Photo: NYU Stern
CNBC anchor Maria Bartiromo delivered the commencement address at NYU Stern last week, and she told graduates about the time in 1993 when Lou Dobbs said she was making the biggest mistake of her career by leaving CNN.She also told them about how business news was a nascent industry when she started working, and what it was like to be the first person to report live from the NYSE.
She says to work hard, and the money and power will come, if you want it. But there are no shortcuts.
Here’s the full speech:
Congratulations to the Class of 2012. I am honored to be back at NYU for this memorable day and week—yesterday at graduation at Yankee Stadium and today with all of you now. I think I know how you are feeling—excited, accomplished, relieved, but also sentimental and a bit emotional. I know because just about 25 years ago, I finished my undergraduate work at NYU and graduated in Washington Square Park. I was so proud and happy that day but also anxious about what would be next.
NYU helped form my career. I studied economics because I did well in it and journalism because I loved it. Before I graduated I got an internship for credit at CNN and that turned into a full time job after graduation for me. I remember I worked as an intern for no money the whole summer after the internship ended and finally was offered a job as a production assistant in business news in 1989. It was there that I learned firsthand how to cover a live news event in real time. It was 1990 and CNN was making history covering the first Gulf War literally as it was happening. War reporter Bernard Shaw reported from under the bed while bombs were going off in Baghdad. The markets were moving, oil prices were trading wildly, and I found myself in the middle of this history making moment at CNN Business News. This training would help me later cover the global markets that move wildly in real time.
I worked hard at CNN. I knew that hard work is one of the secrets to succeeding because there are no short cuts. And I rose through the ranks as writer, producer, and assignment editor. Then five years later, my boss wanted to restructure the assignment desk and promote me to a desk job. I knew in my heart what I was good at and what I loved: being in the field, being in the middle of the action and not at a desk. So, I reluctantly took the promotion but knew I had to leave CNN … that I had hit a ceiling. I put a tape together and sent it to CNBC.
CNBC hired me as an on air reporter in 1993. Now I would not only write and produce my reports, but would present them as well. So, I set up a meeting with my boss Lou Dobbs to tell him I was leaving, and he said to me, “Maria, you are making the biggest mistake of your career.” I understood what he was saying. To him, CNN was the best place for me. But I had to follow my heart, and I had to have the courage to leave and know that if it didn’t work out, I would brush off my shoes and try again. Courage is critical.
I had been at CNBC one year when I became the first person to report live from the floor of the NYSE. It was hard back then because there was a debate: should the media be allowed there? A woman and a reporter, no less, bring cameras down to the floor? In such a boys’ club? I persevered because I believed in what we were doing. 100 million Americans were investing in the stock market. They had a right to know how things worked. Today I feel proud to be with CNBC; now almost 20 years, having had a front row seat to some of the biggest events in business: the individual investor explosion, globalization, the Internet age, a boom and bust in technology and banking; a boom and bust in housing, and a sovereign debt crisis in Europe.
Today I spend my days interviewing the leading individuals on the front lines of these stories—heads of state, asset managers overseeing billions and trillions of dollars, and CEOs across the world. My journey, as I look back, had a very specific formula even though it wasn’t planned at all on graduation day. I worked hard. I had the courage to believe in myself; and, most importantly, I did what I love … journalism and business. And while doing what I loved, unbeknownst to me, I stumbled onto a vibrant, growing, emerging industry—business information. I had entered what was to become a growing and changing industry.
I challenge you, the Class of 2012, to do what you love, to take money out of the equation and follow your heart. You will be happy you did, because this is where you will find your success and this is where you will find happiness. The money and power, if that is what you want, will follow.
Today, everything is changing again. Back then, I didn’t realise I was entering an industry that was in its infancy and about to surge. Business information has exploded in all forms over the last 20 years, from the empowerment of the individual investor to new media and blogs and websites—an information flow that is unstoppable. And today, there is a new and different vibrancy, once again. There is disruption, but disruptors are good; they force change. There is excitement in so many industries and there is a different kind of growth. Find the growth. Don’t worry about the naysayers telling you how bad things are in the economy. Take the lead and do what you love. Find the vibrancy and look for your place in it. There is tremendous opportunity right now as a result of technology and population growth outside of the U.S. There is opportunity in Healthcare. We are living longer, and technology and biotech have enabled so much. There is vibrancy in technology, which is enabling so much in so many industries. And population growth all over the world is enabling so much for finance and consumer goods and mining. There are 5 billion mobile phones on the planet, only 1 billion of which are smart phones. Mobility has enabled huge opportunities across business and industries.
As we sit here today, we are at the doorstep of what will be the largest technology IPO ever tomorrow when Facebook goes public. And there are new businesses starting every day. It has become easier to start your own company. Is it a bubble? Maybe; maybe not. Entrepreneurship is alive everywhere and people are innovating. The startup activity is surging from Silicon Valley to Brooklyn. New York right now is being re-wired to accommodate advancements in science and engineering and healthcare. As we sit here, new advanced radiology machines are being built, enabling us to see so much and understand so much about our bodies and our brains. As we sit here, doctors are performing prostate cancer surgery and other surgery with robotic technology. Technology is enabling a new world in so many industries. And population growth and booming emerging markets are creating opportunities across industry and across the world.
Remember the U.S. does not own innovation. As we speak, the Russians are creating the Skolkovo Project, trying to become the next Silicon Valley. The Chinese are producing solar panels. We need to keep changing and innovating all the time. But we are and it’s exciting. Of course, there is also worry—a slow jobs market, a sovereign debt crisis in Europe, a global slowdown from years past. But remember who you are and where you are coming from. You have been working these last two and a half years; you have been perfecting your craft and you are here today. Let’s not forget the unemployment rate for MBAs is so much lower than the national average. It’s not 8 per cent like the national rate. You have what it takes and you will find your passion.
I have mentioned today a few of my favourite words of wisdom to you: Work hard. There are no short cuts. Love what you do. Do not seek a job because you think you will get rich at it. Take money out of the equation. Do the right thing always. Do not just try to do the right thing. Always do the right thing. Because no matter where you go—around the world or whatever industry it is—only one thing is sure to follow you everywhere: your reputation. So protect it. And remember, taking a stand and doing the right thing requires courage. Sometimes you have to move away from the pack to stand up for what you believe. It will require courage. Make sure you are ready when a dilemma appears. Make sure to have courage. Make the commitment today to do the right thing. To stand up for truth and be ready to act decisively when a dilemma arrives.
And my final words of wisdom are: Believe in yourself. A few years ago, I thought I had seen it all, having had this front row seat to so much happening in business globally. But then I received a call that led to one of the most exciting days of my life. It was the New York Yankees calling. They wanted me to throw out the first pitch in the last game of the season. I immediately said yes. I said, of course, I will throw out the first pitch. What an honour! Then I hung up and said, “What did I just do??” I don’t even know how to play baseball. I don’t know the first thing about a pitch! Never mind throwing it 60 feet to get it over the plate!! And with 60,000 fans in the stadium!!! There was no way I am getting booed in my hometown.
So, I practiced for a month, every night and every weekend; I perfected my pitch. On the day of the game, right before they called me to the mound, I turned to my trainer. I said, “Dan, what am I doing? I can’t do this. I am not a baseball player!” He turned to me and looked me right in the eye and said, “Maria, we have been working on this. You have been doing it. Now go do what you are supposed to do.” He said, “Maria, when you are out on that mound, remember one thing: Maria, you are exactly where you are supposed to be.”
So, to the Class of 2012 … when you walk into that job interview, when you walk onto that first job, when you decide where your heart is and to do what you love … have confidence in what you have accomplished at NYU. You have done the work, you have logged the hours and the study. And you are here today. Remember—you are exactly where you are supposed to be. Class of 2012, I wish you courage. I wish you creativity and I wish you strength. Go change the world again and innovate. Do what you love and have confidence in yourself. You are exactly where you are supposed to be. Congratulations.
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Watch below Maria Bartiromo telling the Lou Dobbs story in an interview with Business Insider back in 2010:
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