Speech of Fleire Castro for the Pre-Commencement Exercises of the MSUIIT School of Computer Studies, Iligan City, April 8, 2014.

Dear graduates of MSUIIT SCS, look at you in your togas — you have levelled up! Welcome to Chapter Two. If you are listening to this speech, then you’ve already survived so much.

Class of 2014, good work! Job well done! Congratulations!

While I was preparing this speech, I made it a point to visit a small cafe and work on my speech there for two reasons. First, because it was good to get out of my home office and get some caffeine. Second, it was inspiring to see graduating students like you working together for their final projects. If I didn’t know any better, I would say they were just looking for an excuse to stay longer, to be with their friends in these last days of their college life. Just like you, I bet.

You must know that we—your mentors, parents, teachers, friends, and family —we do see your efforts to get this far..

We’ve seen you sweat through your classes and exams every single day. You woke up early for your first period and you tried to stay awake programming your projects and writing your reports.

You survived your monthly allowance set by Nanay and Tatay and stretched what you have in your pocket to include impromptu binging of fries and ice cream at McDonald’s, while trying to save up for materials for a class project that your group had to deliver.

You had your little joys, too. You saved up for that memorable trip to Centrio with your classmates over the weekend because YOLO (you only live once), just so you can survive the stress of burning the midnight oil and preparing for a thesis defense with Sir Cabido the next day.

We have seen all of these.

Congratulations, Class 2014, on your well-deserved honor today!

To the parents and guardians – Isn’t this the best gift for you and your family? For now, makaginhawa namo gamay. Graduate najud inyong kinakusgan. Your 20 years, more or less, supporting your beloved son or daughter has finally paid off! And yet your role in helping them figure out their lives moving forward has just begun.

You can now proudly announce to friends and family that you have a proud graduate this year.

Congratulations to you, dear parents and guardians!

One of my fondest memories of college was about our guidance counselor weeks before my own graduation. Our block was cramming to finish all our requirements for graduation and one item that came up on our list was for graduates to visit the guidance counselor.

Visiting the guidance counselor is always a horrible experience for me, so sorry to say this, because: It brings back memories of my high school in IDS, of duranta cleaning when we were late or did something terrible in class and most of the guidance counselors I encountered so far have not really been very approachable.

But there we were. Blockmates. In a crowded room with armchairs for seats. Answering a bunch of papers with a Mongol 2.

That exam was supposed to determine our strength and aptitude. I could not remember what my results were but it was this question on the sheet that I could still remember, a question staring at me right in the face:

Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?

Back then, when I was asked that question, I knew I was going to be a mom. Maybe a programmer, too. Of course, I did not look at the counselor in the eye and said that. I just sort of screamed inside me – Yeah! I’m going to rock motherhood! But it turns out, I was nearsighted.  Because I became a mom a year after graduation. While I was still jobless. It was a self-fulfilling prophecy. Being a Cum Laude in my batch, it was a disappointing situation to be in.

Despite all the flowery words that I wrote in that essay, the truth is that it’s either I could predict what I could become or I was dead wrong on what I imagined myself to be. Because the fact is that – I was a work in progress. And you dear graduates – You are a work in progress. Your views, your priorities, your goals will change along the way. 

You dear graduates may stumble on the same challenge in your Chapter Two. This is a warning: You may be very disappointed on what you will be immediately after graduation. But remember that you are a work in progress.

I may have predicted that I would be a mom. But I never predicted that I would be a business owner and a dakilang volunteer/activist ten years from college.

Now, I want to request you, dear graduates, to imagine your own answers to that question. Let’s take a moment to reflect:

Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?

What do you see in your mind? Are you now a successful developer working in a multinational firm? Are you a call center agent working night shifts while trying to grow a family? Are you a consultant working on a technology in the future that we have not heard of yet? Are you an educator like your noble teachers in SCS? Or are you as clueless as I was 10 years ago?

Dear graduates, I am a time traveler and right now, I am standing beside the future you to bring back this one message that will help you arrive —

Take moonshots. Mga suntok sa buwan. Life is about being brave and taking that next shot at success. 

This is the same message that Larry Page of Google endorses through their Google X projects. This is the same message that I will tell to my little seven year old boy when he reaches your age. This is the same message that I wish someone had told me after graduation. And this message is my sincerest wish for you, dear graduates.

Take moonshots. Mga suntok sa buwan. Life is about being brave and taking that next shot at success. 

What are moonshots? These are projects that require an innovative mindset, a dash of bravery, and a pinch of practicality. Moonshots are launchpads to creating something big.

Let me show you a quick calculation on how many moonshots you can take: Supposing you are productive and can contribute to the society until 60 years of age. Right now, you’re around 20 years old. That would give 40 productive years. Forty multiplied by 12 months is 480.

Let’s say it takes three months to work on a big project – ?any project that you set your heart into: 480 divided by three is 160.

One hundred and sixty. That’s how many moonshots you can take. That’s how many chances you have at making something big. And it’s okay to fail. You still have a lot of little moonshots to take.

Want your dream job? Send out a resume. No, actually send out a hundred. Take a moonshot.

Want your own startup business? Build. Collaborate. Learn. Take a moonshot.

Want to travel to your dream destination? Get a passport. An interview at the Embassy. Take a moonshot.

Want to tell someone you love them? Get the guts. Approach her. Take a moonshot.

You have a hundred and sixty shots once you step out of this gym. Go make the best of these moonshots, dear graduates.

Taking moonshots means being brave enough to step up your game and follow your dreams. Based on my experience, I learned these three possible areas that take a shot at.

Number 1: Take a moonshot at entrepreneurship. Mag negosyo ta.

 

If you feel that entrepreneurial itch, scratch it. Satisfy that. But my advice is this: Get an idea how it is to work at a corporation first. Be employed first because by then, you’d be able to compare which one works for you. Entrepreneurship is not for everyone.

Employment teaches you about following rules. Entrepreneurship teaches you about defying them.

Employment teaches you about fitting in. Entrepreneurship teaches you about standing out.

Employment teaches you rhythm and synchronisation. Entrepreneurship teaches you the beauty in unpredictability and chaos.

And to my fellow women in the crowd, just because you’re a lady doesn’t mean you don’t have what it takes to make big decisions that entrepreneurship entails. You can, too! Mag-negosyo sad ta. Because your future husband should not take the place of an investment or a bank account. As Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook would say – “Lean in, ladies.”

Graduates, when you do launch your venture, think international. The internet is without borders. Your location should not limit what you can do. Educate yourself on what it takes to have a business that spans beyond Iligan City. Or the Philippines.

Number 2: Take a moonshot through volunteerism and activism. Mag volunteer sad ta.

 

Where were you when Typhoon Sendong wrecked Iligan City back in late 2011?

Me? I was in Cebu, monitoring the situation via social media. And when the first signs of disaster showed up, it was gut feeling that made me and the rest of the Iligan Bloggers organize the One for Iligan campaign.

With that campaign, we generated almost one million pesos which was used to help with relief operations by the society.

The devastation was unexpected.
The volunteerism was real-time.
The response was overwhelming.

And we used the power of the Internet and social media to ask for help from all over the world and coordinate the relief operations.

You can take that moonshot at volunteerism and activism, too. The Internet is without borders.

Use your #selfies on Instagram to change the world. Use your #100happydays on Facebook to touch other people’s lives. Use your blogs on Tumblr to champion a cause. Take that moonshot and help others, too.

Number 3: Take a moonshot and innovate yourself. Mag tuon pud ta beyond what we are taught in our schools.

 

And because the Internet is without borders, education is the same way. There is no excuse for you not to learn a new skill, a new language, or innovate yourself to launch a new career. The Internet is flooded with opportunities for you. And every single year, new jobs that you have not heard of before are constantly being created because of new and disruptive technologies. Will you still be relevant?

I know a nurse who now leads start-ups and had won various competitions in the Philippines and around Southeast Asia.

I know a finance graduate who organizes local learning events, partners with local telcos, and codes Ruby.

I know a college dropout who owns a web development company and hires other coders to deliver projects.

You—Information Technology, Electronics Engineering Technology, Computer Science graduates, you are all programmed for success. But with the new and emerging technologies, you may easily become a dinosaur if you don’t innovate yourself. Your background does not matter. And we take no excuses.

Go ahead – make yourself relevant and take a moonshot.

Dear graduates, years from now, you’ll look back at your own graduation and won’t remember me or this speech. Today may become another entry in your #throwbackthursday. Today may become another update on your Facebook timeline.

But if there’s one thing that I could ask for you to remember is to be brave and please take moonshots.

Take moonshots. Mga suntok sa buwan. Life is about being brave and taking that next shot at success.

Take that step forward to launch your first moonshot once you step out of this gym. We will all be there to celebrate your day, your victory.

So, graduates of 2014, welcome to your first launch, let’s give everybody – your teachers, your parents, your mentors, friends, classmates – ?a huge round of applause. Congratulations!