My name is Dan Walmer and I've lived in Houston, Texas nearly all of my adult life. Since the day, two decades ago, that I unpacked the truck carrying my modest belongings and a 10-day old diploma from a liberal arts college in the Midwest, Houston has been my home. I've worked in various non-profits all over this grand city, and lived in more than a few of its colorful and diverse sections of town. But Monday of this week, I was able to see a Houston I'd never seen. Houston through the eyes of an optimistic, energetic, and engaged group of millennials from all over the United States.
They came to Houston to engage with businesses and civic leaders that all possessed the same curiosity; to understand the mindsets and perspectives of the Millennial generation. From the gracious Mayor Sylvester Turner and First Daughter Ashley Turner, to executives at Waste Management and the Corporate Relations staff at the Houston Astros — the conversations all revolved around a similar topic: "How can we engage/recruit/connect with Millennials?" The answer, I was reminded, is easier than it appears. Stop trying to "solve" them; stop trying to "quantify" them; stop trying to "cater" to them. Just be honest, authentic, and transparent. And listen.
It was fascinating for me to see the industry leaders of Houston take the time to converse with these future leaders. Not only that, but to actively listen to them and value what they had to say. Even more exciting to me was the thought and time the students had put in ahead of their travels to research and be prepared for a meaningful dialogue. Authentic conversations with the Mayor brought both sides to a better understanding of the need for their generation to engage more politically and how it can be done as a two-way exchange. Executives at both the Astros and Waste Management offered sound advice on career development, and received equally valuable insight on managing the careers of the next wave of employees coming down the pipeline. It was an eye-opening day for this Gen-X'er, in a great and inspiring way.
As I parted ways while they headed to dinner at an hour well past my normal mealtime (and closer to my bedtime), I left them on a high! Their curiosity and enthusiasm for life was contagious. I was proud of the leaders of my city, I was optimistic for the future millennial leadership, and I was reminded that future is already here.