DataSelf’s Joni Girardi at the ITA Spring Collaborative

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This past April, I had the pleasure of attending my first ever ITA Collaborative. ITA (short for Information Technology Alliance) is an independent organization made up of professionals in multiple facets of mid-market technology who come together twice a year to share knowledge and network with peers.

I’d heard about the organization from several of my business partners who are long-time members. Admittedly, I was hesitant at first. The event was in the midst of an extremely heavy travel season for me, and it was the same month as my trip to the Sage EM Partner Summit in Dubai, so I needed to be selective about which events I could attend. But, based on the extreme enthusiasm of the members I spoke to, along with an informative call with then-President Stan Mork, I decided to give it a go and booked my trip to Chicago.


ITA Collaborative

There was snow on the ground at the end of April as I arrived at the Westin Chicago River North for the Spring 2019 ITA Collaborative.


As the attendees started to arrive and prepare for the opening “President’s Welcome” session, it became immediately apparent that I was among friends. There were many familiar faces from the Sage and Acumatica channels, and more. And, as I wore a “first timer” ribbon on my badge, strangers quickly became friends as many of the members went out of their way to welcome me.


ITA Collaborative

We found time for a “DataSelfie” with friends Kayley Bell (DSD), Christi Whipple (Avalara), Darcy Boerio (DAB Partners), Joni Girardi (DataSelf/me), and Carla Brown (SWK)


On the topic of friends, I was thrilled at the announcement made at the opening session that the incoming President of ITA would be none other than my friend Shawn Slavin. Shawn has been a great partner for DataSelf, and while we’ll be sad to see him transition out of his post at CS3 Technologies, but (spoiler alert: I’ll be back to the next ITA!) we’ll still get to see each other twice a year. Incidentally, Shawn was one of the people who encouraged me to attend!


ITA Collaborative

The attendees were thrilled at the announcement of Shawn Slavin as incoming ITA President.


The mix of people at ITA is unique in its diversity. It was not unusual to see a Sage employee hugging a Microsoft Dynamics partner, or an Acumatica partner having drinks with a NetSuite partner. Part of the draw of ITA is that attendees get out of the cycle of networking with people in their own world and get exposure to ideas and experiences from leaders in other communities who share similar challenges in leading a technology business.

Between the keynote that evening and the next morning, I got plenty of inspiration. Unlike many of the major publisher conferences I attend where the content is designed for resellers and end users of a particular software, there was a wealth of session content that is designed for business leaders like myself. In fact, I’m pretty sure not one of the sessions I attended even referenced any specific ERP product.

I also attended a four-hour workshop presented by Chris Dorris, “The Mental Toughness Coach”, entitled: “Emotional Mastery: Mental Toughness for the Corporate Athlete”. This four-hour session was highly interactive. Chris kept everyone engaged, not only through the concepts he presented, but also through interactive activities interspersed throughout. Attendees at ITA are not shy to speak up and share their ideas, experiences, and questions, so this truly was a collaborative workshop, as promised. I’ve been able to apply many of the lessons learned almost immediately in my own life and business. (for more, check out


ITA Collaborative

Here I am participating in one of the many hands-on activities during the “Mental Toughness” workshop.


ITA Collaborative

Ashley Neilsen (DSD) and Bill Gaustad (MAPADOC) also got in on the experiment.


There were too many sessions to name them all, but you can learn more about all the content options by visiting

I’d like to thank the ITA community for welcoming me to this group of elite leaders in the mid-market technology space. I’ll see you all in San Antonio for the next round!

About the Author:

DataSelf Founder and CEO. Business intelligence. Lover of active life. Caveman inspired. US & Brazil.