Upon being asked to submit an application to apply for a program with Massachusetts Institute Technology and approval from my team at the National Down Syndrome Society I submitted my application for the first round. When I made it to the second round I had to do a personal assignment about the social justice movement. Happily making it to the third and final round, I had a video interview. After the New Year when they made their selections to attend this wonderful program, LEAD20@MIT, Leadership in the Digital Age at the MIT Sloan Executive Education School put on by the Ruderman Family Foundation. I was extremely honored to have been chosen out of hundreds of applicants, as one of 30 people from around the world. It was a weeklong class.
I started out traveling very early on a Sunday morning to Boston. My friend and mentor attended with me. In the afternoon we all met in the lobby of the hotel to start meeting and introducing ourselves to others from Singapore, Canada, Israel, Brazil, California and England and all over the world and attend an orientation. That evening we took a bus to the John F Kennedy library for a guided tour. Following the tour, a room was set up for a buffet dinner and drinks. We met and mingled with other people we had not yet met. I did some networking and passed out some business cards that night. Additionally, to kick off the program they started with speakers to motivate us for the week ahead.
On Monday, the primary focus was on Leadership. It was an overview and they outlined experiences for networking and through storytelling. In the next session, Justice Richard Bernstein talked to us about his role in the differently abled community. The afternoon session was to maintain a public image as a leading disability advocate. The final session of the day was about voicing our values. That day I learned how to be a more effective and passionate leader, how to really share my story and drive it home. I also learned about high status and low status, high status, when you boost someone up. Low status is when you say I want to help you, you are bringing yourself to a low-status position. We also took a tour of the media lab, it was very cool to see all the different technical uses.
Monday we were introduced to our groups to work on different projects, the hashtag projects. We had to create a campaign, all the groups had to present at the end of the week. #whatsupdoc #disissexy #hiredis #accessforaccessiblity and #votedis. These were the projects we were working on all week, spreading our message to have these campaigns known not just to us but in the community as well.
Tuesday, the topic was on advocacy strategies. In the morning we accomplished learning circles, this was to recap from the previous day. This is where we were able to use persuasive communication to really present ourselves. In the afternoon we did strategic storytelling to articulate and inspire action as well as a workshop in pitches and making them memorable. I learned that the better pitch the more effective the communication is, the major key to becoming a positive and productive leader.
Wednesday was social media day and this is to enhance our platform choices, creation and content. In the afternoon we were talked about becoming an influencer and how we use our social media to persuade and drive action. That day we went to Google and listened to some speakers about the use of Google. This taught me the more active you are online the better and more of an impact you will have. This propels me to want to make my own content and do my own Instagram stories, make my own videos. I should be doing Facebook live more with my work travels and posting more.
Nearing the end of the week on Thursday, we recapped the day before in our learning circles. That day we had Daena Giardella come and do some exercises with us. This motivated us all day, it was improvisational leadership for different types of audiences. I attained more knowledge of just being yourself and showing what kind of a leader you are. That night we were able to have a team building exercise with the Paralympic coaches for Team USA, we actually got in the “shell” and rowed. After almost taking a couple of people out, I was actually able to sweep (row with one oar).
On Friday our final day, we again had our learning circles to go over what we did for the week and what we learned. We talked about the next steps for Link 20. We were the first group to be apart of the program, we talked about becoming alumni, to have reunions to come back and share with the group what we have been doing and bring back our perspective. We received our certificates for completing the class. This was truly one of the best experiences I have ever had and feel very honored to have been a part of it. It was bittersweet leaving these new friends but know we will stay connected through social media.