Being a Changemaker
As a young college student, I had never been to a day long conference. The concept was new to me, and I was excited to experience it for the first time at Intermitten 2019, “The Conference for Changemakers,” in the Ark Theatre in Ann Arbor. Everyday leading up to the event, I would think about what exactly a “changemaker” is and wonder if I deserved a seat at a conference solely intended for such individuals. By a simple google search, I learned a changemaker is defined as, “one who desires change in the world and, by gathering knowledge and resources, makes that change happen.” I immediately agreed that I desired change in the world (I mean who doesn’t, right?) However, I was unsure if I had actually made any change happen yet. I figured by attending the Intermitten conference, I would at least begin to gather the “knowledge and resources” needed to initiate such change.
Intermitten is extremely unique in nature, designed to specifically connect the Midwest entrepreneurial community and begin conversations that would otherwise go unsaid. I quickly noticed how united everyone was around the same goal, and how much they each cared for the entrepreneurial ecosystem they belonged to. Each speaker offered their own perspective on different topics, including capital, inclusion, and connection.
The conference began with opening remarks from Intermitten co-founder Heidi Craun, who immediately tackled the importance of being a changemaker. When she announced that being a changemaker is “a moniker within reach of all of us,” I knew I was in the right place. I was ready to listen to a set of diverse speakers who would touch upon matters that were not only relevant to big entrepreneurial leaders, but students like me, who aspire to be a part of something larger than ourselves.
I walked away from the conference with a lot of new insights, and decided I would share a few of these with you. Here are 5 ideas I felt resonated with me most, as both a dedicated student and member of the great entrepreneurial tech hub around me:
1. “We can’t wait anymore for others to make the decisions and changes for us”
April Boyle, founder and director of Build Institute, reminded us of the importance of taking action ourselves, rather than waiting for those around us. We must break down barriers and disrupt systems that seem all too familiar, rather than sitting around and letting them continue. These ideas should not only be implemented in organizations and small businesses, but in every aspect of life. I realized the ways I can take action in my personal life, in school, as well as within my professional career.
2. “It’s about what’s right, not who’s right”
Dug Song touched upon the important topic of equity, and the key to creating a culture around ownership in his company Duo Security. If an organization practices this concept, they can operate as a team and share success. While I currently do not own a company and cannot ensure that every employee has equity, I am able to understand the importance of having a team attitude. This can be done through holding others accountable, having strong values, and empowering others to make their own decisions. Whether it be a group project for school or a small business in Ann Arbor, these concepts should be practiced on a daily basis.
3. “Dealing with tension means talking about it”
This quote was something I found particularly interesting and powerful. Joanna Dueweke-Perez and Chanell Scott Contreras used their experiences to discuss the importance of inclusion, particularly in a work setting. Too often do we endure something uncomfortable and simply try to forget about it. It is imperative to speak up and deal with the tension that may have occurred in a certain situation. On the flip side, when someone has the courage to speak up and talk to you about how they feel, it is imperative to listen for understanding, rather than simply listening to respond. As someone once told me, you have 2 ears and 1 mouth, and should use them proportionately. These speakers taught me just how important that really is.
4. “Create the lane”
Without someone initiating change, it will never happen. Karin Korb spoke about the significance of creating the lane for others to then follow. When it comes to people who are different from you, you must be willing to have conversations that may be tough. You must be willing to do the groundwork from the beginning to ensure that marginalized groups do not get excluded. You must be willing to make a commitment and set an example for those around you. I learned the different settings in which these lanes can be made and am excited to implement them.
5. “The opposite of nice is not rudeness, the opposite of nice is connection”
This quote hit very close to home, as people often assume that if you are not nice, you are rude and disrespectful. Laura Khalil showed me just how wrong those people are. When it comes to life, it is necessary to stand up for yourself and learn how to communicate effectively. This is not only applicable in the workplace, but in all walks of life. Running from a problem will not get you anywhere, and we all must practice communicating loud and clear just what the problem is. Laura taught us the importance of creating a direct plan and facing our problems head on, in an effort to show that we can all be our own “forces of badassery.”
While I was definitely one of the youngest people in attendance at Intermitten 2019, I was in no way less impacted, maybe even more so. I walked out of the Ark feeling not only informed, but excited. I am excited to be interning at Cahoots, a place that embodies everything Intermitten stands for, and excited to be a part of the greater entrepreneurial ecosystem of Ann Arbor. While merely 8 hours is obviously not enough time to create change, I believe being a part of this conference was the best way to start.