Event Recap: The Black Executive Exchange Program Conference

By Lauren Legette


The 2013 Black Executive Exchange Program held it’s 44th Annual Conference in Orlando, FL and I had the pleasure of attending the event representing the New York Urban League Young Professionals.

The 3-day conference was jam packed with words of enlightenment from a host of successful African American business men and women. Among them, were 3 keynote speakers, Jerri DeVard, David Johns and Janet Rolle. Together, these phenomenal speakers shared 3 of the most important tasks a young professional must achieve in order to become successful in their career: (1) create a plan, (2) give back to your community and (3) stay true to your values.

Jerri DeVard, a Senior Marketing Executive, spoke about her career in the Marketing industry at a number of notable companies that have become stepping stones to the creation of her own facility, the DeVard Marketing Group. Jerri told a moving testimony of her failures throughout her career which allowed for a skeletal look at her growth. She stressed the importance of developing and achieving a 5-year plan and continuing to raise the bar for yourself. Developing a plan allows you to look ahead to what is next in your path. Without looking ahead, one does not move towards anything and therefore prevents any growth.

David Johns, Executive Director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans, spoke to us about the importance of educational excellence within our community. As a graduate of Columbia University and a key player in the White House, it was interesting to learn Mr. Johns began his career as a kindergarten teacher. He shared that his time in the classroom was one of the most monumental experiences in his career because he experienced the delicacy of young minds. Mr. Johns spoke about our responsibility to give back to the community and close the achievement gap in our different professions. The idea that “it takes a village” is not just a cute mantra; it is our purpose.

Lastly, and perhaps the speaker who inspired me the most was Janet Rolle, former Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer at CNN Worldwide. Her message stressed the importance of identifying your top core values and pursuing your professional aspirations as they align with your personal values. She spoke about how her love for dance translated to identifying her three core values: creativity, passion and freedom. Those values have taken her on a roller coaster of notable positions at some of the best companies in the world. Never drifting from her 3 core values, Janet has become one of the most powerful women in the media industry. But it hasn’t been easy. Identifying only 3 important values is challenging and requires a lot of evaluation and reflection; but it is such a rewarding experience.

So to any young professional looking to truly invest in their professional growth, try these three steps. I guarantee you’ll see a change for the better.

About the Author, Lauren Legette

Lauren Legette is a graduate of Hampton University where she obtained a Bachelor of Arts in Broadcast Journalism.  She is currently working for a television network in New York City.

About the BEEP Conference

Established in 1969, BEEP is the arm of the National Urban League that provides an opportunity to share learning and experience across generations, cultivate new leaders and inspire achievements beyond the present. It enables African American students to interface and network with African American business professionals to prepare for careers in corporate America. Learn more about BEEP 2014 here.


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