Bill Bradley, SVP of CenturyLink, inspires grads to embrace change
Bill Bradley is Senior Vice President for Cyber Engineering and Technology Services at CenturyLink. He has worked for CenturyLink for over 30 years and has played an important role in developing the workforce and services that have transformed the company from a rural telephone provider to a global leader in advanced IP-enabled networks, cloud/hosting, IT services and cyber security. Bill is a 1985 graduate of Louisiana Tech’s computer science program. He has devoted countless hours to his alma mater serving as a top advisor for many of our academic, research and development initiatives. We were honored that he accepted our invitation to speak to the 2016 Fall Quarter graduates of Louisiana Tech. Following are the inspiring words of advice that he offered to out graduates:
Graduates! You’re here! You made it! I’m the last lecturer you’ll ever have to listen to!
Today we recognize a major goal that you have accomplished in your life, but you haven’t done it alone. Success is never achieved alone, but by being surrounded by people who are wiser than you and who care about you. That has certainly been true for me as I have received support from my wife and daughters, family, friends and co-workers.
Building and maintaining relationships and networks is one of the most important thing you can ever do. Many in this audience and beyond have supported you in this great accomplishment, whether that’s your family, friends, mentors, or Louisiana Tech faculty and staff. Please take a moment now to say thank you and appreciate their support
Today, I stand here not only as a presenter but also as a parent. I’m proud to say I have a daughter graduating here today as well. Congratulations Rebecca!
It’s been 11,508 days (to be exact – that’s a long time!) since I sat in the very seat you’re in today. I want to share a few things I’ve learned since I was here those 31 year ago, but my main goal is to stop talking before you stop listening. – And I know how short your attention span is. I know some of you might be suffering withdrawals from your smart phones even as I speak.
Graduation is one of the major milestones you experience in your life. You are crossing a threshold. Life is changing. You will never be the same. That change will continue throughout your life. Looking back at my career, I couldn’t imagine having the opportunities for growth that I’ve gotten to experience.
My focus when graduating college was to be a software developer. I joined CenturyLink, then Century Telephone, in 1985. Our revenue that year was about $135M, and we operated in 11 states. In 2015, we had $18B in revenues. We operate in 45 states, and 17 foreign countries. With the anticipated close of our acquisition of Level 3 we will have a combined revenue of $26B. That’s about 200 times what it was when I started.
As a software developer in 1985, I didn’t expect to become an executive leader helping lead a Fortune 200 company and close significant mergers and acquisitions. I should have paid more attention to those accounting classes! Through that time I’ve learned many lessons and I want to share just a few with you today:
Here are 2 “lessons learned” that I would like to equip you for as you move out of this phase of your life:
- Change is a constant, so you need to get used to it
- How you embrace change makes all the difference
So what are some examples of change that you have seen in your lifetime? You’ve seen dramatic changes in communication, entertainment, and lifestyle, just to name a few.
One of the major changes you have seen in your life is in communication technologies. It’s not been many years ago that all of you were hoping and dreaming just to own a cell phone. Many of you might have had to settle for a Firefly. Even if all you could do was call those 5 names or play games like Tamagotchi, it was your personal phone!
Today many of you hold an incredibly powerful smartphone, and you have probably already been sharing or streaming your life as we speak through Instagram or Facebook Live.
You’ve also seen changes in entertainment. Growing up you had less access to entertainment than you do today. You had to rewind that VHS tape before you returned it, or find a kiosk to rent a DVD, or sit in front of a TV at a specific time in order to watch a specific show.
In that time, You’ve gone from Blues Clues and Spongebob to Gilmore Girls and SportsCenter. Today you have access to almost unlimited entertainment whenever and wherever you want to watch it. YouTube alone has over 300 hours of video uploaded every minute.
Your lifestyle has also changed. For transportation, you have gone from car seats to permits, traffic jams to Uber, and today you sit on the edge of autonomous, driverless cars and one way tickets to mars. With food you’ve gone from whatever mom and dad fixed, to what you could get in the drive through, to having gourmet and healthy food delivered to your door ready to cook.
All three of these examples demonstrate the change you have experienced in your lives. The one constant I can provide to you about your future is you will experience continual change. That’s a guarantee.
Some changes like we have discussed are fun, like non-stop entertainment.
Some changes can be challenging – like finding a job, setting out on your own, or perhaps changing careers later in life.
You have to own that change. You must determine now how you will react. You must embrace change if you want to be successful.
Let’s take that one step further. You should be the one to create change. Be bold enough to suggest a new idea, be persistent to see ideas through, mentor someone younger than yourself, or help someone in a novel way using the skills that the degree you are about to receive validates.
Now, I’ve covered 3 examples of change in your lives and I have challenged you to embrace it. To be successful with that challenge I want to provide 3 principles to live by that have been meaningful for me as I’ve successfully embraced change.
I’ve had the opportunity to speak to many people in the US and abroad. I often like to end on these 3 principles…I call it Lagniappe. Lagniappe has a unique cultural connection to Louisiana and Louisiana Tech. But I’ve often been asked, what does that mean?
Lagniappe is defined as something given as a bonus or an extra gift. It’s that 13th beignet when you only purchased a dozen. It has provided a great opportunity to share a bit about our awesome state, our culture, and the importance of having a little something extra.
Principle number 1: Follow Your Passion
Today, you have completed a degree, and, while you might not have everything else figured out, you have likely found your passion within your degree field. For my entire career, I’ve had a passion for technology. It goes back even further than my career in college, but I absolutely can tell you I spent a lot of time in Nethken Hall, Bogard Hall, and the basement of Wyly tower – working on projects, writing code, and learning things that weren’t even assigned. As a student worker, I can remember many late nights and early mornings in those computer labs. I think I still have a key to Nethken. Probably should return that soon. I’m sure you’ve done similar while pursuing your degree in the new business building, Carson-Taylor Hall, GTM, or Woodard Hall.
Technology is still my passion. I’m thankful every day that I get to use the latest and greatest technology. I’m one of those people that just naturally tries out new technology because I need to know how it works.
Principle number 2: Work Hard
Once you’ve found that passion, you should work hard. If you are really passionate about it, it should be easy. I’ve certainly had the opportunity to work hard in the 31 years I spent at CenturyLink. And it has been hard work, but it’s also been very rewarding. A lot of times that meant long days, calls in the middle of the night, and working on weekends, but it was always something I felt good about doing because I was following my passion.
You’ve worked hard to get where you are…I know you’ve had classes that were incredibly difficult. Some of them you might have enjoyed taking more than once. But put that behind you! You’re graduating!
A key tenet of hard work is life long learning. You’ve learned a tremendous amount while pursuing your degree, but the most important lesson you learned was how to study, understand, and form new ideas. I encourage you to put in the hard work of continuing to learn as you go into your first job, start your own company, or continue your studies. As I mentioned before, I was trained as a software developer, but I devoted myself to learning about management and leadership. If I had stopped learning, I would never have been positioned to take on the opportunities I’ve been given. If you are passionate, continuing to work hard and learn should be easy.
Principle number 3: Give Back
You should realize that the community around you enables you to be successful. Louisiana Tech is a great example of a pillar of our community that’s impacted everyone in this room in a positive way. Whatever your support community, use your good fortune and skills to give back to others.
When Hurricane Katrina hit our state in 2005, we were not prepared. Nearly over night, 3,000 people found themselves in a shelter in North East Louisiana. Many of whom were separated from their family or loved ones. Because the storm had such an impact on our infrastructure, it was challenging for people to find each other.
Myself and a group of my co-workers were able to find a technical solution to put in place very quickly for families to locate each other and track inventory for essential items. In fact, after we recovered, we offered this automated solution to the Red Cross to reuse in the future to replace their manual processes.
Now I’m not a doctor, and I’m not a first responder, but I was able to use the skills that I had to provide a solution to a very real problem. This experience was a great opportunity for me to give back in a meaningful and practical way.
These three principles (Follow your passion, Work hard, Give back) come together and provide my life with purpose. They can do the same for you.
There is purpose to be found in what you have accomplished today. There is purpose to be found in how you will grow and change on a professional and personal level. Remember these three principles and seek out ways to bring purpose to your life and to others.
Alright, I’ve mentioned the ending a few times…so, in closing:
Today, you are an educator! Today, you are an engineer! Today, you are a scientist, a nurse, an accountant. Today, you are an alumni of Louisiana Tech University!
But tomorrow is a new day. I hope you will take the sense of accomplishment you rightly feel today into that tomorrow! And that you enjoy the journey and keep attacking your future the same way you attacked your degree! The future is bright, and it belongs to you!
Congratulations, Thank you, and how bout them dawgs!