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CQUni MBA graduate Kumar Parakala calls for more "humanness" in the digital age

CQUni MBA graduate Kumar Parakala calls for more "humanness" in the digital age

Published:18 December 2017

CQUni MBA graduate Kumar Parakala addresses students at the 2017 Sydney campus graduation.

CQUniversity MBA graduate Kumar Parakala has spoken of the importance of "humanness" in the digital age in his address at the recent CQUni Sydney Graduation.

The full text is below:

Thank you. Congratulations class of ’17. I especially want to thank Chancellor Dr. Robyn Minchinton, Vice-Chancellor & President Prof Scott Bowman, Deputy Vice-Chancellor Alistair Dawson, Associate Vice-Chancellor Phillip Cenere, distinguished faculty, ladies, and gentlemen. It is a privilege to be here today with your families and your friends on such an amazing and important day.

I want to congratulate the graduates for your remarkable achievement at one of the best universities not only in Australia but in the world. I want to thank everybody including the faculty, parents and family and friends, who helped these amazing young people successfully achieve an important milestone.

We are living in times where the foundations of lives, both personally and professionally, are going through major changes as a result of new technologies. As old paradigms and the institutions that followed them are shaken to the core, a new world order is emerging that you will not only be a part of, but you will drive its creation.

The world is going through unprecedented change, as we have just commenced the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The result, the near zero cost of computing, combined with digital technologies and the internet, have created a global platform for disruptive innovation where cheaper, simpler and unexpected products and services are bringing down large companies. You are expected to enter the world and lead in a society at a time best described as volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA).

When I say “young”, I am not referring to your age, but to your way of thinking and approach to life. Your willingness to follow your passion and, against all odds, achieve success. Become an iconoclast and a champion of change. Be brave. Be prepared to make a difference. When I say "young" – I am referring to your willingness to challenge the status quo, ground rules and assumptions that we all have learned to believe in for the last 50 years.

As we move into the era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the need for ‘humanness’ is far greater than ever before. In fact, the success of our transition will depend on our humanness. Digitalisation without humanness will be a failure for people, organisations and our society.

For me, there are five traits of innate humanness to drive success in the digital era. I want to share some of my own experiences in the hope I can help you on your journey.

Have a higher purpose

As you commence the next phase of life, you should not just embrace a stereotypical definition of success that may fit into a narrow definition self-serving outcomes that are purely materialistic. As the Vice-Chancellor has highlighted, you should aspire for a higher purpose that allows you serve the humanity in the digital era.

I can tell you from my own experience that none of the outward markers of success will create a lasting purpose in life, although we may get some sort of short-lived happiness. We need a higher purpose to have fulfilling and meaningful lives. You don’t want to be in a similar state to many of my generation who are materially successful, but often wonder what happened to those 25 – 30 years they spent working without a clear higher purpose. Lasting happiness and satisfaction come from actions that are aimed at serving others in a meaningful way. Our success in the digital era will depend on building successful communities that are purpose driven to serve business and social needs.

I have had the opportunity to work in large organisations over the last 20 years. My current amazing firm GHD has almost 10,000 people and thousands of clients. My higher purpose is to help our people, clients and communities create better futures through the transformation potential of digital technologies.

Think outside-the-box

With technology becoming integral to all aspects of our lives, we need to think outside-the-box. We need curiosity and imagination to use technological advancements to their full potential. These are important traits of humanness and continued progress in the digital era.

Outside-the-box thinking is needed to use technology to solve the complex problems of the humanity such as helping people detect cancer early or allowing a blind person to run a marathon or protecting children or providing alerts to warn us of natural disasters. The right way of using technologies that are centred around humanness can help the whole of humankind.

Build relationships

I have also been a strong believer in relationships for life. The relationships that I have built with people over the last 25 – 30 years are still going strong today. Don’t build relationships for a better job, or more money or other benefits that demonstrate short-termism. Instead, build as trusted relationships for rest of your lives with right people who demonstrate exemplary human values. You will need good people around you whom you can trust, respect and learn from. These relationships will help you succeed and thrive in the digital era.

Commit to lifelong learning

You never stop learning. The day you think you know everything is a sad day indeed. The University degree that you have today and the important milestone you have achieved, no doubt prepares you for the future. However, with the fast pace of change and evolution of new knowledge every day, this formal education is not enough.

I am realising that the more I learn, the less I know about the world and there is so much more to learn. Being a Global Digital Leader or a Global Technology Leader doesn’t make me an authority of all knowledge.The pace of change in the digital era is so radical that even the most experienced CEO and business leaders are struggling to keep up with the changes and demand to upskill/learn. In fact, the responsibility to learn and grow is far greater in leadership roles, in a rapidly changing world. I believe no matter how many degrees you have, or how successful you are, there is more to do and more to learn.You must commit to lifelong learning to be in the game and to contribute to the society.

Never give up

Resilience is key to success. There will be a lot of noise when you do something different from others. Don’t let the noise knock you off course. Don’t get caught up in what others are thinking or believe those who think you are not good. I have often followed a path that others have less traveled. As a result, I have attracted comments and criticism many times. I never gave up as I knew that this is the only way to follow my passions and make a difference. Persistence is important for success in the digital era. There will be many failures before you succeed. My motto is “Fail fast, succeed faster”. You must build resilience to face failures and adversity.

Believe in your journey, remain optimistic, demonstrate passion in how you serve others. Be authentic. Build an ability to withstand criticism. Not everybody will understand the journey you are on. Have faith in yourself.

Congratulations on your graduation and wishing you all great success in your future endeavours!