TEDxIIT: The Advisory Interview

Technews Writer
Sun Mar 25, 2018

It’s crunch time for TEDxIIT. With so little time until the pre-event, which will be held on April 8, 2018, the students are working hard to get the final touches on everything to make sure the event is a success. With hardly two weeks left, we wanted to hear some words from the members of the advisory board for TEDxIIT 2018: Amy Segami, Founder and Executive Producer; Yoetzin Diaz, co-organizer and Advisory Board Chair; Chanese Smith, advisor and president of TEDxIIT 2013; and Gabriella Sanzo, advisor and UIC Alumni. 

After coordinating the perfect time for the advisory team to meet, Antoine Foggs began the interview, first asking the interviewees what inspired them to get involved with TEDx. 

Segami began, answering, “As an IIT alumni myself, I saw a need for a platform to showcase talent from IIT and the surrounding community, as well as for alumni to help mentor the students. IIT has great international network alumni who have a lot of professional and personal achievements that a lot of people just don’t know about.” 

“It has definitely had an effect on the community. TEDxIIT has a large reach, extending beyond this campus and creeping up into others.” Foggs said.

“Yes, it definitely has!” Sanzo chimed in. “To answer your question, I had already seen a couple of TED talks before. One of my professors has actually given a TED talk as well. I never thought of going to an actual event or knew about TEDx until I met Diaz. She invited me to TEDxIIT 2017 and I had no idea what to expect. I came and enjoyed myself and immediately told Diaz that I had to get involved, and here I am.”

“Amazing. That’s absolutely wonderful. I know this is only your first year, Gabby, but it seems that everyone else keeps coming on back, which leads me to my next question: what do you get out of this each and every year? Chanese? Why don’t we start with you?” Foggs said.

“Sure. Well, for me, I’ve always been a big advocate of mentorship. After my time as president for TEDxIIT back in 2013, I moved toward advising because I wanted to mentor students by having them go through through the same process I went through. It was very beneficial and I want to help contribute my knowledge to help bring forth more success.” Smith told us.

“That’s definitely one of the main reasons I keep coming back as well,” Diaz said. “But, to add to that, I do have a more selfish reason for coming back every year. To be quite honest, each year is different. I keep coming back because of the people. TEDxIIT is my way of being creative outside of work and I learn something new each year because it’s never the same thing. It’s very dynamic and it’s different; I don’t take on the same role each year so it allows me to learn what I want to each year, and I love meeting new people.”

Foggs then asked the interviewees what they thought students got out of TEDxIIT.

“From what I see," Diaz began, "and I’m sure Amy would agree, every student gains a different set of skills. Sometimes the skills we envision the students learning aren’t actually what they gain; to gain isn’t what they gain. It’s kind of like a self-discovery journey where they get a chance to discover themselves. Students are shy, not confident, and unsure of what to do, but at the end, once the event comes together, you can see the growth. School prepares students for the technical skills, but not the soft skills.” Diaz shared.

“Yes, and I want to emphasize that students get to learn the working style because it is very different from the studying style. You get graded for class. You don’t get graded here. This is here to help students transition from the classroom to the boardroom. Don’t worry about messing up. We, the advisory board, is here to help you. Even if you drop the ball, you can still show up. I separate the person from the action, I might not like that you messed up, but as long as you are willing to try and ask for help, that’s all that matters.” Segami interjected.

“Right,” Sanzo said. “And to add to that, I’ve only been here for a few weeks, but I can already see the progress. It’s inspiring to see people become more confident in their skills after such a short span of time. It’s a very ideal way to create meaningful connections.”

“Exactly. I can attest to everything that you all are saying, as a member of TEDxIIT for the very first time,” Foggs said. “My next question is this: When you were a student, did you have something similar to TEDxIIT, and if so, what?”

“Well when I was a student,” Segami began, “I participated in the Society of Women Engineers. To nobody’s fault, I wish there was more guidance. I remember once I was told, a day before, that I was going to be an M.C. for an event. I got so nervous and sick that I couldn’t even show up. I had no idea what I was supposed to do because no one had prepared me. TEDxIIT gives students the guidance and rehearsals so that they have plenty of time to practice, or else you’re just setting students up for failure.”

“Wow. That’s insane. I will say that you have done something wonderful. TEDxIIT is making an impact and filling in the gaps you saw at IIT that existed when you were a student. If it didn’t, we wouldn’t have people like Yoetzin and Chanese coming back. And actually Chanese, since you have actually been a part of TEDxIIT before, I’ll vary the question a little bit for you: What have you learned and gotten out of this, and how do you use it in your daily life?” Foggs said.

“Well, I was always pretty confident, but I feel more empowered knowing that I can be a part of something of this magnitude. I feel great knowing that I can be a part of an organization like this that gives that guidance. It would have been a lot more difficult to improve my public speaking skills without TEDxIIT. I’ve learned a lot from Amy.” Smith told

“Beautiful. I’m sure that every university could benefit from having their own TEDx organization. If no other university is inspired to organize a TEDx group, we will keep taking people like Gabby!” Foggs joked. Everyone laughed. “Well everyone, we’re almost done. I just have one more question for you all, and then we will be finished. What advice do you have for anyone looking to join and participate in TEDxIIT?” 

“I would say…” Sanzo started. “I would say to come with an open mind and, if you’re going to do it, make sure you have time. Nothing is perfectly spelled out. It’s meant to be a learning experience because it is an organization. Even if you’re very motivated and very interested, it can be a lot, so definitely make sure you have time.”

“I agree.” Smith said. “To add to that, I would say to make sure you have your priorities in line and make sure you have the time to put into this event. With that being said, these two things go hand in hand, but you’re going to get a lot more out of this when you are organized and you have your priorities straight. It will be less stressful and a lot more enjoyable.” 

“Exactly!” Amy agreed. “I would also say that you need to be open minded and willing to challenge yourself. More than anything, there are three qualities that I would highlight: you need to be accountable, reliable and coachable.”

“Definitely.” Foggs said. “As a current member, I would definitely tell any student currently attending IIT that you owe it to yourself to check this out. Yoetzin? Why don’t wrap things up.”

“Of course. You are so right, Ant,” Diaz began. “Something that I always tell the students is that this experience is what you make it. You have to put the effort into it or else you won’t get the full experience. The second thing I will say is that if anyone is looking to improve themselves, regardless of the skill or their current level, then this is the perfect place for you.”

There you have it. Words of wisdom straight from the mouths of the TEDxIIT 2018 advisory board. To sign up and reserve your spot for the pre-event, hit the volunteer button TEDxIIT.com

Appears in
2018 - Spring - Issue 10