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Illuminate X Markham

Hi everyone! My name is Kaitlin Ip and I am a Grade 9 student at Markham District High School. Today, I had the pleasure to attend Illuminate x Markham’s regional conference. Here are my thoughts highlighting what I learned about:


Let's start with the first speaker of the day, Christal! When she started talking about her journey through her multiple careers, opportunities and getting to where she is today, she truly inspired me; I mean, I'd never imagine a person who could be so determined to persevere through so many changes in their life.

Especially in the environment that I have grown up in, I'm not exposed to taking risky paths or taking risky changes, like becoming a professional singer or becoming an artist. Although my parents would be okay with me going down an unconventional career path, the mindset I've developed throughout my childhood has created my own fear of change and risk. But, it's the 21st century, 'change' is the future and listening to Christal speak, couldn't have proven that any better. Her talk reassures me, that whatever I do in the future, it's okay to fail, it's okay to explore, and it's okay to take risks.


The theory of change is something that I, no, we need to do more. As an individual and as a community, the theory of change is a very smart way of breaking down goals and setting up smaller steps to reach them. Christal was also the one to introduce this method at the Illuminate conference and I believe she did an excellent job of getting us (at least me:) to understand how to apply this method to any goal, issue, problem, etc.

The theory of change is taking an issue and backtracking to find the main root cause; sometimes, backtracking is done to find the prerequisites for an AP course in high school, or even when applying to a certain major in university, that's what the theory of change is. I think that this was a very valuable piece of information to learn and everyone, I mean, EVERYONE should take note of this method. I'm really glad that I was able to participate in some of the activities we did, that helped us better understand how this method works.


Network, network, NETWORK! This was the biggest takeaway message I got from listening to the second speaker of the day, Mash Chowdhurry. Although he talked a lot about Cyber Security and the work in that type of field, his experience and journey also expressed another valuable gem of information; networking can get you very far ahead.

I specifically remember Mash talking about how he got ahead of the competition in securing a job at Deloitte, one of Canada's largest consulting firms. Six months prior to the hiring period, he networked with some of the employees and managers working at Deloitte, to understand and connect with someone that has experience and knowledge to share. He also said, "If I can talk to this person, why can't I talk with a CEO" - don't be afraid, and get uncomfortable! Although I've just started high school, I've learned from this, that it's never too early - or late to start talking to people, sharing your stories, listening to theirs, and expanding your network.


Life won't always run your way.

Similar to what Mash said about expanding your network, Alina, the third speaker, talked about how you have to be an active listener and create a connection with the people you meet. Alina highlighted how she had to sometimes change to favour the other person. Yes, nowadays there is a stigma around changing who you are to fit in and to "be like the cool kids", but I think that it is okay to work around the barriers that are preventing you and another person from making that connection. I'm not saying to change your values and core principles, but more of understanding and putting yourself into their shoes. To many, they may say that you shouldn't need to change who you are for another person, but if you truly believe in the connection you want to make with someone you enjoy being with, I think that in the situation of a first impression, it's good to listen to them and meet in the middle.


I'm so grateful to have had the opportunity to take part in this conference because I've truly taken away some good and valuable life lessons - there's a lot of stuff that I will definitely be taking with me to the end of my career.

Whoever is reading this, if you have the chance to participate in this conference... DO IT.

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