Parkland PEN Talks provide business advice for those interested

Photo by Scott Wells/Prospectus News Eastern Illinois University alum Carly McCrory delivers a PEN talk on Apr 1, 2015. McCrory is the Communications Director for the Champaign County Economic Development Corporation.

Photo by Scott Wells/Prospectus News
Eastern Illinois University alum Carly McCrory delivers a PEN talk on Apr 1, 2015. McCrory is the Communications Director for the Champaign County Economic Development Corporation.

Zach Trueblood

Staff Writer

Connect, Create and Innovate. These are the founding principles for the Parkland Entrepreneurial Network, or PEN. PEN provides an outlet and resource for those eager students interested in various business fields.

PEN also provides a series of informational talks at Parkland that feature business leaders from around the community. One such talk was held on April 1 in the Student Union room U140 from 1 p.m. – 2 p.m.

This talk was centered on Social Media and personal branding within one’s own social network. The headliner was Carly McCrory, Communications Director for the Champaign County Economic Development Corporation.

The talk began with a small interview session conducted by Parkland’s Vice President for Institutional Advancement, Seamus Reilly. Reilly got to the bottom of how McCrory had become involved with Communications and, specifically Social Media.

“I jumped on the social media bandwagon pretty early on. As soon as a new technology came out and was interesting/ helpful in my personal and/or professional life, I was on it and using it. And frankly, the results were amazing/ successful so I stuck with it,” McCrory stated. “Twitter wasn’t invented when I was in high school. Now I use it every single day, both personally and professionally.”

McCrory’s presentation seemed to resonate with many of the audience members. She did a small exercise where she had everyone who was on Social Media of some form to stand up. Everyone in the room did so. Then she asked if everyone that had Social Media, had it completely secure. Only one person sat down. Finally, she asked if everyone still standing was fully comfortable with anyone seeing every bit of their social media. Again, only a few more sat down.

With this small exercise, McCrory was able to bring everyone together with a better understanding of how big of an impact social media can have on the digital persona that people put forth. She provided an opinion about her experience here at the Parkland PEN talk.

“I thought it was great! The interview with Seamus was fun and the audience members asked a lot of good questions at the end of the presentation. I love that the PEN Talks exist – great opportunity for students to learn from community members,” McCrory remarked. “Always remember, you are what you publish. Focus on your own brand and don’t be boring but remain professional.”

Seamus Reilly doesn’t simply ask questions to the speakers during these PEN Talks. He plays a pivotal role in the production and development of them. He was also able to clarify the extent and goal that these talks, and PEN itself, accomplish.

“The idea is to bring speakers to campus to share their ideas about entrepreneurship and tell a little about their background. Most all of the talks have included some practical tips and reflection on how they achieved their goals,” Reilly explained. “While the focus is certainly on being successful as an employer or business owner, all of the speakers have helped to reinforce personal and professional choices, attention to detail, work ethic, and the value of mentorship and reflection.”

Reilly explained that the PEN Talks have been held on campus since 2009. They’ve showcased various local leaders such Mark Achler from Redbox, David Hodge from Gill Athletics, and Tim Hoerr from Sierra Ventures.

“All of the speakers reinforce the work that faculty and staff do in working with students and reinforcing the importance of soft skills, work ethic, and planning,” Reilly added. “However, it also is good to hear about people who are just like our Parkland students have gone on to successful careers. There is a mixture of practical advice and support for students’ goals and aspirations. Many of our students get a sense that they too can develop a project or start a company.”

There is actually a strong class presence in the audience during these PEN Talks. Business 117, which is Introduction to Entrepreneurship, attends regularly and uses the talks as a supplement to the curriculum. One student in this Business 117 class is Rafael Rodriguez. Rodriguez is obtaining his certificate in International Business Management.

“I think these type of talks are really beneficial to us since I believe there is no better education than the one based upon reality and experience. Students can perceive what the real meaning of starting your own business is or how the world works outside of a classroom,” Rodriguez said.

Whether you are interested in pursuing a career in business or just looking to brush up on some job searching skills, Parkland’s PEN Talks are worth attending.

For more information on the PEN Talks at Parkland College, please contact Cindy Smith at

The next PEN Talk will be held on Wednesday, April 29 at 1 p.m. in room U140.