In 2019, I was privileged to join the ranks of exceptional young leaders as a 30 Under 30 honoree. Despite past experiences of feeling like an outsider at conferences, the 30 Under 30 program was a game-changer. This incredible group of individuals not only helped me forge deep connections within the industry but also introduced me to other professionals who became invaluable friends. In the face of challenges like the onset of the pandemic, these friends provided unwavering support, turning into pillars of strength and inspiration. The bonds formed during this program extended beyond professional connections – they became the core of why I cherish this industry.
As I reflect on this transformative experience, I'm reminded that it all started with the nerve-wracking yet rewarding process of submitting a video application. Initially, the prospect of submitting a video felt like an overwhelming challenge. The thought of speaking into the camera and answering questions was intimidating, and who enjoys hearing their own voice on video, right? However, I decided to turn this challenge into an opportunity for growth. To pump myself up, I immersed myself in videos of previous 30 Under 30 classes, realizing that I was not alone in facing this nerve-wracking task. Each video showcased brave individuals overcoming nerves and excitement to articulate their thoughts. Suddenly, I felt a connection, as if I knew them, because I saw myself in their struggles. With newfound courage, I completed my application. The initial hesitation transformed into an exciting new journey. So, to those considering embarking on this incredible journey, don't let the initial intimidation hold you back; instead, see it as the first step toward discovering a community that will redefine your professional path.
I was thrilled and surprised when I received the email saying that I was selected as a 30 Under 30 Honoree. But as the initial excitement settled, a sense of dread crept in. As an introvert uncomfortable with networking events, the prospect of navigating a conference with over 2,000 attendees seemed daunting. Yet, I revisited the videos of the previous class, my new “friends” – memorizing names and faces, convincing myself that connecting with just one person would define success.
Yet when I arrived, I discovered that I was surrounded by like-minded individuals, many of whom were introverts like me, and I felt an immediate sense of belonging. Meeting familiar faces from the videos, I summoned the courage to introduce myself, palms sweating the entire time. Fortunately, the kindness and warmth of everyone present eased my nerves. Those on the more extroverted end of the spectrum were kind enough to welcome us introverts, and from that moment on, July 2019 became a pivotal work trip in my career.
Having peers who share similar struggles and passions has been transformative. Through them I've gleaned insights into leadership, skill development, and discovering my true calling. The concept of legacy has always resonated with me, and as I reflect on the future of destination organizations, I recognize young professionals as our greatest legacy. This program has instilled in me a renewed purpose – to advocate for and uplift the emerging talent around us. It all began with that nervous video submission, a small step that led to a journey filled with growth, connection, and a profound sense of belonging.