Get Smarter Conference: 50 Ideas in 50 Minutes

Get Smarter: Talent Development & Education

BizTimes Media will spotlight the expertise of southeastern Wisconsin’s top young business leaders during its 2015 Get Smarter Talent Development Conference on Tuesday, Oct. 27.

The annual conference gives the region’s young professionals an opportunity to tap into the insight of successful young leaders and absorb their tokens of career and business advice.

This year’s event, to be held at Potawatomi Hotel & Casino, will roll out with rapid-fire presentations comprised of 50 Ideas in 50 Minutes. The event has evolved from a morning jump starter to an afternoon and evening recharger, running from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m.

Within 50 minutes, attendees will learn about ideas that can advance their companies’ intellectual capital, improve their business operations and performance, and enhance their leadership teams.

Behind those ideas are:

  1. Abby Andrietsch, executive director, Schools That Can Milwaukee
  2. Rick Barrett, owner, Barrett Lo Visionary Development
  3. Matt Cordio, founder, Startup Milwaukee, Skills Pipeline and The Commons
  4. Darienne Driver, Ed.D., superintendent of schools, Milwaukee Public Schools
  5. Marc Gorelick, COO, Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin
  6. Katie Perhach, Milwaukee office managing partner, Quarles & Brady LLP
  7. James Phelps, principal in charge, JCP Construction
  8. Omar Shaikh, co-owner and president, SURG Restaurant Group

Shaikh has been among the leaders at the helm of SURG Restaurant Group for more than a decade. Included in his top pieces of advice for young professionals is making time to get involved in the community through board representation and organizational participation. Good starting places are Newaukee and FUEL Milwaukee, he said.

Shaikh also said giving back to the community without expecting anything back is important, as is “taking the high road” in every situation.

“Whether you’re a CEO or holding your first job outside of college, this is a principle I have lived my life by,” Shaikh said. “It certainly is not the easiest road, but in the long run it will pay huge dividends.”

Cordio, a force in the region’s startup landscape, said it is an “exciting time” to be a young professional in Milwaukee, as major investments and developments sweep through the city.

Among the words of advice he will pass on to Get Smarter attendees is the need to network across the city and establish relationships with key mentors.
“Have a solid group of mentors you can lean on for career advice and (who can) help you grow your network,” Cordio said.

Prior to the 50 Ideas in 50 Minutes presentations, a panel of “Rising Stars,” or up-and-coming young professionals, will discuss their career accomplishments and challenges. The panel session, to be moderated by Corry Joe Biddle, executive director of FUEL Milwaukee, will be interactive so that audience members can tailor their questions to what is most relevant for their own career paths.

“Rising Stars” panelists are:

  1. Amanda Kerkemeyer, executive audit manager, GE
  2. Jake Suski, senior vice president of communications and broadcast, Milwaukee Bucks
  3. Heather Turner Loth, project development, Eppstein Uhen Architects
  4. Dustin Zick, PR senior manager and social media specialist, Cramer-Krasselt

Zick didn’t intend to devote his career to digital marketing, social media or public relations upon graduating from Carroll University. Yet those core competencies have anchored his career over the past five years and today factor into his role at Cramer-Krasselt.

In continuing to build his career, he said he tries to be open-minded, open to exploring new opportunities and open to asking for help.

“Don’t be afraid to ask for help,” Zick said. “Failing at something because you didn’t ask for help when you needed it is nobody’s fault but your own. You’re going to screw up, a lot. When it happens, it will help if you know that you did everything you could to avoid doing so.”

His other lessons for young professionals include pushing to meet people and ask them about their experiences, staying at the office as late as possible to get work done so long as it doesn’t become a habit, and remaining eager to learn.

“If you’re not learning something new, you could be, and you should be,” Zick said.

Suski plans to elaborate on how he navigated his career change as he transitioned into professional sports after a career in politics. Among the lessons he has learned throughout the evolution of his career:

“Seize every opportunity to take on more responsibility and a bigger role in your career or in your community,” he said. “You’ll be surprised at how much you can handle when you put yourself in a position to succeed. And that’s where advancement comes from.”

The Get Smarter Talent Development Conference costs $40 for individuals. For more information on the event or to register to attend, visit

Potawatomi Hotel & Casino is located at 1721 W. Canal St. in Milwaukee.

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