guest-Carrie-CEO-Photo---BWOne highlight for me thus far in 2017 has been the COS CEO sessions hosted by the Colorado Springs Business Journal. It could be renamed “COS Leadership 2.0” — or even 3.0. Like few others, these meetings create a space for unique networking and learning opportunities. The nuggets of wisdom shared from real-life examples perfectly align with my learning style.

As a graduate of programs from the Colorado Springs Leadership Institute and Leadership Pikes Peak’s Signature Class — both of which focus on leadership training, empowerment and personal development — I find myself similarly inspired and educated through this series on characteristics of our community’s great leaders. Hearing their stories and answers to thought-provoking questions, as well as having the chance to ask questions of my own, offers one of the most incredible opportunities in our region. Listening to leaders like Jim Johnson, Shawnee Huckstep, Margaret Sabin, David Kast, Lisa Tessarowicz and Pam Shockley-Zalabak give insights about various industries, management styles and visions inspires me to consider new possibilities.

Begun through the foresight of Jen Furda and continued under the leadership of Amy Sweet, these sessions intentionally cap the audience at 50 people. How often does one get to engage with such great minds and influential people — not just in our region, but in our state or nation?  Unless you are among the “who’s who” groups in town, these chances are few and far between. An attendee seated next to me last month said, “I can’t believe how honest and transparent these CEOs are. They are keeping it real!”

Perhaps I get so excited about these occasions because they embody our goal with the youth of Junior Achievement to expose students to some of our community’s innovative and hard-working business leaders in hopes of inspiring and preparing them to be successful in their own future endeavors. Their decisions and accomplishments, as well as ours, will impact our economy and region, industries and advancement, families and future.

Let us keep this in mind in considering how we participate in our own personal and professional development through events such as these COS CEO sessions, volunteer our time and talents, and invest our hard-earned money in the businesses, nonprofits and ventures which will make Colorado Springs an even better place than it is today.

I highly anticipate hearing from the remainder of the series speakers, including Mary Fagnant, Scott Blackmun, Perry Sanders, Kevin O’Neil, Tom Naughton and Bill Hybl.

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Carrie McKee is president and CEO at Junior Achievement of Southern Colorado. She can be reached at