I’ve finally found time to reflect on the Forbes Under 30 Summit in my hometown, Detroit. Experiencing home and seeing all the thriving, young people making unique, impact-filled contributions to many communities across the U.S. and the world is revitalizing. There was never a dull moment at the Summit and the many rooms in the Masonic Temple were packed with people and opportunities to connect. The wide variety of ambitious individuals ranged from venture capitalists to entrepreneurs to scholars and many more professionals. The presence of drive and determination was ripe which only enriched the sense of possibilities abound in the building.
As a Doctoral Fellow in Engineering Education at Purdue University, I found myself trying to piece together the puzzle of my purpose for attending the summit. My research investigates how minoritized youth access engineering and entrepreneurship while leveraging their cultural capital to build businesses and impact their communities. This research interest was born out of my outreach efforts at the University of Michigan to expose underrepresented students in the Detroit-area to engineering and postsecondary opportunities after experiencing the isolation of being one of the few black engineers in my discipline. As a budding entrepreneur seeking to coach students in earning scholarships, I felt a similar loneliness in values among my corporate counterparts. Ultimately, I believe engineering and entrepreneurship can offer minoritized students the ability to advance economically, socially, and culturally when given the resources and tools to explore, discover, and create their own contributions to society.
The Forbes Under 30 Summit seemed like the best place to find like-minded people. I found myself scrambling to figure out what events to go to and which speakers’ background aligned best with my aspirations. This led me to attend sessions covering technology, innovation, social impact, finances, investing, etc. It was almost as if I was seeking answers to long-held questions that seemed more apparent and important once I found others in similar spaces who seemed to be on more solid ground in their careers. The existence of African American entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, and all-around go-getters in areas of promise answered my questions about whether I belonged. My aspirations in getting more African-Americans equitable opportunities in technology and entrepreneurship in order to sustain generational wealth and upward mobility didn’t seem as far-reaching or inconceivable when I saw the proof of existence in the many powerful sessions. For(bes) the Culture also helped bring a sense of cultural unity amongst the many African American attendees. This harmonic convergence of passion, power, and privilege reinforced that we belonged and we were all more than capable of bringing each other up. We take up our own seats at the table meant for us and built by us.
Of all the many sessions I attended, my main takeaway is every person comes with a story, a contribution, and inherent value. It is of the utmost importance to share in the wealth by positioning each other for support. Some ways we can give back include warm introductions, an investment of time or money, and simply taking up space being our authentic selves in places where we belong (aka wherever we choose to be). As long as we engage with one another with trust, respect, and generosity, we all win.