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Youth, Ambition Honored at 20 in their 20s Awards

Salt Lake City—It takes a perfect storm of ability and circumstances to succeed. On Wednesday, Utah Business magazine recognized a score of young professionals who are dancing in the rain at our 20 in their 20s awards.

“Every year we are surprised and impressed with the quality and quantity of nominations we receive for this program,” said Donnie Welch, publisher of Utah Business magazine. “This year we have honorees who have already created multiple ventures. They are already entrepreneurial veterans. We have honorees who, in their very early 20s, are already leading major initiatives or divisions in their companies.”

The 20s were a diverse bunch, ranging from founders of nonprofits and prodigies at established companies, and from entrepreneurs to marketers climbing the ranks of some of Utah’s most visible companies. In true Millennial fashion, many cited a desire to give back to their communities, whether through charity or in helping to build the economy, as one of their driving motivations.

“In my few years in the professional world I’ve learned success doesn’t really mean anything unless you’re also uplifting those around you,” said Molly Jones, sales associate with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage.

Many also cited established professionals who have helped teach and guide them through the earliest stages of their careers.

“Nobody does this without a mentor it somebody to look up to,” said Michael C. Hopkins, director of group sales for the Utah Olympic Legacy Foundation. “I would encourage everyone to, when you think about what you’re thankful for, going into Thanksgiving, think about the people and culture and organizations you’ve been with, because they’re what built you.”

Some reflected on the challenges they’d already faced and what they had learned from them. Ryan Stringham, front end architect at Lucid Software, started out as the company’s first intern. Now, he leads 60 other engineers and has spoken at industry conferences here and abroad. Having the chance to make mistakes on a smaller scale has allowed him to succeed on a larger stage, he said.

“I love being able to work on a challenging problem and not just be stuck in a corner,” he said. “Having opportunities to fail has given me a foundation for my career and I’m grateful for that.”

The award was also a source of validation for some honorees who had pursued unusual career paths. Elaina Pappas, director of marketing for the Utah Jazz, has often been the only woman in the room and one of the few in the industry. While she is confident of her path now, there have been times when she wasn’t as sure about her own footing.

“Receiving this award has really validated the hard work I’ve put into my career,” she said.

Jeff Robinson, vice president of risk and operations at Alpha Warranty Services, Inc., started with the company just before turning 20, and spent the decade when most of his peers were still finding themselves building a career. Sometimes, he said, it was hard not to feel like he was missing out.

“This award to me represents a lot of hard work and persevere. I remember numerous times in my early 20s that a friend would call and want to go shoot hoops or go to a movie and I’d have to decline because I was working full time and going to school and raising a family,” he said. “Looking back, it was well worth it.”

You can read more about all of the 20 in their 20s in the November 2017 issue, or online.