Young Professionals of Color Conference fosters ‘vital’ diversity

Young Professionals of Color Conference fosters ‘vital’ diversity

A shot from the inaugural Young Professionals of Color Conference. Photo via

The second annual Young Professionals of Color Conference will be held this Wednesday.

The conference, which was organized by a group of young professionals from Cascade Engineering, was created to address the often-heard feedback that Grand Rapids is friendly, but not necessarily welcoming to people of color.

“We need diversity in our community,” said Kelley Losey, Cascade Engineering business unit manager. “It is extremely important for us to be a vital community to embrace diversity.”

The day-long conference will include four sessions, as well as a keynote address and will be followed by a BL2END networking event.

The event will be at Gordon Foods’ new location, at 3400 Gezon Pwy. SW, Wyoming.


Jullien Gordon is scheduled to give the keynote address.

Gordon is a coach and consultant for organizations, individuals and teams that want to increase employee performance, motivation, engagement and retention.

He also is a speaker, trainer, author and founding partner of the New Higher consultancy.

He has worked with Fortune 100 companies to enhance their human capital strategies and helped more than 10,000 professionals discover new ways to create value, be present and find meaning at work.

“He is going to talk to them about how you define your own success,” Losey said.

Personal brand and perceptions

The sessions will help attendees develop a personalized professional development plan.

The first session will focus on how to develop a professional reputation and manage perceptions.

“How do you take control of building your professional reputation and understanding that people are going to have perceptions?” Losey said. “People of color sometimes know that they are walking into a situation and very often they are the only one that looks like them and people may not have grown up with people who look like them.

"How do they control that?" she said. "How do they build their brand? What are some of those tools to create self-awareness, so you can understand how you are reflecting and how are you presenting yourself to other people? Understanding they may have their own paradigms, and you can just be who you are.”

Work-life balance

The second session will look at developing the right work-life balance to fit with professional and personal goals.

“There needs to be a balance between work and life, and what are you willing to sacrifice to achieve success and not (sacrifice)?” Losey said.

She added that the session would help attendees develop a strategy that balances work-and-life priorities, as well as teach them time management and prioritization techniques.


In the third session, attendees will put pen to paper, as they work to develop their goals and an action plan.

“It’s about mapping out your success and your vision,” Losey said. “They will actually work on a personal mission statement, which will help them start to develop a blueprint for success and talking a lot about what is your passion or your big hairy audacious goal? What are some key points and resources for your action plan?”

Panel discussion

The final session is a panel discussion presented by BL2END members who will talk about their own experiences during their professional journey.

Losey said that as a follow-up to the conference, Cascade Engineering plans to hold a second conference in the fall that helps businesses develop an overall plan for diversity and inclusion.

The follow-up conference will incorporate some of the ideas brought to light by the Young Professionals of Color Conference.

“If the cultures in the businesses are not being purposeful and making sure that people feel comfortable and are being given opportunities, then it’s going to be very frustrating for the young professional,” she said.


The cost for the event is $100.

BL2END will host an optional networking event open to the public immediately following the conference, from 5:30-7:30 p.m.

People interested in attending or learning more can register via Cascade's website or contact Losey at (616) 516-1451 or kelley.losey at cascadeng dot com.

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