When I found out that I was selected to go to Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, the most common comment I heard from coworkers was, “I remember seeing a sign or email about that, but I kind of ignored it.” I totally get that. We’re bombarded with emails and communications constantly, not only as consumers, but even as employees.

It can be overwhelming to keep track of all the initiatives and opportunities that Moxie provides us, but if I had one learning in the last week, it’s this: I will never again ignore those messages again. Because my choice to read, research, and respond to the opportunity that Moxie gave one employee to go to Cannes led to one of the most impactful experiences of my career.

The Cannes Young Lions Media Academy is a five-day immersive learning experience with speakers from companies like Google, Visa, The New York Times, Pinterest, Spotify and Publicis Media. What makes the Media Academy much different from the normal Cannes Lions events is that we had intimate access to our speakers: we were able to ask questions of each leader who came in and gain relevant, personal advice for our work and lives. I’d love to pass along three things I learned to you, and I hope these things stir in you a sense of curiosity and excitement, much like they did for me.

1. Our industry has a long way to go when it comes to diversity & inclusion.

I heard from many speakers at Cannes that diversity has been a topic of discussion for at least a few years at the Festival. I think it’s great that we’ve seen this incredibly important issue get more attention in recent years, but the most important thing I learned at Cannes is that we still have a long way to go. We heard from speakers like Gabrielle Union, Amber Guild, President of T-Brand Studio (part of The New York Times) and Lynn Lewis, U.S. CEO of UM Worldwide speak about representation and the fact that diversity means absolutely nothing without inclusion. If people have a seat at the table, but aren’t allowed to speak, then we’ve lost—we must allow those diverse populations to be infused in all aspects of our work, not just to be numbers for our D&I reports. The advertising industry has a way to go and agencies can play a huge role in pushing our world forward on this issue.

2. Your network and contacts are everything, and they should extend beyond your discipline.

Jane Melvin and Charles Courtier, our deans at the Media Academy, put together a list of over 30 speakers who volunteered their time to come to our classroom and speak to us, take our questions and share their insights. Jane and Charles both mentioned multiple times that because of their professional and personal connections with these speakers, some of which were forged over thirty years ago, we were able to get this kind of access. The other thing that stood out from several of our speakers is the importance of building connections outside of our siloed disciplines. Extending our network outside of our discipline may open doors to jobs we never even considered down the road, and those connections could help us succeed in those roles.

3. We should put the humanity back into marketing and advertising.

At our core, we crave human connection. No one wants to be seen as a number or a demo or a target. We want to be seen and recognized as human beings with feelings, ideas and ambitions. Kim Kadlec, Global Marketing Platforms at Visa told us that the difference between AI and humans is that “humans can dream.” Nick Brien, CEO, US & Americas at Dentsu said, “Consumers are people first.” And Andy Holton, Head of Advertiser & Creative Strategy at Pinterest reminded us that audiences aren’t personas—they’re people. Even one of my classmates, Max Slonim (Sr. Strategist at Initiative) pushed us and our speakers all week long on the idea that we should stop using the word consumers and start saying people/humans instead. So I’ll start there – I’m committing to infusing humanity back into my agency as much as possible and to think about audiences as people, not as demos/targets/consumers. I hope you’ll join me.

All in all, the lesson I’d love to pass on to you is: don’t ignore the opportunities that your company gives you. Sometimes, that email, that poster, that digital screen holds a lifechanging chance to grow both personally and professionally. And now that I’ve experienced Cannes, my goal is to come back to work with a reinvigorated sense of purpose, the courage to drive change and a network of people from around the world who are supporting me and cheering for me to succeed in my career.

This article originally appeared on LinkedIn.

 Author: Alexa McGriff, Senior Strategist, Moxie