Rising Stars 2020 Trip
College can sometimes seem bleak. It is no doubt that attending a university and getting the chance to pursue higher education is a privilege, but sometimes when you are racing deadlines in the library on the week of finals after drinking your third Yerba Mate one can lose sight of it all. You sit for hours under buzzing fluorescent lights as your online homework rejects your answer for the fourth time because you accidentally entered a space after the last digit of your answer and you feel a sense of increasing existential dread. Why? Why do we do this?
For many students going to college was a non-decision, a plan laid out by social norms and families in hope of financial security. For some people, the dream job is one that they can use to pay the bills. This is undoubtedly respectable, but for those of us who have the opportunity to go beyond this, more fulfillment can come from finding our purposeful vocation.
Some of us, myself included, are privileged enough to be able to pursue our life’s purpose. In a book I am reading, The Purpose Path: A Guide to Pursuing Your Authentic Life’s Work, Nicholas Pearce affirms that “Success isn’t about winning a race against your neighbor to see who has the most money or power… Success is measured by the impact you have on individual lives… and doing all the good you can for the people you can in all the ways you can for as long as you can.” All of this is inspirational, but abstractions can only go so far. It was not until I had the opportunity to attend IEEE’s Rising Star Conference in Las Vegas with my peers that I was able to connect the dots between purposeful vocation and reality.
One important thing that I’ve learned from being mindful about purpose is that vocation is highly individual. When asked about what part of the conference she enjoyed the most, Belinda Nguyen stated that she “…enjoyed building connections with industry professionals, such as Leo Szeto from Disney Imagineering and Mark Wehde from Mayo Clinic.” One thing that became apparent was the diversity in career choices. Seeing professionals from the creative realm in the same space as a healthcare company highlighted how highly varied the professions of individuals from the same industry can be. Everything is highly individual, yet every person has a role that is just as valid as the next. One can follow along and be inspired by the footsteps of others, but the essence of self-discovery is recognizing your individual talents and seeing how you can share that gift with the world.
Another key takeaway from the Rising Stars Conference was the novelty of purpose. When asked about the highlights of his experience at Rising Stars, Dwight Diesmo recalled that he enjoyed “the LinkedIn Architecture and Networking one where they explained what LinkedIn’s development architecture and style was… I know if I traveled back two years ago when I was going into app or web development that was something I was interested in finding out about.” LinkedIn is novel in the way that it provides something completely different from all other social media platforms. The conference manifested that vocation can be highly individual and can go beyond the realm of roles that currently exist.
Personally, I found the Rising Stars Conference to be inspirational because the majority of the high-caliber individuals who presented were ones who ended up on a path different than their initial trajectory. I felt comforted by this because their personal anecdotes on their perception of success seemed to mirror their contribution to the world, rather than financial grandiosity or prestigious titles. People came to the conference for a gamut of reasons, be it networking, learning, or professional development. I was primarily interested in hearing how successful people shaped their journeys. It reinstated to me the validity and importance of vocation over career and the importance of following what you feel like is your life’s purpose rather than simply checking off boxes and achieving quantified “success.”
All of the students on the IEEE Rising Star Conference benefited greatly. San Diego State University graciously supported the trip with the Student Success Fee. Fourteen students were able to come out to be motivated by industry professionals. The students of IEEE’s student branch at SDSU were so grateful to have their university learning outside of the classroom.