UCL Engineering Commencement Speech
I had the pleasure of giving the commencement speech to UCL Engineering graduates of 2020. Here is my speech.
“Esteemed faculty, proud parents, patient partners, devoted friends — but especially all graduates: Congratulations — you made it! In the midst of the current pandemic, many of us experienced many challenges. However: You conquered it. Today you are graduates of one of the most prestigious engineering institutions in the world.
I am Larissa Suzuki, a PhD in computer science alumni and a Honorary Associate Professor of UCL. I work for Google as Data practice Lead.
During my PhD, I did a lot of unconventional and spontaneous things. I founded the UCL society of women engineers, was a visiting student at MIT, and did multiple internships. It was exhausting. And guess what? With the exception of writing a thesis as high as a door step, it was the most satisfying and fascinating years of my life. At my graduation, I remember the feeling of excitement and possibility, mixed in with lots of uncertainty. I attended my ceremony with my husband, and my best friend “the imposter syndrome”.
I didn’t know where I would fit in best or contribute most. I would be excited about something, and that excitement would move to something else minutes later. At that time if I were to describe myself as a function, that would be a decaying sinusoid.
It will take you a while to know the “what to do” and where. And that is normal.
Marie Curie once said: Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.
I have learned that there is no such thing as failure. You will realise it was life moving you to a better direction. Fall but fall forward, as I did.
Don’t be afraid, be comfortable in your own skin, uphold your values, your culture that will help you when it’s time to fight for the job you want, for that promotion, and for the kind of society you want to live in.
In my career I’ve learned that the most difficult problems and the greatest opportunities in engineering are not technical. They are human. You will use what you learned at UCL to create the engineering solutions that will change the world, and like the generation before us, will also solve the many problems that engineering and technology brings. You will create new jobs, give machines and the built environment the powers to think, discover cures for illnesses and save our nature. As you can see, engineering is about human survival.
And the best way to solve those problems is to have more people in the room with different voices and different views. Be activists for that. In the end, what matters is not what you build. It is the teams you build, and the positive impact you bring to the lives of people who will make use of what you create.
You will have tremendous opportunities and you will be highly sought after.
I hope you use your influence to make sure engineering is a force for good in the world, and that you continue to pass this on to the next generations of UCL graduates.
Congratulations fellow engineers, you are now doctors for the world!”