acquia engage 2

Digital Accessibility and Diversity: Acquia Engage 2020 Recap Part 2

In part 1 of our Enage Recap, we covered the creative ways people are facing today’s greatest challenges and finding connections through digital experiences. The themes or perseverance and innovation were also present through our two customer panels and in the impactful closing keynote. Here are some of the highlights and takeaways. 

Big Ideas in Digital Panel 

The theme of this year’s Big Ideas in Digital Panel was all about how new challenges, particularly the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, are serving as a catalyst for digital transformation. The panel discussion featured leaders from Mars Wrigley, Stanley Black & Decker, United Kronos Group (UKG) and PVH.   

big ideas in digital panel

Moderator Mark Jeffries spoke with these digital leaders about how they’re investing in new digital solutions and building innovative experiences in record time as the demands of their customers continue to evolve. For example, Mars and their Mars Petcare brand used digital content to create personal, individualized experiences for every type of end user -- including new pet parents  who had adopted during the pandemic. “We saw that pet adoptions had increased significantly during COVID-19 and we relied on first party data to understand how pet parents should prepare for a new pet and then continue to invest in their care over time,” said Richie Dartois, Head of Digital Demand Engineering at Mars.    

Jal Tummala, Senior Director, Marketing Technologies at PVH brought up the need to invest in data and customer insights. “Data is the way to create personalized experiences at scale. We had been implementing Acquia CDP before the pandemic and we were able to leverage the platform and get access to the data we needed and understand how customers transition from one channel to another,” said Jal. 

Another big topic of discussion was the need for flexible and connected technology solutions that help companies scale. “We acquire companies all the time and are always working on integrating and simplifying our marketing platform. We want a platform that helps enable teams to spend less time on how to get to market, and focus more on what they want to achieve and the impression they want to leave on customers once they’re already there,” said J. Luciani, Director, Digital Technologies, Business Solutions at Stanley Black & Decker.  

Stephen Tisa, Senior Director of Digital Technologies at UKG, drew from recent experience navigating the merger between Kronos Inc. and Ultimate Software, which formed Ultimate Kronos Group (UKG) in August 2020. “Both companies had robust, established technology stacks, multiple Salesforce accounts, CRMs, etc. Our challenge was how to unite both stacks by taking the best technologies and practices from each side and leveraging them together,” Stephen explained. Ultimately the key to successful digital transformation both at the organizational level and for the customer requires brands to be agile and open with their approach to technology, so they can seamlessly integrate the best-of-breed solution and quickly solve their problems.  

Accessibility, Diversity and The Power of Tech for Good 

At the start of Day 2, Vista Founder and CEO Robert Smith shared a lesson on the power and impact we hold as leaders in technology today. “If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that nothing matters more than moving to digital. The innovation brought on by the digital revolution now forms the backbone of the global economy. We get to shape the future and we need to think about how we can make that future desirable for all people by focusing on access to education and equipment, removing systemic barriers and exposing people to opportunities they may not even know exist,” he said.

These themes of accessibility and equal opportunity were reflected in the Tech for Good panel, moderated by CNET Senior Editor Alison DeNisco Rayome, where leading nonprofit and NGOs shared how they are adapting to the pandemic and working to reach more people with their missions. 

Nancy Morrissey, Senior VP of Digital Products and Technology at 9/11 Memorial & Museum,  emphasized the importance of on-demand access to education, describing how the 9/11 Memorial & Museum needed to accommodate thousands more individual sessions to deliver their educational content to students who were learning remotely during COVID-19. David-Alexandre Jost, Senior Director of Digital Strategy at Epilepsy Foundation of America, reaffirmed the need for personal and relevant content experiences that make it as simple as possible for someone seeking cures or treatment to find and receive the help they need fast without introducing further burden into the customer journey. He also said that nonprofits especially are being tasked “to do more with less, and get to know their customers’ needs without meeting them on-site.” To do this right he believes, “It’s critical for all nonprofits to have a CDP or recommendation engine to learn what your digital customers want and bring them that content.”  

Finally, Matthew Janusauskas, CTO at American Foundation for the Blind, highlighted the importance of web accessibility and assistive technologies, which are critical for people with disabilities to work remotely and access the same digital experiences and information as everyone else while staying home. In today’s world, it's clear that the first, and often the only way, for nonprofits and all businesses to stay connected with their audience is through digital means. 

kimberly bryant keynote

To conclude Acquia Engage 2020, Kimberly Bryant, CEO and Executive Director of Black Girls Code, addressed our virtual crowd to explain why she sees COVID-19 as an opportunity to “drive change through uncertainty” and widen the positive influences we have on younger people on a global scale. When Kimberly founded Black Girls Code (BGC) in 2011, her vision was to teach underrepresented girls tech skills and provide them with self-confidence and educational opportunities to help close the digital divide.

Currently, less than 3% of people earning bachelor’s degrees in computer science are black women and black women represent less than 2% of the workforce in STEM careers. Through workshops and computer programming classes, Black Girls Code creates an environment where girls can gain this knowledge and learn to be leaders from people who look like them. However, when COVID-19 made holding in-person workshops impossible, Kimberly and her team had to pivot their approach to digital, and gained an unforeseen opportunity to improve even more lives. 

“This new virtual reality allows and forces us to expand our vision, expand our reach and expand our impact globally and create even greater connectedness within our communities,” said Kimberly. BGC embraced digital transformation by launching their first virtual class series called Tech Me in April of 2020. In just a few days the class had over 2,000 registrants! Since then, Black Girls Code has grown their virtual offerings to teach students how to build games and websites through remote classes and collaborated with Microsoft and other tech leaders to host virtual panels where girls can hear from others about their career paths in the STEM fields.

“Sometimes it takes a crisis to force you outside your comfort zone and allow you to see the world and the work that you do through a different lens. Hopefully you can do so with a diverse set of team members that can help you push past the biases we have individually. When you do that, magic truly happens, and you can find opportunity in crisis,” Kimberly said.

We were honored to have Kimberly and her organization bring their mission to the forefront during Engage and to support their efforts for a better future. Throughout all of Engage, Acquia gave a $5 donation to Black Girls Code every time someone stopped by the Mobomo Network Lounge. In total, we raised $7,500 from booth donations and Acquia contributed an  additional $15,000 for Black Girls Code to help them continue to create connections and inspire confidence in future generations.

Acquia Engage Award Winners 

engage booths

On Wednesday Acquia announced the winners of the 5th annual Acquia Engage Awards, celebrating innovative Dreamers, Makers and Builders who are creating the most exceptional digital experiences for their customers.

You can see all the stories from our esteemed winners in our Acquia Engage Awards Gallery. A huge congratulations to all of our winners and finalists who shared their success stories. We can’t wait to see how they continue to push limits and delight their customers next year as well! It was also great to have attendees explore our different partner booths in the interactive Partner Pavilion. 

Thank you to everyone who made this virtual event possible and to all our customers and partners for joining us to lead the next chapter of digital transformation. 

A special thanks also goes out to all our partner sponsors, particularly our premier sponsors: Accenture, Bounteous and EPAM and our breakout sponsors: Ameex, AWS, Coherence, FFW, IBMiX / Aperto, Indegene, Phase2, Publicis Sapient, Third and Grove and Wunderman Thompson - Germany.  

Acquia Engage was a phenomenal digital experience and we were thrilled to welcome so many participants from our global community. We can’t wait to see you again in December at Experience Acquia!

Paige Breaux

Content Marketing Manager Acquia

Paige Breaux is Acquia's Content Marketing Manager. Paige is a lifelong storyteller and enthusiastic editor with a background in writing and digital marketing for B2B tech brands and online lifestyle publications. Before joining Acquia, she worked in content marketing for a global SaaS+ company and interned for various trade publishing houses. She can regularly be found around Boston reading, running, or sipping on iced coffee.