danielspioneer-executivesummitThe Daniels Pioneer Executive Summit in the Rockies (also known as the Executive Summit) is a weekend of executive learning, networking and fun winter activities hosted at the beautifully scenic Beaver Creek Resort. The event is by-invitation-only and attended by approximately 150 executive level alumni, donors and corporate partners. Several of my fellow student leaders and I were invited to participate as student representatives.

I attended two Executive Development Workshops, one of which was titled “Corporate Storytelling” hosted by The Journey Institute. The Corporate Storytelling workshop was fascinating and made even more so by the dedication of President and Founder, Dafna Michaelson, who gave her presentation via Google Hangout’s video conferencing service directly from her hospital bed. Dafna was admitted into the hospital a few days earlier for a health condition but was so determined and passionate about her mission that she gathered her resolve and delivered a powerful, thought-provoking lecture on how a corporation’s story helps strengthen its brand in the mind of the consumer.

In the evening I attended a networking reception where I rubbed shoulders with everyone from the CEO’s of our corporate partners to alumni starting up new entrepreneurial ventures. All the attendees that I spoke with were friendly, welcoming and genuinely interested in my experience at Daniels. Towards the end of the night, the Dean of the Daniels College of Business, Brent Chrite, delivered his vision for the future of Daniels centered on improving the student experience. By the end of his speech I was confident that the reputation of my degree was in very capable hands.

The entire weekend was an enriching and enjoyable experience but my favorite portion was definitely lunch. I am not talking about the food, which was delicious, but rather the C-Suite Lunch and Learn Panel on “Uncovering Hidden Value through Analytics.” One of the executive panelists who blew me away was Kirsten Lynch, Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer of Vail Resorts. Her investments in contextual advertising and enriching/managing the entire user experience are very progressive and have produced an ROI so impressive that her budget continues to grow.

My key takeaway from the Executive Summit was not the bright future of big data and analytics, nor was it the many new contacts I made. Rather, what stuck with me the most was the one characteristic I found within every single person I met, spoke to, or heard speak: Passion. Dafna’s passion for Corporate Storytelling, Kirsten’s passion for improving the user experience through data analysis and Dean Chrite’s passion for improving the student experience at Daniels. Passion leads to the creation of new business opportunities, secures buy-in from key stakeholders, and drives innovation on all levels. Overall, the Executive Summit was a uniquely exceptional learning experience that illustrated how passion and persistence can lead to innovation and success.

James Richards is an MBA candidate and the Lead Ambassador of the Daniels College of Business Graduate Student Ambassador Program.