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The SoDA Academy Learning Conference Coming in October

by Natalie Smith, SoDA / May 9, 2015

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We are thrilled to announce The SoDA Academya transformative two-day, invitation-only learning conference for director-level members of the digital agency community.


One of the founding tenets and key differentiators of SoDA is transparency and radical collaboration across our network of members around the globe. It’s this unique sense of community that makes our members (leaders from top digital agencies in 30+ countries) more capable, more successful and more connected with their peers.

One of the recurring themes in conversations within SoDA has been the dearth of quality options for professional education aimed at leaders in digital. Specifically, our members have lamented the fact that there is very little in the way of professional education that offers a clear and compelling ROI.   So, as we began to think about how to reinvent training and education within our industry, we naturally decided to push our doctrine of collaboration even further.

Over the past six months, we’ve collaborated with SoDA and its membership to design and develop an experience that is unique – not the usual conference, nor a one-size-fits-some executive training session. This collaboration is what gave rise to The SoDA Academy taking place this October in Brooklyn. Truth be told, it’s been a more time-consuming and more expensive route to take from an event planning perspective, but it’s an approach that we believe will be infinitely more valuable for attendees.


We’ve created a framework for our two days at the Pratt Institute in October, built on the dual roles of senior staff: Making and Managing. For each of these roles, we have designed experiences meant to enable learning, inspiration, and connection.

We decided to part ways with the immediate past – avoiding the usual conference formats and the typical networking events. Instead, we are creating space for attendees to learn from each other, and to interact directly with subject matter experts, leaders in their particular discipline and industry. We’ll workshop ideas, engage in roundtable discussions, break out into teams, sketch, role play, critique and create.

We are infusing The SoDA Academy with the radical transparency of other SoDA events, chiefly our Global Members Meeting (GMM) which convenes C-Level representatives from SoDA’s member companies. Everyone who has ever attended a GMM knows how special these interactions are – the candor, honesty, inclusiveness, understanding and empathy that the participants have for one another is truly rare. While the experience makes people feel great, it is also designed to be deeply useful, providing information, insights and innovative methods that every attendee can use to the benefit of their own organization.

The SoDA Academy will bring together a diverse group of leaders with demonstrable qualifications in one of ten disciplines (outlined below) for two days of immersive, inspiring, peer-to-peer learning.

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Day 1 is focused on topics and themes specific to the disciplines. There are 10 disciplines, each with its own track. Each track will have six sessions.

These six sessions will be divided between:

– Workshops and roundtable discussions on trends, themes or challenges specific to each discipline.

– Walkthroughs and troubleshooting around specific models, workflows, methods or tools.

– Case studies of failures and successes.

Day 2 will be focused on hands-on, collaborative explorations of management and leadership challenges. Attendees will be able to attend up to 4 sessions. Most of these sessions will be interdisciplinary, breaking people out of the discipline-specific tracks from Day 1.

Sessions on Day 2 will be run as workshops, and divided into three parts:

– Identifying current obstacles, knowledge gaps and challenges.

– Learning ‘best known methods’ from Deans, facilitators and peers.

– Workshopping solutions and action plans in order to take these methods back to the attendees’ own teams

and agencies.

The themes for the second day include:

– How to measure progress

– How to run a tight ship

– How to drive growth

– How to build great teams

– How to effectively manage projects

– How to create products

– How to collaborate

– How to design experiences

– How to innovate

– How to create learning organizations

For more information on the event, please visit,

SoDA founding member and Board Chair, Tony Quin (CEO of IQ) had this to say about the upcoming event:

When the idea of creating a professional learning event for discipline leads within agencies like ours came up, our goal was clearly to duplicate the dynamics and values of SoDA’s Global Member Meeting (our annual gathering of C-Level members). We have all been to too many conferences where you didn’t learn anything and sessions were just panelists pontificating. So, we were determined that The SoDA Academy should be truly valuable and different, capturing the terrific openness and camaraderie of our highly successful Global Member Meeting. Our mission became to make The SoDA Academy the most valuable two days any discipline leader can spend in professional education.

SoDA Board Member and Partner of Struck, Pauline Ploquin, explains the value she has gleamed from SoDA’s annual Global Member Meeting and provides a glimpse into how The SoDA Academy will offer the same experience for attendees:

“I was astounded (and delighted) by the candor everyone showed at SoDA’s last Global Member Meeting in Barcelona. I walked out completely transformed. Inspired, educated and relieved. I am not alone in worrying about my business. I’m beyond excited to see this happen for our discipline directors when they gather in New York this year for The SoDA Academy. What insights will our Director of Production get from her peers? Will she be motivated and inspired? Will our Tech director have the confidence to try a new framework? Will our Design Director want to start an innovation lab? Will they become better more empowered leaders? What will happen to Struck if they return with similarly transformational insights? I can only imagine.”

Pratt Institute will serve as our host partner for this event which aims to transform professional education within our industry. Located in the most innovative part of one of the most important cities in the world, Brooklyn (and Pratt Institute with its world-renowned interdisciplinary curriculum promoting collaborative and creative strategies for design thinking) is the perfect backdrop for The SoDA Academy Conference.

When: October 12th – 13th, 2015

Where: Brooklyn, New York (Pratt Institute School of Architecture and surrounding campus)

Who: 400 of the best and brightest minds in digital to set an exponentially higher standard for conferences in our industry.
· Invite-only*
· 10 disciplines (max of 40 director-level members of the digital agency community per track)






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