Autumn Conferrings 2010
Devere Hall, Áras na Mac Léinn, UCC, 08 Sep 2010
Ms Anne O’Leary, Executive Chairman, Kinematik @ 10.00am & 12.30pm
Autumn Conferrings 2010
10.00am & 12.30pm Wednesday 8 September 2010
Ms Anne O’Leary
Executive Chairman, Kinematik
Well congratulations – you did it! You have qualified with your masters or honours degree. That is no mean achievement – I remember back to when I was where you are now. It was a real milestone in my life. I have no doubt it is the same for you. Well done! Savour the moment. There is a world of opportunity out there for you to seize…..
Yes, we are in a recession and you may be thinking that this is a terrible time to graduate. You may be wondering why you bothered at all. Well … stop that way of thinking. You have graduated .. NOW .. so for you it has to be the best time ever to graduate. From here on – you have to believe that the only way is up.
I should know, when I graduated in the early 80's the unemployment rate was 15% and topped out at 18% in the mid 80’s (latest figures for 2010 puts it at 13.7%), we had mass emigration, nicely referred to as the “brain drain” and a severely overvalued currency zero economic growth (sounds familiar?). Bank interest rates then were 17% so money was scarce just like now. But you know, my graduation class might have been spread across the globe in the following years, but we survived .. in fact, we thrived.
My Grandfather used to say “Just remember nothing is ever as good as it seems and nothing is ever as bad as it seems either”. Engineers aren’t known particularly for their literary references, but let’s say that “it is the best of times, it is the worst of times”. It’s really down to you.
You have come through challenging times to get here today. The challenge intensifies and this is where all the real fun begins!! In a recession, great things are born...great ideas generated...expectations are realistic and aspirations are always high....it’s a time when innovation and energy abound ... need is great catalyst. When you’re low on money, creativity and courage are the currencies that count. Necessity is the corner stone of great invention.
They told me I was crazy in 1990 when I started CADCO, but to me the changes that were happening with technology was like been part of the industrial revolution. It was an incredibly exciting time!! And fantastic to be part of it!! The technology was finally allowing engineers to do what they were trained to do…design, innovate and create…not spend tedious hours at a drawing board.
The Sunday Business Post had just started in business then too and gave CADCO great coverage, which was fantastic for us and clearly they were short of positive news… So when my business partner was asked …for the 10th time…”so it’s quite unusual for a female engineer to set up in business, why?”… he glibly answered, “She couldn’t get the job she wanted so she decided to make her own”. And he was right!!
And that is the same situation you find yourselves in today. When you have nothing to lose, you have more room to play, to let your imaginations run free, to create. When you have little to protect, you can take risks, you can fail often and without shame because failures abound, but you can be the ones who learn from each failure and have the courage to build that learning into your next risk taking venture.
Actually, now we’re getting on to something I’m quite passionate about… Failure… and yes, I know you are all incredibly successful graduates here today so why am I talking to you about failure? Because I absolutely believe that to achieve your dreams you have to have great courage. And courage is not just doing something difficult to the best of your ability. Courage is doing something that seriously scares you… well outside your comfort zone... but if you’re right, the rewards will be great and if you’re wrong... you’ll learn from it... grow and develop from it.
And I do still live by the “do something that really scares you…it’s good for you“ rule. I’m here… and public speaking actually terrifies me!!
I have very few rules in business… but it’s NOT… Never Make Mistakes. It’s Never Make The Same Mistake Twice!! Being honest, I firmly believe that if you have not had some failures in your business life, then you’re just not trying hard enough. And playing it too safe never pays off!
As I’m sure you know, you also have an absurdly useful tool at your disposal – the internet. You are lucky enough to be graduating into what has been termed the knowledge revolution. When I graduated, the person who had access to the information was in serious demand. Now you all have access to more information than you can possibly digest. Tomorrow those in demand will be those who can design ways of connecting consumers to the information they need, when they need it and in ways that make it useful, who demonstrate the relevance of that information, in other words, those who transform information into knowledge.
That’s what you have been learning to do for the last 4/5 years. You have been learning to be creative. You have been learning to apply the available information in solving problems and constructing knowledge that leads to creative solutions. Creativity is at the heart of the disciplines of engineering and science. By training in those disciplines you have been empowered. You have learned the skills, the processes, the procedures that enable you to capture information, distil it and transform it into knowledge. These skills are invaluable, so a nod to your long-suffering faculty might be in order at this point.
By using that knowledge to solve the problems that confront you, you create solutions. You make things better, faster, cheaper, easier, more accessible, more friendly to the environment, more sustainable. You enrich your society and your nation by improving the quality of life for everyone. You reshape your world.
But we accomplish nothing alone. Your ability to build networks with other professionals will be key to your success. Look around you. Everyone in a gown here today is now part of your network.
Today you have a bond that will always be with you. If you play your cards right, you can keep some of these extraordinary people as part of your network. Use it. Harness its energy. Share ideas. Liaise. Create. Facebook, Linkedin – these are your new best friends. The faces around you are the faces of the future decision makers, the business owners and managers, the entrepreneurs. These people can form a family, a safe place where you can discuss options, learn, assist, mentor and guide and be guided through your ever developing career paths!!
I may have spent most of my career working with technology, and some may say my iPhone is never out of my hand but there is one thing I have learned, and it’s this. No amount of Facebook messaging can replace the human connection, and no email asking for advice can replace the delight of the flashbulb moment that can sometimes only arise from the 2 am brainstorming session. Keep in touch personally. Make yourself available whenever you can to those who seek your counsel, and you’ll never find yourself short of people to turn to when it is your time to seek advice. And remember never be afraid to ASK for that help!!
This is your time. This is your opportunity. As a scientist or an engineer, your task is nothing less than to make the world a better place. It is your turn to take on the mantle, your time to reinterpret and reshape this world that your parents are handing on to you. It is an exciting time to be in your position. Courage Creativity and Conscience …Never sell yourselves short. Be brave and be inspired. And most of all have fun!!
Congratulations, class of 2010!