UID Earns Rave Reviews From NPTA Members
Industry Insights | Annabel Steele | May 10, 2022
In late March, hundreds of people flocked to Indianapolis for the University of Innovative Distribution (UID) event. In between education sessions, attendees mingled, networked and discussed what they’d learned. NPTA recently caught up with two of these attendees, Laura Slovensky and Jeromy McDowell, to learn more about their UID experience.
Slovensky, the marketing manager at Nekoosa, attended with a few of her colleagues who work in human resources. She was excited to learn more about various topics that don’t necessarily touch her marketing role every day. “Being at UID gave me an opportunity to slow down and spend some time listening and learning about challenges our distribution partners might be facing, and other areas of the business we need to be looking at,” she explains.
For his part, McDowell — the operations manager at Millcraft — knew he wanted to attend UID after he perused the online listing of sessions and speakers. Though he expected to find value in the educational offerings, McDowell says he “wasn’t expecting to learn as much as [he] did each day” of UID. “Just from the first course on Monday morning, my head started to fill with ideas that I could bring back with me and implement right away,” he adds.
McDowell was especially impressed with the speakers at UID. He believes their varied backgrounds kept things interesting; one speaker used to work alongside Steve Jobs, while another ran a baseball team. Though the speakers brought different experiences to the table, they all had one thing in common: they were passionate about their cause.
“The passion that most of these speakers had brought out a passion within myself to be better at what I do,” McDowell affirms.
Meanwhile, Slovensky took note of the way UID was meticulously planned and executed. She says it stood apart from other conferences and trade shows in its degree of organization and care. At UID, according to Slovensky, it was easy to focus on the learning and engagement during the sessions.
“One thing I really appreciated was that they had printed handouts of all the notes for the sessions,” she says, adding that she has referred back to these notes in the months since UID ended. “That was a really good way to make sure we weren’t focused solely on taking notes. You could really listen to the speakers, engage with them and absorb the information.”
And Slovensky was excited to devote her full attention to the sessions rather than worry about taking notes. Even the sessions in areas she doesn’t usually focus on were engrossing. In fact, Slovensky’s favorite session ended up being about finance. She had originally planned on attending the morning finance session and moving onto a marketing session in the afternoon, but found the finance session so interesting that she stuck around for the full seven hours.
McDowell valued the opportunity to get to know other attendees and gain a clearer picture of how certain challenges are impacting companies across the board. He touts the “sharing of knowledge” at UID as a strong point of the event.
“Who knew that a company in Alaska would have the same issues, almost exactly, as a completely different type of company in Iowa?” he asks. “Or that my distribution warehouse in Indiana could help a 10-employee small business in Mexico?”
Slovensky also enjoyed the networking aspect of UID. She says she was able to spend time with a few of Nekoosa’s distribution partners, as well as forge some new industry connections. Meanwhile, she also spent time with her Nekoosa colleagues in person — a nice break from the virtual interactions they usually share, as they all work remotely from different areas of the country.
Both Slovensky and McDowell would like to attend UID again in the future. Slovensky is interested in attending to gain continuing education credits from Purdue University. McDowell, meanwhile, would like to see a larger contingent attend from Millcraft in future years.
“I spoke to the owner of the company, the vice president and my direct manager, telling them I want to come back in 2023 to learn even more,” he says. “I told them this is something that shouldn’t be held to just upper management. This should be offered to everyone. Everyone can, and will, learn from this experience.”