The first thing you see after entering Inbound is the floor filled with business reps and selfie stations. (image credit: Nikki Fain)

Theory. Theory. Theory. Experience. Experience. Experience.

Chances are your professors at SNHU, like mine, preach one or the other. It’s a tale as old as time in academia. Across the nation, educators clash over whether theory or industry experience is the end-all-be-all in instruction.

Either can be difficult for a student to see themselves in. We don’t know what we don’t know. In particular, as a business major, some of the soft skills can be abstract and difficult to apply in the classroom.

And of course, there are always doubts about the relevance of the material that professors impart to students.

Conferences have been a favorite part of my college experience. Free travel, food, swag. An excuse to geek out with people I don’t know. They’re great. 

But as I enter my senior year, graduation looms and anxiety lingers. Everything is now becoming a “last”. Senior events are a cherished must-go. But maybe most common and important, I worry about the job market and money more frequently.

So when the opportunity to attend the annual conference of Boston software firm, HubSpot, arrived, the answer undoubtedly was a yes. A conference? A place to hand out resumes? Maybe get a job? Yep, count me in. 

Tara Westover discusses her book “Educated” at Inbound. (image credit: Nikki Fain)


Inbound 2019 – named after HubSpot’s signature marketing practice – was unlike any conference I’ve ever attended. I was enticed to attend by keynote speakers like Sal Khan, founder of Khan Academy, Katie Couric, Janelle Monae, Jonathan Kraft, Brad Stevens and more. Personally, I was most excited for Educated author Tara Westover and Just Mercy author Bryan Stevenson. Not to mention a food truck festival for lunch.

The past conferences I’ve attended have been geared towards educating college students, but the goal of Inbound is to unite big-name industry leaders with marketing and business professionals. Inbound was my first step into the infamous ‘real world’, and it was an experience disruptor, something that HubSpot CEO Brian Halligan argued was imperative to the future of the business world.

I was thrown off by the booths of sponsors trying to coax me to buy their product or the boujee happy hour events. Or even the selfie stations (which, admittedly, were actually pretty fun and the lighting was goals).

It gave me insight into the conversations businesses are having daily. It gave me something to discuss during an interview, something to connect with. Halligan and HubSpot Co-Founder Dharmesh Shah’s presentations on the current business trends have helped to inform and excite me.

SNHU Senior Melanie Alibozek agreed that this experience was valuable for her future aspirations. “I learned that starting a new successful business begins with finding the gaps to fill a consumer need.” She also enjoyed her first experience as a young professional.

The theory or experience argument is outdated. Students have different preferences or don’t care about what their professor’s background is. They need to see it, feel it. Conferences do just that.