What would it feel like to be in a room with some of the brightest young minds of Vermont? Last weekend I had the pleasure of finding out, when I attended the 2015 Young Professionals Summit of Vermont in Rutland, Vermont. It was an impressive gathering, with prominent politicians, entrepreneurs, tech innovators, educators, and a wealth of other demographics in attendance. The morning session kicked off with a chance to perform a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis for the entire state of Vermont. I sat down with two UVM students and three local professionals, and with some help from the dynamic Eugene Korunskiy, we rolled up our sleeves and got to work.
Our table focused on what we could do to introduce modern solutions that would incorporate some of the great strengths of Vermont--our interconnectedness and our strong sense of community. Our ideas ranged from a calendar that aggregated local events to cooperative day-care facilities that would offer working parents greater ease of mind and open up a new service opportunity for older folks who wanted to look after little ones in a safe environment.
But as Eugene went around in the room, I was inspired by all the innovative solutions that other tables had developed. A couple of my favorites--a plan to make solar panel roads and a plan to form countywide governments in the hopes of breaking up hyperlocal “old boys clubs”. Naturally it’s much easier to throw around ideas than it is to bring them to fruition, with all the compromise and hard work that necessarily entails. But as I think many could attest to, it was a great experience seeing hundreds of minds working together to try and highlight some of the issues and potential that us young Vermonters will be working with over our lifetimes.
For the afternoon we split up into various workshops. I attended the Leading Your Community track, as presented by Mike Kiernan and sponsored by General Electric. The workshop started with us musing on what distinguishes a good leader from a bad leader. We started by thinking about this through our heroes, but then brought it back to a personal level, thinking about what traits we would personally want to nurture in order to be community leaders. I highlighted communication and sharing. My key takeaway from this exercise was a personalized mission statement that I hope to refine and reflect on.
Following this exercise, Mr. Kiernan gave us a chance to better know each other, as we got to interview other young professionals, learn their life stories, and think about what values emerged when folks came to decision points in their lives. While I did experience a little information overload when we all went around the room and introduced our interviewee--relating their life story from our perspective--I felt very inspired by the common core purposes that seemed to emerge; a desire to help others and to engage in local communities while reaching our true professional potential.