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Taking Part in a Millennial Think Tank

Bill and Gene
Bill Imada and Gene Mance

What’s the most common “millennial myth” Eugene Mance would like to dispel? “That we have it easy and we’re lazy,” says the Bryan School senior, set to begin his second year as a National Millennial Community (NMC) representative. “For us, some things may be easier with all the technology in our lives, but we don’t have an easier track. Every generation has something previous ones did not have. Before cars were invented, transportation was more difficult, but that doesn’t mean people with cars suddenly became lazy and unambitious, right?”

Millennials have a lot to offer, especially in the business world, according to Mance. That’s why the National Millennial Community, a national group of university students, is so important. Last year, Mance and three other Bryan School students had opportunities to meet in “think tank conversations” with Fortune 500 companies’ executives to share perspectives on what millennials want out of their workplaces, how to retain this generation’s top talent, the importance of diversity, and more. UNCG is the only school in North Carolina that was selected to participate in the NMC.

Founded in 2015 by Bill Imada, chairman and chief connectivity officer of IW Group, NMC is a “community of millennial thinkers who strive to change the conversation about the millennial generation.”

Mance met with executives from companies such as the Walt Disney Company, Paramount, NBC Universal, Golin International, Wells Fargo, and AT&T. In addition to asking their student consultants questions, executives gave tours, introduced them to company leaders, sought feedback on new products, and encouraged them to stay in touch about potential employment.

MILLENNIAL THINKERS, MILLENNIAL DO-ERS

Jim Skinner ’18 MBA, a 2017-18 NMC representative, says he was thrilled to contribute to conversations with top executives at organizations like Comcast, Lockheed Martin, and even the White House. “The executives were genuinely interested in learning more from my perspective. They seemed eager to enlist our help in developing meaningful change.”

Skinner says most discussions revolved around company culture, societal changes, consumer trends, and millennial purchasing decisions. He was impressed with the openness of the dialogue.

“Being part of NMC was an opportunity to reflect the diversity of our nation’s young people, especially a diversity of thought,” he says.

Contrary to what some may say, Skinner feels that millennials are among the most motivated generations, but in different ways than previous generations. Mance agrees.

DISPELLING MYTHS AND CREATING VALUE

The Bryan School’s participation in NMC demonstrates a willingness to invest in students beyond the classroom, according to Skinner.

“Classes are important, but much of the collegiate experience is what happens outside traditional coursework,” he says. “I participated because I believe I have an obligation to share my perspective and have tough conversations regarding social and business issues people face every day.”

Today’s workplace is characterized by ever-changing trends and diverse preferences that arise when multiple generations work together, adds Lasse Palomäki ’18 MBA, another NMC representative.

“I was eager to hear how executives tackle issues that this multi-generational setting creates,” he explains. “As a student ambassador, I responded to questions the organizations had for us and raised new considerations that may impact the way they operate.”

Millennials are future-minded, early adopters of new technologies and ideas, and individuals who drive change in organizations and society, according to Palomäki. They listen to new ideas respectfully while discussing new perspectives concurrently.

“There are a multitude of misconceptions about millennials, but also some facts that organizations are aware of but don’t know how to handle. These conversations help organizations dispel myths and learn how to deal with and create value through millennial characteristics.”