and navigation of the official website, was a significant part of the branding and tone of the event, and arranged the awesome gifts for the SWAG bags we distributed. For my money, his most impressive job was in designing the directional signage for the event–an overlooked, but extremely important piece! 

I would be remiss if I did not thank Mojgan Amini for her support and leadership, particularly in solidifying our A/V team and CIO connections. Speaking of which, the folks at UCOP, including Yvonne Tevis, Laurel Skurko, Gina Cauthen, and of course the UC systemwide chief himself, Van Williams, and each UC CIO, including Jenn Stringer, Viji Murali, Ashish Atreja, Kian Colestock, Scott Joslyn, Lucy Avetisyan, Ellen Pollack, MSN, RN-BC, Nick Dugan, Molly Greek, Matthew Gunkel, Vince Kellen, Josh Glandorf, Joe Bengfort, Shea Lovan, Aisha Jackson, Adam Stone, Sree Mada, Adam Hamilton, and Matt Bishop, also went above-and-beyond to ensure the event was a success.

Further, I must offer my sincere thanks to the long hours and expertise given to us by the one team member not from UC:  Dorice Exline. She went far beyond her contract to help ensure a successful event, and I am extremely grateful.

And hats off to all 70 of our volunteers! It’s truly impossible to offer appropriate gratitude in the word count I have here.

Additionally, want to thank other teams who worked with our staff to make UC Tech special, including Adam Weaver and Mark Kinsey at The Price Center, Aron Steck at Birch Aquarium, Jackie Campbell and Pamela Johnsen with Hospitality and Conference Services, Toby Russell and the team from EventAvision, RB Anthony and the team from Voice and Video, Michael Foster and Xavier Bailey for their photo and video services, Lara Sievert and Alvin Angeles for capturing our Awards Ceremony, and finally Michael Marchant from UC Davis for securing our lunchtime breweries! 

UC Tech attendees

Our Platinum sponsor was Amazon Web Services, a vendor who played a major role in not only funding this event, but in keeping instruction going during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Our Gold Sponsors were:  Zoom, who powered our hybrid conference, Google Cloud, ePlus, Diversified, Huntington Business Systems, Jamf, Pantheon, Pariveda, Rubrik, Spirion, CDW, Lenovo, Crestron, Cisco, e-Plus, Dasher Technologies, Hewlett Packard, Dell, VM Ware, Fortinet, GST, Mandiant, Trellix, Splunk, and zScaler.

Stay in touch!

We realized a remarkable vision, thanks to our most precious resource:  people. For anyone who is tasked with organizing a hybrid event, I would welcome the opportunity to connect and share insights.

Miguel Rodriguez served as the committee chair for the 2022 UC Tech Conference. He works as an educational technology analyst for UC San Diego’s Educational Technology Services and hosts The Current Podcast, the official podcast of UC San Diego’s IT Services.