May 16, 2016
The following is the Convocation speech delivered by Edward Cettina ’87 to the bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral class of 2016:
Good morning Class of 2016!
I am honored to be here today. Thank you to Dean Dahlberg for inviting me to celebrate this promising class of graduates. As a parent of college graduates and students myself, I’d also like to thank your parents and congratulate them. I thought I heard a great sigh of relief when the students processed in this morning!
So, I wanted to note that this graduating class and my SU Engineering Class of 1987 have something in common. We both got to witness teams go to the final four. Of course, being millennials and all, you needed to do one better than us. Congratulations to the men and women for making it to the tournament. For those of you that went, you will never forget the experience. When I was asked to speak today, our basketball teams had not yet made the Final Four. When they did, I thought of something Coach Boeheim said during an interview with Mike and Mike on ESPN radio that resonated with me about why he does what he does.
“To see those guys come through this and play at that level – that’s all I need; that’s what it’s about. At Syracuse I’m concerned about what happens to our players. The coach, he’s been around a long time – it’s not going to affect him one way or the other. But, it’s great to see your players, and your fans have this opportunity to go to the Final Four. It’s a great feeling.”
Coach nailed it on the head. As you embark upon careers in engineering or business or government – it doesn’t matter where you end up – but it does matter how you choose to contribute to any organization. Your ambitions should reflect the team’s ambitions – or, as I was told in my early 20s, “it’s not always about you.” It’s amazing what you can do when you decide never to say “that’s not my job” and, instead, become a team player.
A lot of times, especially starting out, team players do grunt work and get no recognition for it, yet they still seem to enjoy being part of the team. Why is that? The mindset of a team player is “How can I help in this situation”, instead of “How can this help me”. Their success is measured by how much they can contribute, and how much the organization achieved, not how much they receive from their efforts. They also see opportunities that might pass other people by. Working together towards the big picture may sound idealistic, but in the end, it’s where the opportunities are.
Opportunity is a word you probably hear quite frequently as you apply for jobs and for graduate school. Opportunity usually doesn’t come wrapped with a bow and a big sign that says “OPPORTUNITY.” It may be being in the right place at the right time, or it may present itself because you said yes to anything and everything, and just one or two of those things led to really big breaks. Being open to opportunity means saying yes – even to things that might not seem like opportunities. You never know when something could be transformational, and it’s amazing what happens when you take a little bit of a risk, or sign up for more responsibility.
Thomas Edison said that “opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” Earlier in my career, I was asked to go to Atlantic City to take over a project that was going to be a real challenge to finish on time. Taking this position would mean long hours in a role I’d never had before, with an unknown group of colleagues. The project was successful and helped to jumpstart my career into senior management.
Soon after that, I was asked by that same client to oversee a major project in Las Vegas. So I got on a plane. That turned into the story of my career. I said yes- a lot. Then I got on lots of planes. Abu Dhabi, Macau, London, Hong Kong – you get the picture. I didn’t always see an opportunity in everything I was asked to do – but I found that taking a small risk, embracing the uncertainty of something new – always led me to a new place and a new step in my career. Steps have been both lateral and upward – but always interesting.
I echo the sentiments of your parents, your families and friends when I say you should take tremendous pride in this day – and embrace the nostalgia of these past years at Syracuse – but tomorrow or next month or next year, say yes, take risks, get on the plane!
Thank you and congratulations!
About Edward Cettina
Edward Cettina serves as Chief Operating Officer of the Americas for AECOM’s Building Construction business. Building Construction is a part of a global organization within AECOM’s eight billion dollar Construction Services business, with operations throughout the Americas, Asia Pacific, Europe/Middle East/India, and Africa.
Cettina joined Tishman Construction, an AECOM Company, in 1987 and has worked in the construction industry in a variety of progressive roles for his entire professional career. In his current role, he oversees operations and business development across the western, central, northeastern and southeastern regions of the U.S. As a member of AECOM’s executive committee, Cettina helps build strategies and initiatives to grow the business. His leadership has resulted in significant new projects for AECOM’s Building Construction business, including the new Margaritaville Hollywood Beach Resort in Florida, Greenland USA’s Metropolis Project in Los Angeles, and MGM Springfield’s Casino Hotel redevelopment in Massachusetts.
Cettina received his B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Syracuse University.