On November 15, 2016, six hundred Hawai’i high school students gathered together within the vast, sunlit walls of the Hawaii Convention Center for the Emerge Student Leadership Conference.
This Emerge Conference was hosted by the Center for Tomorrow’s Leaders (CTL), an organization with a mission to engage, equip, and empower the next generation of Hawaii’s entrepreneurs, trendsetters and pioneers.
One of the key sessions was the Startup Paradise: Entrepreneurship and Innovation in Tech panel moderated by Hobnob Co-Founder and Design Lead, Tiffany Quezada. Her experience as the co-founder of Hobnob and her previous startup, Minded (a Blue Startups Accelerator company) as well as her understanding of CTL (she’s also worked as a CTL Fellows Program Mentor) allowed her to guide the conversation to places that would benefit the audience best.
“Quezada and friends gave me a different perspective on entrepreneurship, technology, and the path you can take after high school,” said one student in attendance.
The panel was a curated group of inspiring mentors, picked by the CTL as pillars of knowledge and inspiration for Hawaii’s youth. Consisting of Jason Sewell (the co-founder of both DevLeague and Sudokrew), Kyle N. Chang (Co-founder, CEO, and CTO of HealthTechApps, Inc.), Maya Rogers (President and CEO of Blue Planet Software and Co-founder of Blue Startups), and Mark Quezada (Co-Founder and CTO of Hobnob) there was a wealth of knowledge to be shared.
Each panelist brought his or her own experience to the discussion, showing how many various approaches, results, and sectors there are in entrepreneurship and tech.
With the mission of creating jobs and opportunities in Hawaii, Jason Sewell began developing curriculums for the state’s only software development bootcamp, DevLeague, as well as solving software pain points in the world of education and energy.
Mid Pacific Institute graduate, Kyle N. Chang was able to share not only what it was like to start his own company, but what it was like to start it as a teenager! At just seventeen years old, he founded HeathTechApps Inc., a Tech platform which helps athletes and their doctors monitor and manage sports concussions. Just a few years older than the audience, he was a relatable figure to listen to.
Blue Planet Software is the sole agent for the Tetris® brand, and as CEO, Maya Rogers leveraged that history and extensive background to give a well-rounded response to every question asked. From her perspective, students were able to hear not only what large tech companies are like, but also what early-stage startups go through from her experience founding the Blue Startups Tech Accelerator.
As a serial entrepreneur, Mark Quezada was able to speak about his various experiences. With such a reliance on how people interact with your app as well as designing for mobile, it was nice to hear his take on topics like user testing and user experience.
With such a wide array of skillsets and knowledge, the panelists were able to provide students with perspectives that made entrepreneurship and tech seem accessible and a career in these arenas attainable.
“I learned what it was like to start a business, especially managing your own startup business with little to no experience. It was interesting to hear from the experiences of [the panel] with different takes on their path to where they are now. I was also able to learn a little about what it would be like to be a startup software engineer; overall it was great to hear from [a panel] with past experience in a field that I could potentially be interested in.” – Herman, Senior at McKinley High School.
This conference was just one of the many events run by the CTL. They host weekly leadership development classes in ten public high schools and facilitate the Fellows program. This program consists of a select group of twenty juniors and seniors who implement community-wide leadership projects. The Emerge Conference was an informative way to empower Hawaii’s future leaders in a fun setting that would facilitate engagement. We can’t wait to watch them continue to help the next generation of leaders grow and thrive.