Musings from a Former Future Leader
March 19, 2012
By: Peter W. van der Schans, Future Leader Alumnus
The ECC’s Future Leader program is much talked about… but why? Can you attest to the benefits of this program? As a Future Leader Alumnus, I can. In recent years, the feedback from participants in the ECC’s Future Leaders program has been overwhelmingly positive. My experience was in line with that – I had a fantastic experience in the ECC Future Leaders program while I was enrolled from 2009 to 2011. The experiences I had with the people and the programs were very valuable to my personal and professional growth and will stay with me forever.
When my company nominated me as a Future Leader in 2009, I had already missed the Future Leaders mid-year meeting that takes place in March, and my first event was the Annual Conference. Fortunately, my employer continued to participate as a sponsor for the ECC Conference in 2010 and 2011, which enabled me to fully participate in the ECC Future Leaders program. In my subsequent two years in the program, I participated in everything that was available – the mid-year meeting, some additional networking happy hours, the conference planning teams, and the full Future Leaders and ECC conference events.
Based on my experience, some of the highlights of the program are:
- Great networking: Shannon Johnson talked about the value of networking on this blog in December. I could not agree more. And the ECC Conference provides a great venue for networking. With active participation in the Future Leader group, you have an additional avenue for networking and the opportunity to work with your new connections.
- Wednesday Forum: This is an additional day of the conference just for the Future Leaders, focused on thought leadership training. This is organized almost entirely by the Future Leaders during the months preceding the conference. In my second and third year in the program, I participated on the planning team for the Wednesday Forum, which was a great learning experience. Each year I have attended, the topics have been timely and interesting and exposure to the industry leaders proved to be exciting and educational.
- Smaller, more intimate group than the larger ECC audience: The relatively small group of Future Leaders creates a more intimate setting for getting to know each other. As I transition out of the Future Leader program, I’m looking forward to getting together with Future Leader “alumni” at the upcoming ECC Conference in San Antonio.
- More in common with peer group: Most of the Future Leaders are in their 30s and 40s, while the overall ECC conference is generally skewed higher than that. With similar life and professional experiences as other Future Leaders, we were able to bond on an even level.
- Future Leaders cocktail hour: This isn’t just for the cocktails! To kickoff the Future Leader portion at the conference, we gather for a cocktail hour to catch up with old friends and meet the new Future leaders. In addition, the ECC board members attend this event, giving you the opportunity to mingle with some of the industry’s top leaders, in a much smaller setting. With a dynamic and exciting group, and of course the cocktails, this is a great way to kick off the conference, and was one of my favorite events of the conference.
- Conference forums by Future Leaders: During the actual ECC Conference, there are two forums that are put on by the Future Leaders. These forums are completely developed, produced, and put on by Future Leaders. Though I was not on these particular teams, I attend their forums each year and always enjoyed the content, as well as the opportunity to support other Future Leaders.
After three years in the program, I am no longer a “Future Leader.” The joke with the alumni is that now that we have graduated, we might be an actual LEADER now. Whether that’s true or not, I do believe that my time as a Future Leader helped my leadership skills, improved my networking abilities, and gave me great exposure to a wide variety of people in the industry.