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Posts Tagged ‘Fusion’

5 Questions with Jaimie Sousa, Fusion

Friday, May 8th, 2015

Earlier this year, we interviewed Mike Cashion of the Concord Young Professionals Group and learned a great deal about what motivates today’s young professionals when it comes to employment and workforce issues. However, that’s just one side of the young professional story.  

To explore more of the facets of young professional lives and how they affect the New Hampshire economy, we interviewed Jaimie Sousa, president of the board of directors for Fusion, the young professionals group in the Lakes Region. Fusion isn’t just about networking, as you’ll learn in the interview – it’s also deeply focused on civic engagement and community development.

Jaimie Sousa

1. Fusion is one of the newer YP groups in New Hampshire. Can you tell us a bit about the genesis of the organization and its guiding principles?

Fusion officially filed organizing documents on 3/1/13. We’re an all-volunteer organization focused on networking, education and giving back to our community. Along with the other groups under the Stay Work Play umbrella, Fusion is primarily focused on making it easy and fun to connect with like-minded people. Events are open to the public and typically have some type of activity that serves as a fun way to meet people. The activities also serve as a conversation starter, so there’s less pressure on starting a conversation with people you might not know yet.

2. When we interviewed Mike Cashion from the Concord YP group earlier this year, he called out Fusion on a shortlist of YP groups doing unique things in the state. How are you setting yourselves apart from the typical networking group?

That’s awesome! Stay Work Play hosts a conference call for all of the groups to chat about what is going on in their area each month and this allows us to exchange ideas and support each other. We have learned a lot from other groups, but we’ve also found a way to embrace the uniqueness of the Lakes Region.

We take advantage of our surroundings by including nearby activities and visiting new and longstanding local businesses for our events. We are planning our third year hosting a stand-up paddle boarding event at EKAL in Meredith – one of our most popular activities. We also had a great turnout for kickboxing at Beyond the Belt, which raised money for Gilford Got Lunch.

This is another thing that sets Fusion apart: Our events are not just fundraisers for our group. We raise funds for other charities in an effort to support the community that we love so much!

Finally, we’re often asked if there’s an age limit for Fusion events and the answer is no. Our goal is to develop a network across generations to enhance the sustainability of the Lakes Region in the future. If the young professionals are eventually to replace the generations that have come before them, it would be silly to attempt to start from scratch. We believe our community depends on us working together, and so we’re happy to welcome all who want to be involved.

3. How do you see Fusion playing a role in helping businesses grow in New Hampshire and in attracting out-of-state businesses to relocate or expand here?

Ultimately, businesses grow through the connections you make. We find that people come to our events and meet people they genuinely like and with whom they’d naturally do business. Our events are about getting to know the person behind the business card, and making connections that are lasting rather than transactional.

The fact that New Hampshire has the Stay Work Play network throughout the state serves as a benefit to out-of-state businesses or businesses expanding within the state. The concern with building or growing a business is often not being able to attract or retain a workforce in a rural environment. When I moved to New Hampshire from Massachusetts/Rhode Island, people thought I was going to live in a tent in the woods. Stay Work Play’s website has a ton of information showing that New Hampshire is so much more than that. And each region’s group works to help people feel a sense of community and belonging. We believe this will help with employee retention.

4. You started a new program, the IMPACT Awards, to recognize members of the community that personify the Fusion mission. What’s impressed you most about this year’s nominees?

The best part of the process so far has been listening in to the judges as they narrowed down the finalists. The nominees all have something within them that pushed them to become passionately involved in their community. These are the people that start something from nothing, push the community forward, and really make a difference.

5. After the IMPACT Awards are given out this week, what’s next for Fusion? How will you continue to make your mark on the Granite State in 2015?

Creating the IMPACT Awards was a big deal for us. Coupled with our Annual Networking Event, this gives Fusion two large-scale networking events each year, which is exciting because people were asking for more. We also enjoy our smaller scale events and activities that allow people to make deeper connections more quickly, so we think this is a good balance. Fusion will also continue our annual Bowl-A-Thon, which is scheduled for September this year.

Beyond the events we have scheduled, we’re excited to be growing as a board and gaining the ability to do more than ever before. Each year we get better, and the best way to keep up with our new events and programs is to connect with us on Facebook.

Five Questions with Mike Cashion, Concord Young Professionals Network

Friday, February 27th, 2015

(Check back every Friday to meet someone we think you should know in our new series, Five Questions. -Ed.)

One of the most vital resources to businesses, the entrepreneurial environment, and the economy in general is the young professional workforce. Nationwide, young professionals hold 27 percent of professional jobs and often are motivated by a different set of values than the generations preceding them. They also have a different set of challenges.

Mike Cashion

Mike Cashion

To dig a little deeper into the young professional mindset, we spoke with Mike Cashion, a member of the Concord Young Professionals Network and an advocate for the growth and success of young professionals in New Hampshire.

What’s the state of the state for young professionals in New Hampshire these days?

Here are the positives: If you’re a young professional in New Hampshire who is willing to put the time and effort in, you’ll do well and be sought after, due to the comparatively low population of 20 and 30-somethings. The potential for a ‘seat at the table’ is decent. While New Hampshire is not as sought after as more popular cities for those in their 20s and 30s – like Boston, New York City, Denver and others – the future for New Hampshire could be great … it’s full of opportunity.

Here are the challenges: The largest concentration of young professionals is in southern New Hampshire, where the income potential is highest and the commute to Boston is easier, which can draw young professionals out of state. And it’s still very tough to be the only one at the table under the age of 40 and sometimes 50, because there is a resistance to new ideas and change. This is a challenge for young professionals everywhere.

Can you share a couple of examples of young professionals groups doing awesome things in the state recently?

The Concord Young Professionals Network has brought in anchor tenants to its events. Those are prominent people in the community who are advocates for young professionals, are successful in their careers and want to help facilitate change. CYPN is also heavily focusing on return on investment for its members.

The Manchester Young Professionals Network’s NH Startup Challenge and Corner Office Connections Program are top-notch and put young professionals in front of change-makers.

Fusion, in the Lakes Region, is fairly new to the young professionals realm and is doing a variety of cool events that are outside of the traditional networking activity, like kick boxing, snowboarding/skiing/tubing and more fun stuff that us young people really enjoy.

Finally, Catapult is bringing attention to 10 rising stars under the age of 40 out on the Seacoast with its “10 to Watch.”

What are a couple of the top challenges young professionals are facing right now? What’s keeping them up at night?

For those of us who want to work for other people, it’s finding the opportunities we’d like to have, with the right flexibility or pay grade. Those of us looking to start a new company have hurdles in regard to raising capital, and developing the talent pool is a priority, especially in regard to tech.

Education is extremely expensive in our country at this point and many young people are struggling to make enough to live comfortably without staying with mom and dad or rooming with multiple roommates.

A friend recently shared a very strong opinion that New Hampshire is welcoming to young professionals and yet there seems to be an important opportunity for the university system to offer more support for young professionals before they even enter the workforce.

Also, compared to more urban areas like Boston and New York, New Hampshire’s public transportation system isn’t as viable an option for young professionals.

“You must have a car to be successful here,” as others have told me, as I unlock my bicycle and put on my helmet.

How are young professionals and YP groups supporting the state’s economy?

As young people we want to support local as much as possible. We’re a very entrepreneurial generation. We know there’s no life-long employment moving forward. We’re all entrepreneurs in a sense, and need to support the local shops, restaurants, farmers markets, arts markets, local startups, etc. We’re starting businesses, paying taxes and doing our best to attract our talented friends to the area, and keep our friends from jumping ship and moving elsewhere.

If there’s one message that young professionals most want to get across to older (over 40) professionals, what would it be?

We understand that you have a large amount of experience, and we value your knowledge. Our lives at the ages between 20-40 are much different than yours were (extreme education costs, we’re always on, we have to look ahead or we will fail, we value a sharing economy). If we don’t see a future, we’ll struggle to stick around. Be open to change, mentor us, teach us your ways, and give us an opportunity to be a part of your succession planning.