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Diving into the "Future of Social Entrepreneurship" with Illuminate x Markham, Ontario

Hi everyone! My name is Nirja Soni and I am a Grade 11 student at White Oaks Secondary School. Today, I had the pleasure to attend Illuminate x Markham’s regional conference. Here are my thoughts highlighting what I learned about leadership, values, and entrepreneurship. Here are my key takeaways:

"If you are starting at a higher platform, you are always going to be ahead" - Alina Huang.

The conference started off powerful with the Illuminate founder and CEO, Alina Huang. Her introduction and past accomplishments further drove the energy of the conference to another level. I felt myself getting excited for the upcoming keynote speakers and career panelists.

The initial keynote speaker that we encountered was Christal Wang. From her, so many things were to be noted. One thing that struck me was her emphasis on importance of values. Determining our values, finding things that we enjoy is essential. This is because when one makes decisions, especially at the professional level, it would be an enjoyable experience as opposed to a burden. This emphasis was reflected in her start up "Shimmer," which targeted mental health. Christal is passionate about mental health and the idea of giving back to the community. Another key takeaway was learning to take risks and open doors to new opportunities. Always being flexible because things will not always go the way that it was initially planned. Hence, always being open to new opportunities and discovering values are the key to grow and be happy.

She introduced Theory of Change. It focused on identifying a problem (which was taken from the United Nations 17 sustainable development goals) and working backwards so that one can tackle the issue at their own pace and level. This was incredibly helpful for me, as a person who aspires to make a change to the lack of access to education in third world countries.

The second keynote speaker was Mash Chowdhury. Many things from his presentation struck me. One of them being - developing that EQ or emotional intelligence. Essentially, how good are you are dealing with people? Although having a university degree is vital, also having interpersonal and communicative skills is as important. It all narrows down to understanding other people's needs. This was reflected in the conference as he showed exceptional communication and interpersonal skills.

Additionally, during the career panel Q&A session Mash emphasized on thinking ahead. He mentioned that one should be ahead of the competition long before anyone is. Pushing oneself out of their comfort zone. This also went in conjunction with Alina's advice on thinking at a bigger level.

The conference itself was an incredible and fun experience. I thank Illuminate x Markham’s regional conference for giving me a wonderful experience! Looking forward to next year's conference!


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