20-somethings stepping up to lead
In today’s world, people in their twenties are increasingly becoming prominent stakeholders in the realm of business and politics. It used to be that ambitious employees could work their way up to high-level positions if they remained loyal to one company for several years. Now, the average person changes jobs at least eight times, and 20-somethings are changing the dynamic of moving up the influence ladder.
Mark Zuckerberg, 27, the founder and CEO of Facebook, launched the successful social networking site out of his Harvard University dorm just before turning 20. He landed the cover of Time magazine as the 2010 Person of the Year and currently holds a net worth of $17.5 billion. Zuckerberg is perhaps the most prominent example of an emerging trend of young leaders.
His sister, Randi Zuckerberg, also an Internet entrepreneur and formerly the director of marketing development at Facebook, recently spoke at Ithaca College to give students insight on how to maximize their influence and stay in power through the use of social media.
“Everyone now has access to a digital megaphone,” she said in her speech. “This emerging online technology presents an unlimited potential for new opportunities.”
The 29-year-old innovator is currently in the process of launching a new company called R to Z Media, which she described as the first production-based business that will fully integrate social technology. One of the company’s first projects, while still in “stealth mode,” occurred on Cyber Monday when it partnered with multiple celebrity designers to sell jewelery solely through social media — a shopping experience they envision will become the “QVC of the future.”
“After working for six years at Facebook, I got that entrepreneurial itch again,” Zuckerberg said. “I think it’s really important to keep moving forward. As soon as you start feeling comfortable with what you’re doing, toss all the balls up in the air. It’s good for the soul.”
Technology plays a large role in the advancement of young entrepreneurs. While many jokes have been made about the trials and tribulations of older generations trying to use newly unveiled technologies, merit is certainly owed to those who can utilize such innovation to their advantage. Another example of an Internet startup is a company called Tatango, which offers an online SMS messaging system for businesses to connect with clients. Derek Johnson, the founder and CEO of Tatango, was named by BusinessWeek as one of the Top 25 Under 25 Entrepreneurs in the United States. Johnson launched the company from his dorm room in 2007 and now caters to clients in every U.S. state.
“Anyone can start their own business if they have a good idea and the will power,” Johnson said. “For me, it wasn’t about the money. I just wanted to be in control of my own career, and I came up with a better method for people to communicate in mass to other people.”
Johnson’s drive in the private sector has aided numerous businesses in effectively reaching out to their customers. His company even crossed wires with the political scene when it helped Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA) win an unprecedented election in 2010 by mobilizing tens of thousands of supporters via text message to attend rallies, raise awareness and ultimately vote on Election Day.
Similarly, young politicians have independently elevated their visibility through the use of social media. Ithaca’s very own Svante Myrick used Facebook and Twitter to connect with constituents and gain valuable feedback on the issues that are important to them. Before winning the mayoral election in November, Myrick served a term as the representative of the City of Ithaca’s Fourth Ward, which began a year before he graduated from Cornell in 2009.
Officially the youngest mayor in the history of Ithaca, Myrick has made impressive achievements at the young age of 24. Even with his quick rise to success as a public figure, he isn’t thinking about what will help advance him politically. He instead focuses on the well-being of future generations, chairing a committee that created the Ithaca Youth Council in 2008.
“My experience as a tutor and mentor for young children in Ithaca has convinced me that young people have the energy and creativity necessary for the problems we are facing today, and the problems we will face tomorrow,” he said. “Giving young people an opportunity to lead right now will provide them with the communication and decision-making skills they will need to lead in the future.”
If there’s one thing all these 20-something movers and shakers can attest to, it’s that anyone, no matter how young or inexperienced, has the potential to act on brilliant ideas that could someday change the world.
John Vogan is a sophomore journalism major who is excited to be a 20-something in February. Email him at jvogan1[at]ithaca[dot]edu.