Ask questions for clarity, and work on understanding your self-identity, young adult professionals in Columbus were told Friday.

Max Yoder, chief executive officer and co-founder of Lessonly, an Indianapolis-based firm that provides team training software, spoke to more than 100 people Friday at The Commons.

He was keynote speaker during the NextGen Awards sponsored by the Columbus Young Professionals and the Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce, which recognized six individuals in the community for their contributions.


Yoder, who co-founded Lessonly in 2012, said his firm’s focus has been helping employee teams do better work. He advised companies to look at what’s working for them — and simply do more of that.

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Yoder encouraged attendance members to step up and ask questions if something in the workplace appears to be unclear, he said.

“If you don’t know what happened, raise your hand and say, ‘I didn’t get that,’” Yoder said. “We all, every day, can model being a human being.”

Yoder also said understanding one’s self-identity is something individuals should focus on, while encouraging people in general to be more thoughtful.

“If you can ask a question to get more clarity, ask it,” Yoder said.

But as you’re asking questions, be careful of what you say and how it might be interpreted by people around you, he said.

Also recognize that conflict in the workplace is normal, Yoder said.

Audience reaction

Tyshaun Allen said he identified with many of the points made during Yoder’s speech.

Allen, who works in marketing at Taylor Bros. Construction Co. in Columbus, said he wants to focus on being more compassionate while working to understand people better.

“You can learn more about people if you take a little more time,” the 16-year employee at Taylor Bros. said.

Allen said Yoder’s message made him think about how he can help in the community.

“Everybody has a little more to give,” said Allen, who has set a goal of helping children and adults in Columbus.

Monica Robinson, who works as assistant director of admissions at Ivy Tech Community College in Columbus, said she plans to work on identifying her own personal strengths after hearing Yoder’s presentation.

Such a strategy will ultimately help an individual find the career path they hope to be on, Robinson said.

She also said Yoder’s point of how to treat fellow co-workers was beneficial to hear.

Matthew Diebolt, director of admissions at Ivy Tech, said that many individuals in the workplace can sometimes be hesitant to ask questions.

“Some people are afraid to ask a question that everybody’s thinking,” Diebolt said.

Yoder’s message prompted Diebolt to reflect on his own role and his interactions with others, saying he tries to let the four individuals he supervises know that he is available for them if needed.

“If you put people first, they’ll do the right thing,” Diebolt said.

Diebolt also shared a piece of his own advice that applies to life in general, whether an individual is at work, at school or with friends or their family.

“If you make mistakes, own it,” he said.

Volunteer of the Year

Ashley Abner, who works at JCB, is a board member for the Columbus Area Arts Council, Carl Marshall and Mildred Almen Reeves Foundation and Leadership Bartholomew County. She is on the planning committee of Leadership Bartholomew County and is a past graduate of the program.

She is a member of the Noon Rotary Club in Columbus. Abner has also served in a pivotal role within the Arts Council’s Uncommon Cause Committee, helping raise funds and gather auction items for the organization’s biggest event of the year.

Innovator of the Year

Brian Payne, who serves as director of the Columbus Municipal Airport, launched the airport’s Education Pathways Initiative in 2015, linking prekindergarten to higher education with aviation programs. He assisted in efforts to start a high school RV12 aircraft build in 2016 and has raised more than $125,000 in grants/scholarships.

During the past six years, Payne has been directly responsible for implementing airport improvements with $5.6 million in Federal Aviation Administration grants and $4.5 million in capital expenditures, including a self-fuel farm and eight new hangars on the 2,750-acre facility that has an annual $650 million economic impact on the city. Columbus was named Airport of the Year in 2016 by Aviation Indiana.

Payne, who has been director of the airport since 2012, serves on a variety of non-profit and community boards.

Educator of the Year

Nick Williams, director of technology for the Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp., is a graduate of Leadership Bartholomew County and formerly served as coordinator of instructional technology for the school corporation.

In that role, his focus was making eLearning Days seamless and accessible to all students while planning the logistics of 700 students and 11,500 students working in tandem in an online environment. He previously taught biology at Columbus North, coached and volunteered at the Columbus Youth Camp.

Unsung Hero

Jonathan Nesci, who works at Hale Industrial Design, serves as an ambassador of and an advocate for Columbus’ design excellence — past, present and future.

He has been instrumental in securing the services of Rick Valicenti for the Columbus Area Visitors Center and Exhibit Columbus graphic identity; Janne Saario for the Jolie Crider Skatepark 2.0, and Renata Graw for the Columbus Area Arts Council graphic identity.

Nesci moved to Columbus in 2014 and helped create 100 unique aluminum tables that year for the exhibition “100 Variations,” that responded to the design of Eliel Saarinen’s First Christian Church. That served as a pilot project for Exhibit Columbus, which featured more than 15 site-responsive designs in the 2017 exhibition.

Nesci was a member of the Exhibit Columbus Curatorial Team, where his work focused on the Washington Street installations.

Business of the Year

Lucabe Coffee Co. was opened in the spring of 2017 by owners Alissa and Tyler Hodge. The specialty coffee shop has become a popular downtown gathering place for people of all ages.

The Hodges used a crowdfunding campaign to generate capital, but also to create buzz, prior to opening the doors.

Next Generation Leader

Amber Fischvogt has been director of CivicLab in Columbus since February 2016. While other award winners knew of their recognition in advance, Fischvogt was surprised with Friday’s award.

Fischvogt was vice president of development for the Heritage Fund – the Community Foundation of Bartholomew County from 2013 to 2016.

Previously, she worked for the Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce and the Columbus Enterprise Development Corp.

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