About the speaker
Our speaker today is Mr Roland Slee.
Roland is the Managing Director of Asia Pacific for Bravura Solutions. He is responsible for accelerating growth, developing new lines of business, implementing major change programs and leading merger and acquisition activity in the region.
Prior to his appointment at Bravura Solutions, Roland was a Vice President with Oracle Corporation, where he worked for nearly 20 years. Among other roles he represented Oracle’s database software development organisation in Asia Pacific and led Oracle’s middleware sales team in Asia Pacific.
He has expertise in financial services industry technology and has broad consulting, sales and management experience gained in Europe, Africa, Asia and the US. He teaches leadership and communications at the UTS and is also the Convenor of the Industry Advisory Network for our Faculty of Engineering and Information Technology.
Roland holds a degree in Mechanical Engineering with a University Medal from the University of Sydney, is a Fellow of the Institution of Engineers Australia and a Member of the Australian Institute of Company Directors. He has previously been a director of the Cooperative Research Centre for Spatial Information and Engineering Australia’s Centre for Engineering Leadership and Management.
It gives me great pleasure to invite Mr Roland Slee to deliver the occasional address.
Deputy Chancellor, Provost and Senior Vice-President, Dean, Staff,
Distinguished Guests, Graduates, Family and Friends.
It is an enormous pleasure to be here with you this afternoon as we recognise and celebrate the achievements of all those who are graduating today. Along with many proud parents, family and friends, I want to acknowledge and recognise each and every one of you who has received a degree today.
I also want to acknowledge the Gadigal and Guring-gai people of the Eora Nation, upon whose ancestral lands the University now stands and pay respect to their elders, both past and present.
I count it a great honour to have been invited to deliver the occasional address at today’s graduation ceremony. I have had a close association with the University of Technology for more than a dozen years now and always enjoy my interactions with UTS faculty, staff and students, especially in my role as Convenor of the Industry Advisory Network to the Faculty of Engineering and I.T.
One of the roles of the Industry Advisory Network is to assist the Faculty in ensuring that UTS graduates leave this place with the skills and experience needed to make them highly attractive to prospective employers. The Industry Advisory Network seeks to help the University in equipping students for successful and influential careers in any field, including work in industry, research or academia. We spend a lot of time in the Network discussing the keys to student success. This afternoon I’d like to share with you a few of my own thoughts on that topic.
Firstly, I should point out that those graduating today are joining a very different business and social environment from the one I graduated into nearly 30 years ago. You are entering a world that is changing at a bewildering and ever accelerating pace, driven by the profound influences of globalisation, standardisation and technology innovation. While business has always been competitive, and Australian graduates have always entered into competitive labour markets, it is clear that the strength and global nature of competition today has elevated the demands on graduates wishing to succeed to entirely new levels.
In 1898 John Furfy first inscribed upon his Australian-made water tanks the phrase: "Good, better, best - never let it rest - till your good is better - and your better best." Clearly the need to strive for high quality has long been understood. But today companies like Apple, now the world’s most valuable enterprise, are redefining the acceptable standard for products and customer experience. To be “simply the best” is no longer good enough. Now the minimum acceptable standard, for those that wish to win, is to be “insanely great”.
In an era when technology is making many jobs internationally portable and developed economies like Australia are having to find new ways to compete internationally, what should your personal strategy be? How will you move beyond this graduation ceremony to find a place in the world and an opportunity to add great value?
Many of you will move from this university environment, in which you have been actively assisted and encouraged in continuous learning, to a work environment in which considerably less will be invested in your ongoing training and development over time. As your career develops, you will be expected to deliver more and more value by applying the knowledge you already possess and the skills you have already acquired.
But lifelong learning remains a fundamental requirement for enduring success. In a world where the pace of change is constantly accelerating, the risk is not so much that one might stop learning, but rather that one might stop learning fast enough. Who will be your teacher when there are no longer any classes, lectures or training courses on your schedule?
Let me try to answer that question with an illustration. In 2007 I began to develop an interest in photography. In the years since then I have completed a number of photography training courses and purchased some capable camera equipment. I travel regularly with a bulky digital SLR camera, and a selection of lenses, in order to be well equipped to capture special moments and produce high quality images. Having all that gear, and the assistance it provides my photography, is a bit like having the great support and infrastructure for learning that is provided here at UTS.
Then in 2009, an American photographer named Chase Jarvis published a book of outstanding photographs that he’d captured using just his iPhone. The book was entitled “The best camera is the one that’s with you”. It demonstrated the old adage that great photography is primarily a function of the deep skills of the photographer, rather than the quality of his or her camera gear. Sadly, I’m still finding those deep photography skills somewhat elusive.
In a similar way, if the best camera is the one that’s in your pocket, the best teacher is the one that’s always with you – namely you! You need to become your own teacher! Ensure that you suck the marrow out of every learning opportunity that daily life presents. Of course, universities in general, and UTS in particular, do a great job of teaching students how to teach themselves. Post graduation, the necessity of honing and refining that skill of self-learning becomes doubly critically as the support, encouragement and infrastructure of the university become less available to you.
How should you go about honing and refining the skill of self-learning? My advice is this – focus on learning to learn by becoming an astute and analytical observer of everything that is going on around you. Identify excellence wherever and whenever you come across it – in speaking, leading, selling or writing.
Whether it be driving, designing, drawing or dancing - in every aspect of life, when you see excellence, ask yourself the question, “what made that great”? Learn to distil the essence of the advantage you have just experienced. Then practice it until you can make it your own. Make it your life’s work to become skilful in as many things as possible. Do you know how to use a microphone, to chair a meeting, to arrange an event, to sell a business solution?
Clearly no one can be skilful at everything. So what skills should you focus on in order to gain maximum career advantage? Well, there are three key skills that in my experience are always in great demand and very short supply. They are these: learn to make the complex simple, the simple compelling and the application obvious. In a world of enormous complexity, people crave clarity and simplicity. Learn to give them clear information so they can make strong, wise, timely decisions. There’s no shortage of people who can explain the intricacies of a complex subject, but there are very few who can make such matters blessedly simple. That simplicity must become your message, your thesis. You should have an opinion; have something to say on many topics.
If you add to this the ability to persuasively and effectively communicate your message, your influence will be greatly multiplied. Learn to enjoy words and savour syllables; master the delivery of phrases and paragraphs, practice the fine art of articulation!
Finally, if you also live out the implications of your message, making the application obvious by actually doing what needs to be done rather than just talking about it, your influence will be truly enormous.
So this is my simple recipe for graduate success and lifetime achievement.
Become your own teacher. The best teacher you can have is the one that’s always with you. Learn from that teacher how to make the complex simple, the simple compelling and the application obvious. Then nothing will stand in your way.
Congratulations once again to all of you who have received degrees today. Your degrees are tangible evidence that you have become knowledgeable. Now I encourage you, pursue a deliberate strategy of becoming ever more skilful. The combination of your skills and knowledge will make you unstoppable.
I wish you all the very best for the future. I have no doubt you will achieve great things. Thank you.