As I sat on a steep, grassy hill above the Greek Theater for the 2011 Berkeley graduation, I couldn’t believe I had to sit through a three and a half hour ceremony. I attended to support my good friend who was graduating with a master’s degree in engineering. The afternoon in the Bay Area was characteristically foggy and cold enough for a scarf and gloves (although I had neither). Then the procession began with the all too familiar Pomp and Circumstance blaring through the loud speakers, as the graduates filed in on the stage and in the front rows of the theater.
After everyone was finally settled, we were welcomed and then introduced to the keynote speaker, Roger A. Strauch, chairman of the Roda Group, as well as one of the establishers of Ask Jeeves. Although I expected the speech to be just another generic address, his reflection was unexpectedly moving.
Strauch shared his experiences throughout his professional life as an engineer in the technology industry, always striving to grow and be innovative, no matter what he did or where he was in his life. He now even helps others do the same with the Roda Group, a company that provides entrepreneurs the resources and guidance to launch their own technology businesses. Although his address was targeted at the graduates, it left an unshakable impression on me.
The speech prompted me to ask myself; what’s next for me?
Just because I graduated from college and found a job doesn’t mean that I’m all done and now I can just relax. What I started to discover as the day went on was that this was just the beginning and that I should never stop striving to make my mark. I found myself feeling anxious to find my niche and embark on a new adventure, and this only strengthened as the day went on.
A few hours later, I went with my friend to her classmate’s house to meet up with some of her friends. The group seemed like normal students at first, but I quickly discovered that I was in a room full of innovators, who prescribed to the same mentality as Strauch did.
As conversations began to unravel, I started to hear about the big plans and inventive ideas they were all going to pursue. I had never been around so many inspiring and driven people before and it ignited my desire to make my own mark even more.
Although they all had master’s or Ph.D.s, I still asked myself; Why not me, the marketing professional with a modest B.A. in journalism from Chico State? Sure, I’m not going to build infrastructures that will serve millions of people or engineer vaccines that will save countless others, but I can still make my mark in my own way.
The most important thing I learned from that day was that your work is never done. Whether you’re in school, working or retired, there is always a way to contribute to society through the work you do.
You can’t stop where you’re at just because it’s good enough, push yourself to see where you can go so that you can and will continue to make your mark throughout your life.