From volunteering with Mother Teresa to taking chances in business to overcoming fears by joining an improvisational comedy group, the speakers at the first Wise Words event in the Naveen Jindal School of Management shared their personal experiences to encourage attendees to grow personally and professionally by stepping out of their comfort zones.
Presented by the Graduate Council of the Dean’s Council on March 28, the TED Talks-inspired event featured 15-minute speeches from a current student, faculty member, community leader and corporate employer.
“Our hope is that the speakers sparked questions in the attendees’ minds to encourage them to explore and research ideas that originally didn’t cross their minds,” said Dominic Golab, a full-time MBA student and Wise Words committee leader.
The planning committee identified four speakers representing different perspectives. Senior software engineering major Brian Hoang kicked off the event with his presentation, “Drinking from a Firehose.” Hoang won the UT Dallas 2018 Big Idea Competition and is the founder of a virtual reality platform for police training. While startups are his “life and obsession,” he stressed to the audience that “you do not have to be an entrepreneur to be entrepreneurial. It’s a mentality, not a startup.”
Hoang walked attendees through the entrepreneur’s iteration process ─ developing an idea; researching and testing it as efficiently as possible; and then pivoting on the original idea repeatedly.
“Anyone can learn and apply the entrepreneurial mindset and concept of iteration to innovate and create positive change and value,” Hoang said.
Similar to the iteration process in business, Dr. Maria Hasenhuttl, a clinical assistant professor in the Organizations, Strategy and International Management Area, encouraged audience members to expand their perspective by connecting with different people and trying new activities. In her talk “Do Something Different,” she shared her own experience joining a running group, despite not being a runner. She has since completed 20 half-marathons and joined an improv comedy class for a new challenge — something she said is far beyond her comfort zone.
“I’m a business person; I don’t do silly stuff. I never even dressed up as kid for Halloween,” she shared. “I thought these people were going to be so different from me, but they are not. And they are no longer ‘others.’ ”
Hasenhuttl challenged the attendees to be more intentional in connecting with people who might have different backgrounds or interests from them. Not only does it make the world richer, she said, but novelty also increases brain function and keeps the mind healthy. Most importantly, it broadens our appreciation of the world.
“Meeting new people increases our empathy and understanding, which is the only way to bridge the distance between people,” Hasenhuttl said.
Representing community leadership, Kala Krishnan continued the theme of self-discovery and connection with her speech, “Volunteer: Expand Your Boundaries, Discover Yourself.”
Krishnan is the senior neighborhood planner for the city of Plano, working specifically with the city’s neighborhood revitalization program. She acquired this role after years of volunteering abroad, including time with Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity in Calcutta, India.
“That time changed the course of my life,” Krishnan said. “I was operating completely on my heart doing what I was passionate about.” She urged the audience to identify their own unique gifts and share them. “Figure out what you love and move in that direction. The universe will support you.”
Wrapping up the Wise Words presentations, Mark Twilley pulled from his 19 years of corporate experience at PepsiCo, where he is currently the IT director of global development and delivery. He provided career insights and what he wished he had learned sooner.
Some key points included focusing on driving results and being known as an employee who proposes solutions to business problems. His main message was about creating and maintaining trust with and among colleagues.
“Trust takes a long time to build, but you will lose it in an instant,” Twilley said.
Dr. Monica Powell, senior associate dean and Graduate Dean’s Council advisor, hopes the different speeches provided the chance for students to pause, take a break from technology, and learn face to face.
“We want everyone in the school to have the opportunity to slow down, have real conversations and really celebrate the wisdom that everyone has,” she said.
— Caryn Berardi