Commencement

Robert Reeg, President of MasterCard Technologies

 

Good morning, everyone.

My name is Rob Reeg, and I am the president of MasterCard Technologies. I am responsible for the strategic processing platform, global network and quality of technology operations at MasterCard Worldwide. That's an involved way of saying that I make sure customers can use their cards to pay for the things that matter to them, whenever they need to do so! Another very large part of my role is as a manager of people, helping support and manages the careers of the technologists and other team members that work at MasterCard. It's a job I take very seriously.

A little bit of background on me. I've been with MasterCard for 16 years, and have worked in a number of different management roles in the technology organization. Before joining MasterCard, I worked in IT and business leadership positions with Sprint Corp., Cleveland Pneumatic, Totco Inc., and Conoco Inc.

Being a part of the University of Missouri-St. Louis is important to me for a number of reasons.

First, it's a great learning institution, and one that members of my family, as well as a number of the employees that work for me, have attended, or are attending.

Second, this is a great university that makes St. Louis an even more attractive place for students to come to study, but as they get to know the area, they decide to stay as they enter the working world. Good news for business managers like me who are looking for strong candidates for important jobs!

Finally, as someone who values giving back to the community, I enjoy serving on UMSL's Leadership Council, and providing the perspective from the business community to shape the programs you have studied.

And now, I'd like to focus on each of you.

What a sincere pleasure it is to be here today, to celebrate one of the most important days in your life - graduation.

It's finally here - the culmination of all of your hard work: studying, exams, deciding on a major, studying some more, changing your major, more studying, changing your major again, and finally, finding out what it is that you are passionate about, and what you want to do as you move into this next phase of your life.

It's certainly a day of celebration. And, it's important to take the time to do just that. Celebrate this accomplishment with your family and friends, reflect on the time it's taken to achieve this goal, and take time to think about what's next for you.

You'll hear a lot of things today, and I'm sure most will be a blur...there's so much going on for each of you! And, I know your brains must be near capacity, wrapping up final projects, exams, etc.

But, if I may, I'd like you to share with you three things that I think will serve you well as you begin (or continue!) your careers:

1. You are the architect of your own career.
2. Learning and developing your skills should be life-long habits.
3. Seek advice and help when you need it.

Pretty simple, right? But it's amazing how, when most people get busy and involved in their careers, they forget to do these things. But these guidelines can make significant impacts on your career and your life. Let me address each of these, one at a time.

You are the architect of your own career.

I'm often surprised when people come and ask me, "What should I do in my career?" I believe that it is the responsibility of each person here to serve as the architect of your own career.

I recently read an article by Dr. Robert Fullmer of Pepperdine University that says the average college graduate will change jobs 5 times in his or her career, and that number is only expected to grow.

Choosing an employer or field in which to work today isn't the last decision that you'll make about your career...it's among the first!

In companies like mine, we have job families and plans to help develop individuals for the next role. But, we look to employees to have discussions with their managers, and with their manager's manager, to help us understand each individuals aspirations.

As a people manager, director or a company president, your career path is not something I can craft for you. Ultimately, only you know what you want to do.
Luckily, if you pay attention to some basics, you will be guided on this journey. Each of us has unique strengths that are a combination of our skills and interests. Think about it...you made the decision to choose a particular major because you have strong skills in a particular area, or because the area seemed appealing to you.

Now, I'd like to ask you a couple of questions. I know, you thought the tests were over! This will be short, I promise!

1. How many of you, during your college career, took courses because they were interesting to you, not because they were required coursework? (show of hands)

2. How many of you looked for an organization to belong to while you were in school that helped you meet people, network, or support an interest you have in the community (show of hands)? Not bad!

See, you already know what I'm talking about. Skills and interests. What are you naturally good at? What comes easily to you? What do you ask others for help on? These questions can help you identify your skills.

Interests are a bit different. What energizes or inspires you? What do you spend your free time doing? What will you argue about because it's important to you?
So, you have completed such a significant accomplishment related to your skills and interests, and believe me, I understand that you may not want to look at a book for a while! But, stay with me because my second recommendation to you is this:

Learning and developing your skills should be life-long habits.

In a world that is changing as quickly as ours, skills that are crucial at one moment become less important, and new types of jobs emerge all the time. As new technologies and fields emerge, you may find new interests developing. You need to be prepared to change your career when it makes sense for you. To do so, you have to keep your skills current, and gain new skills. Doing so is the best way to stay marketable and attractive to your existing employer, or even new employers!
Simply put, take the time for professional development.

You can do this several ways:
-Take a class to learn a new skill (perhaps your company will offer workshops or online training, or you can find training in your local area)
-Join a professional organization that allows you to meet other people in your field ,offers educational sessions locally, or sponsors a national (or international) conference
-Stay current on new developments in your chosen field through professional journals, podcasts, webinars or continuing education classes
-Look for opportunities to move roles within a company to grow your skill set. It's also a great way to enhance skills that need additional development.

In my own experience, developing my own skills is something I focus on all the time. As an individual, I want to keep developing my own skills, but perhaps more importantly, as a person who manages other people; I want to keep this priority on lifelong learning top of mind, as well. Seek advice and help when you need it.
And, finally, remember to seek advice and help when you need it.

No one plans, creates and manages a career on his/her own. And, you can't always manage each issue and challenge that you face in your job. You need people that you can go to for help, for counsel and to be a sounding board.
Also, don't fall into the trap of becoming complacent about your careers. I'm sure you've heard the saying . You miss 100% of the shots you don't take. You can say the same about career opportunities. You miss 100% of those that you don't let people know you want or that you don't actively pursue. Your boss, your colleagues, and people in your network can be advocates for you if they know what you want to accomplish.

And, there are a lot of resources available for you to help you chart your career. The Career Center here at University of Missouri-St. Louis is a good place to start. Career counselors there can help you identify jobs that match the skills that you have, and work with you to plan for additional skills if there are jobs that are appealing to you in other industries. As you continue in your career, there are companies that you may join that offer career centers and planning for you as part of the Human Resources function. I encourage you to take advantage of these.

I've had the benefit of some great mentors throughout my career that have helped me through tough challenges, job changes, and ways to stretch beyond the things I was comfortable doing to in order to become comfortable with those things that I really needed to be doing. Feedback and suggestions from my mentors weren't always easy to hear, but often, it was just what I needed to hear. By listening and adjusting to their feedback, I ended up a stronger employee, colleague and leader because of the people in my network who care about my success.
With this in mind, I can't stress enough how important networking is for a person's career.

And, the good news is, most of you are doing some form of this already. If you're on Facebook, Twitter, Linked In, you're networking. You're creating a group of people that you can go to for help with getting a job, growing your career, seeking advice, to be a sounding board, and more. I encourage my staff to use all of these, and hope you will as well to help develop your career. Organizations are continually looking at social media options as a way to recruit new employees to their companies, and you want to make sure your name is out there being considered!

So, as you enter the workforce, and you're meeting new people and trying new things, remember to continue to build your network. And, I'd also suggest that you keep in touch with those people in your network on a regular basis (whatever works for you), so that they know what youfre doing AND what you'd like to do, so they can help.

Make sure to connect with your network when things are going well for you, when they're trying, and in times in between. The relationships with those people in your network should be two-way. You're looking out for those people in your network the same way they are for you. Help those people in your network make important connections, talk about their goals and opportunities, and think about how you can help them. And they, in turn, can do the same thing for you!

So, as you graduate today, with a degree from the:
. College of Arts and Sciences,
. College of Education,
. College of Fine Arts and Communication,
. A Bachelorfs degree in General Studies,
. A Bachelor's degree in Interdisciplinary Studies, or
. A Master's of Public Policy Administration

Again, I encourage you to keep these few things in mind:
1. You are the architect of your own career.
2. Learning and developing your skills should be life-long habits.
3. Seek advice and help when you need it.
And, stay true to the great things you learned while you were here at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

I wish you the best of luck as you begin this exciting next chapter of your lives.