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An Investment in Business and Soft Skills is an Investment in Your Future.

Hello everyone! It's nice to meet you all. My name is Sloane Kotler, and I am a grade 10 student who is currently attending Havergal College in Toronto. Today, I had the pleasure of attending the National High School Business Conference, and a few weeks ago I attended the Illuminate x MidtownTO’s regional conference. Through a friend of mine, I heard about Illuminate and CPA Ontario, so I was excited to take advantage of this opportunity. To be honest, I don’t see myself with a business/technology future, as I am more interested in medicine, but I know that business and technology are such integral parts of my future. My key takeaway from the conference was the idea that getting into business at a young age and making good outreach connections has a really positive impact on your future, career and reputation.

In the first part of the conference, I got the opportunity to listen to Mark Grenon, who is a Forensic Accounting specialist at a Federal Level. What I found most interesting about his career was the fact that his job allowed him to work so closely with the government, which is something that surprised me. Also, I found it really interesting how Mr. Grenon’s job focused so closely on character profiles and the backstories of criminals, which is not the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of the role of an accountant.

In the next portion of the conference, Illuminate members conducted an interesting presentation on mental fitness which highlighted the different attitudes, strengths and weaknesses that are all really important parts of peoples' personalities. From this presentation, I can confidently say that my personality type is assertive and I learned that I have good self-control and advocacy. It was really interesting to see the different personality types in the Zoom, as it is important to remember that good collaboration is a result of people with different strengths and weaknesses that work well together. This presentation encouraged us to develop our personal skills such as communication, reliance and collaboration to bring to future career employment opportunities. Alina, the Illuminate Principal, reminded us that employers look for these skills just as much as looking at your qualifications when hiring for a position. Additionally, a big takeaway was listening to the panellists talk about their experience at Illuminate and how that tied into their university life. A someone who is currently in 10th grade, extracurriculars are integrated into my school life, but I recognize that university is more demanding of time and requires more balance between academics and extracurriculars. One of the panellists said that extracurriculars are important but they always have to come after your academics which is important to keep in mind so I don’t overload my schedule.

What I enjoyed most about the NHBC conference was the case study, where my group was given 3 potential suspects and data sets to analyze to conclude who was guilty of stealing money from a large corporation. I felt pressured by the strict time limit however, it forced me to be a quick thinker and call anything out when it was suspicious. Putting together the presentation with our findings was fun for me because my learning style is verbal, and I am able to confidently come to conclusions in a presentation style. Additionally, I am an assertive leader and my role in my group was engaging the group, dividing up roles and asking people for their input. I am really grateful for the opportunity to develop my leadership skills through this case study.

My biggest takeaway from this conference is the importance of connections and how character skills are just as important as qualifications when finding a job. Although business is not my path of choice, conferences like this are super in the exploration process and I will apply what I have learned today to my future endeavours. I want to say a huge thank you to Alina, Mr. Grenon, Jodi Buckley and the Illuminate team for putting together a really great conference, and I know a lot of hard work went into this. It’s people like you that give opportunities to people like me and I am so fortunate to be able to take advantage of this.


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