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  • Writer's pictureSamantha Colon & Jillian Stern

POV: SHFM Young Professionals Summit

From Two First-Time Attendees

Hello everyone! Sam and Jillian here! We had the pleasure of attending this year’s Society for Hospitality and Foodservice Management Young Professionals Summit, and we’re here to tell you all about it.

Last Thursday, we put on our dresses and heels, hopped in the car, and headed from elite|studio e’s headquarters on Long Island to The Big Apple!

This was not only both of our first time at the Young Professional Summit, but any SHFM event! We were able to experience this for the first time together and want to share some takeaways from the event.

The Summit was organized in a way that we were able to hear a variety of members speak, one of which being our very own company President & COO Ivan Weiss, who chaired the event. The day then transitioned into a panel, a networking break, and finally, small group discussions.

The panel was comprised of four influential people in the industry, sharing some insight on how to get to where you want to be, what to look for in a workplace environment, taking risks and general life advice.

A common theme of the discussion was risk taking. The bigger the risk you take, the bigger the yield. Sometimes the risks might not go as planned. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t. Often times, people are stuck in their comfort zones so there isn’t much motivation to move forward, take that risk, and excel in your career in ways, you could have never even imagined. You never know what a risk could lead to!

A great example of this was our very own, Raquel Weiss Fusco, speaking to her personal experiences with risk. Seven years ago, Raquel retired her red pens and lesson plans, and made a career switch from teaching to business. She has proven successful in more aspects than one. In a few short years within the foodservice industry, she became the Treasurer of SHFM, and it was just confirmed she will be President-Elect for the 2022-2023 Board Officers, on route to being the president. Being her most authentic self, Raquel rose to the occasion, and built a successful team, while serving as a great mentor to others at elite|studio e and SHFM as an organization.

We learned that some of the most successful leaders surround themselves with people who can replace them. Chef and innovator Einav Gefen shared with us that everyone on her team could replace her. One person on her team is just as talented as the next. This is so important because as professionals, sometimes there are sentiments that you are replaceable, but to work amongst those who can replace you will only make you better in the work setting and as a person. She was also speaking about being your most authentic self. It helps you to stand out and be vulnerable in your career.

One quote that was beautifully articulated by chef Einav was:

“You are most successful as your most authentic self. It takes a lot of energy to not be yourself.”

The panelists expressed the importance of building a professional network of people in and around your age to relate to and learn from. It is a tool for growth as a leader. And as leader, you should have a, “how can we help each other” mentality, rather than "how can you help me", will launch you so much further. For example, not, “how can I use you to get to the top” but hold hands and learn together. Having people, you know you can rely on and call when you need help is invaluable.

Overall, it was an overwhelmingly positive experience. With both of us being new to this side of the foodservice industry (Sam focuses on Project Design and Jillian on Marketing), some of our biggest takeaways were that we can catapult from collaboration, and gain inspiration from the perspectives and experiences of those around us. This can be stretched and applied to almost all industries. We gained insight on how to build ourselves up and improve both personally and professionally and be our own advocates.

Thank you so much to all the panelists and those attending that shed a bit of light on their journeys, being transparent about their trials, and sharing what worked for them along the way. We met some great people in the industry and can't wait to participate in future events like the NYC holiday party, which is right around the corner!

Pictured on the right is the crew representing elite|studio e (from left): Aaron Weiss, Raquel Weiss Fusco, Ivan Weiss, Samantha Colon and Jillian Stern.

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