Arrive Early, Stay Late, Put in the Effort to Succeed, Says Commencement Speaker Doug Elliot, President of The Hartford
In a commencement speech laced with solid career advice about hard work and attaining career success, Doug Elliot ’82 mentioned that his life did benefit from a touch of serendipity.
Elliot, the president of The Hartford insurance company, recalled the evening he met his wife of 36 years, Sheila, during a UConn event.
“Not sure I want to admit it, but we met in the Student Union at Disco Night, under one of those mirror balls!” he told the delighted audience of graduating students and families, faculty and UConn President Susan Herbst.
“And in 2010 we sat in the audience right here in Gampel Pavilion, as our son earned his UConn accounting degree,” he said. “We bleed Husky Blue proudly with you.”
Elliot earned his bachelor’s degree in accounting from UConn in 1982, followed 10 years later by an insurance executive degree certificate from the Wharton School of Business. He currently serves as Chairman of the Board of Hartford Hospital.
The Hartford has been named one of the world’s most ethical companies—nine times. It has been recognized as a Top Workplace in Greater Hartford, earned an EPA Climate Leadership Award in 2015; and has been recognized for its favorable treatment of employees.
In his speech, Elliot told students to take their time finding their passion and that they don’t have to leave the university knowing exactly what they want to do. Nevertheless, he said, there are no short cuts on the road to career success.
Passion is Best Predictor of Success
“For 30 years, insurance has become my passion. Yes, you heard me right – I said insurance is my passion. Now some of you are probably thinking that there’s no way insurance is anyone’s passion; others are thinking, ‘this poor guy needs to get a life.’ But stay with me… I promise this isn’t about insurance.”
“Whatever it is, I encourage you to find a career challenge that you can be passionate about,” Elliot said. “Passion is the precursor to performance. It compels the pursuit of excellence. You will spend a large percentage of your next 40-plus years working. I urge you to spend it doing something you are passionate about.”
“For those of you that know exactly what you want to do, great. For others, it may take time. We live in a world of instant gratification, but this isn’t something that happens with a click of a button,” he said. “Try new things and don’t be discouraged when it seems like everyone else around you has found their passion. This is your journey so embrace it.”
Forgo Netflix—Until the Weekend
Elliot urged the graduates to forgo the latest Netflix series—at least until the weekend—and make sure you “leave nothing on the field” at work each day, he said.
“Your work ethic defines your character and your brand. You should have the mindset that you will outwork everyone around you, while being the best team player you can be,” he said. “Arrive early, stay late and work as hard as you can in between. If you put in the effort, you will see the rewards.”
Become Indispensable to Your Team
“Work to command your space,” Elliot said. “Every successful person I know and want on my team has command of his or her expertise. Whatever your area of focus is—whether it is in marketing, finance or technology—develop insight and knowledge to understand your expertise with great depth. Become indispensable to your team and be that ‘go-to person’ that others want to work with… be really good at what you do.”
Attitude is a Tie-Breaker
“Don’t underestimate the power of attitude,” Elliot said. “It isn’t enough to just develop your craft. Be that person with an open mind and positive attitude who pushes for progress, creates opportunities and doesn’t accept the status quo. Attitude, when combined with aptitude, is a powerful combination… when I’m considering leadership changes within my team, it’s always a tiebreaker for me.
Select Mentors Who Understand Life
Lastly, Elliot told the graduates to find, and leverage, mentors.
“Their wisdom can be incredibly valuable,” he said. “Commit to being an active listener. I’ve been blessed with incredible mentors along the way.”
“One of my mentor relationships started right here on campus. It has lasted for 39 years and is as relevant today as it was then. When I was uncertain about career options, he listened and offered advice. He didn’t understand my chosen field of accounting, but he understood life, and he has helped me immeasurably,” he said. “We still talk often and visit from time to time. He recently turned 88, and I still value his counsel. Mentors are the truth tellers that shape and enable your growth.”
Don’t Settle for a Lesser Life
In his closing remarks, Elliot told the soon-to-be graduates not to worry, the next 40 years is not just about work.
“I encourage you to embrace life, both professionally and personally. I have invested much of myself in my career over the past 35 years. But I have also made the time to attend games, school activities, UConn events, family trips, and even watch a little TV. I have been an active board member at Hartford Hospital for nearly 18 years. All of these activities have added to the enjoyment that I drive out of my life.”
Before wishing the new graduates well in their next endeavor, Elliot shared a quote from former South African President Nelson Mandela.
“Nelson Mandela once said: ‘There is no passion to be found in playing small… in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.'”
Business School Sends Grad Students Out to Make a Difference in World
‘We Love Them As Proud Parents Would’
One quarter of UConn’s graduate students hail from the School of Business and their commencement is a bittersweet occasion for the faculty and staff, said Suresh Nair, associate dean of graduate programs.
“We are so proud of the graduating class this year. They are ready to make a difference in the world, whether it is by making their companies more profitable or socially conscious; or by starting up new businesses,” he said of the more than 300 graduate students in the Class of 2017. “Whatever their paths, they will be influential as they work their way to senior positions in their careers.”
“The one constant will be that they will always be Huskies, and we love them as proud parents would,” he said. “I have spoken to many of our graduates and they are uniformly appreciative of the education they received from UConn’s School of Business.”
Salaries and sign-on bonuses for new MBA graduates who have secured jobs are markedly increased over last year, said Meg Warren, director of the Full-time MBA program. This year 54 students earned diplomas from that program.
“In addition to having graduates enter management rotational programs at Cigna, Gartner, and Prudential, there are also graduates who will start full-time jobs with companies new to hiring UConn MBAs, such as Amazon and Dell,” she said. “Based on placement data collected thus far, the mean or average base salary has risen to $102,700, up from the mean base of $93,375 last year. And the sign-on bonus average is $20,000, up from an average of $14,273 in 2016.”
The 2017 full-time MBA class is the first to graduate with a newly designed program that includes the addition of concentrations in business analytics, digital marketing strategy, and financial analysis and investments. They also enrolled in new classes on communicating for impact and sustainability in global business.