It’s being predicted that this dreary, rainy weather might extend into next week. But it certainly won’t dampen the enthusiasm of Milwaukee’s millennials for NEWaukee’s second Young Professional Week, running April 14-21.
This year’s celebration of Cream City wunderkinds has been considerably expanded since 2012, boasting eight days of programming that coincides with "Milwaukee Day" (Sunday the 14th - get it?) as well as Gallery Night and Day next weekend.
"We’re super excited to expand the programming," Angela Damiani of NEWaukee tells OnMilwaukee.com. "We have about 36 or 38 different organizations working with us to help create the content for each program. NEWaukee hosts the whole week, but it’s a really amazing opportunity for people to get involved with other organizations."
Every day of Young Professional Week features a different theme, as well as an event in the morning, lunchtime and evening where "YP’s" can enjoy networking opportunities and expand their horizons with discussions and lectures having to do with the day’s theme. All events are held at different venues across the city.
"We want to showcase the city’s assets," Damiani said. "It’s not a typical conference; we’re not going to be at a conference center. We’re going to be in all of these awesome locations as well as these amazing organizations that work day in and day out trying to attract young talent."
The week kicks off on Sunday, April 14 with "Milwaukee Day," with a full schedule of Milwaukee-centric programming in conjunction with City Hall, Historic Milwaukee and more, plus citywide parties celebrating the day at venues like Lucky Joe’s Tiki Room.
Monday’s theme is "Sustainability in a Modern City" and explores different facets of that issue throughout the day at Stone Creek Coffee, North Point Lighthouse and City Hall.
"We allow the experts to come in and talk about what they do in that organization and provide really rich content about what the issues are for young professionals, what they should be involved in and how they can make a difference in what the cause is," said Damiani.
Other themes include Tuesday’s examination of Milwaukee as "The Silicon Valley of Water," Wednesday’s focus on "Women in Leadership" and Friday’s emphasis of Milwaukee’s "creative class economy." For a full shcedule of the week’s programming, visit ypweek.com.
The week wraps up with an after-party at the Milwaukee Theatre on Saturday, featuring the Bubbler Awards honoring young individuals who exhibit a exemplary leadership in their fields. The honorees include Matt Kemple of The Underground Collaborative, Melissa Buchholz of Odd Duck, Keith Hayes of beINtween, Lauren Feaster of City Year, Ben Engel of J.F. Cook Co. and Courtney Wiher of Transformation City Church. There will also be unlimited sampling of dishes from some favorite city hotspots like the Mason Street Grill, Kasana and the Pasta Tree.
Don’t party too hard, though - Sunday morning offers a brunch with Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh the next morning at the Hilton, where Hsieh will discuss corporate culture’s community impact.
Most events are free and require a simple RSVP. There are only three ticketed events – Gallery Night ART Bus (sold out), Saturday’s after-party and the brunch with Tony Hsieh. NEWaukee strove to create content for every young professional, as well as provide something that fits in with every schedule by offering different programs three times a day.
"There’s a lot of really academic programming, a lot of stuff to learn a lot of development opportunities even in the evening socials; each of those programs are really curated for content," said Damiani. "Saturday is just an opportunity to kick back and celebrate the week and just have fun."
NEWaukee’s Young Professional Week is unique in the nation, Damiani says. "There’s no other event like this across the country. We’re working with an organization called YP Nation, a national think tank for YP’s...between their research and ours, we’re the only one doing this. So it’s a pretty cool thing that Milwaukee kind of owns millennial engagement in this kind of way and that we’re home to such a large-scale event."
But it’s not surprising - Milwaukee is a great place for young professionals for a number of reasons.
"I think that young professionals choose a city not for job security but because they think the city is cool," Damiani said. "Really like feeling like you identify with the culture and it’s easy for you to have access to a network or people that you enjoy or the resources that are beyond your typical job and benefits that go with that. Our hope for the week is that we’re able to showcase that this city is beyond vibrant. (There are) so many opportunities – whether you’re into biking or women’s issues or you’re in the tech scene, we want to showcase that you have access to all of these things."
Colleen Jurkiewicz is a Milwaukee native with a degree in English from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and she loves having a job where she learns something new about the Cream City every day. Her previous incarnations have included stints as a waitress, a barista, a writing tutor, a medical transcriptionist, a freelance journalist, and now this lovely gig at the best online magazine in Milwaukee.