New graduates of the University College of the Cayman Islands were urged not only to accept change, but to embrace change and to drive it.
Tech pioneer Tom Jenkins delivered the keynote address at UCCI’s new spring commencement ceremony held Saturday.
“Change is very unpredictable and it’s organic and it’s meandering and sometimes it will make no sense to you at all. But that’s OK,” said Jenkins, the former CEO and current chairman of the board of OpenText Corp.
“It would be pretty boring if everything was linear and you could predict everything. Some of the changes that I experienced in my life, I didn’t like it in the beginning but later it was great. And again you don’t have very much choice,” he said.
The speakers at the commencement ceremony highlighted the Cayman Islands’ maritime heritage and also recognised the unusual circumstances the graduates had to deal with caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
UCCI President and CEO Stacy McAfee said, “It has been an illuminating year for UCCI and the Cayman Islands. We have learned to cope. We have learned resilience and hopefully we have learned more about compassion. Having all of those qualities will make the world an easier place to navigate as you leave UCCI and make your way in the world.”
“Congratulations on making it even in the midst of a global pandemic to these hallowed seats. Tonight is a symbol of the trajectory of your life, so enjoy every moment of it,” emcee and UCCI Board Deputy Chairman Shomari Scott said.
In his remarks, UCCI Board Chairman Mark Scotland discussed initiatives the university is taken to improve itself as an institution and its standing in the community.
“We want employers to look at a graduate from UCCI in the same way that they look at a graduate from a major university anywhere else. Our goal is to be globally competitive,” Scotland said.
Gloria McField-Nixon, Chief Officer of the Portfolio of the Civil Service, commended the graduates and singled out government employees receiving their degrees.
“Your investment in your development is to be commended. It comes at a highly important time in our country’s development, when we must again set a path for the next leg of our journey,” she said.
Keynote speaker Jenkins shared three lessons he had learned during his career: “The first is to take chances. The second is to make a difference in your life. And the third is to give back.”
A Canadian, Jenkins retired in 2017 and moved permanently to Cayman.
He said the graduates represent a generation the likes of which the world has never seen, in terms of lifespan, comfort with technology and even brain function. He said the new generation will define the digital economy in Cayman and create the opportunities for the country.
“You’re going to be the longest-lived generation in human history. It is predicted that you will live more than 100 years and that you will have more than a dozen jobs in your career,” he said.
“Most of my generation, we thought we were going to get one job and that was it for the rest of your life. And guess what? It didn’t turn out like that for us. We all moved around. We had different jobs. Things change,” Jenkins said.
He said, “You can embrace change or you can oppose change. It’ll be your choice. But you won’t have any choice about the change. It’s coming and it’ll keep coming.”
As an illustration of the change that he has seen, Jenkins recalled how when he was studying engineering at university, they used slide rules and paper — whereas today, all of that sort of work is done with computers and calculators.
“It’s said that a teenager living in India today with a smartphone has more knowledge than the President of the United States did 10 years ago. So think about the power that you have with the devices at your fingertips. That’s revolutionary for our islands,” Jenkins said.
He said that medical studies show that the new generation of humans actually think differently than their parents. Because of the influence of devices and ‘outsourced memory’, memory centres in the brain are shrinking, while connections between the left and right hemispheres of the brain are growing significantly — allowing people to multitask in ways older people simply cannot.
To conclude, Jenkins encouraged graduates to start giving back as soon as they can.
“Don’t wait for the end of your career the way I did. Give back right from the start. I regret not doing it earlier,” he said.
“I will tell you today, nothing is more satisfying than being able to give back to your community, to your country, to your school,” Jenkins said.