Aoife Manley, DMSB'19, was the student speaker at the D'Amore-McKim School of Business Undergraduate Graduation Celebration. She spoke to her fellow Huskies about the importance of resilience, critical thinking, and the ability to adapt in any situation to meet success.
Read her full speech below.
Blockchain, artificial intelligence, machine learning.Now that we've covered all the of the trending buzzwords, I think we're safe to begin the speech!
D'Amore McKim class of 2019 – after five years of running around the globe, schedules crammed full of incredible experiences, I'm sure you're all appreciating how nice it is to simply sit together for a minute. Thank you to the family members that have guided and supported us through our education. Thank you to our mentors and professors who have encouraged and inspired us to succeed both on and off campus, and thank you to the wonderful friends and classmates we have been lucky enough to get to know during our time at Northeastern. Together, we are dual citizens – of the academic and the working world – and we redefine the meaning of education.
How do we define D'Amore McKim? You cannot do so in terms of specific experiences, for we are the ultimate pick and mix. There is no “average” path – each one of us has undertaken a different journey that shapes the lenses through which we view the world. A semester abroad in Spain, dialogue in the Middle East, co-op on Wall Street – as the seasons change, so too does our LinkedIn status. Despite following different paths, we are united – collectively, we could plaster the Great Wall of China with the number of resumes we have lying around. In the same day you'll find us in business formal on our third interview of midterm's week, in the classroom debating economic policy, and discussing the Patriots in Conor's. What unites us is our appetite for change -continually venturing outside the comfort of the familiar and extending our horizons. In both work and study, we test and pivot again and again; our fingers taking the pulse the economy. We are a remarkable group of inquisitive and passionate students, for whom change is the new normal.
In 1987, the Us Army War College coined an acronym to describe the Post-Cold-War world, ‘VUCA'. Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, Ambiguity. Today more than ever, business organizations are currently operating in such an environment – the old maps are failing to describe the lay of the land, as long dominate incumbents are being threatened in a new kind of usurping – the Information Revolution. Capital is no longer an ironclad barrier to entry, and businesses scale at an unprecedented pace through technology.
We stand here at the brink of this future shrouded in uncertainty; as we are busy driving the economy, our cars will be driving themselves. Our intelligence will be challenged by machines of our own invention, made up of lines of 1's and 0's. Our morals and ethics are being condensed and coded into algorithms. The context in which we operate is shifting rapidly, and we have reached an inflection point – change is the new status quo.
In this new economy, information is our currency. More data will be generated in 2019 than in the 5000 years previous. To print out the entire internet, it would take over 130 billion pages of paper – and we have grown up with all of that knowledge in our pockets. Herein lies the number one priority for business leaders in 2019 – how best to adapt and thrive in the age of information, when the context is changing so rapidly.
Here at D'Amore McKim, we know the answer – that education is not simply the accumulation of vast stores of knowledge or information stacked high on bookcases. Rather, it is effective understanding and application. Our education is the injection of critical thinking. It is the extraction of insight. The shortening of the gap between analysis, decision and action. University is not a cocoon we retreat into. We engage in constant exchange – exercising our dual citizenship in industry and academia, and catalyzing ideas into action.
Last summer, I went for a long walk – there is absolutely nothing extraordinary about this, except that it took me 35 days. For those of you wondering – no, I wasn't caught in the Rebecca's lunch line, or lost in the Northeastern tunnels. I was walking 500 miles across Spain, from the French border to the rocky western peninsula of Finestere. Known as the “End of the World”, in Roman times sailors believed it to be the edge of earth, beyond which an ‘infinite mystery' began. One day, I was about 300 miles into this hike, and two dozen blisters deep, when I encountered an obstacle. I mean that entirely literally – I walked face-first into a stop sign, and sprawled like a turtle on the dirt track. I learned two important lessons that day: number one, when they say push through your barriers they do not mean that quite so literally, and number two, stop signs are extremely good at their jobs. As I dusted off, I thought about how unfortunate it was that I was now both sunburnt and concussed – but mostly I thought about Northeastern. We constantly embrace new situations and develop not just tolerance, but an appetite for change. Northeastern fosters resilience and determination – enough of it to run headfirst into an obstacle and continue on. This ability to adapt – to pivot and persevere – is what will allow us to thrive in this new economy, and to navigate this information revolution.
The pen is blurring on the pages of history books as they try to track the pace of progress in the world today. Yet we see the wave of change and ask – how can we harness this power? How can we ride it to a unchartered destinations? We do not observe static image, but trace the arc of change as in flies through the air, anticipating where it will land and what opportunities it may bring.
Today, as we graduate, it may feel like as if we are standing at the edge of the earth, on the precipice of infinite mystery – but we have already taken the first step, and we walk together as a loyal pack of huskies. I look forward to seeing all of you at the 10 year reunion, but before then – catch you on the Forbes 100.
D'Amore McKim class of 2019, congratulations!