As an outsider looking in, the business world seems vast. There are so many components to consider when getting involved a company. As a young adult in the 21st century, where do I start? These past few weeks at the Plano Chamber have guided me to an answer: Education. I’ve seen that taking a back seat and learning as much as I can about the business world before I start will help maximize my success in the future.
I haven’t even graduated high school yet, and I’ve met local Plano business owners, shared my viewpoint on the millennial generation within the workforce, and learned tips and tricks on marketing a small business thanks to attending the programs that the Plano Chamber offers. Each program varies in size, purpose, and audience, thus accommodating to diverse needs of Plano’s business population. These three factors varied at two events I recently attended, the Plano Culture and Inclusion Alliance Meeting and the Plano First Luncheon.
The Plano Culture and Inclusion Alliance consists of invited professionals in the Plano business community congregate to share thoughts and ideas about diversity and inclusion practices in their companies. This event usually has 15 to 30 attendees along with a healthy lunch. PCIA is hosted at and sponsored by Cigna. A few days before the June 20th meeting, I got a sneak peek of who was attending through preparing the attendees’ table name tents.
When I was first informed that the Cigna building was located at Dallas Pkwy. and West Plano Pkwy., all I could think of was: Isn’t there just a plot of grass there? I later discovered that yes, while there was a plot of grass in the area, there were also large corporate buildings at this intersection. I realized that I tend to disregard buildings like these because they don’t play a role in my daily life. I mean, they’re just regular offices, right? This preconceived belief of mine was shattered as I entered the Cigna building through its glass doors. The interior was modern and lively, and there were all types of people interacting, not just the corporate archetype I had constructed in my head.
Katie Gimenez, the Programs and Communications Director, and I were given our visitor badges at the front desk and then headed down a hallway towards a meeting room. Inside, the room was set up in a classroom style, with tables set up in lines that were facing the front of the room. During the lingering minutes before the start of the program, I grabbed a plate with a turkey sandwich and honey mustard, a light pasta salad, and a fresh sugar cookie. After a quick bite, I made my way up to the front of the room along with college interns Sai Pasikanti of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas and Daniel Smith of Ericsson.
Let me back up a few steps. What were three millennials doing at the front of the room of curious business professionals? Sai, Daniel, and I were about to participate on an Intern Panel in order to provide insight and answer questions on our views of our generation within the workforce.
As I was walking up to the front of the room, a question popped in my head like bubblegum: Was the entire future of Plano millennials on our shoulders?!?! To answer my melodramatic question: no. The millennial generation is constantly evolving with the modern times, meaning that companies will have to consider much more factors than what we would discuss to accommodate this broad age group. Additionally, millennials even have branches, like my generation, Generation Z (born 1995-present).
We were asked basic questions about ourselves first, like what we did at our organizations and how we planned to apply what we learned towards our future careers. With Sai and Daniel entering their senior year of college next year, it was a little daunting to hear how confident they were about their “future career” answers. My answer to what I wanted to do in the future was an entire field of study, pretty vague overall. Nevertheless, I still have time to figure my future out.
After these questions, the floor was open for the professionals to ask us their own questions, which revolved around our ideal work environment and key issues companies represented. My response to these questions was that I would want to work in a company that is dynamic and integrates modern technology with their field. In addition, growing up in a time period with social media and change, I can easily become aware what a company’s standpoint is on an issue thanks to the internet. Personally, a company’s stance on an issue can correspondingly put them in a positive or negative light in my opinion.
Lastly, we heard speakers Christina Flores of Capital One and Toni Howard Lowe of USAA present their company’s approach towards the topic of “The Impact of Changing Demographics in Plano.” Hearing the “behind-the-scenes” logistics from the presentations definitely broadened my viewpoint on the social standards a company has to consider for their employees.
The next major event I attended was the Plano First Quarterly Luncheon, which is an informational session that has business-to-business networking and a high-profile speaker with an attendance that can exceed 300! The speaker for this particular luncheon was the U.S. President of Merchant Services of JPMorgan Chase, Kim Fitzsimmons.
The preparation for this event was much more intensive than the Plano Culture and Inclusion Alliance. With over 200 guests registered, all hands were on deck at the Chamber. Name tags had to be stuffed, flyers had to be printed, and the attendees had to be entered into Chamber Master. Registration was even occurring the day before the event.
Before I knew it, my Outlook calendar was bolded under June 29th , the day of the luncheon. It was go time. After many weeks of hard work, the success of the event would come down to just a few hours. The Chamber staff and I collected all essential equipment and we made our way down to the Marriott Dallas/Plano at Legacy Town Center hours before to prepare for what was to come.
Everyone was given assignments to ensure the event would flow smoothly. The Chamber’s teacher extern, Alice Michael, and I worked on placing Best of Plano cards, question note-cards with a pen, and a Plano First table tent at every table. The remaining Chamber staff met with the Marriott staff to make any last minute necessary changes or to set up the registration table.
I helped with registration at the start of the event, which consisted of greeting the attendees and assisting them with finding their nametag in the sea of plastic holders. It may seem small, but it was rewarding to see how the hours of work at the Chamber translated to the event; in this case it was seeing people pick up the nametags that I had put together.
Once they were seated, the attendees were given a three course meal. The courses consisted of watermelon and feta salad with tangy vinaigrette, seasoned chicken breast with mashed potatoes and grilled vegetables, and (my personal favorite) light and delectable strawberry shortcake. After lunch, Kim Fitzsimmons gave a presentation on technology and JPMorgan Chase’s role and challenges. Overall, she was an effective speaker that brought valuable insight to the audience at this luncheon.
To end my second blog, I just wanted to state that just by attending these two events, I have gained experience in and learned a lot about time management, event planning, networking, and Plano’s businesses. With a Chamber that organizes events like these, I can definitely see why companies of all sizes and types would want to come to Plano. 🙂
Thank you to the Plano Mayor’s Internship Program and a sponsorship by Cigna for granting me the opportunity to become a Special Projects Intern at the Plano Chamber of Commerce. I’m excited for what this summer has in store for me!