The Network’s 2022 New Year, New Leaders Event

On January 20, The Network for Springfield’s Young Professionals hosted its annual kickoff event New Year, New Leaders. This event featured an interview discussion with John Oke-Thomas, Chairman of the Chamber Board of Directors and Dee King, Committee Chair for The Network in 2022.

To begin the program, Mark Herrington, Founder and CEO of Old Missouri Bank addressed the group of young professionals to share his organization’s belief in the mission of The Network and the importance of investing in YPs in the Springfield community.

The interview with John and Dee was facilitated by Bryant Young, the 2022 Committee Vice-Chair for The Network. Bryant’s questions focused on allowing YPs to get to know Dee and John on a personal level, learn from their professional journeys, and understand what motivates their community involvement.

John Oke-Thomas, President of Oke-Thomas + Associates explained his professional journey, not only in his career of architecture, but also his journey to the United States, and ultimately Springfield, Missouri.

Dee shared that the best piece of professional advice she has ever received was in her previous career in banking. She expressed how vulnerability can be pivotal to transformative career growth.

Additionally, Dee identified her favorite thing about being a YP in Springfield is that “If you are willing, as a young professional, to not only pour yourself into your job, but work to help the community as a whole, this community and its leadership will rise up to meet you and take you wherever it is that you want to go.”

She continued by sharing a few examples of YPs who are making great strides in the Springfield community, and 5 years ago were not in the significant leadership positions they have today: Heather Hardinger and Matthew Simpson on City Council, Danielle Kincaid on the SPS School Board, Brandy Harris as CEO of Boys & Girls Clubs of Springfield, Representatives Crystal Quade, Betsy Fogle and Alex Riley in the State Legislature, and Logan Aguirre as Publisher of 417 Magazine.

John shared his philosophy for engaging with young professionals in the Springfield community. He explained that his goal is to help YPs understand that “Whatever environment you are in, you need to make the best of it because building relationships is one of the best ways to make life better for yourself and advance yourself in the process.” He connected this belief as one of the reasons that Minorities in Business (now Multicultural Business Association) was founded in Springfield.

Ultimately, this event was a great way to start 2022 with The Network and left our young professionals feeling encouraged and empowered to share the story of why Springfield is the place to be for YPs!