Scene Report: Vermont Young Professionals Summit

Sarah O Donnell, BBA’s Director of Programming and Member Engagement, attended the Vermont Young Professionals Summit this past Saturday in Rutland, VT. Sarah wrote up a summary of her day at the event:

The Summit  at the Paramount Theater

I had the opportunity to meet and connect with young professionals from all over Vermont this past weekend at the VT Young Professionals Summit event, which took place in downtown Rutland at the Paramount Theater and surrounding locations. I was particularly interested in this event, both being a “young professional” myself but also as a resource for BBA’s Pub Talks group, which is our young professional group, which I meet with monthly in Burlington.

The summit kicked off with a presentation by Secretary of the Agency of Commerce and Community Development, Mike Schirling. Mike is a member of BBA’s Board of Directors, so it was exciting to see him talk about his current role and what the outlook is for the state, highlighting both the challenges we face as well as the opportunities and strengths of our brave little state. Hitting on topics that impact Vermont’s Young professionals, including things like housing, demographic trends and what our aging population means for our work force. Mike encouraged the audience to send ideas, questions and concerns to representatives, as well as to his office and reminded the audience of how important it is that young people have a voice in government. I laughed when Mike modestly noted that, when it comes to getting government’s attention surrounding any particular issue, “they’re more likely to listen to you guys than they are to me”.

For the morning break out sessions, I decided to attend the “Building your professional career in VT” session, and found Krysta Sadowski of Gallagher Flynn’s presentation very informative. Krysta looked at the Vermont demographic and jobs data to show how different trends will affect the jobs market. Some key take aways included the fact that there is a disconnect, or what Krysta referred to as a “visibility issue” that leads to two sides of an issue with very different perspectives- there is a high demand for workers in Vermont, but for many job seekers it seems that the jobs available are limited. This particular issue stems from a lack of communications in getting jobs posted and visible, and is likely worth a deeper dive.  I’ve invited Kristen to speak at one of our upcoming Pub Talks meetings to learn more. Another piece that stood out was the reminder that there are opportunities tied to the demographic shifts that Vermont’s trends are pointing to- i.e. the majority of baby boomers will be retiring in the next 20 years; this will open up opportunities and a strong need for young professionals to step into leadership roles in a way that no generation has before. Krysta underlined the importance of preparing for this shift by gaining as much experience and education as possible so that our generation can meet the demands of this accelerated path to leadership.

Mary Powell gave an insightful and inspiring keynote, in which she talked about her ‘untraditional’ path to leadership. It was refreshing to hear from the CEO of a nationally recognized company like Green Mountain Power about her background in the arts (my two degrees in Sculpture immediately sprung to mind) and what she humbly referred to as having “no fancy degrees”.  Mary emphasized following your contribution over following your passion, and letting this guide you through your career. She also emphasized the need for self care- and ensuring that you take care of your emotional, mental and physical health so that you are in a good place to be able to meet the demands of your professional career.

I had the opportunity to have lunch with others who have started and lead YP groups from all over the state, and look forward to pursuing those connections to help create a wider reach for this community. Afternoon sessions followed on topics such as creating an entrepreneurial ecosystem, and a panel discussion on non-profits, both of which were insightful and educational. Overall I enjoyed my first time in downtown Rutland, and came away from the YP Summit feeling re-energized. Vermont certainly has it’s challenges, but with an engaged community of young people who are seeking to successfully live and work in a state they love, there’s a feeling of intentionality and a desire to play an active role in their communities that I deeply appreciate.


BBA’s Young Professional group, Pub Talks meets the second Thursday of each month at Citizen Cider. If you’re interested in getting involved, please email [email protected]