DR. MAS WAWERU’S SPEECH AT IAT GRADUATION CEREMONY
ON 22ND AUGUST 2014, KASARANI CAMPUS, NAIROBI
Director, Members of the Governing Council, Members of Faculty of Business and IT, distinguished guests, proud parents and above all graduants, good morning. It is my great pleasure to join you today as we celebrate the achievement of the young men and women graduating today.
To our Graduants, – Congratulations for having the courage, the perseverance and the resolve to complete your *Diploma / Certificate Programs*. You have achieved academic success and you have every right to feel proud, your families certainly are and so does IAT. Well done!
I am humbled by the honor bestowed upon me to preside over this graduation. That honor comes with great responsibility. In the weeks leading to this moment, I have racked my mind and heart. I have asked myself what events in my life have shaped who I am today and the work that I do. I have asked myself what lessons have I learnt during my career. I came up with just one event and five lessons. The lessons apply to career as much as they do to life in general and what it takes to be successful professionally, as a person and in the community.
Some of what I am about to share with you may inspire you, individually rather than collectively. I hope that there is something in it for each one of you.
The graduation ceremony is one of the most important occasions in the life of an academic community. For you - our graduants - today is the culmination of many years of hard work, personal sacrifice and commitment. It is a precious moment which you will treasure for a long time and it is with great joy that I convey congratulations to each of you. I would like to join the graduants in saying a big thank you to all those who contributed to making this day a reality. I know this day is also very special for your parents, spouses, children, friends and your communities who have provided you the necessary moral and material support. For your faculty- the people who devote their lives to making this school a center of excellence. Each of these people has made personal sacrifices, without which you would not have reached this significant milestone on the road to knowledge and high accomplishments.
You, our graduants, have multi-faceted accomplishments, you have acquired new knowledge and enhanced skills, and, with concomitant ethical and moral attributes, you are now equipped to venture into the world as well-educated individuals and responsible members of the global community. It is my sincere hope that as you embark on your journey you will nature your dream- yes you probably have heard that soo many times you may think its cliché, but I tell you the truth, it’s your vision and dreams that will be the compass for the journey ahead. Napoleon Hill wrote “Cherish your vision and your dreams as they are the children of your soul, the blue prints of your ultimate achievements”
You may have been dared to dream, but I dare you to commit to your dreams, (you know dreams are just dreams, it’s the action- the hard work that makes them a reality) so, be enthusiastic about where you want to get and put your energies to passionately pursue those dreams. With the understanding that you will face both tough times and amazing experiences, at times the path will be clear, other times its will be blur but always remember regrets are born of paths never taken.
Have faith in the skills and the knowledge you’ve been blessed with and keep going. Let no one tell you that the world has limited opportunities; there are many of them-conventional and non-conventional, already existing and those which you will create. The mistake we often make is we become too focused on finding the perfect opportunity that we miss out on the right opportunity. My challenge to you is to believe, believe in the higher power, believe in your abilities, believe in karma or anything you want to believe in that inspires you to win, to greater achievement, to becoming a better person and giving the best in your careers. I’m talking about winning in a contest with your own potential. I’m talking about believing in yourself enough to become the best accountant, IT guru, or business person you can possibly be. I’m talking about never measuring your success based on the success of others – because you just might set the bar too low.
As a person who has travelled the path before you I’ll tell you for sure, dreams or even success is not achieved over night, true some are realized sooner than others yet most will be realized over a period of time. I’ll give you my story………..
I ended up on this path through a childhood event which though challenging at the time, turned out to be an amazing gift. I was given a head start in life, an advantage, 50 odd years ago, when a baby boy was born into a very humble family. I am being extremely generous with my wording. I grew up in the very humble environment where I was very familiar with poverty. Most of you at this point may be thinking to yourselves, ‘But poverty isn’t an advantage? If anything we are taught that it’s a curse!’ It is however the lessons that I learned during this phase in my life that make me classify it as an advantage.
My youth was surrounded by the common notion that a child could do no better than the generation that came before them. That poverty or wealth was predetermined by those that came before us and was therefore inherited as is wealth. This notion essentially classified me as a potential failure and poor citizen. I was very fortunate because my single parent, despite not having got any formal education, believed in me and my potential. What really helped was that she prayed and asked God to give her wisdom to get her children to understand the importance of intellectual development. Despite her very difficult life of having to fend for us, a full volleyball team, a referee and two assistants / linesmen, she never adopted the victim’s mentality. She never felt sorry for herself and neither did she feel sorry for us in turn.
From this I can learn an important lesson. Do not blame your situation. Make the best of what you have – Period!
Now, fast forward to the present. I am privileged to be a Corporate Executive of a Blue chip company. I also run an established Management and Training Consultancy firm, where I work in leadership development; I coach business, government and NGO leaders to help them further realize their own potential and the potential of their organizations. I have also served USIU as an adjunct lecturer for about seven years. It is through this that I had the pleasure of meeting your Director, who turned out to not only be an impeccable student but a close friend.
The lessons I am about to share with you often arise in the course of the work I do. They underpin some of what it takes to be a successful leader. Here we go…..
Lesson One: Be grateful, You are lucky
Lucky to be born, lucky to have family and friends who love and support you, lucky to have survived your teenage years and lucky to have had the opportunity to now obtain a *Didploma/ Certificate*. Thank people often, and from your heart. If you are not happy with something in your life, change it, or if you are unable to change it (like being born into ‘poverty’), change the way you look at it. Perspective can be the defining difference between success and failure.
Lesson Two: Be Resilient
As students of both business and IT, I assume that most of you at some point or another have endured this kind of conversation, as I certainly did during my degree. ‘Oh! So you are doing IT? Oh! So you are doing business? Can you really get a job in this field as so many people have done this?’ Well, I am living proof that you can get a job if you remain resilient. Do not fixate on what other graduates have done, or how many graduates are released into the job market, that does not concern you.
The sad truth however is, indeed, by the time you get out there, ‘All the apples may have been picked from the orchard’, and there may be no apples left for you. But if you could turn your head, shift your gaze from the apples, and realize that across the field remain other orchards yet to be exploited! Did you know that berries existed? Yes, you could pick berries. What I am trying to pass across is this, by changing your perspective; you can create your own dream, forge your own pathway and even invent your own fruit!
Lesson Three: Treat people with kindness and respect
I am sure that your parents raised you to act honestly and with integrity. There will be times during your career and in life when you have to make tough decisions, you may even face an ethical dilemma. A good example would be to those of you graduating in Information Technology. As you all know, IT is a fast paced industry that requires dynamic change. Issues of intellectual property, software piracy, computer crime, hacking and viruses are constantly debated. Now will you use the knowledge impacted on you for good or evil? A wise Ethics professor was once quoted saying, “When you are free, you must choose. When you choose, you are responsible”
Always ask yourself four questions and answer them honestly: Am I doing the right thing? Am I doing it for the right reason? Am I doing it the right way? Am I using what I have learnt in the way it was meant to be used?
Every choice that you make goes into the ‘Book of You’. You are the author and you are free to choose how it will read. Use what you have learnt wisely, give generously and make the book amazing.
Lesson 4: Be Original
In light of comedian and actor Robin Williams’ death, it is only befitting that I share one of my son’s favorite quotes from him. “You are only given a little spark of madness, you mustn’t lose it” and to this I agree.
I know your parents have bored you as I have my own children with the same line but you truly are one of a kind and you have this spark. Dare to be different ... Dare to Dream…Dear to Dream BIG! To the IT graduates invent something, an App! To the business graduates, create a business that makes a real difference to the world. Do something that others say cannot be done. I tell you this as I at times was called crazy, mad and insane. When this happens to you, just smile and thank them for the compliment as there is a very fine line between insanity and genius. Keep the spark alive and you may surprise yourself at what you are really capable of achieving.
Lesson 5: Attempt to Fail
Yes that’s right! Attempt to fail. Some of the things I have tried in my career were great successes others failed spectacularly! We do not learn much from being successful all the time. We learn the most when things do not turn out how we expect or if we try and fail at something. Life will at times knock you down and you can choose whether or not to get up. Yes, failure may feel uncomfortable, may even hurt or leave you with bruised egos, but take this as a gift and I encourage you to embrace the learning opportunities because it will build your character and you will come back wiser and stronger! In my opinion, there is something far worse than failing, and that is, fearing to attempt something in the first place.
Nothing lasts forever graduants. The average employee in Kenya spends about 80,000 hours at work during their lifetime. That’s more than 10,000 working days, this is a long time. I thus encourage you to do what you love, do what you are good at and make sure you get paid for it. While you are at it, eat well and exercise daily, it will buy you some extra days. What matters is what you do in that time frame and the choices you make. Choose wisely.
I’ve talked today about a journey, one that each of us travels. Often we travel together, as all of you have during your time at IAT. But in the end, it’s your journey, your path to travel. You are free to choose, and you are free to succeed. It just takes a vision, a Dream and hard work. Most who finally leave this great institution never imagine that they’re going to change the world. Yet every one of you will. How you change the world, is all up to you to decide.
Graduants, we live in an age of progress, and it is often said that the person who graduates then stops learning becomes uneducated the day after that, you should aim to continue learning. Look for ways of always improving your lives, learn as much as you can and in all this never forget to be human, always celebrating the differences that inform our perceptions and search for the commonality that unites us.
In my first graduation I received a Certificate after three arduous years of hard work…. Not a Diploma as some of you here, and not after two years but three! However I cherished it and named it a stepping stone, a ladder to success ... the success of my Big Dream. This is among the best decisions I have ever made. The next graduation conferred on me a Diploma after another three years of focused attention and commitment. Subsequent to that came the generally most desired …first Degree but not without another two years of lifetime commitment. The words, “graduation without further learning leaves you uneducated the day after” kept haunting me. I therefore kept on this journey to my dream. This took another two years to earn the second Degree. Looking ahead was still another step in the ladder, comprising another 6 years of academic indulgence. This culminated in the third cap, whose regalia you witness today!
My dear Graduants, I now pose the challenge to you: If I rose from a Certificate to a PHD degree, let alone the other achievement is other sectors of life, and despite the difficult early childhood earlier presented, why can’t you? I challenge you to dream even Bigger dreams!
Finally, today you join a large network of IAT Alumni. Congratulations once more! You are now ambassadors of this great institution and its values in the communities that it serves.
Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for indulging me today and making me a part of your most important function in the institution’s calendar. If you do not remember anything that I have said today, remember this… Dare to dream BIG, forge your own pathway, live purposefully and with passion and above all be true to yourself and you will inspire others.
Thank you and I wish each one of you the very best in the years ahead as you chart the next chapters of your book of life.
God Bless you all.