The following is the full transcript of Former Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz’s 2012 spring commencement speech at UW Madison
Listen to the MP3 Audio here: Carol Bartz’s 2012 Spring Commencement at UW Madison
Announcer: ….to introduce you to Carol Bartz, who will deliver the charge to the graduates. Carol has extensive experience leading complex global technology companies while CEO of Yahoo, the world’s premier digital media company, Carol modernized technology platforms, acquired companies for expansion, divested businesses for focus, ignited partnerships, cut costs, expanded margins, and grew consumer audience to 800 million people. Not a small task.
Prior to Yahoo, she was promoted after 12 years of successfully leading AutoDesk as CEO to the executive chairman until February 2009, when she agreed to lead Yahoo. Earlier in her career, Carol held several business leadership positions at Sun Microsystems, including vice president of the worldwide field operations and served as executive officer of the company.
Carol is currently the lead director on the board of Cisco Systems, the worldwide leader in networking. She also serves as the director of the National Medals of Science and Technology Foundation and as trustee of the Paley Center for Media. She has also served on other public company boards, including Intel and NetApp. Carol is known for her strong leadership style, is frequently featured as a prominent business leader in the industry, and is regularly listed as one of Fortune’s most powerful women. Carol supports key causes important to her including the American Breast Cancer Foundation and the American Heart Association. We are deeply honored and gratified that Carol is with us today. Please join me in welcoming Carol Bartz.
Carol Bartz – Former Yahoo CEO
Thank you, encore chancellor. Welcome, grads. Are you awake, or is this the cemetery? It’s not Friday morning, it’s Saturday, and welcome especially to the moms and mom figures that you have who worried every single day that you were here. Every single day. So a special thanks to moms.
Because guess what? You don’t answer e-mail, you certainly don’t answer phone calls, and you make fun of our texts. My daughter always said to me, “Mom, why do you sign it mom? I know it’s you.”
And I’m in technology. So I can only imagine what happens to all of us here. So I’m so honored to be here. I did leave here in 1971. I never had the chance then to go to my graduation because I was already going to start work. So I feel super excited that I’m here, and I really am proud for all of you. I’m proud for this great university, and I never fault to tell people where I graduated. Because I’m really, really proud, and they understand how great Wisconsin is.
So, but I do tell you that I think my remarks today should come with a warning label, and the warning label goes like this. Attention, attention. The advice you’re about to receive comes from a 63 year old, unemployed, former CEO whose language is frequently described as salty. Now what a stupid term that is, but anyway. So you’re warned, but also consider yourself fortunate not because I’m here, but because you’re graduating, classes are over, exams are over, and you’re just entering another wonderful phase of your life.
You’re actually fortunate that you’re entering a world more exciting and challenging and eye opening than any other previous generation. I think we all thought that. I just am so excited for you. You know, you’ve read the headlines. Jobs are tough. I talked to some of you yesterday on campus. You said you didn’t have a job yet and so forth. Economy’s uncertain we know. Some of you are going to have to face the reality of moving back in with your parents. Now that might be good. That might be bad. I will not make a judgment. My daughter has already boomeranged back, and she thinks she gets to pick the TV shows. No. You’ve been gone five years, sweetie. No.
So that’s just a word to the parents. They don’t get to pick anymore. They’re not, you know, they’re not the apple of your eye. They’re the apple of your heart, but you get to move on.
So I graduated in 1971, and I will tell you I do have one bad note for you. The rest of your life, Thursday nights will never be as good. Never. Never, never. Never.
You know, yesterday, ostensibly, I was out trying to find some T-shirts and so forth for my family, and instead I was actually looking for my old hangouts. Sad to say, they are all gone: The pub, the KK. Schmitty’s, the Townie Bar. I don’t remember what it was called because we were so snobby, which was stupid, but anyway.
The good news is I found all kinds of replacements. So I’m sure on Thursday nights, you guys had a ball, and just cherish all that. Cherish those friends. Cherish those Thursday nights. But anyway, back to 1971. A little bit of a treatise on what was going on then. It was hardly a high watermark for American optimism. Inflation was rampant. Unemployment was about to reach a 20-year high. The war in Southeast Asia was expanding. Yes, I was here during all of that. I have many stories, most of which would get me in jail.
Back then, economists wrote that it was the end of an era. The global dominance of the U.S. economy had come to an end. Seriously, 20 years ago, 40 years ago. Geez. Oh, please 20. Had come to an end. OK. And Japan and the entire European community were the rising stars. That’s what the predictions were. So it was very hard to see past those headlines when I graduated, and the future really didn’t look bright.
I had a UW degree in a new field called computer science. Jobs in that field were scarce, especially for women. Now, that’s no surprise. That hasn’t changed. Maybe you can help change that. But it was a special year in the United States. So I want to actually tell you a few things that were happening.
In 1971, the NASDAQ began trading for the first time. A new airline called Southwest started. In California, a company called Intel invented the microprocessor. In Florida, a new theme park opened called Disney World. The U.S. lifted its trade embargo against China, and in 1971, a new telephone business called MCI offered cheap rates on long distance except you don’t even know what long distance is.
Needless to say, we didn’t see a lot of this coming, but what I want you to do is draw some hope from this history. Look past the headlines, and actually don’t believe that the events of today are the ones that are going to shape your future. Because your work life is very, very long. You’re the first generation that is preparing for a 50-year work life, and you know why. You have to support all of us. You know, that probably sounds like an eternity now, and you’re probably saying let me first get a job and then I’ll worry about working 50 years, but truly, for all kinds of reasons, health reasons, economic reasons, most of you will be working into your 70’s and 80’s, which actually isn’t all that bad. Retirement now at 62 and 65 as we think of it will be a thing of the past.