15 things to know about Slack’s 2018 Frontiers conference

First-class collaboration, the evolution of workplace culture, birds of prey, and more

By the team at Slack6th September 2018

It’s hard to believe it’s been a year since the first Frontiers, Slack’s conference for customers, partners, and leading thinkers to talk about and shape the future of teamwork. But it has—and we’re back in San Francisco with speakers and panelists that include best-selling authors, creative visionaries, social justice leaders, and Slack’s own team. If you couldn’t make it, or you want a preview of some of what you’ll get at our upcoming New York and London events, here are three handfuls of top moments and takeaways (and make your plans to see us back in San Francisco in 2019).

  1. Our CEO Stewart Butterfield talked about the importance and challenges of achieving alignment, coordination, clarity, collaboration, and agility across organizations. He also showed us footage of Steve Jobs doing the very first commercial for Slack (not really—it was a 1990 WGBH interview with Jobs where he describes the coming email revolution, which sets the stage for understanding how channels improve on that instant digital communication).
  2. What is TOMO (not to be confused with FOMO)? Best-selling author and Vega Factor cofounder Lindsay McGregor explained how employee total motivation—the complex range of reasons that people go to work—affects performance, customer satisfaction, and company culture.
  3. The future of work will be more collaborative, but it must also be more inclusive and more diverse. That’s why Slack launched Next Chapter, our new pilot program to help formerly incarcerated people find work and succeed in tech, which Stewart discussed with partners Cynthia Muller from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and Natrina Gandana and Kenyatta Leal from The Last Mile. “Our hope,” said Natrina, “is that the industry will judge people on the quality of your code rather than the stigma of your past.”
Frontiers Next Chapter image

Kenyatta Leal, Natrina Gandana, Cynthia Muller, and Stewart Butterfield talk about Next Chapter.

  1. Do you work in marketing, research, sales and customer success, HR and internal comms, or IT? Attendees who do stopped by our Slack Station for guidance through Slack use cases specific to these roles and responsibilities.

“We fundamentally believe that the biggest source of potential upside in any organization is its people.”

April UnderwoodChief Product Officer at Slack
  1. Slack’s Chief Product Officer April Underwood shared some of our research team’s findings on what people need to work together effectively, and how Slack can meet these needs, because “we fundamentally believe that the biggest source of potential upside in any organization is its people.” She talked about how a huge variety of organizations are using Slack to collaborate better and build culture, from Massachusetts Congressman Seth Moulton’s office, to REI, to Jackson Hole Wildlife Safaris (Slack: Where close-range grizzly bear photos happen).
  2. April also announced an important upcoming new feature: Enterprise Key Management (EKM), which will enable Slack administrators to control encryption keys and “provides all of the security of an on-premise solution, with all the benefits of a cloud tool.”
  3. Our Senior Vice President of Sales and Customer Success Robert Frati, along with Solutions Engineers Karishma Kothari, David Smock, and Alex King, took us through some of the incredible work of our customers including 21st Century Fox, WeWork, and the Chan Zuckerberg BioHub. We learned how FOX Sports used Slack to bring 2.6 billion minutes of streamed content from the FIFA World Cup™ to a global audience, and how 21st Century Fox CIO John Herbert sees Slack as “part of a movement for how we’re going to work in the future.” WeWork SVP, Corporate Technology Lenore Vassil explained that “When I got to WeWork, this boulder of innovation and change was rolling downhill, and my job was to make sure it didn’t kill anyone, but not slow it down. Success means catching the boulder and riding it, and with Slack, we caught it, and we rode it.”

“We want our future Nobel Prize winners focused on research, not troubleshooting technology.”

Brad ImmanuelComputer Resource Consulting Director at Stanford University
  1. Next-level collaboration: Our product team gave a sneak peek at Slack’s roadmap, including performance improvements on the horizon to let you work better when you have low connectivity (like in subways and airports), new integrations, and a host of new organization-wide controls for administrators.
  2. In a discussion with Slack’s Senior Director, Strategy & Analytics Neil Shah, Stanford University’s Computer Resource Consulting Director Brad Immanuel, and Stanford Communication Specialist Rachel Manongdo, we learned that good enough technology isn’t good enough anymore—in fact, 42% of workers would consider leaving a job where the technology wasn’t up to par. “We want our future Nobel Prize winners focused on research,” said Immanuel, “not troubleshooting technology.”
  3. We learned how teams at Expedia and HomeAway have used Slack to break down silos across their companies, which has led to better culture. Expedia has an AMA channel for the CEO to answer employee questions, and HomeAway has channels for yoga, bbq, pets, and their 42 Davids. “Slack is best at having channels that get specific feedback and input from the right people quickly,” said Becky Wilson, Director, IT Product Management at Expedia Group.
  4. How do you make decisions quickly, with the right people and the right information at the right time? We’ll find out from T-Mobile’s Senior Manager, Applications Support Jason Reynolds, in conversation with Slack’s Chief of Staff for Customer Experience Kristen Swanson.
  5. Every attendee received a copy of Channels, a print publication devoted to the past, present, and future of work, featuring in-depth interviews, productivity tips, tributes to the communicative power of emoji, and much more.

Channels magazine image

  1. Even with the growing importance of digital communication tools, physical offices are still critical to meaningful workplace culture and productivity. Slack’s Senior Director of Global Workplace and Real Estate Deano Roberts will talk about what workspace design can do (or not do) for organizational success.
  2. Few companies have been more successful at motivating people to create amazing things than Disney Pixar. Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield will sit down with Ed Catmull, President of Disney Animation Studios, Co-Founder and President of Pixar Animation Studios, and author of Creativity, Inc. to learn about what his company has done right and wrong.
  3. The resident seagulls of San Francisco’s Pier 48 kept a friendly distance from Frontiers attendees, thanks to the presence of a falconer and this Eurasian eagle owl.

Owl image

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