Look for moments to make things better every day, venture capitalist Bob Davis urged graduates of Northeastern’s D’Amore-McKim School of Business on Wednesday.
Help a colleague with a challenging work assignment, said Davis, who delivered the keynote address at the graduation ceremony. Or write a thank you note to a friend. “You will be amazed at how your career will fly as people take notice,” he said.
Davis described these “magical moments” as opportunities for the graduates to stand out from the crowd and go the extra mile to help people in both their personal and professional lives.
“This is often how startups disrupt monopolies,” said Davis, who graduated from Northeastern in 1979 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration and received an honorary doctor of business administration in 2000. “This is when the rigid and tired get overtaken with a sense of energy that is unbeatable.”
In 1995, Davis founded Lycos, one of the internet’s first search engines. He built the company into a global media business, and is currently a general partner at Highland Capital Partners, where he invests in consumer and enterprise technology.
His path to success was littered with hardship and disappointment, he told more than 400 students who filled Matthews Arena to receive their master’s degrees. Davis lost both his parents at a young age, and experienced several false starts during his career. But success comes to those who go out and get it and refuse to quit, he said.
“We all control our paths with hard work and commitment,” Davis said. “There is never a guarantee that effort will become successful—because if we know anything, it’s that life is not always fair and rarely simple—but there is one guarantee that you can count on: Nothing offers greater dividends than perseverance.”
Raj Echambadi, the Dunton Family Dean of the D’Amore-McKim School of Business, told members of the class of 2019 that they are adding to a long legacy of accomplished graduates who have gone on to tackle some of the biggest problems in the world.
“My hope for you is that you will utilize your Northeastern experiences and become impactful, ethical global leaders,” Echambadi said. “The world needs you to solve the grand challenges of our times.”
At one point in the ceremony, the graduates applauded to thank the friends and family who have supported them along their academic journeys. Echambadi also reminded them to remember the faculty and staff who built the programs that helped shape them into the next generation of business leaders and the alumni and corporate partners who provided advice and opportunities to carry them into the future.
“I encourage you to follow in those footsteps,” Echambadi told the graduates. “Give, so that others have the same advantages you had.”
Echambadi also advised the graduates to set career goals that extend beyond simply making money.
“Money is the reward, never the purpose,” he said. “Excellence in what you do will bring you all that you need and more, including money. But the converse is not true.”
Sarah Hall Weaver, who delivered the student address, quoted hip-hop superstar Snoop Dogg to remind the graduates that, in addition to all the people who supported them, they also had themselves to thank.
“I want to thank me for doing all this hard work. I want to thank me for having no days off. I want to thank me for never quitting,” Weaver said, quoting Snoop Dogg’s song “I Wanna Thank Me.”
“You chose to do this,” Weaver added. “You showed up, you did the work, you sacrificed comfort and rest, you kept a promise to yourself, and you kept the promises you made to all of the people who have invested in you.”
James C. Bean, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs at Northeastern, challenged the newly minted graduates to apply their new skills and contacts to achieve success for themselves, their families, and their organizations.
He cited Forbes magazine’s “Just 100” list of companies as a prime example of the ability of business leaders to simultaneously optimize profit, improve the environment, and support the communities in which they work. The list comprises businesses that donate more money to charity, produce fewer greenhouse gases, and pay their employees more than the average company, while delivering more value to their shareholders.
“There’s some data that says you can do it all,” Bean said in his charge to the graduates. “Please do.”