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Illuminate x MidtownTO’s - A Fun and Informative Experience

Hi everyone!! My name is Michelle Yao, and I am a Grade 9 student at Unionville High School. Today, I had the pleasure to attend Illuminate x MidtownTO’s regional conference. The conference gave me a chance to:

  • listen to people's unique ideas and ways of thinking

  • challenge myself by trying to think of good ideas and solutions for the case

  • listen to two amazing speakers from very different backgrounds

  • express my own ideas and thoughts



The first speaker was Salim Naran, and he discussed about FinTech, short term for Financial Technology. In the beginning of his presentation, he shared his tough journey in financial and business, and then discussed many topics that I wasn't familiar with before. They were the importance of finance technology, the Canadian FinTechs, Industrial Revolutions, and how future technology will greatly impact the finance. I learned that in Canada, the banking has not changed much in the last 75 years and that Canadian Banks innovate very slowly since it's highly regulated, there's a strict oligopoly, and the bankers are Canadian consumers. Canadians are usually nicer and more loyal to these large systems so they won't complain about the bank methods.


Razor Suleman, the second speaker gave many meaningful tips that I will remember for a very long time. He shared with us his personal journey moving through different companies. Razor told us that he was a refugee, not born as a privileged person, but he was still able to make an amazing idea and start multiple businesses. I learned from his speech that you don't need an investor to start a business, just a strong and committed team. This encouraged me even more that starting a business is doable as long as I want it enough.


Alina, the president of Illuminate Universe, also said some reassuring and helpful comments. I told Alina that I felt really nervous before presenting my team's solutions, and she said that, that was great. At first I was so confused, but then she explained that feeling nervous is similar to feeling excited. She said that feeling nervous indicates that you really care about what you're doing and they want to do their best. It made me realize that I shouldn't feel stupid for feeling nervous whenever I'm doing something important, but rather, I should embrace that nervousness and turn it into a motivation to encourage myself to do my best.


A tip told by both speakers, and I'm sure most business founders will agree with, is that if you're not passionate about what you want to do, you won't succeed. Don't chase the money, don't expect the process to be easy, expect road bumps and expect big challenges thrown your way, just never give up if you truly enjoy and love what you're doing.

I enjoyed the case competition and listening to other people's ideas in the conference. During the case competition, every team had one hour to prepare a well thought out idea/solution that would solve a problem in the business industry. It was extremely fun to interact and get to know my team members and look a look into their mind. When I listened to other people's cases, I was so impressed by their amazing ideas and quick work ethics. Their hard work inspired me to try even harder the next time I get a similar opportunity.


Overall, this conference experience was a really enjoyable and eye-opening, and I'm so grateful I got the chance to attend. It was my first time experiencing anything like this and I'm happy it was Illuminate Universe.