Skip to Content

Taking Your Career to the #NextLevel

By Emma Koefoed

Supporting Young Professionals Through Conversations, Inspiration, and a Few Mimosas

Valley Vision project coordinators Alejandra Gallegos and I attended Northern California’s largest conference for emerging leaders – the 2018 Emerge Summit on March 1st, an annual event produced by Metro Edge, a program of the Sacramento Metro Chamber Foundation. We were among hundreds of young professionals from Washington to Los Angeles, who descended into downtown Sacramento to listen, connect, and become inspired to take our careers to the next level.

Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs, at only 27 years old, delivered the most vibrant exchange and kicked off a day of profound speakers. Alejandra, a Stockton native, agreed with Tubbs’ remarks on “the importance of not despising small beginnings.” She liked that he emphasized how easy it is to become frustrated at the start of a career when many are hungry for experience, responsibilities, and growing quickly—something many young professionals struggle with and often face in their careers. Alejandra admires Tubbs’ resiliency and persistence displayed throughout his political career, which he claims stem from his own “small beginnings.”

With several different sessions happening throughout the day, Alejandra and I first made our way over to “Engaging Broad Audiences with Mimosas.” This session was an entertaining and candid conversation between Christine Calvin of the Crocker Art Museum, Tonja Candelaria of the Sacramento Zoo, Emily Williams of the Sacramento River Cats,  and Tracie Popma of the Sacramento Public Library. Moderated by Tina Reynolds of Uptown Studios, the women laughed and commiserated on the daily challenges they faced implementing PR strategies for the region and shared advice on how best to connect with broad audiences. We observed that of this panel of six dynamic women, all who hold top leadership roles focused on marketing strategies to the region’s diverse populations, none were representative of the diverse backgrounds they wish to reach. The panel admitted and recognized this dichotomy, and attributed their success in connecting to these audiences has been in part due to their dedication to empowering minority leaders and the work those leaders do. They explained that they could not claim to fully understand the culture of the demographics they are working with without including them on their team.

The panel discussed how young leaders, and organizations alike, should consider diversity as they grow. How do you address the “white elephant”? How can you best work towards inclusive community outreach? What steps can you take toward improving this system?”  Altogether, these women are self-motivated leaders in their industries and were able to bring forward their experiences, giving the audience perspective and insight into the complexities of marketing and public relations.

We also stopped in the “Accelerate Your Career to the Next Level” breakout, hosted by Chris Dito, Senior Director of Career Development at University of California Davis Graduate School of Management. This session concentrated on professionally leveling up through social media platforms and the assertion that this avenue is no longer just for personal leisure. With first impressions now made at the click of a button, utilizing these tools has become imperative to invest in a professional future. Dito suggests making your accounts as dynamic as your personality—be charismatic, powerful and warm—do not stop at the general labels provided as descriptors, or follow cookie cutter instructions when marketing yourself.

For young professionals like us, it can sometimes feel daunting to enter the workforce; the notion that young adults lack wisdom and experience inhibits many from excelling early in their careers.  However, Caliph Assagai, motivational speaker and Emerge emcee, stated at the closing of the event, “Fear of failure has killed more dreams than fear itself.”

The Emerge Summit spotlighted what empowerment can look like and how young professionals can take control of their careers. Overall this was a very constructive and exciting day. As staff members of Valley Vision, an organization dedicated to and passionate about making the region one of the most livable in the nation, Alejandra and I left feeling motivated and enthusiastic about investing in ourselves and careers.

We appreciate the sponsors and the nineteen organizations that came together to host the breakout sessions for supporting attendees’ goals to become active and engaged young professionals in the region.  Also, a big thank you to Metro EDGE and Sacramento Metro Chamber Foundation for hosting such an astounding event for Sacramento and Northern California. We can’t wait for Emerge 2019!

Also a big thank you to Alejandra Gallegos who helped me put this together. Her writing is blended throughout this piece and would not have been possible without her insight and assistance.


Emma Koefoed is a Valley Vision Project Associate contributing to the 21st Century Workforce and Healthy Communities strategies. 

Alejandra Gallegos is a Valley Vision Project Associate contributing to the Clean Economy and Healthy Communities strategies.