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Inspiring young people to build their own future with Day After Tomorrow tools, mindset and skills Julie Vens - De Vos - April 10, 2018

Youth Tour In Front Of Google

These are very exciting times for young people. We always hear how difficult it will be for them – how automation will steal their jobs, democracy is collapsing, the earth is warming up, etc. – but I’m a true optimist. I believe that challenging times come with great opportunities too. There’s a reason why China’s economy is growing as fast as it is today: it is facing huge problems in demographics and the environment and is doing everything in its power to tackle those problems. Humanity is at its most creative when survival instinct kicks in.

But, in order to grab those opportunities, young people will need a perfect understanding of the right tools, the right skills and the right mindset and that is something that I fear they do receive enough today in ‘traditional’ education. While setting up the program of our next Youth Future Tour to Silicon Valley together with my wonderful team, I was thinking back to my former Youth Tour experience. So, I decided to look back in time, to think about what we at nexxworks can do in our own future to empower these young creative individuals. Working with our latest interns Jasper Demuynck and Tijl Van Heuverbeke really showed us how refreshing collaboration over generations can be. About that: if you have an idea or experience in the matter you'd like to share: let me know at julievens@nexxworks.com!

Experience the future with your son(s) and/or daughter(s) in Silicon Valley!

I’ll start with the most obvious one, as Silicon Valley is obviously one of the tech capitals of the world: tools. It’s almost surreal how the classical curriculum teaches virtually nothing about the technologies that are going to completely transform our future: from Iot, AI, VR, AR and blockchain to quantum computing. As our fantastic intern Jasper Demuynck wrote in his recent blog about the gaps in his education: “I would, for example, be talking about cryptocurrencies and AI with my friends near the end of my informatics class, and as we enter the next class room, our economics teacher starts lecturing about an abstract economic concept, with examples of a farm, or cotton factory. Do you see the huge leap here?” That’s exactly one of the biggest reasons why we organize these youth tours: to show youngsters what their future will be like, and which tools they will be able to use to build that future. True, listening to Pieter Abbeel explaining how Artificial Intelligence works and what it can do for us proved to be a mind-binder for some of the participants. But at least they now are aware of the fact that they will need to understand how these technologies work, in order to make a dent in the universe.

So yes, it’s about new technologies, but – for me – the absolute biggest learning was about mindset and skills. The participants really loved to see the Belgian success stories from over there, too, which really showcased the contagiousness of the Valley-style passion. They met some very bold creative Belgian minds that dared to think BIG in international terms. Showpad’s Louis Jonckheere, for instance, truly inspired our group by telling his personal tale: how he was continuously challenged not to ask “European questions”, but to think big and to pursue his dream. Or Pieter Gunst from legal.io, Davy Kestens from Sparkcentral or some of the Belgian expats at Belcham: they all gave us pure, honest and authentic stories. They put up a mirror to our group: this started right in our own backyard! They all sparked the youngsters to dream and to realise: ‘Hi, I can do this too’!

One of most beautiful examples was a real outlier, though: not a ‘cool’ app or an AI Rockstar, but a ‘bakery’, though Vive La Tarte is actually much more than that. I love how they keep reinventing themselves through product-innovation (ever heard of the Tacro yet?) and expansion. Arnaud Goethals advised: “Find your passion, make a business out of it and focus like you never focussed before”. They have truly absorbed that innovation-mindset that is so typical of all the tech companies in San Francisco.

When I talked to the young participants afterwards, it was clear to me how they really ingested that “go get it yourself” attitude: that they will be the ones to take their own faith in their hands. That the initiative would have to be theirs. Though, yes, they will have some big challenges to tackle, they are also very lucky to be living in empowered times. Talent has nothing to do with age. You no longer need to climb the hierarchy of a firm for years and years on end before you “make it”. I think that myself, Felix Garriau and Frederik Simoen - respectively CEO, CMO and COO at nexxworks at about the age of 30 - could be seen as an example of that, in a way.

Peter Hinssen taught us that companies need ‘People who don’t know what they are doing’ to keep innovating, because they are unbiased, creative and not held back by “how it has always been done”. And if you’re young, and fresh out of school, that’s exactly what you are: a fresh slate and ready to conquer the world. So that’s why it was incredible to be able to inspire them with the right mindset and tools that will help them build our future.  

Join us with your siblings on a on a trip to the Future, so that we can start building it together!

Julie Vens
Julie Vens - De Vos

Julie is CEO and Partner at nexxworks. As a natural communicator with 5 years of experience in a corporate FMCG environment, she fully understands how customers are the true...

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