DRJ conferences are the place to connect with industry colleagues and discover what’s new in the world of business continuity and disaster recovery. From gaining first-hand knowledge and strategies to face today’s top challenges to networking and learning about the latest in industry research and products, DRJ conferences provide unlimited benefits to attendees.
Terry Boyer has been attending DRJ conferences since 2012. He is strategic systems development manager for the Kentucky Lottery Corporation in Louisville.
For BC/DR professionals, Boyer said DRJ conferences enable attendees to gain updated techniques, methods, and processes for ensuring a smoother recovery for businesses if they are impacted. They also have ample opportunities to interact with attendees, both at the conference and afterward.
Specifically, Boyer says the mock disasters have shown him a way to break down an exercise event into hours, days, weeks, and months to further simulate what each team member would experience in an actual disaster.
“We have used this technique for corporate disaster scenarios,” said Boyer. “The impact is often much more than we anticipate. With each passing day in the scenario, and the more information that is presented to the teams, the better they are able to not only adapt themselves but also their plans, in retrospect.”
Boyer says he feels his knowledge has increased significantly after attending DRJ conferences. One example is the development and exercise methods he and staff members use as a direct result because he has attended DRJ conferences.
“I’ve been asked to present our scenario development methods to national conferences on more than one occasion, as well as having an article written on our BC/DR team in a national lottery magazine. We have shared our methodologies with several other lotteries across the U.S. and Canada.”
Boyer’s favorite time to connect is at breakfast and lunch. “Although the tables are usually identified for specific industries, it can sometimes be very beneficial to sit among a group other than your own industry, just to gain more insight and stretch your mind with possibilities.”
He also enjoys the breakout sessions and mock disaster scenarios.
“While I personally benefit from the conferences, I think the companies which we represent and their end consumers are reaping the benefit by continuing to have that product or service available, even with business interruptions.”
Don Briggs, vice president of administration for Affinity Federal Credit Union, has 20 years of experience in disaster recovery in credit unions.
Briggs attended his first DRJ conference in 2018. He enjoyed the speakers from the general sessions, which helped him gain insight as to how to raise the level of his own program.
“I learned a lot from the speakers and working with the group with common industry,” said Briggs.
He said as times are changing, information moves so quickly. “It’s imperative to keep up with what is going on around us.”
DRJ conferences are just the perfect way to keep up with updated information, skills, and ready-to-use strategies for professionals and businesses.
“I believe the conference both the plan administrators and I would also recommend that members of the IT staff should also attend because of the link between the two departments,” said Briggs. “It helps to have someone explain the technical areas we may not understand as well.”
Ken Clark has more than 20 years of experience in BC/DR. He is director of business continuity at Arm Ltd.
Clark first attended a DRJ conference in 2017. He gets a “different perspective on BCM from the presenters and the attendees from such wide and diverse industries, companies, and public organizations.”
DRJ conferences have been beneficial for Clark because they have allowed him to update his knowledge across the profession and learn how others are moving their programs forward.
Clark enjoys the sessions which focus on the human side of BCM and offer an understanding of the stress of being a crisis team member and how people react in these situations.
He recalls a tool he learned about at a DRJ conference – Fusion Risk Management’s platform. Clark purchased it after recommendations from several other attendees. He now attends the dinner hosted by Fusion for their clients, which Clark said is a “great networking opportunity.”
Overall, he enjoys the diverse key-note speakers and topics and connecting with other BC professionals.
“The lunch tables are also a great way of meeting different people,” says Clark, “although I tend to ignore the table names and sit at different tables each time to increase my networking.”
Matthew Engler, ICT risk director for Stefanini, Inc., has been in the BC/DR profession for the past 14 years. He attended his first DRJ conference in 2008 and has attended five since then.
Engler said DRJ conferences give attendees the opportunity to expand their knowledge and understand how others are tackling the same challenges. As an advocate of lifelong learning, he thinks it is important they remain vigilant in understanding industry trends, changes that could improve programs, and adapting to what is learned.
DRJ conferences also provide the opportunity to network with fellow practitioners and often find one’s problems are not unique.
“You gain a better understanding of where the industry is going and what you need to do to adapt,” he said.
During a DRJ conference session, Engler said a speaker reviewed through the way in which availability metrics are gathered and presented. One of the speaker’s key points was if Amazon and Microsoft could not meet five 9’s, then they had no chance. In the short term, it helped the IT organization to better understand how availability metrics could be better presented, including complete visibility into all system downtime, including maintenance windows.
“This is a true barometer of what your customers feel. In the long-tern, I have frequently used that barometer of Amazon and Microsoft as a reality check for what we are trying to do or what is being requested of us,” he said. “While creating stretch goals is good, management will sometimes create unachievable goals with limited resources. Being able to add some perspective through industry comparisons helps to better guage what is a realistic possibility for an organization.”
Engler said his favorite session was one of the opening motivational speakers who was discussing change and how he wanted to be better while still holding on to the deep personality flaws that have gotten him that far.
“This is a way to think that if we want to improve and we want change, we need to be willing to do so internally,” said Engler.
As a result of attending DRJ conferences, Engler has found an ability to look at things from different angles. People often get stuck in processes being completed the same way as they have always been done. Sometimes people need to step back and reassess the situation.
“DRJ conferences give you the opportunity to see what other people are doing and help foster that knowledge and that maybe there are better ways than what we have been doing,” said Engler.
There are multiple benefits of attending DRJ conferences. Professionals are given new opportunities to hear fresh and innovative solutions from peers in the industry. Networking is another chance to connect with like-minded professionals. Engler enjoys the after-party events and visiting with people around the hotel. These occurrences give professionals the opportunity to meet face-to-face with peers who they may have listened to during a session.
“This networking is important in building up your support network,” said Engler. “It helps you ask questions and learn even more about how others approach problems.”
Engler said like any conference, people who are invested in continuing their education in the field and complimentary fields benefit from it.
“If you approach it as simply a way to get out of the office, you won’t gain as great a benefit from it.”
Instead, he said to take advantage of all the opportunities available at DRJ conferences. Even the exhibition booths provide the chance to see what new vendors have entered in the market and how current vendors are expanding their portfolio. Depending on people’s willingness to talk, many vendors are willing to give ideas of their products and services and how they might fit into companies.
“Industry demos help you to decide what is worthwhile for follow-up and what might end up wasting your time,” said Engler.
Charles Geraci attended his first DRJ conference in 2005. In fact, he’s attended DRJ conferences for the last 14 years and is looking forward to the next.
He is business protection manager of Pfizer Inc. and has more than 20 years in BC/DR.
Geraci said it’s important to attend DRJ conferences because attendees receive the latest business continuity information and view the latest technology at the vendor shows.
“It is so important to stay current with the latest BC information that can help me,” he said. “This conference allows me to stay current with the latest industry news and trends.”
Over the years, Geraci has picked up great information regarding how business continuity exercises are conducted and how to make them more effective. In fact, his site business continuity exercises have been more realistic due to the information and knowledge he’s gained from DRJ conferences.
So far, Geraci’s favorite session or workshop was ones that reviewed lessons from Hurricane Katrina. He also likes the breakout sessions.
Geraci said DRJ conferences always refresh him on the latest business continuity items. He also makes it a point to view the vendor items.
“This is always a great part of the conference as I have used several vendors based on the information that they presented at the conference during the trade show,” he said.
Connecting with like-minded professionals is another positive effect of attending DRJ conferences.
“Networking is huge as often times you can share each other’s best practices and then apply a good practice that someone else is doing for your site,” he said.
Geraci said anyone who is involved in business continuity truly benefits from attending DRJ conferences, particularly professionals who are relatively new to the field.
Rod Hedges, business continuity program manager at Lower Colorado River Authority in Austin, Texas, first attended a DRJ conference in 2010. He’s attended seven conferences since then.
Hedges said he’s learned many things from attending DRJ conferences. The most important skill is the ability to discern what is and is not important and what does and does not work after hearing about others’ experiences in the industry.
The training and exposure to others from all walks of business provide the best professional growth environment he’s found at DRJ conferences.
One specific session Hedges attended was when a presenter showed how they used a formal Six Sigma process description tool in developing a business impact analysis for their organization. He now uses a much-simplified version of the tool for all of his company’s BIAs. It was also helpful to compare what they do with a more formal process.
Specifically, the opening keynotes in the general session are his favorite sessions because they serve to provide an upbeat beginning to the conference and are always successful. Hedges found a presentation by Regina Phelps a few years ago on a cyber exercise conducted at a Canadian bank to be “very enlightening and entertaining.”
Breakout sessions which deliver professionals’ experiences from the trenches are what Hedges most enjoys because it’s a great way to realize the commonality of the profession.
Another favorite part of DRJ conferences are the meal time table discussions. Although no specific story stands out, Hedges said for him personally the most rewarding aspect of downtime is reconnecting with acquaintances made over the years and to simply say, “How are you doing? This certainly gives a sense of community that is lacking from other venues.”
“They are most useful to me as a way to connect with folks in my industry that I might not otherwise connect with,” he said. “It’s always good to talk to friends that I’ve made over the years at the vendor booths as well.”
According to Hedges, DRJ conferences are beneficial to all professionals, particularly those who are just starting a program or are looking to reboot something that has grown a little stale. “Everyone seems to get a boost from the energy.”
When Hedges first started attending DRJ conferences, he was most surprised at the wide variation of how organizations approached business continuity and disaster recovery. He said those who are new to the profession tend to think one approach fits every organization and “DRJ conferences are a good way to quickly dispel that notion.”
Vendors are another aspect of DRJ conferences where attendees can quickly assess the capabilities of tools they’re considering and learn about new tools. Hedges said seeing these items firsthand literally cuts months of time and effort from the ability to identify likely additions to professionals’ capabilities.
Sammi Hutchinson, business continuity and crisis management specialist with Amrock for the past two years, attended her first DRJ conference last spring.
After the conference concluded, Hutchinson left with a “better understanding on what continuity is, how it continues to evolve, and the ability to network with companies who are similar to mine to get a peek at how everyone else handles the different issues we come in contact with.”
An important skill she gained from the conference was how to sell her program.
A risk registry program has been implemented at Amrock that was discussed during the conference’s last day’s general session. Hutchinson also started meeting with senior leadership to run a CMT exercise based on what is happening in the news, which has helped the team stay updated and ahead of important issues.
Hutchinson’s favorite session was on how to handle a crisis. She learned how to determine how to measure the scope and scale and also how to recover once life safety has been completed.
“We have already had events this year where these lessons have been helpful,” she said.
Hutchinson learned many takeaway strategies from the conference, including how to be the calm voice in the storm and that leaders love to “solution,” which can create multiple backdoor conversations.
“Be the voice that keeps them calm and points on the facts to allow your leaders to do what they do best,” she said.
Hutchinson said networking was an integral part of the conference because she could hear about what others are doing, what does and doesn’t work, and more. She was able to meet professionals outside her industry who she still leans on to this day.
“The network I have created from the DRJ conference has helped me build a better, stronger program,” she said. “To have the opportunity to sit next to an NSA specialist and a specialist in charge of one of the largest banks is unheard of and gives you outside knowledge that will come in handy.”
She said learning from others is important. “No one is doing this perfectly 100 percent of the time. We are all in this together.”
While at the DRJ conference, Hutchinson made time for everything, from hearing speakers to going to see vendors to attending sessions. She said the ability to interact with vendors and test out applications in an easy afternoon session saves her months of time that would be sent reaching out, scheduling meetings and demos, and more.
“At other conferences, it feels like a rushed info dump where I am forced to choose what is more important, learning about the cloud or finding a much-needed software solution.”
Hutchinson said she doesn’t have to choose at a DRJ conference. She can do it all.
“I believe this conference is a benefit to many.”
Cary Jasgur, manager of organizational resilience for Mazars USA for 27 years, first attended a DRJ conference in 2013. He has attended 8 DRJ conferences including DRJ Spring 2019.
Jasgur’s favorite part of DRJ conferences are the sessions.
“I enjoy the wide variety of materials being presented,” he says, “and there have been several times that it was difficult to choose, since there have been more than one that I wanted to attend during that timeframe.”
As a consultant, Jasgur said the most useful area in which he has increased his knowledge from attending DRJ conferences is the multitude of approaches to organizational resilience performed today.
“It allows me to have a broad focus from different industries which allows me to better address my clients’ needs,” he says.
His favorite session so far has been DRJ Spring 2019’s SWS-5 Innovative Leadership Perspectives from Future Leaders with Steven Goldman, whose sessions are “always the highlight of my Sunday afternoon at every DRJ conference I have attended.”
“The conferences provide a constant learning environment,” says Jasgur. “You will always learn something that you did not know, either from others in different industries or through sessions you attend.”
In addition, Jasgur is part of the DRJ Mentor Program. As a mentor, he has increased his ability to coach and mentor other individuals within the industry. “It allows me to see a lot of different approaches and apply what I have learned to my everyday business requirements.”
Jasgur concludes, “Quite simply, I think everyone benefits from attending DRJ conferences at some level. The benefits differ based on what someone’s goals and objectives might be.”
Jon Kunert, director of business continuity at NorthStar Recovery Services, Inc., also recently attended his first DRJ conference.
Now he intends on having his entire business continuity team attend DRJ Spring 2020.
Kunert said he has gained a deeper understanding and appreciation for how a client views their complete ‘risk profile’ by attending a DRJ conference. “This will be a centric point for my BC team as we engage our clients in preparation for comprehensive disaster recovery.”
He took away much actionable knowledge from the conference including how perceptions of risk vary among key stakeholders; how risk is perceived in the context of “probability versus cost” and how to address that paradigm from a business continuity perspective; and the criticality of “public relations precision” in articulating organizational positions, plans, and preparedness at the outset of a crisis.
Kunert’s favorite sessions were about decision making at the point of crisis and immediately after, and taking the initiative on shaping the narrative after a crisis has occurred.
Networking was another important aspect of the conference, from opportunities at breakfast and lunch to social events.
Kunert said, “Networking at DRJ was immensely beneficial with discussion with fellow BC professionals and discussion with potential client business continuity points of contact.”
Another aspect of this DRJ conference was when Kunert and fellow attendees gained first-hand knowledge by hearing from those who have experienced a crisis. The opportunity to follow up and dissect individual experiences from those who have managed real life events was extremely beneficial.
“Interaction from multiple points of view, with respect to business continuity, has significantly expanded our perspective with respect to understanding the concept of risk from multiple points of view,” said Kunert. “Our risk perspective was focused primarily on infrastructure integrity and redundancy.”
As a result of Kunert’s attendance at this DRJ conference, he has had detailed briefings and meetings at prospective clients’ sites and one long-term contract signed.
Joe Provenzano recently attended his first DRJ conference. He is manager of facilities and security administration at LSI. He has more than 10 years of experience in BC/DR.
“Attending a DRJ conference is critical to any BC practitioner, regardless of experience level,” said Provenzano. “The information and experiences imparted by the speakers to the attendees cannot be found anywhere else.”
After attending DRJ Spring 2019, he gained a much deeper understanding of what it means to be prepared and to prepare for a disaster. “The session forced me to take a real look at our current strategy and plans.”
He said the biggest tool he took home from the conference was “how to educate the executive team on what a BCP is and why we BCP. This first step was the launching platform in creating a full business resiliency program.”
Provenzano’s knowledge and confidence have also grown “exponentially with the information and knowledge gained by attending the DRJ conference.”
He has already applied three skills in which he learned from the conference: how to educate executive management, assess operational risks, and handle the first hour of an incident.
His favorite conference session – “Are You Part of the 76%?” – proved quite beneficial for Provenzano. He took away several ideas from the session including how to keep the program energy up over time.
“This is one of the biggest struggles BC programs face.”
He also enjoyed kickoff speaker Andrew Tarvin.
“Opening up a conference with some humor that also educates is genius,” said Provenzano.
Another important aspect of DRJ conferences is networking. Provenzano said it’s critical to everyone in the DR/BC world and is the quickest way to share ideas and get advice.
While attending DRJ Spring 2019, he was able to meet and connect with several professionals in the industry. Also, after hearing about some local BCP groups at the conference, he searched for some in his local area and has since joined the BRPA of Chicago.
Walking the vendor aisles was important to Provenzano because he was searching for new business continuity software. He said all the vendors were great because they were extremely knowledgeable and highlighted their products. “I left with a good list of potential organizations to work with.”
Provenzano’s first DRJ conference was considered a success. The most surprising thing he learned was just how large the business continuity world is and how it is no longer just IT and system and program recovery.
“The BC world encompasses so many other layers that are a must when trying to keep your business running when a disruptive event happens,” he said.
Provenzano concluded, “After spending the last decade in the business continuity space, I never knew how much more there was to learn. I was trying to build a business continuity program within the confines of my own experience and knowledge. Attending the DRJ conference, reading the DRJ articles in the magazine, and talking with other attendees have really expanded my viewpoint. I am very grateful to DRJ for that.”
Stephane Speich is head of business continuity management at NEXI SpA in Italy.
DRJ Fall 2018 was her first experience at an overseas conference. “I was so excited that when I returned to Italy, I quickly registered for the next one in Orlando!”
Speich says attending DRJ conferences is important for her personal and professional growth because she values the opportunity to meet with many people working in business continuity and crisis management and learn about their experiences and approach to get things done.
Through DRJ conferences she has learned extensively about crisis management methodologies, approaches, scope and incident command systems.
“I’ve learned where crisis management models can fail and where they are key success factors,” she says. “As a result, I was able to start a new crisis management project in my company in Italy.”
Her favorite session so far has been Regina Phelps’ “Crisis and Communication Management.”
Networking at conference is also a priority because that is a significant part of her daily job.
“I think all the vertical sessions are a good way to know and interact with new people. The parties are also a fantastic way to meet professionals and have fun with them.”
Speich also appreciates the variety of vendors at DRJ conferences. “My approach to assess them is focused on how the product can support me, as a business continuity manager, in gaining quickly all the relevant information and their interaction within my company’s critical processes and services.”