"My best career advice to my 25-year-old self would be to think like an entrepreneur: think big, start small, and get small successes as fast as you can."
On May 16, corporate executive and entrepreneur Barbara Mowry, '75 MBA, stood before hundreds of new graduates and offered her best advice for navigating the future. As the 2016 Carlson School commencement keynote speaker, she drew from a wealth of professional experience and selected a few lessons she wish she'd known as she began building her career.
Develop an inner compass
"How do you find what you really want to do in your career? I think you need to have an inner compass that helps you navigate, a compass that comes from experiences and reflection," she says.
Learn, unlearn, and relearn
"For many of you, this may be the end of your formal education ... you are now entering another phase of your life where you will transition from a more formal education process to the need for a self-motivated process of continuous learning. And now the real learning begins," she says.
"It is very difficult to forecast what and when and where and how things will change. In my experience, people that most enjoy their careers are not those that are successful in predicting the future, but those who can thrive in a future that is difficult to predict," says Mowry.
Be persistent and collaborative
"The workforce of the future—your generation—is not about who has the most knowledge or who is the smartest person in the room, but who is curious, motivated, persistent, collaborative, fearless, can communicate, takes initiative, and has a moral compass," she says.
Every experience is a learning experience
"Through life you learn valuable lessons no matter what job you have or what you do," says Mowry.
Act on your ideas
"Creativity is about generating ideas, but innovation is putting them into action," she says.
See the commencement address in its entirety
About Barbara Mowry
Barbara Mowry is an experienced corporate executive, intrapreneur, entrepreneur, and corporate board member.
Her experience includes senior executive roles in three Fortune 500 companies: Oracle Corporation, TCI (Comcast Corporation), and United Airlines. She also served as CEO of four intraprenurial and entrepreneurial ventures. She has founded companies, raised significant venture capital, and has led both business to business and business to consumer focused companies.
Mowry has been at the forefront of innovations that continue to add business value today. In the airline industry, she led the MileagePlus frequent flyer program. Across a variety of industries, she developed customer loyalty programs, and new technology products that enable business to business e-commerce, data quality and data integration in large enterprises. And as the cable television industry entered the digital era, she led the launch of products enabled by the convergence of voice, video, and data.
She serves on both public and private company boards of directors. Mowry is a member of the Kauffman Foundation Board of Trustees and Vice Chair of the Carlson School Board of Overseers. She was also the past Chair of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City Board of Directors.
Mowry is a board member of the National Association of Corporate Directors. She is also a member of the Committee of 200, the International Women’s Forum, Women Corporate Directors, and other community groups. She was appointed a judge at the EY World Entrepreneur of the Year Awards.
She has received numerous awards including the Outstanding Achievement Award from the University of Minnesota. She has also been named by Denver Business Journal as The Outstanding Woman in Business in Technology and Telecommunications, and has been recognized as one of the “25 Most Powerful Women in Colorado.”
Mowry holds a bachelor's degree from Miami University and an MBA from the Carlson School of Management.