35th Annual FIRST Conference | Empowering Communities

Program Chair’s Welcome

Dear Participants,

As the program chair, it is my pleasure, on behalf of the program committee, the FIRST Board of Directors, and the conference organizers, to welcome you to the vibrant city of Montréal for the 35th Annual FIRST Conference.

The unceded land on which we gather has long served as a meeting site for many First Nations of Turtle Island (North America), for diplomacy and for the exchange of knowledge. The theme of this year’s conference, Empowering Communities, is reflective of the rich heritage of this meeting point, as well as our similar aspirations to exchange knowledge and forge new relations and understandings.

Filling a program that matches the diversity of FIRST is always a challenge, with getting the balance right for small, medium, and large organizations, regional diversity, and the breadth of subjects, from network traffic monitoring to ransomware to diversity in hiring. This year it was made easier by such a rich array of solid proposals, but, at the same time, challenging, as we couldn’t fit all we wanted into the program (and we have almost 50% more presentations and workshops than the last time we were in Canada).

I want to give my personal thanks to three groups of people. The first is 2023’s very active program committee. Their familiarity with the FIRST community and their expertise were key in putting together the great program we have. Next, I want to thank the often-unsung events team whose knowledge is fundamental to the maturity and growth of the Annual Conference year after year. And finally, I want to thank those of you who submitted presentations. I only wish I had room to select more. If I count correctly, I believe we have a record of 27 countries and territories that are presenting and even more who submitted.

But the FIRST conference is not just about the presentations – it is about the trust and friendships that we build which allow us all to share more easily as a community. Take the time to meet new people or introduce old friends to new friends at the welcome reception and other social events, Birds of a Feather (BOF) and Special Interest Group (SIG) side-meetings, the breaks between sessions, or just go out together in the evenings. Also, look to join special interest groups where you can help shape best practices or policy and get to really know those with similar interests.

Finally, please take the opportunity to explore and enjoy Montréal with your new and returning friends – the poutine, the bagels, the smoked meat, the cobbled streets, the underground city, the botanical gardens, SOS Labyrinthe at Hanger 16, the biosphere at the Olympic Park, the port, Jean-Talon Market, Quartier Des Spectacles, and so much more – this is the second largest French-speaking city after Paris, a city of festivals and has a unique mix of Europe and North America. It is a city built from the intersection of communities which makes the whole stronger and more interesting than its parts.

Ted Norminton
FIRST 2023 Program Chair