Top tech-oriented commencement speeches

Words to live by from some of the top tech executives

It’s easy to forget that the names behind big tech companies are actual people, and that at one point in their lives they were students who shared similar experiences as most of us did. Each year our future leaders walk down the aisles in cap and gown with everyone else, leaving behind the days of endless studying, crazy partying, and staying up way too late.

As the school year comes to a close, some of the world’s greatest geeks will be giving their own advice to the class of 2014. Below are the quotes from some of the best commencement speeches ever delivered by technology executives that are probably a good idea to keep in mind.

Mark Zuckerberg– Facebook co-founder (2011)


“You should follow your dreams. You should pursue your goals. You should give life to your ideas, wherever they lead. As trite as it sounds, I want you to truly believe that you can be anything you want to be and do anything — absolutely anything — you want to do. Unless, that is, it competes with me. Then you will fail. Maybe that sounded awkward. I can’t tell about things like that. So let me explain it another way. When I look out at your young, smiling faces, I see a thousand beacons of hope for our future. I see a thousand torchbearers for the world of tomorrow. But mostly I see a thousand potential competitors who, if they get in my way, I swear to God I will screw so bad that when I’m done with them they will be looking up at Friendster.”

Steve Jobs– co-founder, past chairman and CEO of Apple Inc. (2008)


“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

Biz Stone– Twitter co-founder (2011)


“On my first official day as a designer, I walked into the art director’s office and he called me over to his desk. He reached toward a shelf without even looking and took down a color guide. I stood quietly and watched as he slowly flipped through pages and pages of colors. Finally, he stopped in the range of light browns and mocha. He tore out one of the little perforated swatches. It was a chocolate color. He put it down on his desk, placed one finger on it, and slid it slowly toward me. He then stated, ‘That is how I take my coffee.’ As I was considering how to match that color at the local Dunkin’ Donuts with just the right amount of cream, he laughed and told me it was a joke. So began my apprenticeship in graphic design and a new way of thinking. There is not just one great design for a book cover—there are an infinite number of possible winners. Working with Steve taught me the second lesson I’d like to share with you today: Creativity is a renewable resource. Be as creative as you like, as often as you like, because you can never run out! (Yes, you are all creative and don’t fool yourself into thinking you’re not.)”

Omid Kordestani – Senior advisor to the Office of the CEO and Founders at Google (2007)


“Always push yourself. Think like an immigrant. Keep putting yourself outside of your comfort zone. You’ve always been taught to plan ahead and be calculated with your decisions. But this is your startup phase, your chance to keep an open mind and experiment. Certainty is a moving target. Our first few steps won’t be perfect. They never are. But missteps are not missed steps at all. They are opportunities for learning and a new perspective.”

Marissa Mayer – CEO of Yahoo! (2009)


“Doing something you are not ready to isn’t comfortable. But in pushing through this discomfort you will learn a lot more about yourself. You learn you can do something you did not think you could do, or you’ll learn where you’re limits are. Either is valuable.”

Michael Dell – CEO of Dell Inc. (2003)


“It’s time for you to move on to what’s next. But you must not let anything deter you from taking those first steps. Don’t spend so much time trying to choose the perfect opportunity, that you miss the right opportunity. Recognize that there will be failures, and acknowledge that there will be obstacles. But you will learn from your mistakes and the mistakes of others, for there is very little learning in success.”

Hats off to the class of 2014!

An article I wrote for Electronic Products.

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