Having finished grading (yea, having submitted the final grades themselves), I attempt to resurface from my cave.
It’s really rather bright out here!
Anyway, as you will have deduced from my last post, there was a commencement-sized break in my grading activities on Saturday. The commencement speaker, Google senior vice president of global sales and business development Omid Kordestani, gave a nice address to the grads and their guests, so I’m reporting on his big points here.
Kordestani couched his remarks in terms of a set of “Aha!” moments he has had in his own life, and the lessons he learned from them.
- To keep your edge, think and act like an immigrant. By this, Kordestani meant that one should maintain a sense of optimism, and regard no obstacle as insurmountable. He saw this attitude as his mother’s key to success when, recently widowed, she moved her family out of Iran to pursue better educational opportunities for her kids, and he felt that adopting this attitude himself helped him at school and in the workplace. (He also related a very funny story about how, after the family had settled in England, he decided — at age 14 — that the family really needed to go to the U.S. He was so utterly earnest about it that his mom agreed. What convinced him that the U.S. as where they should build their new life? The Jeffersons.)
- Follow your instincts and passion, not the money. Yes, this is what Google’s sales guy said! (It’s not just me!) Kordestani talked about how, after studying engineering as an undergraduate, he came to discover that he really liked dealing with people; he was smart enough to see that what he studied wasn’t who he had to be. He also talked about passing on an opportunity to make buckets of money working as an investment banker so he could be a part of a start-up. The start-up ultimately failed, but he said that not only did it make him happier than banking would have, but it also built the relationships and set him in the direction that took him, ultimately, to Google.
- Life is a path, not a destination. Again, Kordestani emphasized that a degree should not limit one’s choices. One should take risks and not be afraid of mistakes (“missteps are not missed steps”). He cast life after college as “your start-up phase; certainty is a moving target”. It was pretty clear, though, that he viewed the uncertainty in terms of its great potential and excitement. Ultimately, since Kordestani’s view of success in the world was so tightly tied with finding a path that feels right and “fits”, he advised the graduates, “Make the small decisions with your head and the big decisions with your heart.”
The address was engaging, the delivery was heartfelt, and it seemed to take just the right amount of time in the program. I’d give it four mortarboards.
Feel free to use the comments to report on commencement speakers you may have heard this graduation season.