Rock, Paper, Scissors: The Power of Coming Together

As a member of the first cohort of the Merck Drexel Advanced Leadership Program for Diverse Suppliers, I was given the opportunity for the first time ever to attend the Billion Dollar Roundtable (BDR) on August 11th and 12th in Jersey City, NJ. The BDR is an organization that promotes and shares best practices in supply chain diversity.

I wasn’t completely sure what to expect when I walked into the large ballroom. For the opening event, attendees would be putting together equipment for disabled veterans. Wheelchair parts lined the room’s perimeter.

BDR conference attendees with a wheelchair.

First, the emcee ran us through a bunch of icebreakers. We had to silently find everyone who had our birth month and who used our toothpaste brand.

Then, for the next icebreaker, the emcee said we were going to play Ultimate Rock, Paper, Scissors. Winner would play winner, while everyone who did not win became a cheerleader for their team. I was thinking to myself, “All right—well, I haven’t played that in maybe three decades. This ought to be interesting. I will probably be out in a round!”

Fun and support

I ended up winning the first game. Then the second, and the third. Meanwhile, all of the people I had faced started forming a circle around me, cheering for me to keep winning for our team. I somehow found myself in a final faceoff with the winner from the other team. By this time, the entire room surrounded us, cheering with every throw of a hand gesture. After casting the same signs as the other player about 5 times in a row, he won the final round, and I shook his hand. I had not had this much fun—or felt so genuinely supported—in quite some time.

We then broke into teams where we completed trivia questions to get access to the wheelchair parts and build them, including safety-testing the equipment. My team didn’t win first or even fourth place for this part of the competition, but we were super proud of that wheelchair! As we assembled it, I thought about all the good work my father (who is a service-disabled veteran) does for the veteran community and how excited he would be when I told him about this.

At the end of the competition, everyone was tired from building the wheelchairs. We took some photos and then departed for the conference sessions.

Bringing people together

For the rest of the conference, I had people coming up to me and saying, “Hey, it’s Rock Paper Scissors Girl!” or throwing rock or paper hand gestures at me. I quickly realized: this activity had had an impact on everyone there as much as it had on me, in that it was crazy fun but also in that it had brought us all—corporate members, and diverse suppliers like me—together around a common goal: helping people get what they need.

I may see many of these people at the next supplier diversity-related conference. And they may say, “Hey, Rock Paper Scissors Girl!” to which I will gladly answer.

Jeanette Towles at the 2022 BRD conference.
“Rock Paper Scissors Girl” Jeanette Towles.
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Jeanette Towles