Findings from the Detroit Economic Club Young Leader Conference 2016


DEC3Last week I had the privilege to attend the Detroit Economic Club (DEC) Young Leader Conference. The second annual event was a huge success with over 400 attendees at the Cobo Center. As a DEC Young Leader member for two years now, it’s been great to see how the Young Leader program has grown.

The conference kicked off with two remarkable keynotes:

  • City of Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan spoke about the ongoing developments around the city. He also called out the importance of young leaders in Detroit and that they need to continue making a difference in the city. “It doesn’t matter what your background is, here (in Detroit) you’re equally valued,” Duggan said.
  • Quicken Loans Vice President John Fikany had a presentation that referred professional growth to the likes of The Wizard of Oz. Essentially, young Detroit leaders must have heart, courage and the smarts (aka the brain) in order to thrive and make a difference in the city.

From there attendees chose between two of three breakout sessions. I attended “Philanthropy and Your Career” and “Manage Your Career. Manage Your Life.”


  • Philanthropy and Your CareerDEC2
    • This eye-opening session from three powerful nonprofit leaders in the metro Detroit area offered a lot of advice to young professionals. The trio encouraged young professionals to volunteer, donate and join nonprofit boards that have causes they’re passionate about. The consensus was that it takes minimal time to make a big impact by giving time towards a nonprofit that matters to young pros. If you are looking for a nonprofit to assist, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Detroit President & CEO Jeannine Grant suggested visiting org.
    • Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Detroit President & CEO Jeannine Grant; Slow Roll Detroit Co-Founder Jason Hall; and Fold Volunteer Corps Director Janet Lawson.
  • Manage Your Career:DEC1
    • This session was incredibly informational and unique as it was in a TEDx format. The first session from Northwood University Director of Career Advancement Beth Bryce discussed recognizing the stages of a quarter-life and mid-life (professional) crises. (See the picture below to understand the progression.) She noted that young pros typically have 10 careers in their lifetimes, so it’s important to be open to new opportunities.
    • Barton Malow Company VP of Human Resources Jennifer Sulak Brown recapped her career findings, notably that constructive feedback is rarely given unsolicited, so it’s important for young pros to ask for feedback constantly.
    • Speaker Mark Ostach touched on technology, stating that we’re victims of PTSD (Post Traumatic SCROLL Disorder) and that in order to be professionally and personally successful we need to spend less time on our phones. He mentioned an app to help keep you in check with how often you’re staring at your phone called Checky - I immediately downloaded and now have proof that yes, I’m on my phone too much!
    • PEAK International Executive Coach and Founder Marty Maddin concluded the session with success tips like: eat healthier (for example, introduce walking meetings at your workplace), sleep more, play to your strengths and tame/focus your mind.
    • Barton Malow Company VP Human Resources Jennifer Sulak Brown; Northwood University Director of Career Advancement Beth Bryce; PEAK Performance International Executive Coach and Founder Marty Maddin; and Speaker Mark Ostach.

The conference closed with a keynote address from Detroit Medical Center (DMC) CEO Joseph Mullany, and DTE Energy Vice President and DTE Energy Foundation Chair and President Faye Nelson. The pair discussed DTE and DMC’s commitment to the city and how young leaders can play a role in Detroit’s comeback.

Afterword a networking session took place outside, in the new Cobo Square with photos from the conference on the jumbo video board.  The sun was shining and we could not have asked for a better day!

Many thanks to DEC for a lovely conference. I strongly encourage those under 40 to become a Young Leader and check out next year’s conference (don’t worry, if you’re over 40, there are membership levels for you too!).