Last week, several Millburn students competed in the Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) states conference. Considering the time commitment and general belief about how extracurriculars lead to better colleges, I spoke to sophomore FBLA member, Anusha Veluri, to get her thoughts on this conference and its place among her other extracurriculars.

1. What is FBLA? “FBLA is basically a huge conference that’s composed of a lot of different events. There are general ones, like economics, and then there are really tailored and specific ones, like Intro to Business Presentation. For some events, you simply take a test to qualify, and even on the national level, the only requirement is a test. But for a lot of the events, like the one that I did, you give a presentation that lasts a couple minutes, in front of a judge. There is one large competition at the state level. There are 8 finalists at states, and the top three or four make it to nationals, held in San Antonio Texas this year at the end of July.”

2. Describe your preparation for the conference. “My partner and I worked really hard leading up the conference. We only found out that we would be able to compete together, two or three weeks beforehand, but with the limited time that we had, we did a lot of research, and wrote speeches together. We also had to memorize seven minutes worth of business and economy related jargon, which was no easy task.”

3. What was your schedule at the conference? “We arrived around 10:30 on the first night, and while we all probably should have gotten a good night’s sleep, most of the teams either slept around 3:00, or pulled all nighters. It was because the next morning, all of us had to present, and the nerves were definitely kicking in. So, come the next day, we all competed, and throughout the rest of the day there were a lot of different workshops that were open to everyone. I went to one about marketing, and one about general entrepreneurship. Then, around 9:00 there was an FBLA dance, that was actually very high in attendance (Until someone tore their ACL and it was shut down). Finally, around 11:00 AM on the third morning, we left.”

4. Do you think working with a partner helped or hurt the experience? “Working with a partner most definitely helped the experience. The night leading up to our presentation was extremely stressful and very nervewarcking, and having someone to endure all of that with you makes everything a little better. Another upside to having a partner is a more optimal management of the workload. Depending on the event that you choose, FBLA can be a lot of preparation. Only having to focus on half of it makes a big difference.”

5. How do you think conferences like these will help you in the business world? “In my opinion, the actual substance of a specific FBLA event isn’t as important or helpful as is the process of physically presenting it. For example, my partner and I were doing a presentation on the exactitudes of microchips and the uses of their radio frequency identification in workplaces. While that information might be of use to me in the future, what I really took away from the experience was a newfound understanding of the confidence required to come off as a business woman that is worth listening to. I think it’s really important that girls understand the current climate that exists in workplaces, and the constant underestimation and underrepresentation of business women and female entrepreneurs. It takes men ⅕ of the effort it takes women to secure a place in businesses, and a recognition of that fact, and a well developed confidence in presentation is key to changing those inequities.”

6. Do you think this was worth missing school for? “For me FBLA was worth missing school for, mostly due to the fact that I didn’t have many tests or quizzes scheduled for either Thursday or Friday. All I had to do to catch up was get some notes and set up a few meetings with teachers.” 7. How do you think FBLA compares to your other extracurricular in terms of getting into college? In terms of your future career? “I don’t know how FBLA looks to colleges, and frankly, I don’t care. I used to quantify everything in terms of how it looked on my resumé, but this year I snapped myself out of that and understood how fundamentally ignorant and foolish that is. But, regardless, I think that FBLA is what you make out of it. If you sit in your hotel room all day and you don’t go to any workshops, you obviously won’t get anything out of the experience. But if you make the effort and talk to people, you can make connections, friends, and learn a lot. In that way, it’s probably very helpful to a future business person.”