Laura Carney and Vanessa Mulhall speak about attending the Smart People Smart Economy Conference (#Smart14)

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Foróige November 17, 2014

[As part of the 'Smart People, Smart Economy' youth conference, the US Embassy, in partnership with Foróige, sponsored an intensive three-day module for young leaders from Ireland, Northern Ireland and Great Britain. The SMART Youth Conference took place at the US Embassy from the 6th to the 8th November 2014. It began with the hosting of a lecture with Gay Byrne on the 6th November in the US Ambassador’s Residence. The overall aim of the module was to focus on youth leadership and the skills required to be successful in a 21st century workplace.]

Laura Carney

It is amazing how a short space of time can change so much.

What I Learned

Throughout the conference, I learned how to be more confident in the 21st Century working environment. I learned that it is important to make the most of the time you have and to express the abilities you have in an effective manner in order to stand out. It gave me the chance to meet people who are passionate about similar things that I’m passionate about. It also gave me the chance to meet people who have different passions and values which was interesting and sometimes astonishing.

What has resonated with me

Listening to the speakers really made an impression on me. Their ability to speak in front of such a big crowd with courage, spirit and belief is something I will reflect on. It was fascinating. All the speakers throughout the conference were unique in what they talked about but were similar in the way they captured the audience's attention. It was clear they took the time to do their research and put together a presentation suitable for the target audience. Another aspect that resonated with me is the how cordial and welcoming each person at the conference was throughout the four days. Those simple acts of kindness can make someone’s day a lot brighter and that's why it has stuck with me. 

As a result of my involvement in the conference

I have a broader mindset regarding opportunities that may arise in the future. I know that if I believe something is possible then I should make it possible instead of leaving it up to someone else. Starting at the bottom is better than never starting at all, and starting is often the hardest part. As I am still only very young, the conference has opened my eyes to the opportunities the world holds for me and for me to grab and embrace them enthusiastically. I hope to make a positive change for people in today's world. 

Why I wanted to attend the conference

One of the reasons I wanted to attend the conference is because when I first heard about it, it grabbed my attention instantly. I knew that my involvement in it would stand to me in coming years when I myself head out and embrace what the world has to offer. I know that in the future I will have the confidence and I will believe in myself that I can make a difference and that my ideas matter. Another reason I wanted to attend is that I never had the opportunity to be a part of something so special and unique. It was something which involved me stepping out of my comfort zone and getting stuck in. Sometimes stepping out of that comfort zone is one of the best things a person can do and I believe it has been the most beneficial decision I have ever made.  

The highlights

Being a delegate at the Smart People, Smart Economy Conference was a highlight in itself, but I have many more highlights from throughout the four days. The main highlight for me was being part of Project Group Five, an exceptional group of young leaders ready to embrace what the future has waiting for them. It is safe to say that from the minute we met we developed a strong bond and by the end we had made 9 new best friends that would stick with us long after the conference. Each and every one of them had a unique attitude and had a strong belief in themselves. Each member of the group put 100% into every activity and the atmosphere in the group was always positive and cheerful.

Another highlight for me throughout the conference was the site visits. Our group visited AdRoll, a technology company. The representatives at AdRoll who looked after us had so much passion for their jobs. They were very helpful and answered whatever questions we had in detail giving us a better understanding of their work and achievements.

We also visited Foróige. Just like AdRoll, they were enthusiastic and welcoming. They explained to us the views of Foróige and the help they give to the youth all over Ireland. Foróige is a wonderful organisation looking out for the youth in any way possible and has many opportunities for young people to get involved in. The purpose of Foróige is to enable young people to involve themselves consciously and actively in their own development and the development of society. Personally it was exciting for me to visit Foróige as I have been an active member since I was twelve years old and I am now on my way to being a leader.

To top off my many highlights throughout the conference, one that will stand by me forever is our project, EASY - (Employable and Adaptable Skilled Youth) which was chosen by the judges as the outright winner. The group believes that 'EASY' will be a huge success in the near future. We are currently working on it, making it be the best it can be for the youth in Ireland as they get ready to go out into the working world. 

"The real secret of success is enthusiasm" - Walter Chrysler

Vanessa Mulhall

Why I wanted to attend the Smart People Smart Economy conference?

I felt that it was going to be a very interesting and informative event. What caught my attention most was that the main aim of the event was to provide participants with the space to explore the topic of youth leadership and the skills required to be successful in the 21 century. I also liked the idea of going on site visits to different companies to explore their take on leadership and see how their employees demonstrate leadership on a day to day basis. I also feel that attending these kinds of events are very beneficial to me as they link in quite a lot to my college studies.

As a result of being involved in this conference, in the future I would try to have an influence on people's take on non-formal education. My project group endeavored to develop a module in schools/colleges to work with young people and enable them to access the supports needed to deal with or cope with stress before it goes too far ie. before it turns into a mental health issue. We believed the best way to do this would be through non-formal education as some young people would have a better connection with this type of education.

What I learned from this conference and something that really resonated with me was when you get young leaders all together in one room and you then have a certain topic to speak about, we all have answers and suggestions to try and fix different social issues eg. we did an exercise on homelessness where we needed to come up with different realistic ways to empower these people. Collectively we came up with ways that homelessness no longer had to be an issue. It was a very interesting task I must say!

A highlight that will stick with me from this event would be when all participants gathered together at the ambassador’s residence in the Phoenix Park. I felt that this was a highlight because it was the first time I had the opportunity to meet Gay Byrne and listen to his inspiring words. He touched on so many key points, one of which was jobs and experience and when to know it’s time to move on. He also made reference to a poem I love about the road – sometimes it is better to take the one less travelled! My second highlight was visiting various companies on site visits. Interestingly, both of the companies I visited said that you don’t always need a degree for a job that you find interesting, all you need are the skills!