My Wrap-Up: Salt Lake City, Utah’s 2020 Silicon Slopes Tech Summit

Silicon Slopes Tech Summit 2020, Salt Lake City, Utah

According to the Silicon Slopes Newsroom, “Silicon Slopes is the voice, hub, and heart of Utah’s startup and tech community.” Silicon Slopes Tech Summit began in 2017. I attended the summit on a free pass in 2018. I think that is the year Dave, my husband, and also a high tech product guy, and I saw the Neon Trees perform with our eldest son and his ex girlfriend. Then, in 2019, my husband and I attended a fancy industry party. While Dave networked close by my side, I spent my time revisiting the nice woman representing the Slack organization, where work happens, (even after her pitch was over), and when I somehow cornered Gavin Christensen, the founder of Kickstart Seed Fund, Utah’s most active tech investor. Gavin, (also my new BFF for the evening), and I spoke for nearly an hour. I blame the conversation on the literal corner we were standing in and the fact that I had nothing to pitch, which was probably quite a pleasant change of pace for a guy who’s constantly being pitched. That being said, he did promise to look out for me. My guess is he says that to everyone. In case he was actually serious, maybe he can fund my travel writing company. Wouldn’t it be weird if he did? I would call my company: CBTW, obviously for Cranky Bitch, I mean, Beth Travels the World.

Neon Trees, Silicon Slopes Tech Summit 2018, Salt Lake City, Utah

Now it is 2020, Silicon Slopes’ fourth year. Later today, Mark Zuckerberg will be served up in a neutral-colored hoodie as the summit’s finale. Woot! At this moment, I am opting not to attend. I will let you know if that changes. Here is why: If I were to attend a Mark Zuckerberg tech summit, I would clearly be forced to pull out my sharpies and brush up on my Photoshop skills. “Why?” You ask. Well, I would surely have to make a bright neon orange poster stating the following:

“Mark Zuckerburg, YOU and your FACEBOOK, with your dissemination of bottom-feeding Fake News, is rotting our elderly relatives’ brains!”

Wait! I know. No one would actually read my long-worded poster. Three-quarters of the way to finishing said prolific poster, I would also realize that my sentiment is lost, get frustrated and be forced to spend the next few hours figuring out how to shorten my message, never an easy task for a rambler such as myself. Then I would undoubtedly imagine that maybe I would be chosen to ask Mark a question, which would definitely place me in an anxiety-spiral as I tried to compose the best question. I am sure my question would be something like,

Mark Zuckerberg, why do you continually allow Facebook to be weaponized for dissemination of false information?”

In a heightened panic, I would rush to finish my new, neon green poster (I already ruined the orange one). I would cover said poster with the following words:

“Mark Zuckerberg, you sold your soul and ruined truth as we know it!”

Right. I am thinking the same thing. It is too much. I will stay home. 

Dave & I at the Silicon Slopes Tech Summit, Salt Lake City, Utah

Alas, yesterday, I actually did attend the Silicon Slopes Tech Summit. Dave procured me a pass and texted me to come on down. I did. Now in my car, I almost heeded the “Our Parking Lot is Full,” sign at the Salt Lake City, City Creek shopping center. Instead, I drove into the “full” parking lot, which is located across the street from the Salt Palace Convention Center, the site of Silicon Slopes. I grabbed a parking ticket. (“Grabbing” my parking ticket entails putting my car in Park, unbuckling my seat belt, opening my car door to actually reach the parking ticket.) As I did all of these things, I worried I was not fast enough and that the little parking lot arm thingy would fall down on my hood. It didn’t. With the parking ticket in my purse, I drove right to our usual City Creek Mall parking spot.

Somewhere between greeting me at the West Temple entrance, which is adjacent to Nordstrom, and eating a not very lemony lemon cookie, Dave mentioned he wanted to attend a 4:15pm panel. We had just enough time to walk the vendor booths. I remember the days of sitting in one of those booths, trying to convince the consumer that ShopSite was the way you could commerce-enable your company website. 

Dave & I: this photo was actually taken in Amsterdam, but it looks like we are at a convention [wink wink]

As we walked, Dave encouraged me to network. I wanted to say, “network this, Dave.” Then realized I had nothing for him to network. So instead, I refused to make eye contact with my husband. I smiled at the lady recruiting people for the food bank service project. My eyes also wandered to a booth that contained a very large bowl of lifesaver white peppermint candy. I already imagined myself projecting all of my anxieties as I chomped through the entire bowl. Consequently, I urged Dave to grab me and I quote, “a bunch.” He turned and walked toward the bowl. He came back with two. “What?” I am still upset.

Subsequently, Dave spent an unduly amount of time speaking with some sort of e-commerce company. She said something about how their company is special because not being B to B, but B to C. Dave seemed more interested in the cookies. I know this because as Dave listened to the woman’s pitch, someone tried to grab a cookie. Out of nowhere Dave blurted,

“They look really lemony. They are not very lemony.”

Not the lemon cookies, Dave was commenting on, but a cookie-ish image no less. These are Our cute boys 10 years ago at the Ben & Jerry’s Factory Store in Waterbury Village Historic District, Vermont (we like to travel hint hint).

In a disconnected flash, I found myself only about six minutes late, listening to Mark, Harry, Matt and Sagi. Their panel: Digital Consumer Experience. As I listened to Harry Kraemer use Mark’s name over and over just like Dale Carnegie would recommend in his book “How To Win Friends and Influence People,” I thought to myself and then said to Dave, “Oh my God! Harry Kraemer, former CEO of Baxter Healthcare, well done on using Mark’s first name at least seventeen times in the last thirty seconds.” Wait. Who is Mark? I was confused. I look around. I look at the speaker’s faces. Mark must be here, but Mark is not listed on the speaker list. 

Then Harry, literally said, “If you are self reflective and self aware, you won’t be surprised,” but I am surprised. Harry, who is Mark?

Another panelist continues,

“I went to Davos. I got to speak with Bill Gates, Nelson Mandela and Jeff Bezos, (speaker pronounces his  name like, Bee-Zohs),” said by Mark. “Mark, you are real.” I thought to myself. 

Us in Switzerland, but not Davos

Now that I know Mark is real, I listen more intently. I think Matt is discussing how he hates the word “partnership.” He has his own buzzword. Because I was immediately distracted by the three times he used the word “grit,” I cannot remember Matt’s personal buzzword. Again I think, “Oh grit, you are so 2015.” Next I hear the words: inertia, domain, expertise, flywheel, culture and Harvard. I think Matt mentioned Harvard, but I am not sure he attended Harvard. “Risk averse.” Hold up. Risk averse is an old school buzzword. “And yes, Matt, I am completely risk averse. Remember me refusing to network not even ten minutes ago?”

Us in the Silicon Slopes 2020 Panel I speak of here

Then Harry pivots back. He introduces what he sees are the four principles to success. Here  they are:

  • Self reflection
  • Balanced perspective: flexible
  • True self confidence (Meaning, you are not a con.)
  • Genuine humility.

Before I push back, I have to admit that I have thought about these four principles since they left his lips. They are good. I agree that we are better humans, especially if we can behave with humility, truth, confidence and balance. Now the pushback. It is like Harry believes he has discovered some secret truth, that if we pause, consider the nuance, the perspective and our feelings, that we will have better success. Further, Harry states that he looks for these principles when he tries to hire. And that is when I literally say out loud,

“Here is a thought, how about hiring more women?”

Women already know how to tap into their feelings.”

Me in Maui, Hawaii, January, 2020

Ah, women. That brings me to the panel Dave and I almost entered (twice). The panel is in the Women in Leadership track, and called, “Change your mind to change your life: 6 Happiness Tools.”

The first time we tried to enter, the ticket scanner lady was wearing a pink shirt. Yes. The bright pink shirt terrified me. I caught my judgey breath and looked into the room. The rooms was also adorned in pink. I wanted to be open and was even close to entering. Then I made the mistake of asking Dave about the speaker.

“She runs a yoga studio.”

(Insert my hand over my face human emoji here). I had a low scale GOOP flashback. You know, GOOP, Gwyneth Paltrow’s modern lifestyle and wellness brand. GOOP also has a new docu-series on Netflix, called the, “Goop Lab:”

“It’s goop HQ’s worst-kept secret: Gwyneth is both our CEO and our bravest guinea pig. That open-minded ethos is adopted by staffers, too—if you’ve watched The goop Lab on Netflix, then you get it. We love being vulnerable and asking difficult questions and trying new things. It’s our job.”

Shout out to Netflix. You were also at Silicon Slopes. Dave wears his Netflix swag (a baseball cap) well. The other day I watched about fifteen minutes of Netflix’s, “Goop Lab.” It was like a fresh, warm plate of perfectly salted french fries. I loved it. I was not sure it was good for me. I could not stop eating, I mean, watching. I felt like a voyeur in a world I would never be invited to join. It was like a Park City Yoga Class, where I was the only one wearing yoga pants from Walmart. I was an imposter. Looking in on that Women in Leadership panel made me feel the same. 

My French Fries in the Aosta Valley on the Italy side of Mont Blanc.

Ok. Truth. None of us are as perfectly blond, cool, pretty, thin or as cleansed as Gwyneth Paltrow. How could we expect to be the world’s bravest guinea pig? That’s Gwyneth’s job. We are, at best, low scale Goop. This was about the moment I realized that I was in a shitty mood. So instead of turning my frown upside down,  and sitting in the Women in Leadership panel with an open heart and a good attitude, I thought of my own six ways to be happy: 

Gluten Free Vegan Cake from Salt Lake City’s City Cakes Bakery for our 19th Wedding Anniversary

1. Cake 
2. Make sure my second born son goes to college & does not get his girlfriend pregnant.
3. Give me, I mean, Dave some sort of gadget that translates my words so my husband understands them.
4. Guarantee that my eldest son will no longer get stuck with a middle seat.
5. Take me on a walk (and talk to me).
6. Send me on a trip, in Business Class.

Me at the Neon Tress as the perform for Silicon Slopes 2018

Instead, I went with my dude back to the dude panel. Sure, there were other women in attendance. That being said, four women, one by one, exited the room as I took notes. Hey and sure, it is also a little disingenuous listening to men describe the four keys to success when from my humble experience, women have had those keys all along. Further, it is hilarious to listen to a man describe how introspection and understanding your own feelings actually help in business. Duh!

While I was spinning out, I heard Dave laughing. Matt’s feelings talk is resonating with Dave. Wow. I hear things like,

“You can’t run and you are moments away from trashing your reputation…Instead, be straight. Be upfront so those moments will not happen.” Matt proclaims, and Matt is not wrong.

I continued to listen,

“If you know what you are good at, stay focused on that. Don’t overreach.” Harry states. Wait. I actually like their message. 

I was engaged exactly when they opened the panel to questions. Instead of saying something I shouldn’t, I decide to sit on my hands and use my scarf to tie my mouth shut. Here is what I wanted to say:

“Hey Harry. I really enjoy your 4 ways to a successful company. They really resonate with me. Yet it’s like you, Harry, you think you men have invented the nuance-wheel. Here is a thought: Maybe if men would have listened to women years ago, the corporate world would be a better, more successful, more confident, honest and nuanced place because women  would have taught the business world these intuitive and insightful feelings years ago. Just a thought.”

Dave & I at Silicon Slopes, Salt Lake City, Utah

As I was struggling  for self control, people asked questions. I was quickly bored (again), others left. I still wanted to ask my question, yet I recognized that even though my question may shake things up, it would undermine the intent, and I think the intent was actually good. Instead, I decided to use some grit. I exercised some self reflection (Harry’s point number 2) and opened up my Pokémon app. I whispered to Dave, “Maybe there’s a gym nearby.” 

As the panel ended, the skies parted. I finally get it. See, it was actually a three person panel, a panel with a moderator. The moderator, well, that would be Mark.