Sue Wollan Fan’s TEDActive-inspired Career Shift

SueThis week, meet Sue Wollan Fan, who caught our eye with her application to TEDActive: She transformed her experience at TEDActive 2014 into an entirely new career for herself!

After working on digital innovation in a series of large companies, Sue decided to come to TEDActive to explore new ideas last year. Sue is now a Digital Kindness Entrepreneur who believes in using technology to amplify creativity, passion, empathy and innovation around the world.

We spoke with Sue to learn what brings her back to TEDActive, uncover some of her favorite memories and find out what she hopes to experience at TEDActive 2015!

TED: What made your first TEDActive experience different from other conferences and events you have attended?

Sue: The first thing I noticed was the room full of thoughtful introverts who made eye contact immediately. There are no fronts. Everyone has this “fluidness” to ask what is on the tip of somebody’s tongue. Finding myself with people like that for a week … I have never experienced something like that on this scale before!

It was also the content. Edward Snowden’s talk was amazing and a total surprise! I loved the eclectic nature of all of the content. It was about finding ideas in different fields that still connected back to things that I was interested in… a number of things crossed over pretty well into my field in ways I didn’t expect them to.

TED: What brings you back to TEDActive?

Sue: Last year, TEDActive was about a new experience. It was about exploring and experiencing new ideas and ways of thinking. I looked at it like it was a treasure hunt. I would follow leads between different ideas and people, which led to different methods of thinking.

Last year, I was a leader inside a large tech firm. A month into working at the company, I quit. At TEDActive, I gained a better sense of what I wanted and needed to accomplish. TED became my research base. TED is a small world and TEDActive was a good place for me to gain a foothold in the network.

This year, I am going back to connect with people and build out my new project. I am bringing my husband with me! He is connected to the national education movement, and connecting him with the innovation movement will be exciting!

TED: Tell me more about your project. What are you building now?

Sue: I believe that the more technology we use and gain access to, the more permission we have to become more human, more creative, more empathetic and more relational. Technology amplifies our human traits.

I am working on a platform that connects professionals with students who seek mentors. It’s called MENTORME and it facilitates engaged, personalized mentorship to leverage social capital, provide advice and open doors for students as they transition from their studies to their first careers.

MENTORME is data-driven and on-demand. It builds meaningful connections between students and mentors at scale without labor-intensive processes. It satisfies our desire to belong, to “pay it forward,” and to help people get to where they want to go.
We should be collaborating and growing together!

TED: How do you think this year’s TEDActive can be transformational for you?

Sue: I am looking to connect with lots of different people at TEDActive. I am looking for people innovating in the digital community space. People working on facilitating community and working in analytics. I want to test my hypothesis: it takes two seconds to connect with people about ideas and see what they think. I learn the most interesting things when people start talking. But really, it’s a scavenger hunt instead of a destination. It’s about finding what each person has to contribute and building from that!

By Diana Enriquez

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