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If you are landing here, thank you so much for checking out the Millennial Takeover! 2015 will be filled with new interviews and insights into the millennial generation. We have just moved the blog to it’s own domain at millennialtakeover.com where we can keep growing to become even better. If you have a specific question please reach out to us via Twitter or Facebook, @themtakeover or facebook.com/millennialtakeover.

Stay Awesome!

– Marissa

Environmentally Conscious and Loving IT!

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Clayton Louis Ferrera leading a session at the Hive.

Clayton Louis Ferrera leading a session at the Hive.

If you have never been to Florida, one thing that might surprise you is the abundance of wildlife. It is not uncommon for residents to come across alligators, squirrels, or the occasional bear. While for most this can induce cartoon-like freak outs, for Clayton Louis Ferrara it is just a part of nature’s beauty and fuel for his work to educate the community about our most precious gift, the environment.

Ferrera spent most of his young life volunteering at research facilities in Stuart, Florida like the Marine Life Center of Juno Beach under Larry Wood and the Florida Oceanographic Society where the young naturalist was able to establish his scientific foundation. From that foundation, Ferrera deepened his knowledge with dual degrees in Biology and Environmental Studies at Rollins College. Upon graduation, Ferrera had planned to pursue a Master’s in Science Writing at MIT. While volunteering at the Oakland Nature Preserve the summer before he was to start at MIT in 2009, Ferrera’s efforts to fund a Head Curator and Director of Education position came through.

After two years of leading the nature preserve, a group of students from UCF presented at the Florida Wildlife Federation’s Board meeting that was being hosted there. Since then, Clayton Louis Ferrera has been actively involved with IDEAS for Us, a UN accredited NGO that educates and empowers people to advance sustainability through action. Starting as the National Science Director, he then became the South Eastern Regional Director and ultimately took on the role of Executive Director on January 1st of 2014. His passion for IDEAS has allowed the organization to gain momentum in truly empowering citizens for sustainability.

Using a chapter model, the all volunteer staff has been able to grow IDEAS beyond the borders of Central Florida with members all over the world. Ferrera’s passion for IDEAS is contagious and the natural teacher has inspired students of all ages to reconnect with nature.

Map of IDEAS Chapters and Partners.

Map of IDEAS Chapters and Partners

Although Ferrera has many accomplishments of which he could place his walking stick, like being the first American to be named a Darwin Scholar by the Field Studies Council of London, Ferrera is quick to recognize those who have supported him along the way. From his parents to his teachers and peers, Ferrera believes that every person has the capacity to accomplish something incredible, they just need the support to recognize what is within them. “If we are able to do that, we could end poverty, we could improve our environment, and we could live happier lives.”

To capture the whole of Ferrera’s insights couldn’t possibly be contained in this space so if you would like to learn more about IDEAS for Us, like them on Facebook to stay up to date.

U.S. Police Officers Have a Bit of a PR problem

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Central Square die in: Courtesy of Tim Pierce http://bit.ly/1wKsHDz

Central Square die in: Courtesy of Tim Pierce http://bit.ly/1wKsHDz

About a year ago, I wrote about how racism is still a relevant issue in recognition of Dr. Martin Luther King Day. Never in a million years did I think that within the year, that there would be consistent protesting in places like New York and Missouri with a march scheduled next week in Washington D.C. that revives memories of the 1960’s.
In some ways, one could believe that these protests are completely spontaneous, that these protesters don’t have anything better to do but take to the streets. Protests and social movements don’t just happen, there is always a history of frustration and then, a motivating tipping point. In this case, Eric Garner’s grand jury ruling was that tipping point. While the debates have focused on institutional racism and the corrupt legal system, I firmly believe that what’s being addressed here is not an effort to right past wrongs, but a need to see each other as human beings instead of the agenda we seem to represent.
For example, I’m afraid of police officers. I know it’s silly, but on the rare occasions I’ve had to interact with one in the States, my hands get all sweaty, I can’t look them in the eye and I am just waiting for things to get out of control. When I first arrived in Haiti, I had similar feelings, but they usually inspired a panic mode reaction. Influenced by the horror stories of police officers conducting check points that led to kidnappings, I often avoided police officers at all costs. But, I eventually had to go through a checkpoint and when I did I contemplated the following actions:
        1) Speed past them before they knew what happened.
        2) Let the car roll slowly, jump out of it and run to the                       nearest house.
       3) Cry and pray that they’d leave me alone.
       4) Just go with the flow and see where things would go.
As the first three would only make a potentially non-threatening situation worse, I opted for #4. After the cop checked my papers, he smiled and I was on my merry way, still in my car, still with my wallet, and in my opinion, safe. Over time, I gained respect and didn’t fear the police officers but saw them as people doing their job to keep Haiti’s streets safe. Not to say that are always successful, but little by little they are changing their reputation.
Returning home, that fear has returned. With the ominous blue lights, the incredible variety of weaponry that police officers have on at all times, and the overall aggression associated with law enforcement. It just makes me wonder, how is it that one of the most dangerous islands has been able to build an approachable police force, and the “land of the free” now has a system of terror? These are just my observations, but what do you think? Is our system justified or are our police officers addressing a threat that’s not there?

Embracing the Squiggly by Making Truffles

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In anticipation of Small Business Saturday, I had the opportunity to meet Jenny of J&G Chocolate and Tea. A self-taught chocolatier, she used Youtube and Pinterest to learn the delicate art of making chocolate. While working in a traditional job, Jenny learned that she was actually pretty good at making tiny moments of delight with her creations. One thing led to another and then she was able to leave her job to start building the business with her sister Gina.

Jenny and Gina

Pictured: Jenny (left) and Gina (right).

Having launched J&G at the beginning of the year, the startup chocolate shop has seen success pretty early on. With an ultimate goal of being a chocolate and tea cafe, the sisters have grown their reach by selling online and at farmer’s markets throughout the Central Florida area with new locations to be announced.

While many may pick up chocolate making as a hobby, Jenny’s commitment to building a business took timing and “growing a pair.” Not a natural risk taker, Jenny was encouraged to take the leap by her supportive husband and sister. With their backing starting a chocolate and tea company seemed completely doable.

Photo Credit: J&G Chocolate and Tea

Photo Credit: J&G Chocolate and Tea

At first, Jenny didn’t completely realize what kind of risk she was taking by leaving her stable job to start a chocolate company. That is, until people started to say, “Wow, you are so brave” and other things that made her take a second and question the path she had already taken. For example, challenges with figuring out the permitting rules, red tape with licensing, and the very steep costs when it comes to shipping chocolate. These constraints led the sisters to start doubting what they had already accomplished and the research they had done.

But then Jenny had a moment of clarity, “until you know what you are going to do, you can’t do the research.” It took making the mistakes to learn how to ask the right questions so she could get the right answers and get the business to where it is today.

Photo: Jenny at a Fall Pop Up Shop

Photo: Jenny at a Fall Pop Up Shop

In addition to being in a constant game of trail and error, Jenny noticed how at times she felt like the odd duck in her circle of friends. To have a work schedule where she may not get started until 10am but was working until midnight in the kitchen, sometimes did not come across to anyone else as work. That simple difference in schedule can be hard for others to understand. However, for Jenny, having that flexibility is one of the most rewarding parts of being an entrepreneur.

Another challenge that almost every female business owner has dealt with is the self imposed need for perfection. In Jenny’s case, she learned to overcome getting bogged down with the details through the valuable experience of planning her wedding. “As the planner you can get all wrapped up in the teeny tiny details, but no one else will know but you if it is missing. Now with J&G, time is what influences how things will get prioritized and accepting that has allowed me to keep getting our product out there and refining it as we go along” and it might come out even better than planned.

When asked about the greatest piece of advice she would give to anyone who would want to start something like J&G,”research and testing are the most important things for anyone developing a product, especially a food product. Get the feedback of your family, your friends, everyone you know so can be confident in your product.”

Photo Credit: Candace Dyer at http://bit.ly/12cYvU0

Photo Credit: Candace Dyer at http://bit.ly/12cYvU0

Now I had the chance to eat one of J&G’s Caramel Pretzel and Bacon Apples and I can honestly say it was one of the best things I ever ate. But don’t just take my word for it, check out Candace Dyer’s review on her dessert blog Dessert Geek. And if you are interested in purchasing any of their chocolates or teas go to their online shop here or visit them at these locations.

Healing the Community through Holistic Counseling

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Changing the world often comes in the form of improving foreign policy and informing how the United States interacts with other countries. As rewarding as that field can be, the results of that work could take years or even lifetimes to be seen. Navigating the governments, trade deals, and other institutions can hold up a project for years, so patience and trust in that process is crucial. But what if you doubt that process or want to directly help people?

Zac Dodson Meet Zac Dodson, serial entrepreneur and owner of HD Counseling, an Orlando based holistic mental health service provider. Zac initially went to graduate school in Geneva, Switzerland, the heart of international policy making, and within his first semester felt that he needed to make a switch. So, he went to the Counseling department and just asked if he could transfer into their school. Since it had never been done before, he met little resistance and within the year was studied his way to becoming a licensed mental health counselor.

Upon graduation, he set up his own practice and moved to Orlando, FL. Within months he learned that most of his patients were coming to him with “co-morbid” issues or environmental factors that kept them from living their happiest life. So, Zac began a holistic practice that brought in healers of all kinds to an affordable workspace and require that they are active in the community. What first started out as a 4 person practice flourished into a team of 18 practitioners in just 3 years. With offerings beyond counseling, such as meditation, acupuncture and art therapy workshops, HD Counseling provides less intimidating experiences to better one’s mental health.

HD Counseling Team
Inspired by his work with clients who live with PTSD, Zac noticed that workers who burnout are dealing with this trauma that goes on to turn these professionals towards private sector work and ultimately harming the whole non-profit sector. Now that HD Counseling has reached a level of stability, Zac has found his way into addressing this millennial issue: burnout. Most common in non-profit workers, Benefact is Zac’s next project in helping others. Non-profit managers tools and workshops to help their employees avoid burnout to remain engaged in the often grueling industry.

Zac’s work is impacting an aspect of our society that often is overlooked or stigmatized, as evidenced by the shooting this week at Florida State University. By going out into the community and offering workshops, seminars, and other services, HD Counseling is creating safer places for people to get help.

If you want to learn more about the incredible work that HD Counseling does click here or post in the comments below if you have any questions.

Changing the World Shouldn’t Come Cheap

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Image Credit: http://bit.ly/1GY4e0q

Image Credit: http://bit.ly/1GY4e0q

If there were no obstacles, how would you change the world? I, like many others, want to build a career on making the world a better place. Traditionally, building a career of service has meant working within the public and non-profit sector. In those types of jobs you are able to directly address the problems that companies simply aren’t interested in solving. Though admirable, with rising education and living costs, being a professional do-gooder has become an increasingly challenging career choice.

A few years ago, I had the chance to watch the TED talk above featuring Dan Pallotta. The fundraising genius introduced the world to multi-day human experiences that raised millions of dollars and propelled issues into the spotlight. Now a writer and advocate for the non-profit sector, Pallotta’s TED talk makes the case for why those choosing to pursue this career path shouldn’t be expected to earn and be valued significantly less than their private sector counterparts.

I raise this issue today in response to Kim Kardashian and Paper Magazine’s attempt to “break the internet.” While both entities are encouraged to push the envelope to gain attention, which turn into profits, non-profits are routinely capped by what society thinks they should be doing. Restraining non-profits in this way only stifles innovation in an era where this year’s technology is obsolete in a matter of years, not decades or even centuries. As described in Adam Davidson’s recent New York Times’ piece, for every successful tech startup there are many more that have failed. To investors, it is an accepted risk to starting a business. Why does it have to be any different for non-profits? Donations to a non-profit are just an older version of crowd funding. Why the uproar when one has an incredibly successful fundraising campaign? They did great work and should be rewarded, like a Facebook, Twitter, Uber, etc.

Do you think a non-profit CEO should earn a six figure salary? Personally, as long as the community that is being served is seeing the benefits, non-profit workers should be financially rewarded. They work just as hard, sometimes harder, and shouldn’t be worrying about their finances because they chose to help make the world a better place. What do you think?

Federal Employment and Why Millennials Want More From Their Work

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Photo Credit: Ingrid Taylar from San Francisco Bay Area - California, USA

Photo Credit: Ingrid Taylar from San Francisco Bay Area – California, USA

As the dust settles from the midterm elections, citizens far and wide return to their regularly scheduled programming. However, according to the Office of Personnel Management, for 4.312 million people these changes impact who are their coworkers and how their work is accomplished. Working for the red tape laden federal government, as one millennial working at the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) has learned, can actually be the most rewarding job.

What is the FMC? Well. You know the screen you are looking at? It’s safe passage, like almost everything else we interact with daily, are regulated by the Federal Maritime Commission. Established in 1961 by President Kennedy, the commission handles tariffs, ports, and trade regulations to help businesses with the actual importation and exportation of their goods. But how does one get a job working with such an organization? Just ask my friend Jewel Jennings – Wright. Originally from Baltimore, Maryland, Jewel is currently a Counsel at the Commission, meaning she supports and advises a commissioner.

Jewel Jennings Wright

Prior to landing this dream of a job, Jewel received her B.A. in Political Science at Carnegie Mellon, then her Master’s and J.D. from the University of Pittsburgh. With an ongoing interest in the strategic aspects of international security, Jewel first became interested in port security during her graduate studies in International Security and Intelligence. “We have ports leading to almost every major city, and almost anyone can ship anything” therefore creating a very murky security challenge. By interning for the Commission she was able to bring together her love for ports and law.

Upon graduation, however, a position was not available. Instead, she went to work with a private equity firm in Detroit. But, after about a year was able to return to D.C. to work with the Commission. “It’s rewarding, yet demanding work” as Jewel isn’t just pushing paper, but is actually making a difference.

Photo credit: Carnegie Mellon University

Photo credit: Carnegie Mellon University

Along the way Jewel has been able to learn some important life lessons. The primary among them being,

“Actually listen to your gut. If you are absolutely unhappy and upset where you are change your situation or make steps to change it that may mean changing jobs, it may mean moving (usually both), it may mean taking a leap of faith of some kind but actually try. If you feel it ‘in your bones’ that something is bad, it most likely is.”

When asked about millennials in the workforce,

“I think millennials often get a bad rep because people think that it’s a soft generation. We’ve seen the baby boomers and our parents work lives that didn’t necessarily lead to a good home life. There are a lot of people asking millennials to ignore that and do it anyway. For baby boomers, a hard days work sometimes was at a factory and it was actually hard. Now we’ve seen baby boomers come down with things like asbestosis, unions being busted, pensions going bust and our parents going through bubble after bubble. Are we supposed to do exactly the same thing?” 

Although early in her career, Jewel has found herself as one of the youngest counsels at the commission. With that experience she has identified the key issue that drives millennials. During our childhoods, we’ve witnessed the damaging side effects of our current systems and how our families have coped with them. Is it entitlement to demand for more from our professional lives, or simply a desire to avoid the terrifying challenges our families have had to weather? Post your thoughts in the comments below or tweet @themtakeover.