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Recap from Innovate Raleigh

[lead]On September 10, the Fourth Annual Innovate Raleigh event kicked off in City Market Hall. The O3 team was well-represented by our senior SEO manager, Casey, one of our senior web designers, Jose, and our junior developer, Carlo. Here’s a look at their experience, as told by Casey.[/lead]

The day started off with an elite group of panelists leading an exceptional exploration on inclusivity with community professionals in the Triangle regarding inclusivity for organizations and the future of Raleigh culture.

The Raleigh Development Panel included:

  • John Kane, Kane Realty Corporation
  • Sam Crutchfield, Grubb Ventures
  • Patrice Gilmore, Holt Brothers Construction
  • John Holmes, Hobby Properties
  • Katharine Hogan, Tonic design | Tonic Construction
  • Moderated by Mitchell Silver, NYC Parks Commissioner (former Raleigh Planning Director)

To kick things off, the panelists were presented with the question, “What is Raleigh’s cultural identity?” which immediately spiraled into a multitude of conversations between summit attendees and redevelopment leaders. The panel incorporated a plethora of definitions for the Raleigh culture and direction that included: technology hub, higher education resource, creative outlet, environmental activist, and suburban to urban transformation. Being a young professional working in search marketing for a creative agency, I was able to connect with all of these core culture tenets. But, perhaps the most interesting insight came from Sam Crutchfield of Grubb Ventures: “Raleigh is in a teenager phase.”  This struck a chord with summit attendees because it became clear that Raleigh’s identity is young and still evolving.

The discussion evolved into one of focused analysis on the areas of growth still needed for Raleigh. Successful projects like North Hills were highlighted, and panel members discussed how our community can replicate this type of growth. John Kane (the mastermind behind North Hills) differentiated “lifestyle affiliated development” from just generational development. I found this statement to be one of the key ingredients to the redevelopment of North Hills because it demonstrates the need to provide improvements for all ages and generations.

Raleigh is consistently generating outside praise as a desirable place to live. However, the key is that visionary leaders have made, and continue to make, our community a unique place.  Our community is privileged to have such a diverse and talented group of leaders involved in the redevelopment and growth of Raleigh. It was clear to me (both as a summit attendee and Raleigh lover) that the goal of our city leaders is advancement to design an attractive area where people want to move and STAY.

Keynote Takeaway – Diversity + Inclusion

Nzinga Shaw, keynote speaker, is the Atlanta Hawks’ Chief Diversity + Inclusion Officer.  With an extensive background in creating a cross-departmental program, Nzinga spoke on the value of diversity and inclusion for good business.
Nzinga captivated with lessons from her time in HR-affiliated roles within the NBA. With the backdrop of adversity during racial controversy, she spoke of her strategies to enhance diversity by creating teams. This included not only color and race, but also backgrounds and experiences.

“You don’t have to have a career path. Experience can take you there.” – Nzinga Shaw

I learned a lot regarding developing a core team of diverse people and capitalizing on their differences to grow business success. Through bringing experiences together you create innovation and change. Nzinga’s approach to meeting professionals where they are, rather than making them meet a generic expectation within our society, was thought-provoking for many Raleigh employers.

Leadership Labs – Storytelling + Connecting

After Nzinga ended her presentation, summit attendees separated into randomly selected groups led by a company executive or founder. Innovate Raleigh provided an impressive platform for open dialogue allowing community leaders to connect with local professionals.

Lab 1: Steve Burriss, Rex Healthcare – President

Being a group of four, this lab allowed for real conversation to grow. Talk about diversity! I was the only design professional at a table full of devout education leaders. It was inspiring to see the president of REX Healthcare being so involved in a local Raleigh event, and his transparency with our group was refreshing. There was plenty of collaboration between a UNC Chapel Hill professor, a Raleigh Chamber communications leader, and a Wake Tech recruitment program manager about the improvements needed in the Triangle for tech education for students and new graduates. As a digital marketing professional, it was exciting to observe these passionate people leading the growth of our community’s coming generations.

Lab 2: Sterling M. Ingui, Fidelity Labs at Fidelity Investments – Director Product Management

The dynamic of this group was much different from the first, which I enjoyed. The lab consisted of an extremely diverse group of professionals from the Triangle, both ones just starting out in along with seasoned veterans. Sterling was an incredible leader in this group, steering the conversation around diversity and personal experience. Additionally, our brief storytelling session lead to strong connections. The varied fields included a City of Raleigh leader, start-up tech entrepreneurs, interior design professionals, marketing consultants, and ambitious students.

Innovate Raleigh: A Home Run

Innovate Raleigh knocked this annual summit out of the park! The O3 team gained extensive knowledge of the future development of Raleigh, the rewards of diversity in business, and gained connections with talented individuals in our community. It was a pleasure to watch the creative minds in this room work together to define our community’s present and future.

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