Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker knows a few things about business. Drawing upon her distinguished career as an entrepreneur and business leader before entering public service, Pritzker addressed the students at the Georgetown University McDonough School of Business graduate commencement under a sunny sky on Healy Lawn Friday, May 20.
Her advice to them is the same advice she received from her grandfather and mother when launching her first business: “There are only two things you take with you throughout your life: your education and your reputation. Nothing else is guaranteed.”
While today may mark the end of the formal education of the MBA, Master of Science in Finance, Executive MBA, Executive Master’s in Leadership, and Executive Master’s in International Business students, one’s reputation is something nurtured throughout an entire life, Pritzker said.
From day one, she said, “if you conduct yourself with integrity and kindness, I promise you your reputation will serve as the bedrock on which you build your career, and you will have control of your narrative.”
Pritzker also shared a story about a friend who was willing to work side-by-side with his business rivals to create a program to bring jobs to his community. Together, they provide training to build a highly skilled workforce from which they all benefit.
“I have met a lot of business leaders in my life, and the ones who I admire and the ones who I remember are those who are committed to their community,” Pritzker said. “As you move up the career ladder, you are going to find yourself becoming more and more responsible for the well-being of your neighborhood, your city, and your region.”
She left them with the request to make the world a better place.
“As a business leader, you will have the power to become a force for good. The question is what you choose to do with that influence,” she said. “Whether you spend your entire career in the private sector or take a detour into public service like I did, you will have the ability to not just affect our economy, but to affect the very fabric of our nation.”
In his remarks, Dean David A. Thomas voiced his confidence in the ability of the graduates to lead in a “VUCA World”: volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous.
“There is one constant to the VUCA World. It is change,” he said. “As individuals, it will be those who can innovate that will define much of what that new world will look like. It will be led by those leaders who are willing to reinvent themselves and their organizations before they fail. It requires a continuous dissatisfaction with what is in search of what could and should be.”
He concluded his remarks with three phrases he often tweets and reflects upon: 1) “Be the difference.” 2) “No success at work makes up for failure at home.” 3) “We are at our best when transforming ourselves to transform the world.”
For the more than 500 graduates, the day was the end of a transformational journey.
“Today means a lot to me and my parents, who helped me get here,” said Aditya Kapur, who graduated from the MBA program and will begin a career at General Mills in Minneapolis. “It’s my first official graduation because in India we don’t have the cap and gown and the stage. It feels extra special for all that.”
Casey Sedlock, a graduate of the Master of Science in Finance Program, has leveraged her degree to a new job at a bank in New York.
“I have accomplished something that I never thought I would, and I’ve actually gotten to do it with a lot of great people,” she said. “My degree has helped me get to where I am today. I’ve been in the military, then I’ve done consulting, and as I finished this program, I was approached by a bank. Having a Master of Science in Finance from a great school helped me make that transition.”