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From right: Co-chair Hilary Coles ’16, 7-Eleven President and CEO Joe DePinto ’99, Kellogg Dean Sally Blount ’92, Silicon Valley Connect Managing Director Ellen Levy and Co-chair Michael Hartley ’16.

By Hilary Coles

“Never stop preparing.”

Those were the words of encouragement I received before taking the stage from Robert Swan, the first man to walk unsupported to the North and South Poles and the final keynote speaker at the first ever Kellogg on Growth forum.

The moment you stop preparing, Swan said, is the moment you lose — wise words from a man who has seen his one mode of transportation sink, lost his vision from sun blindness and saved the lives of his teammates.

When I first learned about the Kellogg on Growth forum, it was in the midst of fall quarter of my first year. Though I knew I had chosen a world-class school, I was floored by the resources available to us as students, the quality of our professors and the opportunities the Kellogg network opened for us. The forum seemed like the perfect way to show the world outside Kellogg the caliber of our program.

Having run galas and fundraising events for 2,000 people in my previous job, I felt my background was one that could add value and create a high-production value experience worthy of my classmates’ time. I was fortunate to be named student co-chair of the event and was thrilled to have a way to give back to the community that had already given me so much.

Once selected, Michael Hartley (my co-chair) and I dove into the planning and quickly caught up on where the administration landed for the debut of this hallmark event. It was particularly interesting to meet with the faculty steering committee and hear their perspectives on what knowledge today’s business leaders need to arm themselves with – and how Kellogg on Growth could add focus and depth to the student experience.

We were also impressed by the flexibility the administration and faculty offered in considering diverse panelists (some without business backgrounds), topics and themes (high technology was really encouraged to reflect the burgeoning role it is playing in post-MBA job choices). The steering committee made it clear from the beginning that we were looking to shake up the traditional conference experience and produce something surprising, challenging and thoughtful. This openness was what caught the attention of our group of 30+ student leaders who worked with boundless enthusiasm to create the first ever Kellogg on Growth.

Kellogg on Growth was an unprecedented collaboration between administration, faculty and students, with more administrative oversight than any other Kellogg event. Understanding the needs of all the players involved (sponsors, administration, speakers and students) was an incredible experience in stakeholder management. Finally, given that the event evolved and changed throughout its inception to execution really underscored the necessity to stay flexible in today’s workplace in order to deliver on your plan in the most successful way.

The final production this past November was the result of thousands of hours put in by our phenomenal student teams, administration and faculty. We learned to be flexible as we evolved the structure of the event in order to deliver the highest quality experience possible, and build a legacy going forward for Kellogg on Growth to, well, grow into.

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Hilary Coles is a second-year student in Kellogg’s Two-Year MBA program. In addition to Kellogg on Growth, she is on the exec team for the Strategy and Business Development Club and co-President of the Kellogg Boxing Club. She is originally from Toronto.