I’m still processing the fact that I had the opportunity to travel to Texas last week for SXSW with W2O Group. Guided by Center for Social Commerce Director Kate Brodock and current W2O employee Taylor Carr (Syracuse ‘13), Nick and I attended the PreCommerce Summit, Digital Brunch, and of course, the fun (and delicious) Geek-a-Cue event at Austin’s finest Franklin’s Barbecue.
Soon after I arrived in the Lone Star state, I took a taxi through busy downtown Austin to the Intercontinental Hotel and arrived at W2O’s 4th annual PreCommerce Summit, where I attended “TED talk” style presentations from a great lineup of leaders from a diverse array of companies, including Omni Hotels, Google, Levi’s, Coca-Cola, Kaiser Permanente, Warner Bros., Whole Foods and Podesta Group. You can check out recaps of some of our favorite speakers in our previous blog post. The topics were truly engaging and thought-provoking: From Google Glass’ potential to change the world to discussions on “the internet of things” and the growing impact of analytics in communications, I enjoyed getting insight from industry leaders and game-changers. It was a privilege to speak with many panelists and W2O/WCG employees during the cocktail hour and fantastic dinner at Perry’s Steakhouse following the Summit.
We rose early the next morning to attend the Digital Brunch in the backyard of W2O’s Austin offices– a trendy, open space that was formerly a meatpacking building. We were treated to a genuinely “Austinite” cuisine served up by some of the most popular food trucks in town. I sampled a Czech version of French toast called Kolache toast (so good!) and Nick bravely dug into a bacon- and banana-topped glazed donut (sounds unappetizing but the verdict was very positive). Needless to say, we didn’t leave hungry. Following our meal, we were lucky to take part in “meet and greets” with three W2O/WCG employees– Chris Nardone, Tara Gallagher, and Ashlyn Abell. They were each enthusiastic to share company insight and career advice and took time to answer our questions. Overall, the day was a definite highlight of the trip!
During our final day in Austin, we had time to explore the eclectic downtown area, which was now buzzing with a surge of visitors who had arrived to take part in SXSW Interactive events. Constant rain didn’t stop me from strolling through the city streets and sampling more of Austin’s famous food trucks and markets. I also had the chance to sit on the iron throne at HBO’s Game of Thrones exhibition at the Austin Music Hall. I couldn’t resist indulging my inner fangirl. Austin impressed me as a city on the rise with a distinct culture and energy. It had a traditional southwestern sensibility, but an influx of young entrepreneurs, techies, artists, and professionals provided a uniquely modern twist.
Later that night, we attended W2O’s “piece de resistance”– the much anticipated Geek-a-Cue at Franklin’s. The vibe here was laid-back– there was a live band, cowboy boots that doubled as centerpieces, and of course, pinatas. It was great to speak candidly with more of the W2O team. We stood on what seemed like a mile-long line to grab some BBQ (it was definitely worth the wait!) A good time was had by all.
I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to travel to SXSW with W2O. I left with countless new contacts and a fuller sense of the company culture and its cutting-edge position within the industry. I’d also like to extend a huge THANK YOU to Kate Brodock, Taylor Carr, and everyone that made this trip possible. What an amazing way to kick off my Center for Social Commerce ambassadorship!