ashoka pitch hero

When I was in college, I was really active in extracurricular activities – from being a mentor to local students to helping to solve my region’s social challenges. As I began my first job at LinkedIn, I didn’t expect my work experience would be expansive enough to include similar activities. To my pleasant surprise, I was wrong.

As part of LinkedIn’s Global Sales Organization University program – a sales rotational program for recent graduates — leading these types of initiatives is encouraged. LinkedIn’s culture of transformation encourages employees to pursue their passions at work and to contribute to LinkedIn’s vision of economic opportunity beyond our day-to-day jobs.

This week, I had the opportunity to host 50 Bay Area college and high school students for a day at LinkedIn for a “Be A Changemaker Bootcamp” event. The students worked alongside local professionals and social entrepreneurs, learning about our region’s toughest challenges and designing venture ideas to help solve them. I led this event in partnership with Ashoka’s Youth Venture, an organization that supports young people in developing “changemaker” skills of teamwork, leadership, problem-solving and empathy, because I was looking for a different way to support my local community. I wanted to give back to students and education on a deeper level, and become a part of the problem-solving process for addressing social issues in the Bay Area.

Early in the day, I was reminded that no matter your age, these problems are not easy to solve. Everyone at the event struggled to see clear solutions to big, systemic problems like homelessness, inequality, and the environment.

However, I left the event blown away by the passion and capabilities of the students attending the event. They jumped into issues with gusto and fresh perspective, asked “why not?” with an open mind in response to their peers’ ideas.

The day-long bootcamp concluded with a lightning-round pitch competition where students shared their ideas in front of a seriously charged judging panel including LinkedIn’s VP of Global Sales Brian Frank, Associate Director of Health Quality and Outcomes at Boehringer-Ingelheim Debbie Lin, and Miguel Sossa, Accenture Sustainability Strategy Consultant.

The students came up with remarkable ideas to reduce incarceration rates for young men through international community service projects and increase internship and research opportunities for community college students by partnering with local businesses and four-year universities. I was so inspired by these students’ heartfelt pitches, and their passion to make social impact a part of their future and the future of their communities.

What was most inspiring to me is that just one year ago, I would have been sitting in those students’ seats in the boot camp. Today, I’m living and working in the Bay Area where I have the privilege and opportunity to help students who want to make a difference in the world find their passions, determine the problems they want to solve, and start acting on them.

ashoka youth ventures hero