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Schneider, Commencement Speech

Feb 22, 2005
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Robert H. Smith School of Business, Spring Graduation
May 22, 2005 Comcast Center
Transcript, Commencement Speech
Andrew Schneider, MBA 2005:

Thank you Dean Frank. Distinguished guests, husbands and wives, mothers and fathers, friends and relatives, my fellow graduates,

WE DID IT!

Not only did we drink from the fire hose, as Professor Bailey predicted during my tracks first week of our first semester, and survive, but we also survived a hurricane, a business plan or case competition, ELMs, too many team meetings to count, entire weekends spent in class, internship and job searches and regression analysis.

So now what?

As graduates, we stand not only at the starting gate of a new era in our own lives, nor just at the dawn of a new century, but also upon the beginning of a new age.

An age in which the rigid and hierarchical systems of the last century, whether political, cultural, scientific or economic, are quickly being replaced by an integration of systems across disciplines and borders in which information, people, and movements are traveling at speeds and rates of adoption unimaginable even a generation ago.

This will be, if you will, a digital age.

The digital economy -- more than just the economic implications of advancement in Communication and Information Technology, will have profound and unintended consequences for our world.

We know that this age is upon us. In the past month we have seen the New York Stock Exchange take steps to become a virtual trading floor and in China we have witnessed the explosive use of mobile technology and the Internet to circumvent strict state control of information.

What will be the implications of this age? What are the implications for democracy, business, and for us? I believe that we have a vital role to play in this age.

We must embrace the integrated world. Linear and exclusive thinking has been exhausted. Cross-disciplinary, cross-functional; cross-cultural thinking will be the engine for what is to come. The lessons that we have learned in the classroom cannot be left behind.

We must take with us, to our careers, to our communities and to our countries, the core tenants that we have absorbed over the past two and three years.

These tenants are INCLUSION, COLLABORATION, ANALYSIS, and COMMUNICATION.

But embracing the integrated world is not enough. We must be leaders. We have not come this far to be timid, to gaze at the precipice before us and pontificate. It will be an age of action, mobility, and agility.

But how to lead? Lead what?

To guide us I suggest the insights from a recent book that I've read entitled, What Should I Do With My Life? by author Po Bronson. In the book Mr. Bronson interviewed nearly 900 people who had faced that very question. What he found was that the people who spoke passionately and most satisfyingly about their own lives were people who described their life's work with words like MEANINGFUL, FULFILLING, and SIGNIFICANT.

Pick something. A field, an interest. Let it drive you. If it feels MEANINGFUL, FULFILLING, and SIGNIFICANT, dig deeper, if it feels wrong or shallow, stop and try something else. Trying and failing is surely the noble path in comparison to sticking to the safe harbors. The opportunities that we have created for ourselves should not, indeed, can not be squandered.

It is not by accident that we stand here today at the starting gate. Each of us has worked hard and the hours spent studying, drinking from the fire hose, the dollars for tuition, our sacrifices and the sacrifices of our loved ones, all have brought us to this moment.

Seize it. Embrace the moment, seize the age, and define it, you leaders, leaders of the digital economy.

Thank you and good luck.

About the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business 

The Robert H. Smith School of Business is an internationally recognized leader in management education and research. One of 12 colleges and schools at the University of Maryland, College Park, the Smith School offers undergraduate, full-time and part-time MBA, executive MBA, online MBA, MS in business, PhD and executive education programs, as well as outreach services to the corporate community. The school offers its degree, custom and certification programs in learning locations in North America and Asia.