During a time of historic loss and economic downturn, new grads have been dealt a hand of uncertainty with weak global markets and a shortage of jobs. The outlook today is much different from when students began their studies at Carnegie Mellon a few years ago, but Robert Kelly, chairman and chief executive officer of BNY Mellon, delivered a message of both optimism and pragmatism for Tepper School graduates.
Kelly gave the keynote address at Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business diploma ceremony for master’s degree and Ph.D. recipients. The ceremony, at which 429 degrees were conferred, was held Saturday, May 16, at Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall in Pittsburgh.
“I am particularly pleased to have Bob with us today as this year’s speaker. It’s most timely and relevant to hear from a CEO leading one of the most respected global financial services firms in the world,” said Dunn. “His point of view regarding today’s business cycle as well as the skills that graduates will need to build successful careers comes alongside an important, global context.”
Kelly shared professional and personal insights from more than 30 years within the banking industry. “In life, I’ve found that people’s single biggest constraint is themselves. If you don’t think you can do something, it won’t happen. So think big, and be an optimist always—throughout your life and with your family and in your business career.”
Kelly recounted similar economic challenges when he graduated from college in the 1970s. Facing a faltering job market and a serious recession, he focused on tenets that continue to drive his career today—
understanding the importance of education, accepting a steep learning curve and, just as important, having fun. The CEO offered his perspective on work-life balance, “Life is too short to be doing something that you’re not enjoying. Over time, the people who enjoy their jobs outperform those who do not enjoy their jobs.”
Highlighting the challenging economic issues affecting today's graduates, Kelly placed the current hardships, such as the shrinking job market, GDP growth and social security into perspective. “The good news is that every one of these issues is solvable, and you are going to have to help solve them.” He also encouraged graduates to become part of the change, “This is going to take leadership. It’s going to take the ability to make really hard decisions, and it’s going to take the will to see them through. This is what we need right now, and this is what we need in our future leaders.”
Kelly left the Tepper School graduates with a clear message about the future and a few words of encouragement as well, “Embrace change. Change is a constant. So embrace it, and use it to your advantage. You have huge competitive advantages entering the workforce."
Editor's Note: Following his address, Kelly was honored by the Tepper School with the awarding of the Richard M Cyert Award for Professional Excellence.