Richelle Konian '95 Commencement Remarks to the UAlbany School of Business Class of 2018

Richelle Konian '95, left, with the senior award winners of the School of Business Class of 2018

I want to thank Dean Shawky, Associate Dean Suraj Commuri, distinguished Faculty and Staff at the University at Albany, and especially the business class of 2018 for inviting me to speak today. It is an honor for me to return back to Albany to talk to you. For you 2018 graduating seniors it must feel exhilarating; it certainly did for me. You only experience a few truly spectacular moments in life, and this is one of them. Let it soak in. Enjoy the well-deserved sense of accomplishment from receiving your degree from a prestigious university. Feel the pride of your success exuding from everybody here at Albany, and especially from your families and friends. 

Graduation is a first and important step, but only your first step on your professional career path that will span decades and evolve along with your jobs, personal choices and life experiences. A degree from the University at Albany is the foundation for a life of opportunities. Those of you graduating today are competitive with the best and brightest from the finest institutions around the country and the world. The University at Albany’s reputation precedes you. Successful alumni, many of whom I have collaborated with over the years, are a testament to the fact that with tenacity, commitment, hard work, and devotion to your craft, there are no limits to what you can achieve.

While it is important to have a vision about where you want to go professionally, one thing you can almost be certain of is that your career will not be linear. Graduates with jobs lined up may have the next few years more well-defined. Some may be in the interview process, and others may still be sorting it out. Remember, the possibilities are endless in this highly interconnected globalized world. It starts with getting yourself in front of people, listening to their stories and telling your own unique story with conviction. The number of people you will meet professionally and socially will increase exponentially. Trust your intuition to guide you through each step. Ultimately, it is about discovering a career path that will allow you to flourish and find personal fulfillment while also achieving team goals. Most importantly, strive continuously to build your capabilities and learn lessons in all your endeavors.

I myself had no idea that five years after graduating from the University at Albany’s School of Business I would venture out on my own and leave a solid job on Wall Street for the unknown world of entrepreneurship back in 2000. It was an exciting endeavor that started in a booming economy in a small office share of a casting director in the Film Center Building in New York City. Imagine the dynamics of the world of Wall Street interviewing for jobs while colliding with the auditions of the entertainment industry.
Then unexpectedly, we were all forced into a new reality resulting in two major economic downturns. As a new start-up firm, I soon realized how nothing but plain old resilience, grit and perseverance are as valuable as any acquired skills in the workplace. These are attributes that are proven winners during good and bad times. They can make the difference in the face of adversity and, often, what appears to be insurmountable challenges.

The ability to adapt to changing conditions in the job market is also critical to a successful career. What was valid twenty years ago may not be as useful or relevant today. Stay fresh, embrace change, and know when it is time for reinvention. Prepare for changes that are transforming so many aspects of our personal lives as well as business activities. Think about how the use of mobile devices, UBER, and Amazon have transformed our daily lives and professional interactions. What will be the impact of self-driving cars on the economy, and what’s next in your industry? The recruitment industry has evolved from talent searches primarily reliant on word of mouth and newspaper ads, to online sourcing and social media platforms.

I had to go from being a jack of all trades to a jack of new trades. Adapt to the changes in your industry, and be the first to master them. Social networking is now an effective means of business introductions and sharing relevant content; but personal meetings, building and sustaining your relationships is how business thrives. Cast your net wide in your networking efforts, since you never know exactly where the next great opportunity for you will be.

One prominent CEO, Warren Buffet, provided this advice, “Do what you love and work for whom you admire the most, and you've given yourself the best chance in life you can.” He further advised, “In the world of business, the people who are most successful are those who are doing what they love.”

Follow your passion, believe in your ability to make transforming contributions, celebrate the diversity within all of us while staying committed to your core values. Seek an advocate, an advisor and a trusted friend in business to help guide you on your professional journey. These qualities were defined by the late John Levato, former Assistant Dean at the University at Albany’s School of Business, who believed in his students and left a legacy of mentorship, support, and friendship for many School of Business alumni that continued well beyond graduation. In that spirit, the Business School at the University at Albany and its vast alumni network are a community willing to support you in your efforts as you navigate your career. These bonds that have united us together and shaped the standard of this institution must continue. Our challenge is to inspire and pass the torch to the next generation of business leaders.

Be bold; Be purple and gold.

Congratulations graduates!