The fortnight that passed by was an amazing experience for me. The highlight was the Commencement Ceremony at the School of Engineering at the University of Florida. It was a matter of great honor to India and Mindtree that I was invited to deliver the Commencement Speech. Prior to the Commencement Ceremony, all the graduating engineers go through a solemn “Ring Ceremony”. This is a ritual they must pass through; each graduating engineer is required to take an oath and then receive a ring of obligation in their finger. To honor my presence, I was inducted by the University into their Order of Engineers. The idea of the Ring Ceremony has been borrowed from the Canadians who have a ceremonial pledge that every engineer must take, famously composed by none other than Rudyard Kipling. It goes thus:
“I……………in the presence of these my betters and my equals in my Calling, bind myself upon my Honour and Cold Iron, that, to the best of my knowledge and power, I will not hence forward suffer or pass, or be privy to the passing of Bad Workmanship, or Faulty Material, in anything that concerns my works before men as an Engineer, or my dealing with my own Soul before my Maker. My Time I will not refuse; my Thought I will not grudge; my Care will not deny towards the honour, use, stability, and perfection, of any works to which I may be called to set my hand. My Fair Wages for that work I will openly take. My Reputation in my Calling I will honourably guard; but I will in no way go about to compass, or wrest judgment or gratification, from anyone with whom I may deal. And further, I will early and warily strive my uttermost against professional jealousy, or the belittling of my working colleagues, in any field of their labour. For my assured failures and derelictions, I ask pardon beforehand of my betters in my Calling here assembled; praying that in the hour of my temptations, weakness and wariness, the memory of this my Obligation, and of the company before whom it was entered into, may return to aid, comfort and restrain.”
After the customary pledge in the Canadian tradition, each graduating engineer is given a ring whose metal is derived from a fallen bridge! It is meant to be a sober reminder of the responsibility of the engineering profession! The ring at the University of Florida is made of stainless steel, “to be worn with humility and not to be flaunted”. After the ring ceremony was over, in the evening, the Commencement Ceremony took place at an indoor stadium. I was awed by the 4000 strong audience; I have never spoken to a group this large.
As a run up to the Commencement Speech, I had asked graduating students to tell me what engaged their minds by posting their thoughts, what they wanted me to speak on. After all, it was their Commencement, not mine. They posted their thoughts on a specially created Facebook page. I was quite overwhelmed with their questions. Finally, inspired by a particular question from graduating student Elise Burke, I spoke on the idea of change. You can read the text of the speech here or watch the video if you prefer.
On the sidelines of the event, I was invited to a conversation on leadership with Dean Cammy Abernathy. She is an amazing leader herself. After spending time at the MIT and Stanford, she has taken over as Dean, School of Engineering. To be interviewed by her was a great honor! See this video here.
On that note, enjoy the summer and I will see you soon!