Alumni speakers share valuable expertise at TEDxUW

Four alumni speakers joined the UWaterloo community for the first in-person TEDx conference in years

TEDxUWaterloo Team

This fall, the University of Waterloo TEDx Team brought back their in-person conference after 5 years. The theme for this year’s conference was From the Ground Up, and it was all about inspiring the audience to forge their own unique paths, both personally and professionally. More than 180 attendees joined the event and seven speakers brought the theme to life with their fascinating stories, including four alumni.

The value of an entrepreneurial mindset

Camelia Nunez (BA ’05, MBET ’13) shared why you need to think like an entrepreneur when it comes to your career. As an entrepreneur herself, and a professor of entrepreneurship and innovation at Conestoga Callege, Camelia knows first hand that entrepreneurs learn to thrive in conditions of uncertainty, making them able to deal with change, pivot when necessary and turn challenges into opportunities.

Take the bet

The second speaker, Dhananja Jayalath (DJ) (BASc ’12), a founder, executive and product leader with more than a decade of experience, spoke about "taking unreasonable bets" to achieve significant progress. Drawing from personal experiences and a quote from George Bernard Shaw, DJ outlined a five-point framework: passionately pursuing meaningful goals, loving the grind, taking calculated risks, working with exceptional people, and acknowledging that outcomes are uncertain.

An optimistic look at AI

Robert Clapperton (BA ’08, PhD ’14) shared why generative AI will set education back 2500 years, and why that’s a good thing. Robert presented an optimistic perspective, suggesting that AI can revolutionize education by creating a digital extension of teachers. The talk envisioned a future where AI merges with human expertise to create a more personalized and adaptive learning experience, combining the advantages of traditional one-on-one teaching with the scalability of modern technology.

Pop culture meets career lessons

Arda Ocal (BMath ’05), whose speech was titled "Drawing Real World Inspiration from the Things I Use to Escape from the Real World," used relatable references like Super Mario and Grand Admiral Thrawn to explore the career journey. Arda emphasized the journey of learning, applying, failing, and trying again - mirroring life’s challenges. The talk was filled with humor, relatable anecdotes, and lessons learned from pop culture that translate into meaningful life advice.