Level Up! - An Inspiring first Speaker Series event from BYP Network


On Thursday 26th October those behind the BYP Network app, the platform which is connecting young black professionals, put on their first BYP Speaker Series event: Level Up. Organised with the purpose of helping those in attendance to ‘understand where [they] are today and how to reach the next level,’ Level Up did just that, inviting visitors to reflect on their current position in life and offering advise, learned experience and practical tips on how to elevate yourself to the next, improved stage on both a personal and professional level.

Held in an informal space in Shoreditch, the room was full of people eager to make new connections and exchange ideas and resources and there was a laid-back vibe which was welcoming and made it all the easier to relax and speak to new people.

Almost an extension of the app itself, the evening made it really simple to interact with other like-minded, driven people who are looking for ways to better themselves and their career prospects.

The event got underway with time for guests to mingle and network, followed by discussions led by experts and a Q&A with the panellists.

The evening’s speakers came from a diverse range of backgrounds and each brought something different to the table with their thought-provoking talks.

First up was researcher Samuel Tholley, a Sociology graduate whose interest lies in the motivations for human action, who asked what it means to be in the present and the importance of taking time to pause to appreciate the present. Reflecting on his own experiences and also providing tips, from breathing exercises to how to shape your perspective to be more positive, Samuel engaged the crowd with his talk, which essentially carried the message that we must not dwell too much on factors beyond our control including what has happened in the past and should instead focus on what we are doing in the here and now and making the most of that. Being so open and willing to share his own struggles in his search for inner peace, Samuel's message was a really important and touching one, in particular regarding the threat to your mental health ad happiness when you are too demanding of yourself or unable to move beyond problems which can instead be assigned to the past.

Samuel Tholley engaging the crowd with his talk on presence and finding inner peace

Next to grace the stage was Marsha Thompson, a senior lawyer at Slater and Gordon specialising in employment law and discrimination claims and a mentor for the Black Solicitors Network. Marsha offered great practical advice on getting in to law and the importance of understanding exactly what it involves, and what sacrifices may need to be made in order to succeed within law. Marsha also touched on the importance of having a work-life balance and not forgetting to enjoy the journey whilst being so focused on the end goal when going after your dream. Like Samuel she also emphasised the need to be able to let go of ‘failures’ and not allowing obstacles and knock-backs to make you doubt your capability or preventing you from getting where you want to be.

Last, but by no means least, was motivational speaker Carl Konadu, who focused on the need for perseverance and commitment in order to fulfil your potential. With his animated style of delivering speeches, Carl showed how his own journey is testimony to what can happen when you are really determined to succeed; having failed his A Levels (he joked with the audience that his grades spelled ‘fudge’) only just making it into university, Carl turned things around completely, coming out with a First Class Degree and going on to co-found 2-3 Degrees. Among the jokes Carl cut deep to the matters of fact, including the reality that if you want to get ahead and reach the pinnacle of your career, then you need to actively be taking all the necessary steps to get there – whether it is getting into work slightly early to show dedication, picking up the phone and cold calling to try and generate business or whatever it is that is productive and will help push you closer to that end prize, which will not simply fall into your lap.

The panellists answering questions, from left to right: Samuel Tholley, Marsha Thompson, Carl Konadu

The event ended with people from the audience being invited up to plug their businesses, which was inspiring in its self, just hearing about all the incredible projects that people are working on, many of which are start-ups created completely off their own backs. These included Zane Smythe, a 25-year-old fashion designer and filmmaker from South London who is an ambassador for a charity programme in Ghana where organic moringa is being farmed sustainably using renewable energy with the aim of helping local people to escape poverty.

Hannah, co-founder of UKBOB, was another to get up, sharing her website ukblackowned.co.uk, which is a directory of black British businesses and helps point consumers in the direction of the products and services they want, all from companies and brands that are black owned.

In the words of BYP founder Kike Oniwinde, who wrapped up the event with a short speech: “There are black people that are trying to do big things that you can help.” Shining a light on these people is what the BYP app does (filling a massive gap) and what the Speaker Series helped bring to life, making these very people easily accessible.

Make sure you don’t miss the next event. You do need to have the app to attend the events, so if you haven’t already done so download the BYP Network App and get networking!

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