Student Leadership Conference: inspiring future leaders

[Kealie Mardell | Print Editor]

The first ever Student Leadership Conference saw two keynote speakers, three breakout workshop sessions, an opening speech from Jack Amos, VP Democracy and Services, and the return of Michael Gillett, previous VP Comms and Media and SU President, as the compère for the evening.

Hosted by Hertfordshire Students’ Union on Tuesday 4th November, the free event was open by invitation only to student representatives and committee members from Societies, Volunteering, Trident Media, Athletic Union and Part Time Officers.

Amos welcomed students and began by asking who present would consider themselves a leader. With a few hands raised, he shared his own leadership journey, including positions such as Program Director for Crush Radio, Raise and Give Officer, and Student Trustee. Explaining the difference between a manager and a leader, Amos asked who felt they had inspired and motivated others, and a room full of leaders raised their hands.

Nathan Ghann, first class Hertfordshire graduate and inspirational speaker, took to the stage for the first keynote speech. He also shared his own success story, and the challenges he had to overcome, which you can read more about in an exclusive interview with BlueMoon. As one of the Top 10 Most Outstanding Graduates in the UK, Ghann had plenty of advice for his fellow student leaders.

“I’m here today to tell you that it’s possible to get the best degree and shine in your individual societies and teams,” he said. “What got me my job was everything that wasn’t on my degree; It was starting the Entrepreneurial Society, it was the work I had done creating a business, it was everything I had done outside of my degree.”

Ghann stressed the importance of demonstrating your skills. While everyone says that they have certain skills, whether that’s communication, negotiation, or marketing, it is about demonstrating how and when you have used those skills, something that those who have led a society or student group are able to do.

“You are the few of the thousands of students that go to this university who are going above and beyond in those areas,” he said. “Harness those opportunities, every single thing that happens this year counts…You have the potential to take your life to the next level from what you learn today.”

Students then broke out into the first of their two workshop choices. The options were Communication and Marketing, Project and Event Management, or Fundraising and Budgeting. Hertfordshire Students’ Union designed and delivered each session, aiming to build essential skills for university and beyond.

Returning to their seats in the Forum Auditorium, students welcomed the second keynote speaker Fraser Doherty, creator of the SuperJam brand, who told the story of his entrepreneurial success which began aged just 14 in his grandmother’s kitchen.

“When I was 14 I just thought it was fascinating that I could make something and sell it,” he said. “My parents always said the most important thing in life was to find something you love.”

He is now the youngest ever supplier to a major supermarket, and has been named ‘Global Student Entrepreneur of The Year’. The SuperJam brand has also developed a new recipe book, smartphone app, and has even launched hundreds of free SuperJam Tea Parties across the UK for elderly people who live alone or in care.

Doherty urged students to follow their dreams, and stressed the importance of finding a good mentor, “someone who has been there before and can offer you advice,” to help you on your journey.

Opening the floor to questions, one student asked how and when Doherty cultivated a team for the SuperJam business, essentially making the change from an independent entrepreneur to a leader.

“In the very beginning I did everything,” he said. “As the business grew, I had to figure out what is the part that I have to do, that I’m passionate about and good at, and then find people to do everything else…The important thing is to find people who are better than you to do the other parts of the business.”

Doherty also emphasised the importance of motivating your team: “It wouldn’t have been possible if I hadn’t been able to find them and motivate them to join me on this adventure. I think it helps if you can motivate people to think that they are part of something bigger than just a job.”

Some students grabbed a signed copy of Doherty’s book before heading to the second of their workshops, rounding off what was an informative and inspirational evening, equipped with the skills needed to take their societies and student groups further.

Hertfordshire Students’ Union plans to use student feedback from this event to develop the return of the Student Leadership Conference in the future.

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Student Leadership Conference: inspiring future leaders