Global Shaper at Davos

Winter Camp: Davos

Once each year, the sleepy Alps town of Davos, Switzerland becomes a mecca for thousands of people. Whether you’re a CEO, economist, media leader, artist, academic, politician or royal, somehow you fit into the mysterious ecosystem of the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting. I had the great pleasure, and potentially once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, of going as one of 50 Global Shapers from across the world.  Much like the rest of the constituency attending, we spanned the globe, covering 39 countries and 50 different cities.  Unlike the other participants, (there are no ‘attendees’ because everyone is engaged and involved) we were 50/50 male/female (17% female overall) and between ages 23 and 33.


While I could certainly go through the regular rhetoric about the marvels of Davos, I’ll try in earnest to give a glimpse of my experience as a first-timer (many say it takes at least three visits to ‘get how Davos works’) and as a Shaper.


From the moment of arrival at the Zurich airport, I felt that deja vu feeling of going to summer camp. This time, however, it was winter in the Swiss Alps, so it felt more like Winter Camp. After an all-night flight, and having lost six hours with the time change, I waited at the train station for two fellow Shapers arriving from the U.S.  We hugged: although we’d never met, we knew instinctively that the week ahead would make us a family. 

While waiting for the train (3 legs and about 3 hours of travel), the magic of Davos began to unfold when we started to meet other attendees, sharing stories of Davos-past, and tips for our impending time there. 


Finally arriving in Davos 16 hours of travel later, a fellow female Shaper and I found our way to our assigned accommodations: a dorm for 12-20 year olds.   This is when the camp feeling became all the more real. We found rooms for two measuring about 7′x15′, with small beds not far off of the floor.  The next surprise was the communal bathroom, decked out with four see-through showers. (This was an important point when we realized later that the 12-yr-old male residents were to be sharing these with us, primarily females in our late 20s). Feeling exhausted, we tried to sleep a bit, knowing we had a hectic six days ahead. As jet lag and altitude would have it, not only would I not sleep then (after one hour of sleep on the overnight flight), but I wouldn’t be able to sleep that night either. This wasn’t the best start, but certainly was a tie that binds many a Davos-goer. 


Throughout the day, girls and guys began to come to our dorm, and we made quick friends with people from Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the Philippines, the UK, Austria, Norway, China, Africa, and more. We bonded over our shared concerns about the accommodations, and soon came to realize that this disappointment is common in Davos. Even heads of state and executives find themselves in less-than-desirable accommodations.  


That night we met as Shapers at the famous Piano Bar, where many end up late at night, and which is said to be ‘where the real business happens’. I struggled to see how that would be possible when it was filled wall-to-wall with people each night we went. 


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