WI Conference in St.Gallen

Last week our institute had the pleasure of hosting the biggest conference on information systems in the German speaking countries. I submitted a paper last August during my “workation” in Tallinn, however, I got my first reject. However, it was a close call (one reviewer said “yes”, the other “no”) and the feedback was quite helpful, so I incorporated everything and re-submitted the paper to ECIS. You simply have to try again, and – after all – Portugal in June beats snowy and cold Switzerland in February, right?

The upside is that I got to enjoy the conference right next to my door without being nervous about my presentation. Our chair was taking care of the social media account (check out our youtube channel), and so I had a lot of fun posting on the conference’s twitter channel during the keynotes, CIO dialogue, EMPA excursion, and conference dinner, and pushing the #wi2017 hashtag into Switzerland’s trending topics.

I liked the strong focus on presentations from practitioners, which is quite rare at an academic conference. Usually practitioners are not interested in academic conferences (and vice versa) and I really liked how well it came together at the WI. I participated in the CIO dialogue, where a number of CIOs and digitization leads from Swiss and German companies presented their digitization challenges, e.g. Bernhard Rytz from SBB, whom I had the pleasure of interviewing for the T-Systems digital transformation strategy study last year.

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In the evening we had the best conference dinner, I have ever been to (sorry, Bled eConference). It took place at the Lokremise, which is one of my favorite locations in St.Gallen, and seeing it filled with more than 700 participants was amazing. Rupert Stadler, CEO of Audi, gave a dinner speech and afterwards we enjoyed a great dinner.

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However, there were two things that bothered me a lot. First of all, sadly the number of women, especially of female speakers was too low, EYs Gitanjali Ponnappa and innogy’s Stefanie Kemp being two of the few exceptions. Second, even though there were a lot of students at the conference, and topics like Silicon Valley, digital disruption, and start-ups were constantly present, the conference style was extremely formal. No sneakers, no jeans, no hipster beards, nowhere to be seen (well, with one exception). Instead tons of black and blue suits, ties, and very formal presentation styles. In times where a lot of knowledge exchange happens at informal meet-ups, fuck-up nights, barcamps, having middle-aged-male-only panel discussions seems like a journey waaay too far back in time.

To end on a more positive note, I wanted to share a fun video where the team taught some Swiss German to the participants: Cheers to intercultural communication!

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