Category Archives: Events

Hackathon – Top 10 List

As I noted in a couple of earlier posts (see below for links), I have organized a couple ‘Hackathons’ over the past couple of years. During the process of organizing, marketing and recruiting for these events I spun up another WordPress site to promote the events.

I also created, and was involved with the creation of, various other marketing and promotional materials. One thing that I created that I thought was sufficiently cool was this ‘top 10’ list. Something of an ‘un-top-ten list’ you might say. While I don’t have any specific metrics to know how many people attended the hackathon as a direct result of this piece, I like to think that it factored in to what ended up being a pretty great event!

Top 10 list


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Filed under Events, Hackathons, Innovation, Marketing

An honour just to be nominated: BDC 2013

From the ‘its-quite-arguably-to-late-to-be-‘blogging’-about-this file’, here’s a cool story from a couple of years ago that I wanted to share.

Back in January of 2013, my company, T4G put on a conference called the ‘Big Data Congress’. It was the first of two such events that I’ve now been fortunate enough to have played a part in. I’ve written about the 2014 event, BDCII, here if you’re interested in checking out that post. T4G’s VP of Marketing, Cathy Simpson, the original ‘architect’ and primary event planner of both events posted about the inaugural event on her blog – here.

As these events were able to draw attendees into the multiple hundreds, with many attendees coming in from out of town, we were able to create a bit of economic activity for local restaurants, hotels etc – for a day two. As such, T4G was later nominated by Hospitality Saint John for an award at their year end awards gala in a ‘meetings and events’ category.

In addition to that nomination, each of the nominees were able to nominate an individual from their organization or organizing committee for their efforts in the planning and execution of the events. A couple days before the awards, T4G’s Cathy Simpson, who I reported into in my project/event management roll notified me that she had nominated me in this category and submitted the following story in doing so.

Check it out. It really hits the nail on the head in terms of all of the goings-on back when we were pulling this event together. Very cool indeed!


Hospitality Saint John – The Meeting and Events Award

Top Volunteer: Evan Sommerville, T4G Big Data Congress

We brought 500 people to the Port of Saint John, 20+ world class speakers and 20+ amazing sponsors to ensure the event was a success and yes, it was in January when the temperatures were frigid.

Planning a major conference is a bit like having a baby: there are a million little things to do before it arrives and there’s no turning back once it starts. No one knows this better than T4G’s Evan Sommerville.

Evan was the T4G project manager for T4G’s inaugural Big Data Congress, a one-day event held January 25th, 2013 that introduced a sold-out crowd of 500 to the power and potential of data science for the Maritimes. Evan is a project manager, which means he manages large, multi-team projects for many of our clients at T4G.

bdc 2013 planningEvan while very familiar with project management for software projects, he had never been an event project manager.  But he signed up without hesitation and did so very early into the planning.  So early in fact, we didn’t have a date yet. When we did set the date – January 24th, 2013 – Evan took a deep breath and still said yes. He already had that date in his head because it was days before his pregnant wife was due to deliver their second child.

It wasn’t an easy pregnancy and with a toddler at home, Evan balanced the needs of his family and his busy work schedule with the very large task of keeping track of all the speakers, sponsors, logistics, supplies and deadlines connected with T4G’s big event. That meant Evan worked through lunch, worked through the evenings after getting his 4 year old daughter to bed and often had to turn on the laptop on the weekend. This was an all hands on deck assignment.

Evan was the calm center in the midst of the flurry of planning and executing this major event. He kept track of all our notes, records and communications within the company and with all of the other stakeholders. A typical day for Evan would include taking notes during a planning meeting, calling around for quotes on linens or extra chairs, liaising between suppliers we retained to help with event production, ensuring speakers arrangements were taken care of and tracking to our budget.  He did it all with a smile, with a kind word to the people he worked with and an assurance that everything was going to get done.

While he did this, he would touch base with his wife throughout the day and as her pregnancy progressed and as the doctor appointments increased, Evan would quietly slip out to be with her. As we got closer to January 25th we joked around the office that it would be interesting to see what arrived first, the conference or the baby.  In those final 72 hours, none of us were sure, not even Evan.

In the end it was Big Data that arrived first, and Evan was there through it all, smiling – and prepared for anything. While his wife had her hospital stay supplies, Evan made us a BDC emergency kit, which contained all the information stored in his brain. Was he worried? Of course. Nervous? Certainly!  We all knew Evan might have to leave at a moment’s notice.We were all ready for that baby’s arrival, and when a happy and healthy baby boy did arrive just days later, it was an extra special celebration, because we knew how hard his dad had worked before his arrival.

The Big Data Congress was certainly a big effort. None of us had ever planned an event of this magnitude before and certainly not in the heart of the winter at 2 cruise ship terminals!  Evan provided all of us with the project management support we required and now he’s at it again.  Big Data Congress II is February 24th and 25th, 2014 in Saint John and Evan is back at it as the event project manager.  This time, no babies arriving are on the project plan.

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Filed under Events, Project Management

MBA Graduation Video

So, it’s been a while since I’ve posted anything on my blog, though not for a lack of things on the go; quite the opposite actually. When things get busy, my ‘social’ activity and consumption tend to decrease, which should lend some credence to the idea that it doesn’t have to happen on the Internet for it to have actually happened.

Once such thing was the graduation convocation ceremony on May 30th at the University of New Brunswick where I was quite happy to accept a Masters of Business Administration (MBA) degree, after having worked away at it part-time, since about the time dinosaurs roamed the earth.

Here’s a video that UNBSJ put together. I’m the handsome guy with the purple sleeves.

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Filed under Business, Events, General

T4G Big Data Congress II (Update 2 of 3)

big data

Reference the original post here:

Last year (2013), the company that I work for, T4G, organized an event that we called the ‘Big Data Congress’ to talk about Data Science and what it means for business. We had organized some events before, but nothing ever like this. We brought in world-leading industry ‘thinkers’ and ‘do-ers’ such as Andrew McAfee, Tom Davenport and Stephen B. Johnson among many others, along with a host of local industry leaders to talk about Big Data. To cap it off, we had maritime favs The Joel Plaskett Emergency close out the day with a concert. (That was particularly awesome, as I’m a big fan.)

While I’ve been doing IT Project Management for a number of years, this was my first foray into Event Management, so this made the event particularly interesting and informative for me. (Note – for any PMs thinking about getting into Event Management, be forewarned that there is much more standing and physical labour involved in the latter!)

This year (2014) we embarked on trying to top last year’s event, which we knew would be no easy task due to how well executed and received it was. For this year’s event, we went BIG. We increased the scope of the event from a 1-day event, to a 3-day event, complete with world-leading ‘thinkers’ and ‘do-ers’ (among them Rick Smolan, Kevin Slavin, and T4G Big Data Congress returnee from last year, Hillary Mason), ‘technical sessions’ (by popular request from feedback received from last year’s attendees) AND a ‘Student Super-Power Challenge’ (an initiative to inspire high school students to get involved with technology).

Our ‘headliner’ was none other than the WORLD’S top management thinker Clayton Christensen, author of the Innovator’s Dilemma (check out my earlier post for a synopsis if you’re so inclined) and the person that introduced the world to the concept of ‘disruptive innovation’ (among other accolades).

So, while we knew we had a big task ahead of ourselves to top last year’s performance, at the end of the 3 days there was no doubt that we had done just that. A credit to everyone involved, from the organizing team, to the sponsors, to the venue, the volunteers, the speakers, attendees and so many more. Kudos!

Now that the dust has settled and I’ve had a bit of time to reflect, here are just a few of my personal lessons learned that I think will help me for all my projects (and events) moving forward. Hopefully you can read them and take something from them that can help you too.

Think BIG.

Project Managers, either through training, hard-wired genetics, or some combination of the two, are often risk averse. Risk is bad. It must be proactively sought out and destroyed. Managing scope and controlling (or rather, having a process for) change is your reason for being. This is the mantra of the Project Manager. All that said, without having a grand vision of what your project/event/initiative CAN be, you may not be realizing its potential. Scope must be managed. Risk must be mitigated (or avoided, or transferred, or accepted – see an earlier post on some of these strategies if you like), but be careful not to de-risk your project SO much so as to limit its potential to be GREAT! Like many things in the universe, it’s all about balance.

Listen to your customers.

As this was a follow up event to last year’s event there was, of course, some pressure to make this year’s event even better. When figuring out how to go about doing this, we started with looking at the feedback we received from our post-event attendee surveys from last year’s event. One of the things that people were saying that they would like to see for the future was more content on the ‘technical’ side of things. Exploring in more detail some of the actual tools and processes for getting elbow deep into the data. So, with an understanding of what our customers wanted, we added a day of technical sessions. Easily done.

While this sounds simple enough, quiet often it’s easy to become immersed in what you’re doing/developing/planning etc. to come up for air and see what it is that your customers are actually asking for. The somewhat recent advent of the ‘lean start-up’ movement, and similarly the ‘Agile’ development movement, both advocate for frequent contact and validation from customers as opposed to the more traditional notion of going heads-down to develop something that, in the end, nobody wants. While we, in our planning and delivery of the event, didn’t subscribe directly to either of these methodologies, their principles were at work in our ability to solicit and react to customer feedback.

Adapt. Adapt. Then adapt some more.

With this point, I will try and tie the first two points together. In point 1 I noted that projects should be envisioned to be as big as and bold as they can be to accomplish whatever your objective may be, while still managing them so that you are able to actually deliver the goods. In point 2 I noted that a key factor in successful delivery of anything – whether it be a software application, an event, or a Big Mac and fries (depending on your line of work) is to listen to your customers and not ASSUME you know what they want. Sometimes striking this balance can be tough. It’s all about figuring out that sweet spot between level of rigor with regard to managing scope and risk while still being ‘Agile’ enough to respond to changing requirements. I felt we did a good job of this as we planned this event; allowing our processes to be fluid enough to deal with evolving scope and requirements – from speakers, venues, logistics and more.


Filed under Business, Events, Management, Marketing, Project Management

True Growth Hackathon. A brief re-cap (Update 1 of 3).

hack name tags

Reference the original post here:

As a loyal reader of my blog you’ll recall from my earlier post that I was working with Enterprise Saint John and some community volunteers to organize a Hackathon.

And organize a Hackathon we did! It was awesome!

The turnout was good and the level of engagement was tremendous. Through connecting the non-profit community with the ‘IT’ (developers, analysts, project managers, marketers and more) community (we had people from Saint John, Fredericton and even Prince Edward Island) we were able to come up with some pretty great ideas.

The ideas then lead to some brainstorming and product envisioning sessions that, a day and a half later, culminated in 3 working prototypes that the teams presented to a room full of creative and enthusiastic techies and non-techies and a panel of ‘judges’ that scored the teams on such things as working functionality, quality and innovation.

Everyone left with a prize, a handfull of new business cards/contacts, as well as a sense of excitement for the possibilities for the next Hackathon (tentatively envisioned for late spring/early Summer 2014; email me if you’re interested in getting on a mailing list for updates) and how these sorts of things really enhance Saint John as a destination for IT. (As validated – a short time after our Hackathon, no less – in this article in the Halifax Chronicle Herald where Saint John was selected as the ‘Best Community for Information Technology’)

Check out a few links about the Hackathon, the teams and the prototypes:

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Filed under Events, Innovation, Project Management

Updates! (Hackathons, Big Data, MBA)


Back when I first started this blog I acknowledged that it might happen. Like many blogs before mine, there was a risk that the shiny, bloggy, wonderfulness of being able to have my very own chunk of interweb real-estate, may someday, lose its luster and become, ~shudder~, STATIC! A blog without updates. Destined to fade into cyber-obscurity.

But alas!

Being the pro-active, forward-thinking, risk-mitigating type of guy that I am, I went as far as to include the word ‘Semi-Frequent’ in the title of my blog so that proper expectations would be set from the get-go and nobody would to have to navigate to my blog every day, only to wonder why, WHY is he not updating his blog!?

So anyway, it happened. I got busy. It will happen again. And while I’m still busy, it seems like the right time to post a few updates and see if I can increase the frequency of my semi-frequent updates, even if only for a little while.

So, rather than creating a bunch of ‘hey, check out this memorable thing that happened 3 months ago that, had I had the time, I would have “blogged” about’, I’m going to use this post as a singlehey, check out these memorable things that happened 1,2,3 etc. months ago that, had I had the time, I would have “blogged” about’.

My blog. My rules. Don’t like? Go check Facebook. (I’m kidding…come back).

3 cool, blog-worthy things I’ve been up to:

  1. True Growth Hackathon
  2. T4G Big Data Congress II
  3. Finishing up MBA

[Editorial note: Change of plans. This was shaping up to be one insanely long post so in the interest of breaking up the content, I’ve opted to break out the updates for the 3 above noted items into 3 additional, separate posts, denoted as ‘update 1 of 3’ etc. Updates will follow shortly. Don’t touch that dial.


Filed under Business, Events, Innovation, Management, Marketing, Project Management

True Growth 2.0 ‘Non-Profit’ Hackthon


A couple of months ago I was approached by Enterprise Saint John to ask if I wanted to get involved with their True Growth 2.0 economic development initiatives, specifically a project called ‘Inspiring Innovation through Hackathons’. As one of the recommendations that came out of earlier community consultation phases, this is an initiative, as the name would suggest, where the community organizes a series of Hackathons. The objectives are many and include things like:

  • Raising the profile of the programming and overall ICT community in Saint John and the value they bring to new start-ups and product development
  • Providing professional development experience for developers, designers, architects, entrepreneurs and others who get involved
  • Helping to create a stronger ICT community and improved linkages between ICT and industry

Hackathons, much like their Start-up weekend counterparts, work to bring creative people together to solve problems and build innovative products. This process can become early stage incubation for the identification of opportunities that will often live beyond the Hackathon event itself.

For this first event, we’ve decided to focus on the non-profit sector and we have been reaching out to organizations around the region asking for some ideas and challenges for our participants to explore. So far the response has been great and we’re working with a couple of organizations whose ideas looked like they would be interesting projects to drill into during the event. We’ve also encouraged participants to bring ideas of their own – non-profit related or otherwise.

The event will begin at T4G Saint John at 10am on Saturday, November 30th and will wrap up on Sunday, December 1st with the individuals or teams doing a little show and tell to demonstrate how what they’ve put together has addressed the idea/challenge that they chose to work on.

Check out this link to learn more about, or register for this weekend’s event:


Filed under Business, Events, Innovation