[Ed note: Even though TEDxPhoenix is taking place in Mesa(?), we have to admit that some worthwhile events take place beyond our core. Here’s hoping this one will take place in Downtown Phoenix next time.]

Guest contributor Neda Tavassoli shares a view of TEDxPhoenix through the eyes of a couple who have been inspired by TED Talks to create an accessible, local TED experience.

I have heard this story played out many times. A talented designer, an inspiring writer, a tech-savvy gamer leaves Phoenix in search of opportunity…elsewhere. Some argue that Phoenix doesn’t house enough large corporations or think tanks while others claim Phoenix shoots itself in the foot constantly by under-funding the arts and education. Whatever the reason, Phoenix seems to go through cycles of losing some great thinkers and leaders. Enter Wardah Jamil and Tomas Carrillo, a duo determined to plug the brain drain.

Part power couple and part fraternal-like twins complete with the ability to finish each other’s sentences, Jamil and Carrillo have taken their passion for TED and turned it into a successful, local, non-profit event. TED, an acronym for technology, entertainment, and design, has earned a reputation for bringing together some of the world’s most dynamic thinkers and presenting them on stage in a series called TED Talks.

Carrillo states, “I stumbled across a blog post featuring Tony Robbin’s TED talk in 2006…the ideas that Tony explored regarding why we do what we do, was just enough brain fuel to start changing the way I looked at the world around me.” Carrillo may have initially “stumbled,” but his passion soon charged ahead. In collaboration with Jamil, he brought TEDxPhoenix to life.

“Only a select group of people will get to experience a TED conference in their lifetime,” Jamil adds. High ticket costs and scarce availability make it just a dream for many. TEDxPhoenix is a locally organized not-for-profit event that brings people together around great ideas worth sharing and doing, and it is accessible to all. Going on the idea that “inspiration is infectious,” Jamil and Carrillo are bringing people from all over the world in hopes of sparking new collaborations.

The theme for this year’s TEDxPhoenix is “______ for a Change,” and features a line up as ambitious as Jamil and Carrillo. Speakers include Kelli Anderson, a self-proclaimed artist, designer and “tinkerer” from Brooklyn, New York; Brenda Brathwaite, a game designer named one of the most influential women in the gaming industry by numerous trade publications; Jacob Soboroff, an AMC news correspondent and voting activist; and Samuel Chelpka , a four year-old reciter of poetry whose passion for words can bring adults to shame.

While these speakers from various parts of the States will be here to inspire and interact with Phoenix audiences in a social environment, Jamil and Carrillo made sure to include talent from here in Phoenix as well, for according to them, Phoenix has no shortage of leaders. Linda Essig, head of ASU’s arts entrepreneurship program called p.a.v.e.; Michelle Blades, a musician who plays a mean ukulele; and Justin Beckett, chief and owner of the raved-about Beckett’s Table are a few of the Phoenicians who will grace the stage. That’s just the tip.

For Carrillo, TEDxPhoenix is his way of giving back to a community that has given the native Arizonan so much opportunity. “You just never realize how inspired you can become with one simple interaction,” he states. He and Jamil hope to offer hundreds of these simple interactions to Phoenicians who seek to inspire, understand and experience. By the end of the event, attendees will have become TEDxers, a group who may be spread out all over the world, but who share the secret handshake of what it means to be a part of TEDx.

If You Go

What: TEDxPhoenix

Where: Mesa Arts Center’s Piper Theatre

When: Friday, November 11. The event begins at 4pm.

For more information, and for tickets: visit www.tedxphoenix.com.


  • Jay Meno

    I am, right now, packing up my stuff to leave Arizona. I should be gone by December, but I may stick around as long as February. I am actually a native to the state. I am moving out to Portland OR to work with smarter, more talented people. I work in science/tech, and Phoenix is not the place to be. I’m tired of the republican political/government drama whoring, the racism, the homophobia, the crappy downtown Phoenix (I live two blocks from the baseball park), the old people and their elder slums, and the overall negative atmosphere. There’s a lot of good to Arizona, but I don’t think highly of the people here, the politics, the real estate industry/mafia, the poor city planning (other than the roads… the roads here are awesome), and the general feeling that people live here but this isn’t their home. Kids come to the universities here, but then they leave because they really don’t like it here beyond the party schools. The old people just come here to die, and complain all the while doing it.

    The smart people ditch Arizona, as they should. This won’t change any decade soon due to the continued influx of people from the other flyover states who think the standard of living is a huge improvement, while paying the tractor to plow over the beautiful desert to make more tract homes with grassy lawns and pools that nobody ever swims in. They come and complain endlessly about it being too hot here and you get the impression they really wish they lived somewhere else.

    I got the message Arizona. You want my six-digit salary ass to leave the state. Okay. Bye.

    • You and I should be friends, Jay Meno.

      • Though this was a great event, as are most of the TEDx presentations around the valley.

  • “The smart people ditch Arizona”

    …maybe, but so do the cowards. The brave people, the ones with vision, they stay and contribute. Admittedly, there are cities with more character, culture and personality than Phoenix (they’re great to visit), but 99% of the time those qualities were established before Arizona was even a state. What Phoenix strives for takes time and determination. By all means though Jay don’t let me slow you down, run away fast and far. While you’re at it take some like-minded folks with you, frankly I’m tired of the whining. I’m not trying to be rude Jay, but laying the foundation of our future here requires a strong backbone, you dig?