HITEC 2018: Biggest Year Yet!

We had another great year at HITEC!  This year’s show was in Houston, Texas at the George R. Brown Convention Center, and was our biggest year yet!  There were over 6,650 attendees, reportedly, so it was also the biggest year for HFTP too.

From the Samsung party with Flo Rida, to exhibiting, to the after parties, this year we were fortunate to meet so many amazing professionals in the hospitality industry.  HFTP set the stage for great conversation this year and we came away with a lot of new friends, colleagues, and ideas.

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Our booth was buzzing all four days of the show, especially around the tech bar.  Our tech bar showcased Percipia’s mobile and guestroom app, Latitude. We also were able to take a few groups over to our client, The Post Oak Houston, who currently has all Percipia solutions, including Latitude, installed in their guestrooms.  The Post Oak Houston is a new Landry property and a truly stunning luxury hotel. It was so exciting to see our app in the room at this new build.

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The last day of the show, we had visitors from HFTP’s Young Professionals Chapter stop by the booth.  Kal, our Director of Business Operations, gave a presentation of our product suite, focusing on the future of in-room technology utilizing Percipia’s especially our Latitude application.  

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We hope everyone had a good year and we are looking forward to next year!  Next year, HITEC will be in Minneapolis at the Minneapolis Convention Center.  Percipia has selected booth #3040, and we hope to see you there for another great HITEC!

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Please welcome our newest employee, Ronny, to the team!

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It is always nerve-racking coming into a new company and trying to break the ice. Ensuring that new employees feel comfortable is crucial to building a positive transition within a company. We thought it would be fun to ask Ronny a few questions to get to know him a little better.

Q: What is your official work title?
A: Systems Support Specialist
Q: Can you tell us more about your professional experience/history?
A: Most of my professional experience is as a Software Developer. My most recent job prior to this was as a back-end Software Developer at a startup called Clypd in Boston, MA. I enjoy working with computers and solving problems!
Q: What do you like to do outside of work?
A: I’m somewhat new to the city, so I’ve been enjoying exploring Chicago. Other than that I’ll enjoy relaxing at home and playing some video games.
Q: What is your greatest travel experience?
A: A couple years ago I wanted to travel somewhere different, somewhere exotic, and somewhere cheap so I could afford to live for a while. I flew to Thailand and ended up staying there for 5 months. I’ll never forget taking the water taxi up and down the river in Bangkok, walking around and exploring the city, and staying up late drinking with the locals at a roadside liquor stand.
Q: Favorite movie?
A: There’s almost too many to choose from, but one I really enjoy is Birdman with Michael Keaton.
Q: Guilty pleasure music artist?
A: Nothing quite like racing down the highway with your windows down, blasting Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen.
Q: What is something that inspires you?
A: Incredible human accomplishments. From the great pyramids of old to the skyscrapers of today, it is inspiring to know that if you set your mind to it you can build the world.
Q: What would you say your professional goal would be now that you are employed at Percipia?
A: To become incredibly familiar with our software so I can fix anything required, and to work on becoming a better Software Developer!

The Support Gamble

 

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You spend money to save money

Annual support contracts and updating your End of Life products offer critical assistance in unexpected situations. Period.

Have you ever found yourself reviewing those yearly support contracts, struggling to sign that dotted line? Have you been overruled in your arguments for maintenance and forced to coast along without plans to replace or upgrade your EOL hardware or worse software versions?

I have, and it’s not an experience I’ll repeat.

 

Rolling the dice on support and expired equipment

A few months after my start date I was in the process of migrating to a full virtual shop, the company didn’t have support for several old servers nor their EOL Microsoft Exchange version. It’s a huge risk, one that I wouldn’t wish on anyone. In fact, today I’d quit before I’d let anyone managing the company purse strings walk me out onto this ledge again.

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It was the last week of December and the holidays were upon us. The office was closing early for last minute shopping, friendly cocktails, family gatherings, or some much-needed rest. I, on the other hand, was living the nightmare of a network outage. A “glitch” had just crippled MS Exchange, along with the company’s core database server.

Historically, during the first hour of any outage (after fielding countless help desk calls, calmly instructing your team, meeting with management, assessing the damage, and referring to your DR binder), I have continued to frantically google for help instructions, but this is serious, and the clock is ticking so I keep my head down, assess the magnitude of the outage, estimate downtime and get moving. Oh, but first I’m tasked with broadcasting the company-wide voice message stating there is an outage NO EMAIL, NO DATABASE so STOP trying to log in! –no one wants to attach their voice to this news but I kept the message calm, commanding, and to the point – the old “we will update you with the latest news as it becomes available”.

 

No means No. No support. Period.

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Without any support it’s a bleak picture: no helpline to dial, no magic wand, no soothing voice on the phone offering to take over, remote in, or walk you through recovery. Just me – or possibly that new network vendor that’s been after our business. Now, there’s an idea. I make the call and without the slightest hesitation, they prepare to step in. These situations are what they’ve built their business around, it’s why they succeed and survive. While all eyes are cast in my direction I announce to the management team that help is on the way. The look of relief that flashes across their faces tells me they too realize I’m out of my element. After all, I run the daily stuff.  This is beyond my scope and even they don’t expect me to steer this ship alone.

While awaiting the arrival of my new-found rescue team, I start to decipher if this is going to be a bare metal rebuild; or, fingers crossed, just a software reload. Pull all the power out of that server and start the rebooting – and praying, lots of praying. By the way, where are those install files? We needed to find the files and get organized; pull it together.

The once friendly-now nervous-faces are still “popping by” to check and see how much longer I think it’ll be before they can check email and that ginormous lifeline they call the company database. I’m 3 hours into this and the stress is building at a pace I hope to out-run.

Recovery and the weeks that follow

The disaster recovery process began officially at 3 PM, December 22nd, and although it would only be another 16 hours before employees could be logging in again, the deep dive of recovery would last another 3 weeks.

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Years later, my memory is a bit fuzzy and perhaps it’s best to forget. However, this I do recall: my stomach was a mess, my head was throbbing, I had a sense of constant panic, my Christmas shopping wasn’t completed, the Holiday was here, and the little money we saved on support was about to put me over the edge. I didn’t feel any Holiday spirit and the remaining days of family and friendly gatherings were a blur. All I could think of was…this could happen again at any time to any one of our servers…and again, it would be my responsibility to rebuild and keep the company connected and working. My first goal is now to sign on the dotted line and employ support.

Support Contracts provide added value for your internal IT staff

Typically, IT staff is in the business of connectivity, and break-fix events. Long days of keeping the organization connected: telephones, voice mail, faxes, printers, email, databases, data files, internet, WIFI, moves, adds and changes, and all things attached to a cable or a plug. That’s just the front of the house. The back of the house is the server room, the backups, the APC’s, the firewalls, the gateways, keeping things current, patched, running, secure, and even cooled. The days of paginating a word document, or helping staff use pivot tables in excel are few and far between. It’s all about connectivity. Downtime and loss of connectivity are not an option and not an option you should be willing to back.

There’s no hiding in IT

About 4 months later I’m at a company function, sitting with a large group of employees I’ve never met. Several people mention the time the email and database were down, and how inconvenient it was, they wondered too if the President and CEO knew how much money they lost during the incident. After all, they couldn’t sell a thing during those 2 days without email or the database. Since I worked in the IT department, they wondered too if I was or knew of anyone involved with the event –  I rose to excuse myself and replied simply “No”.

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Percipia Welcomes Alex, Our new System Support Specialist!

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It is always nerve-racking coming into a new company and trying to break the ice. Ensuring that new employees feel comfortable is crucial to building a positive transition within a company. We thought it would be fun to ask Alex a few questions to get to know him a little better.

Q:  What is your official work title?

A:  Systems Support Specialist

Q:  Can you tell us more about your professional experience/history?

A:  I worked for several years in a physics lab on particle research, which kickstarted my learning computational skills.  I bounced around a bit after that, and at one point worked for a while at a store that sold candles, oils, incense, crystals, etc. That job smelled delightful.

Q:  What do you like to do outside of work?

A:  Knitting/crocheting, baking, reading, watching movies. Aspiring to the hobbit life. A lot of Dungeons and Dragons, which is probably not surprising given the previous sentence…

Q:  What is your greatest travel experience?

A:  A tie between sailing in the Florida Keys and canoeing in the boundary waters in Canada. The former was an idyllic, lounging trip full of fish so fresh it still had dinner plans of its own, snorkeling, and cool ocean breezes. The latter was an adventurous battle against storms, four-foot waves, and a leaky canoe (we won the battle, but nearly lost the canoe).

Q:  Favorite movie?

A:  John Carpenter’s The Thing. A masterpiece of stunning practical effects, perfect pacing and the building of piano-wire tension, and a rugged and ice-encrusted Kurt Russel. What more could you want in a movie?   Also, one of the best dog actors I’ve ever seen.

Q:  Guilty pleasure music artist?

A:  I don’t feel guilty about music I like; if I like it then it’s cool. That being said, I’m pretty sure I am the only person I know who honestly, wholeheartedly loves All-Star by Smashmouth. Now that I think about it, the same can be said for Call Me Maybe. Man, now I want to listen to both of those…

Q:  What is something that inspires you?

A:  Stories in which someone, through difficult studies, makes some breakthrough that will do something amazing / save the world / stop some terrible evil (depends on the genre). They always make me want to go fling myself into studying and tinkering and try to do something amazing myself.

Q:  What would you say your professional goal would be now that you are employed at Percipia?

A:  Having never worked with telephony software before, I find myself faced with so very much to learn, and I intend to absorb as much knowledge and experience as I can, not only to become as useful as possible in my position, but also just for the sheer pleasure of acquiring knowledge for its own sake. 

Please welcome our new employee, Matt, to the team!

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It is always nerve-racking coming into a new company and trying to break the ice. Ensuring that new employees feel comfortable is crucial to building a positive transition within a company. We thought it would be fun to ask Matt a few questions to get to know him a little better.

Q: What is your official work title?

A: My official work title is Systems Support Specialist.

Q: Can you tell us more about your professional experience/history?

A: I was a Sr. Budget Analyst (in practice, this title was akin to Project Accountant) for 3 years at a regulated utility company.  As a Sr. Budget Analyst, duties included: routing invoices, opening projects, consolidating data from various applications, budget entry, SOX compliance, forecasting, accrual reporting, and variance analysis.  During this time I taught myself advanced techniques in Microsoft Office and VBA to help reduce workload and improve the quality of the reports that my team regularly provided.

Over time I came to realize that programming and process automation were my greatest passions.  I left my company and began to study programming full-time over the course of one year.  During this time I read several books, participated in courses on sites such as MongoDbUniversity.com, Codecademy.com, and Udemy.com, joined a local Slack technology group, experimented with 3 different microcontrollers, created over 26 software projects in various languages (~1,500 Github commits), and interned in China for a short period as a front-end ReactJS developer.  When I returned from China, I found Percipia!

Q: What do you like to do outside of work?

A: Learn code! Lately, I have been attending a number of technology Meetup groups in Chicago to meet new friends in the IT field and learn more about up-and-coming technologies. Sometimes I like to read philosophy books or visit Indiana Dunes.  I am also a registered open water SCUBA diver, occasional skydiver, novice smelter, occasional wood-worker, rock collector, and chess player.

Q: What is your greatest travel experience?

A: My greatest travel experience was a road trip to California that I took with my brother in July of 2017.  He was moving out to Los Angeles and asked me if I’d come along as support, though he insisted on driving most of the way.  Along the way, we stopped in Colorado and saw some amazing scenery including a pristine waterfall tucked away in a small forest preserve. Next, we stopped in Las Vegas to try our luck at a casino and see the fountains of the Bellagio hotel.  When we finally arrived in Las Angeles we hiked around the Hollywood sign which is something I had always wanted to do.  This was my first road trip with my brother and the most fun I had ever had on a vacation.

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Q: Favorite movie?

A: My favorite movie is likely Fight Club.  The acting is amazing, the main character’s personal struggle is very dramatic, and it’s a movie that offers new discoveries every time you watch it.  Other great movies I enjoy include La Femme Nikita, the Alien trilogy, and The Conjuring.

Q: Guilty pleasure music artist?

A: I really enjoy listening to Billy Joel, Steely Dan, and the Beatles.  Not sure if I should feel guilty but my friends have poked fun at me for my musical tastes :).

Q: What is something that inspires you?

A: I am heavily inspired by DIY sites such as Instructables.com and Raspberrypi.org.  I love to learn new things and these sites make it fun to explore new hobbies and technologies; they also affirm my belief that, with the right guidance, anyone can accomplish their goals.  

On that same note, I am heavily inspired by people who are self-taught.  I once read an article about a woman named Jennifer Dewalt who created 180 websites in 180 days in an effort to change careers and become a professional web developer.  By the end of her experiment, she was very knowledgeable in HTML, CSS, and Javascript, and was soon hired as a web developer.  Her experience, and the experiences of others like Jennifer, gave me the confidence I needed to pursue my own dreams.

https://leanin.org/news-inspiration/180-websites-in-180-days-how-i-learned-to-code/

Q: What would you say your professional goal would be now that you are employed at Percipia?

A: My professional goal as an employee of Percipia is to learn as much as I can and become the best Support Specialist I can be.  I am excited to work with Linux systems and hope that my experience in this position will assist me as I move forward with various hobby projects.  I am also very excited to be surrounded by a team of kind and experienced IT professionals that can lend guidance and talk shop.

New Guest Room Trend

Hospitality trends change every year. We saw the rise and fall of chocolate mints on pillows, elevator operator personnel, and high-call use of in-room telephones. As a hospitality telephony company, you wouldn’t expect us to say that, but it is the truth. In-room telephony went from a luxury in-room service to a safety and liability tool. That is all about to change.

We at Percipia have poured many hours into bringing the luxury telephony experience back into your guest rooms. We have married the in-room telephony and mobility experience together, in perfect harmony. Mobility has been the hottest tool for the past few years, which is why it is crucial for hotels, resorts, casinos, and racetracks to offer in-room mobile applications. Placing a tablet in a guest room isn’t good enough; it still makes the guest feel isolated. Imagine a guest using your all-in-one device, with their name displayed on the top of your mobile app. Guest can check their loyalty points, use a directory to call anyone at the property, order room service, and even clear their information upon checkout.

For the sake of transparency, in-room telephones are not going anywhere, anytime soon. You simply cannot offer a hospitality-centric experience without human interaction. That is what telephones offer.

Mobile apps are becoming necessary for all types of properties. We have completely digitized your compendium, giving you the power to live-update your area attractions and send a push notification that your bar is offering a discount on appetizers. When used correctly, mobile apps are a revenue-generator. Our clients’ marketing departments love in-room apps!

The future of guest room technology has already been created. This minor upgrade will set your property apart in a major way, bringing back a personalized hospitality experience.

 

– Kal MacDonald, Percipia Director of Business Operations