2018 COMMENCEMENT ADDRESS
Thank you, Melissa. And thank you esteemed members of the faculty, esteemed parents, proud friends and family. Congratulations to all of you. But most importantly, congratulations to the incredibly impressive Holy Child Class of 2018!
I'm sure many of my fellow Class of 2006 classmates in the audience can attest to the personal challenges, bouts of self-reflection and sometimes maybe even a bit of disbelief that has come with reaching the milestone age of 30-years-old this past year. Well I must admit, that being invited to serve as a commencement speaker at my old high school was all that I needed to fully accept the fact that I am indeed 30 years old, and it had been 12 years since I graduated from Holy Child on June 10, 2006. All jokes aside, it is an absolute honor and a privilege to serve as your commencement speaker. I vividly remember sitting in your shoes – wearing the long white gown and holding red roses, sweating because of a mixture of the 90-degree weather and the anxiety that came with this chapter closing and the uncertainty of what college would entail, and feeling immense pride – proud of being a part of this special community and achieving such an important milestone. But when I sat in your shoes, I desperately wished that someone could give me a playbook – a set of advice for me to consider as I enter this next chapter. So today, I will share two pieces of advice with you from my experiences on Wall Street, moving away from home and working in Finance in London, and finally my past two years at Harvard Business School.
The first message I'd like to share with you is: just say yes! Back in 2012, I was working in investment banking as an analyst at Citigroup. During October of that year, I was offered a unique opportunity to move to London to join Goldman Sachs. To many observing from the outside, it was an absolute no brainer. Goldman Sachs is a leading investment bank, I would have international work experience on my resume at the age of 23, who wouldn't take this opportunity? But for me, I was terrified. You see, I had always been afraid of being alone. In fact, my biggest nightmare used to be (and sometimes still is, if I'm being honest!) is walking into a large cafeteria and not being able to find a table with my friends so instead I have to sit and eat alone. So as you can see, moving 3,459 miles away from my family, friends, established work network was absolutely terrifying. But I put my fears aside, and I just said yes. On December 2, 2012, I boarded a plane to London, United Kingdom and little did I know that my four years in London would change my life. My four-year journey abroad taught me more about life, love and fear than any of my experiences to date. Had I said no to the opportunity to work abroad, I would have missed out on travel to over twenty countries across Europe, the Middle East and Africa. I would have missed out on opportunities to interact in diverse settings and challenge my pre-existing beliefs while also defending my viewpoints to others. I would have missed out on the opportunity to sit in on business meetings in Spain, France and Germany that were held outside of my native tongue. Most importantly, I would have missed out on the opportunity to be humbled by my challenges, to be adaptable to new environments, and to always take a global view. So when these awesome opportunities come to you (and they will), I wish that you will just say yes. Don't let fear get to you. Don't think about the what-ifs, just. Say. Yes. There is immense growth that comes from opportunities like these. And even if they do not go according to plan, or even if they turn out to be a failure, there is growth in failing forward. So, just say yes.
The second message I'd like to share is create your own definition of success. I studied Systems and Information Engineering at the University of Virginia, and after two summer internships at Citigroup, I accepted a full-time offer to join the investment bank in 2010. In the beginning, I enjoyed my work. But after a while, if I'm being honest, I only stayed because of what I viewed the external definition of success to be. I thought that working on Wall Street was a stamp of approval – it showed that I was hard working, analytical, and successful. But deep down, I was unhappy. I was working 80-100 hour weeks, had gained a ton of weight and was not leading a healthy lifestyle. A pivotal moment for me, was coming home at 1-2am after work, and noticing a pamphlet that my parents had left on my nightstand on "healthy ways to manage stress". It was then that I knew that not only did I know deep down that I was unhappy, but those closest to me also could tell. And I'm sad to say, that even after that defining moment, I still worked in finance for 4 more years. It was only in 2015, when I mustered the courage to apply to graduate business school programs, and in August 2016, I embarked on my two-year journey at Harvard Business School. With the goal in mind of pivoting careers to one that I was truly passionate about. I'm now really excited to be working at Intel in Silicon Valley on their Virtual Reality, Esports and Gaming team. A complete pivot – but an industry and a technology that I'm truly excited about. And now, success for me is not solely defined by my career. Success is paying it forward and donating my time to organizations I care about. Success is finding true happiness in the relationships that I cultivate. Success is leaving a legacy. But don't conform to my definitions of success. I want you to feel comfortable creating your own definition of success and standing by it. Because only then will you find true fulfillment and happiness.
And now, as a fellow Holy Child alumna, I'd like to be among the first to personally welcome you to the Holy Child Alumnae Network. Change can be frightening I know, but the bonds, stories and relationships that you have with each other do not have to end here. You now have the alumnae network which is thrilled to welcome you and to serve as a resource, but more importantly, you now have a duty to pay it forward and serve as a resource to current students. In closing, as you consider this next step in your journey – remember two things: (1) just say yes! And (2) create your own definition of success. After all, before you know it, you'll be 30 years old, reflecting on your life and career experiences to date, and preparing to give a speech for graduation. So be sure to track your story. I know it'll be a good one.