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Venturing Beyond the Classroom: Lessons I Learned from the World Business Forum

Photo of Lilyan Zebib BBA student standing in front of a building in New York City.

I recently had the honor of attending the World Business Forum in New York City. This conference brought together 3,000 business leaders to discuss the most relevant management topics in today's business world. Although this event was targeted towards business executives, I was given the privilege of attending through a sponsorship from the Ross School of Business Office of Executive Education. Additionally, the Michigan Ross BBA council has a wonderful resource that offers students financial support for attending professional conferences. After turning in my application, I received a grant of $500 toward transportation and rooming costs. 

While at the event, I had the opportunity of networking with business executives from around the world. Considering most attend through company sponsorships, it seemed I was the only student at the event. During our coffee chat breaks between panelists, I visited tables from tech companies who taught me about new technology programs that advance organization. I was also invited to a Ross alumni networking dinner where I got to speak with graduates in the New York area to learn about their experience post graduation. One person I met was a marketer at L’Oréal who gave me amazing insight into how she was able to utilize the experiences gained from our marketing classes to excel at her role as a marketer. At this networking session, Dr. Marcus Collins, one of our esteemed professors, interviewed Wu-Tang Clan, Inspectah Deck, where I got to hear about his experience in the music industry.

At the conference I had the opportunity to watch Jim Collins, an American author and management consultant. His presentation centered on harnessing his concept of The Flywheel Effect to drive business growth. Drawing a parallel with the mechanical device, he emphasized the significant effort required to build momentum for a business, ultimately leading to breakthroughs and compounding results. Another speaker that made a mark on me was Ginni Rometty, the former CEO of IBM, who delved into the concept of servant leadership. What most stood out was her distinction between serving someone and being “of service” to someone. Being a servant leader involves actively engaging with team members, empowering them, and cultivating an environment for growth, as opposed to adopting a subordinate role. 

Most notably, I listened to Dr. Marcus Collins discuss the weight of brand marketing to leaders from every sector of business. When harnessed effectively, marketing becomes a powerful tool for crafting culturally significant brands that resonate with their followers and enrich our collective identities. Recognizing this connection is not only essential for understanding consumer behavior, but for understanding ourselves as well. Being in the audience, not just as a spectator but as one of his students, instilled a deep sense of pride in being a Michigan Wolverine, a Ross BBA, but more than anything, pride in being a marketer.

The conference inspired me to stay up to date with innovations like sustainable agriculture and artificial intelligence technologies. Being around disruptive leaders reminded me of the endless possibilities of business innovation there is when I decide to take risks and try new things outside of the status quo. It also offered many new perspectives on technology, management, and marketing that I will revisit as I grow in my business career.  I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to have attended this conference, and aspire to one day follow the path of the thought leaders I met, utilizing my own educational pursuits to inspire innovation.

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