When she gave the June commencement speech at her alma mater, Kettering University in Flint, Mich., Mary Barra seemed to foreshadow the role she will assume in mid-January, when she becomes the first female CEO of General Motors Co.
“Things will happen to you. Opportunities will arise that you simply cannot imagine today,” Barra told the Class of 2013 graduates.
Barra, 51, a 1985 graduate of the school then known as General Motors Institute, told the graduates, “Be open to those opportunities.”
“Embrace them. Enjoy them, and at times you will have to overcome them,” said Barra, who was then GM’s senior vice president for global product development.
She displayed a good sense of humor, joking that the graduates weren’t necessarily too attached to their cellphones and instant communication.
“Some of you have not tweeted or texted in the three minutes I’ve been speaking,” Barra said to laughs.
Here are five pieces of advice given by Mary Barra in her commencement speech:
• Pursue a career with “passion and hard work.” Barra said talent alone is not enough to be a success. “Hard work beats talent if talent doesn’t work hard,” she said.
• “Address challenges head-on,” said Barra, whether it be at work or in one’s personal life. It’s much better, she said, to get all those involved together right away to address the situation.
• “Change the world,” said Barra. She said today’s graduates are the most optimistic and inclusive ever, with the power to “rethink outdated assumptions and make a real difference.” But she cautioned that not everything needs change and that “some things need protecting,” which can be equally rewarding.
• “Give something back,” said Barra. “Find a cause. Join a charity. Help a neighbor.”
• “Remember your friends, family and faith,” said Barra. They help celebrate good times and cope with bad times. “Faith doesn’t always make things easy, but it can make all things possible.”