IEEE Houston Young Professionals Event: Future Leaders Forum

Austin, TX – July 27-29

I want to give a warm shout-out to IEEE Region 5 and IEEE Houston Section for graciously sponsoring my trip. As the Young Professionals Chair of the Houston Section, I want to share my experiences of this past weekend in Austin, Texas, since it truly was formative.

Please note that this article is a continuation from Aaron Lin’s article, YP Chair of Oakland-East Bay Section, that details the Thursday and Friday of the conference, found here.

Saturday Recap

Future Leaders Forum (FLF) is a unique gathering of established and future leaders. Young Professionals (YP) and Engineering students from all across the world attended to learn from some of the most successful pioneers of their respective fields, and forge memories and connections that will last a lifetime!

My Saturday started out with a great time out on the town in Austin speakeasies, participating in several dance-offs, and finishing the night off with milkshakes at P. Terrys to wait out any surge pricing afflicting Uber.

Several hours later, the sessions of Saturday began with me peeling myself out of bed to attend a fireside chat with the inventor of the digital camera himself, Steve Sasson, led by Guru Madhavan. Sasson focused his presentation on the concept of entrepreneurial action within the confines of a corporation, touching on how many believe that to be an entrepreneur it’s a requirement to brashly quit your job and develop technology in your garage. Sasson discussed the steps he took during development, how he sold his technology to management, and the triumphs/pitfalls along the way. Pretty informative, but mainly a downright enjoyable presentation to watch. Madhavan previously interviewed Sasson so a presentation on paper transformed into a gathering of old friends since their chemistry/familiarity with the other was apparent.

After Sasson, the program transitioned immediately into the LEAD panel featuring Samantha Snades, founder of re:3D, and Krenar Komoni, founder of Tive, who spoke on the importance of believing in your mission when you have a startup. Both of them discussed how in hard times, leaders of startups have to rely heavily on this mission – so if you don’t believe in the cause, it can be a lot easier to abandon the startup in hard times. Both panelist discussed how they founded their respective startups, how they went about formulating a team, how they went about getting their ‘big break,’ the trouble with venture capitalists and staying resilient, and I could go on – just watch the recording when it is released, that would be quicker. The points made through example during this session are, in my opinion, universal truths of leadership and really worth digesting for anyone serious about their career development.

Once the LEAD panel concluded, the audience was gifted a short break to refill our water bottles and to network.

At 11AM, the ADAPT Session began. In this panel, Nancy Martin carefully guided us through the narratives of Courtney Gras, Chelsea Collier , and Dr. Nagesh Rao. Each panelist gave their experience with determining their corporate breakpoint. In other words, each panelist discussed at what point they decided to start living for their own goals and missions instead of following a formula they thought would lead to joy and professional satisfaction. To sum up the panelist into one or two phrases is an insult to how much each of them was able to individually accomplish, so check out their biographies and see the links I’ve included. The big take away from this session is that each and every one of us should take a few minutes, maybe even as much 30 minutes, and reflect on our personal situation – essentially determine if we would be happy with how we lived our life if death came today. Then, if the answer is no, as it was for each of the three panelist, you have to have the courage to discover what you want your mission to be. You have to adapt and just do it.

After being inspired, we broke for lunch at Jester dining hall. Lunch was pretty good – we got popsicles (thanks, UT).

After lunch, Maxim Jago presented. Jago is pretty much a jack of all trades and clearly conveyed that to us during his presentation. He discussed how leadership and influence does not occur in a vacuum, his personal futurist views, tempted us with a teaser for his “algorithm for human consciousness,” and showed us the importance of maintaining a clear message while you lead and present. Also, it turns out he’s remarkable at Adobe Premiere Pro, in addition to being incredibly charismatic. A student of philosophy himself, Jago’s favorite philosopher is Richard Bach and in retrospect spent a large portion of his presentation interweaving Bach’s personal philosophy into his own narrative and presentation. Jagos’s presentation was very quotable and probably worth watching all the way through, if nothing else just to hear me ask him a question.

Jago was a hard act to follow and the EMPOWER session fell a little flat. Everyone in the audience probably needed a few more minutes to digest everything that Jago threw at us. I should add that this is not the fault of the panelist and more indicative of the amount of content the FLF organizers gave us over the course of about 72 hours.

The EMPOWER session, lead by Rob Vice, featured Michael B. Junge, Professor Walter E. Voit, and Chris Mahoney. The panelist each spoke about their individual careers and how empowerment helped them succeed. Junge’s presentation was particularly useful as he gave the audience free access to his resume review book until the end of July.

After the last break of day, we listened to a closing performance by Chef Patrick Stark. Stark is the brains behind the Mohawk Militia, an organization that operates on a “learn and earn” concept for veterans. Stark discussed with us challenges he faced while beginning his career, explained the impact of his family support on his success, and empowered each of us to take on a personal cause. In addition, Stark hosted a plating competition, where two audience members raced against the clock to see who could make the most appetizers in a handful of minutes.

As the final presentation concluded and as the days following the conference departed, several takeaways came to mind.

  1. The people you meet at these conferences are just as important as the content of the speaker’s presentations.
  2. Try to roll the motivation and inspiration from the conference into immediate actions…or at least plans.
  3. Take the time to determine what you want your career to look like at the early stages of your career might save some time and turmoil later on in your life.
  4. Taking on a personal cause – whether that be through your local non-profit or through starting your own initiative/project – seems to part of the key to success, since each person involved in the conference appeared to be involved in their community in their own way and seemed happy through their participation.

For everyone I met during FLF, I had a great time chatting with you all and look forward to seeing you at Rising Stars in January 2019. For those who are reading my conference debrief for the first time, feel free to contact me if you have any questions about how to get more involved in IEEE Young Professionals, IEEE in general, or really just about anything at all. For everyone in the middle, we’ll catch you at our next event.

Photos courtesy of Kristen MacCartney.

Moriah Hargrove Anders
IEEE Houston Section Young Professionals Chair
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