This post was originally published on LinkedIn
Last week, Forbes held its first-ever Under 30 Summit in Philadelphia. Building on its "30 Under 30" lists, which celebrate 30 people under the age of 30 who are impacting the world in each of 15 different fields, Forbes brought together at this conference both members of its 2014 list and other young influencers. As a member of the Philly tech community, I was lucky enough to be able to attend the event.
In short, the Summit was definitely worth missing class for. Some of the highlights that I personally saw included:
- Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai being interviewed by Ronan Farrow. I was incredibly impressed by both Farrow and Malala – he asked some pointed questions and she navigated through them almost flawlessly with the poise of someone much older than her 17 years.
- A live, Shark Tank-style pitch competition in which five contestants competed for $400,000 of funding for their respective startups.
- Sara Blakely, the founder of Spanx, speaking about her incredible story of hustle. It was very inspiring to hear how she started the company with just $5,000 in personal savings and bootstrapped her way to a $1 billion business, of which she retains a 100% stake.
- Monica Lewinsky’s first ever public address, breaking her 10-year public silence. At first, I wondered why she was even speaking, but her anti-cyberbullying message was especially relevant in the wake of the Snapchat and iCloud photo leaks. Her speech was poignant and powerful:
"I was the first person to have their reputation completely destroyed worldwide via the Internet…In 1998, I too was almost humiliated to death [speaking in regards to Tyler Clementi’s suicide].”
- Palmer Luckey’s interview. Luckey is a 21 year old who followed his passions and created an amazing, innovative product (the Oculus Rift) that may go on to redefine the way that we interact with the world. His company was acquired by Facebook earlier this year for $2 billion.
The speakers and panels were stellar, and I was able receive good career and startup advice. Beyond that, I learned a lot about our generation as a whole. Here are three of the key takeaways about Generation Y that I took home from the Summit:
1. This generation has a ton of energy.
It truly believes that it can change the world, and is not waiting for anyone’s permission to do so. I don’t know if this is indicative of our generation or just of young, idealistic people in general, but the sense of drive, passion, and hope for the future was enormous in both the speakers and attendees of the conference. I was overwhelmed (and at times a bit intimidated) by the accomplishments of fellow Summit attendees and the plans that they had for the future.
2. Generation Y places an incredible amount of importance on doing social good.
When looking for a job, people in our generation search for more than the biggest paycheck – they want to find meaning in their work and be self-actualized. This is an incredible luxury that was not even a consideration until very recently in human history, and still is not even fathomable for most of the people in the world today. As more and more of the world’s population joins the middle class and climbs the pyramid of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, this is an issue that will become an increasing concern.
Additionally, our generation votes for causes and companies that it believes in with every buying decision that we make, every video that we view on YouTube, and every Tweet or Instagram post that we share on social media. A theme of a panel discussion on the future of advertising was that moving forward, companies increasingly must deliver a compelling brand message and produce content that consumers will actually want to engage with, rather than constantly bombarding them with intrusive ads. The companies that have a socially conscious brand that Millennials respond to are the ones that will thrive in the future.
3. Face-to-face interactions are still incredibly important for Millennials.
The energy that I felt as an attendee of the conference could not have been replicated in a webinar or through social media. Just because we are glued to our cell phones and are live Tweeting the event does not mean that we are not interested or incapable of having a conversation with a real person. Rather, social media was a way for us to augment our experience at the Summit by spreading its message to more people than it could ever reach in the physical world. Additionally, I found that business cards are still incredibly valuable. Even in our technological age, there is simply no better way to get someone’s contact information in a face-to-face meeting. Several times during the conference I found myself wishing that I had a business card to hand out to someone with whom I had just spoken.
Overall, I’d say that the Summit was a great success and I wish that I had the opportunity to attend even more of the events. It was wonderful to feel the energy and passion of our generation descend on Philadelphia for a few days. I hope that both this city and my generation can maintain that zeal long after the buzz of the Summit subsides.