I was able to go to Fast Company's Innovation Week last week (thank you fast co!), for 2 out of 3 days of the festival. Here are a few highlights from some of my favorite presentations:
"these aren't just stories. these are human beings"
One of the best talks by far was with Hamdi Ulukaya, CEO and founder of Chobani. Hamdi spoke about growing up in Turkey, and his risk of purchasing a factory in upstate New York (which later became Chobani). His explanation of how the company began simply started with painting the walls of the factory, after having no idea how to start. He explained, "as you start to walk out on the way, the way appears" (Rumi). Between giving away shares of his stock to all employees (including factory workers), to giving all parents (both men and women) 6 weeks maternity leave, to hiring hundreds of refugee workers, this discussion confirmed my belief further that Chobani is one of the most amazing companies out there. He gave an example of a story, about two Afghanistan refugees who were able to rebuild their lives in the United States after finding a steady job at Chobani. Hamdi was hilarious, charming, and giving. I hate greek yogurt but damn do I love Chobani.
"I saw the utility bill so we turned off the lights and painted the wall."
Additional reads about Chobani:
New York Times, For Helping Immigrants, Chobani’s Founder Draws Threats
"i couldn't get a job because i was too weird"
I love Cher. I knew Cher's talk would be fantastic and of course it was. She started off briefly discussing the beginning of her career. How clubs hated her, how she constantly failed, creating her own clothing and style, and her rise to fame. Attention was later switched to her humanitarian efforts, which I have to admit I didn't know much about. These include donating water to Flint during the on-going water crisis and saving endangered elephants in Pakistan.
Later she spoke about her campaign with Hillary Clinton and used her platform to talk abut the danger she believes Donald Trump is for our country. Cher's foul language, brutal honesty, and strong opinions just made me love her more (because really, who the hell doesn't love Cher). Cher also talked about her love for emojis (which she refers to as modern hieroglyphics), and joining twitter in her late 60's. Cher will forever be timeless.
"trump is an asshole, actually calling him an asshole is too dignified."
Links to some content about what Cher as been doing:
Billboard, Cher Talks Donating Water to Crisis-Struck Flint, Michigan
"they started calling me kt&t"
The talk I was most surprised by was Joe Jonas, Kevin Jonas and Phil Mcintyre. As someone that doesn't listen to pop music, or really know much about the Jonas Brothers, truthfully I didn't have much of an interest in going to this discussion. I was already at the venue and it started in 15 minutes so I figured I would sit in on it briefly. I completely under estimated how interesting this would be. Some topics they touched on were the break up of the Jonas Brothers, Kevin's confusion on what he wanted to do with this life going forward, and his future in the world of building and creating apps. Kevin also spoke about difficulty being taken seriously as a professional, coming from his pop music fame. I was unaware about the Jonas gaming app, and how push-notifications are used as a marketing tool to promote new music and music videos. Phil and Joe also talked about how important honesty is when collaborating, and having blunt conversations about what is best for each individual (even if that includes parting ways).
I'm so sad I missed Regina Dugan and Princess Reema Bint Bandar Al-Saud on day three but here are some links to what these amazing women are doing.
Wage gaps, lack of women in tech positions, and the lack of women in high-power positions was a topic in more than one lecture, (including with CEO of PepsiCo, Indra Nooyi; Karlie Kloss of Klossy; Cher and more). As someone in the design world, I've seen so many lectures and conference discussions that were vast majority men. I think Indra Nooyi said it well when she claimed that for women to be just as successful as a man, she has to work 25-35% harder than a man with the exact same position.
I was really happy to see this become a topic of a larger conversation and loved seeing how many women and people of color Fast Company had on their stage. Bravo.