August 24, 2011

Commencement Address by Marianne Heer/SAP America

Wentworth Institute of Technology
Commencement Speaker: Marianne Heer/SAP America
Date: Sunday, August 21, 2011

President Pantić, members of Wentworth Institute of Technology Board of Trustees, faculty, family, and most importantly, to the Wentworth graduates of 2011,

Congratulations on your tremendous achievement!

I am honored to be here, and it is truly a privilege for me to share this very special day with you.  

And I am excited for you.  There is no better time to graduate with a degree in technology.  

The technology sector in the United States alone includes over 145,000 companies with combined annual revenue of more than $1 trillion.  

Over the past ten years, technology has rebounded and is now red hot again!  And if your degree leads you to different industries, like Manufacturing, Construction, or Utilities, we are seeing solid growth across all sectors.  Companies are investing in college graduates.

Opportunities abound.

And as you know very well, Wentworth is one of the finest technical institutes in the country for undergraduate engineering programs.  

You are known for your innovation, an integrated approach to learning, and a world-class coop program, you are well positioned to continue to excel in the future.

And Wentworth is recognized nationally for outstanding community service, promoting programs such as Community Work Study, Civic Engagement Programs, and Alternative Spring Breaks.  The hours of service that you have performed and the contributions that you have made are tremendous.  Be proud of that, and take that with you!

And I applaud your focus on women in technology. Women are clearly a vital part of the Wentworth community, in the leadership, faculty, and student population.  

I applaud you not only for recruiting and educating women at Wentworth, but also for sponsoring events in the community, like Tech Savvy, your program which introduces Middle School girls to exciting opportunities in technology.  

We’ve come a long way, and you are certainly leading by example. 

I have learned many lessons in my career, and I’d like to share three of them with you today:

First – Be True to your Core Values. 

Know what they are and what’s important to you, and ensure that your work, company, colleagues respect and share those values.
Everyone has their own value system that motivates and guides them,

  • Find out what that is for you, what you like and what you don’t like, what motivates you,
  • Could be competition, the need to be productive or appreciated, working for rewards and driving towards success,
  • Or it could be teamwork, trust and collaboration,
  • No right or wrong answers here … this is unique to you,
  • If you identify this and pursue this going forward, you will be happier and more satisfied,
  • You’ll feel that your goals are well aligned with your values.

I feel this way about my company, SAP, and I am 100% aligned to our corporate values.

One important element of our culture is giving back to the community where we live and work … similar to Wentworth’s commitment to community.   

We take pride in helping people and organizations in need, and it helps us to grow as a company.  

Together with SAP, we’re involved with several local non-profit organizations including Rosie’s Place, Greater Boston Food Bank, and KIPP Academy.  It fits with all of our core values to volunteer time and contribute to these wonderful organizations.  

In addition, helping at places like Rosie’s is collaborative; it involves teamwork, consensus building, compassion and respect.

Make sure that you find that company and culture where you can live those values that are most important to you.

Second - Don’t Hold Back.

When you find something you love,
Don’t dip your toe, jump in with both feet.
Don’t sit on the sidelines; get into the game. 
Play with your heart.  Embrace it all.   
Don’t be afraid to be tired.
Come in early, stay late,
Look for new ways to contribute and bring value.
Do more than is expected. 

There will be amazing new opportunities for you to explore in new and emerging disciplines. 

It could be technology, engineering, architecture, medicine… whatever it is be open to finding your niche, and when you do, go after it aggressively! 

For me, it was software.  I loved being a mechanical engineer, but early in my career I discovered a passion for software. 

When I did, I quit a very comfortable job, in a stable industry to go back to school full-time.  It was huge financial sacrifice at the time, but was also the best decision I ever made. 

Because software is what I love doing.  It’s what gets me up in the morning. 

I love making businesses run better using my software.

And never did I expect that I would be doing what I did last week. 

Last week, I went to Harley Davidson’s Headquarters in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. 

We’re working with the folks at Harley to modernize their operations, to use our software to offer more customization, manage inventory, strengthen their operations and run their business more efficiently. 

I was in full Harley gear, black zipper shirt, covered in logos, because that is what they expect from their preferred partners. 

And after the meeting, we went to the Wisconsin State Fair to enjoy the local flavors.  Who would have thought?  It was a fantastic experience.

Do what you love and you’ll be good at it, you’ll be noticed and you will be rewarded.

Amazing things will result!

And third - Surround Yourself with Smart People

People who are smarter than you, who have different background and experiences, because those are the people who will make you better.

  • You will grow the most in your career because of the company you keep,
  • Smart people will motivate you and drive you to want to grow and succeed,
  • You need to have role models around you.  You will want to be as good as that person, and will want to be able to contribute like that person does,
  • Be open, and see them for what they are and from whom you can learn,
  • Steal their ideas, let them steal yours,
  • Raise your game… and you do this by working with smart people who make you better than you ever thought you could be.

So remember, know your core values and find an environment with people who respect and share those values.  Once you’ve found that setting, don’t hold back – give it your all and great things will happen. And finally, surround yourself with the smartest people you can find -- they will make you better!

  • On Monday morning, you will wake up to your new life.
  • You have a remarkable foundation to build on.
  • You are a graduate of Wentworth, one of the finest technical institutes in the country.
  • No matter where this path leads you, treasure this time and the skills you’ve learned.
  • You will use the analytic skills and problem solving skills every day of your professional life.
  • They will lead you to incredible opportunities and amazing adventures!

Thank you!

© Wentworth Institute of Technology   |   550 Huntington Avenue   |   Boston, MA 02115   |   617-989-4590