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Applied AI @ OpenAI • Startups GTM • On Deck Fellow • Proud Son • Duke + Wisconsin Alum • Building for impact • Venture Scout • Neo Mentor • Duke AI Advisory Board

10 May 2022

Be curious, be consistent, and embrace change!

by Shyamal Anadkat

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It was an honor and privilege to deliver a student address at Duke University Pratt School of Engineering Master’s Graduation Ceremony on Saturday, May 7th. Thank you dad for always believing in me. I’m blessed to have amazing mentors, family, and friends who have been part of this journey. Here’s the excerpt:

It’s an honor to be in front of many electrifying and highly caffeinated engineers who are ready to conquer the world. I would really like to thank all the families, especially those who have made significant contributions to see this day, and the engineering department for being part of this journey. And on a personal note, I’d like to thank my late father for everything that’s adding up to this moment and for always pushing me to be the best version of myself in the service of others.

If there’s one thing that I have learned throughout my time here, it’s that of “pushing forward for the things you truly believe in.”

And to be able to do that, there are three lessons that I’d like to share. Don’t worry; they’re not about math or programming. The first one is actually about curiosity.

A couple of years back I was talking to a friend from undergrad, and she was traveling domestically. While she was waiting at the airport, she was frustrated about her luggage not being there on time. I asked her what was going on. And she’s like the other flight may be delayed. I was like, what other flight? And she was like the flight that brings your luggage. I paused. All these years, she thought that her checked-in baggage traveled on a different plane than the one she got on. While this was a hilarious moment, it got me thinking about the blind spots that we often have in our lives and things we miss because sometimes we don’t have visibility into what’s happening on the backend, or we’re not curious enough to ask. We manifest curiosity in the questions we ask, and curiosity is what drives innovation and progress. At the end of the day, curiosity addresses those flawed or incomplete assumptions that we have about the world around us. Curiosity creates possibility and potential.

The second lesson is that of consistency in achieving what you truly believe in.

Consistency is a higher level of trust, and it starts by focusing on incremental improvements. I was talking to a classmate earlier this year. And like a lot of us, he was going through the dreaded job application process. He started with his dream companies, and towards the end of the process, he was simply looking for a job. Thirty-seven resume versions later, and after five Friday nights at Shooters, he submitted applications to 50 companies, and I think he received an offer from three places and then found out that 2 of those don’t sponsor his VISA. But he knew there was no stopping there. He realized that the more you do something, the better you get at doing it. And when you get better, improving your performance gets easier. So he strives forward, to believe in what he is truly here for, and what he’s set to solve. In a very short timeframe, he learned to accept rejections and build discipline. And he ended up with an opportunity that will truly unlock his potential. Consistency always wins over intensity. Just like Coach K once said: “Champions play as they practice. Create a consistency of excellence in all your habits.”So be consistent with your goals, be consistent with your mission, and be consistent with your relationships.

The third lesson is about embracing change. I remember when I got the acceptance letter from Duke, which was exactly a month after my dad passed away due to COVID. I was back in India at the time. And this was a time I wasn’t even sure if I would ever be able to come back to the US. But I was determined to overcome this change and embrace what was coming. I sent a text message in my family WhatsApp chat with just four words, “dream school, I’m going,” and I got back exactly four words saying, “looks expensive, do it.” Amidst all the ambiguity and uncertainty, I rose to the occasion and chose Duke. I embraced the change in the pursuit of pushing myself and becoming a student again.

And before coming here, many of us might have had a specific version of our grad school experience and what we would become. And I bet most of you would admit that your time here was different from what you imagined. Your goals changed, your dream job description changed, roommates changed, your girlfriends or boyfriends changed, your electives changed, and some of you might have even changed your friends. So change in your plans and circumstances is completely normal. Change is constant and inevitable. Embrace it.

To bring it all together, we’ve all come far along! As part of the Duke engineering family, we have an essential role to not only become the best version of ourselves but also to establish a long-lasting impact on the communities around us. Duke gave us the experience, ambition, and collaborative mentorship to make our plans a reality. It made us realize that no matter how hard you fail - remind yourself what matters deeply to you, ground yourself with the values that you hold closely, be curious, be consistent, and embrace change.

I encourage all of you to celebrate today, because tomorrow we’ve got more work to do — best wishes to all, and thanks for being part of this journey. Keep pushing yourself, and go Duke!

Response from President Vincent Price

From: Vincent Price, Ph.D. <*** >
Sent: Tuesday, June 21, 2022 To: Shyamal Anadkat
Subject: RE: Duke Engineering Master’s Hooding Ceremony - Speech Highlights

Dear Shyamal,
Thank you for your kind note and sharing your inspiring speech. I am very glad you have found a home here at Duke. Very best wishes for a pleasant summer.

Vincent Price
President, Duke University Cheers, Vincent Price President, Duke University 207 Allen Building, Box 90001 Durham, NC 27708-0001

tags: Duke - Thoughts - Speech