“At first glance we think engineering is all about technology, but engineering is all about people,” Commencement speaker Jon Hirschtick — the founder of SolidWorks software company and a former member of the MIT blackjack card-counting team popularized in books and the recent movie “21” – told the Class of 2008 on Sunday, May 18.
The College commencement ceremony recognized the 425 graduates — 42 doctorates, 117 master’s degree and 266 bachelor’s degree recipients – who completed degree requirements in the past year. The ceremony was held at the Track and Tennis Center.
Hirschtick passed on the advice that he said his father told him over and over. “No matter what you do in life, you must learn to deal with people. It was some of the best advice I ever received in my life,” he said.
In his card-counting exploits playing blackjack at Las Vegas casinos, Hirschtick said two team-members could have equal technical knowledge, but the one who was better with people could make much more money.
In founding SolidWorks — a 3D CAD software company that engineers use to design consumer goods, electronics, medical devices and machinery — Hirschtick set it apart from other software by focusing on the customers. Today, SolidWorks has more users worldwide than any other 3D CAD software.
“What made SolidWorks successful was thinking about people. We put a huge emphasis in focusing on the user. We wanted to make it easier to use than anything else out there.”
Hirschtick also advised graduates to use their engineering knowledge to do good.
“Engineering is all about service to humanity,” he said, acknowledging that some of his early pursuits in blackjack were “frivolous,” but that in the long run, “The yardstick for the results you generate as engineers will be measured in how you help humanity. Put as much attention and care into the people issues of engineering as you have in the technical.”
Dean Kenneth R. Lutchen opened the 55th Commencement of the College of Engineering by welcoming the audience of families and friends. Having missed last year’s ceremony to see his daughter graduate from BU’s School of Education, he said he empathized with the emotion the young engineers’ parents were about to feel, watching their graduates walk across the stage to receive their diplomas.
Student speaker Edy Tan (ECE) mentioned current events that punctuated the class of 2008’s time at BU, starting on the high note of a Red Sox World Series win in 2004 and moving on to the excitement of a presidential election year.
“Two thousand eight is a special year – full of change, and with change comes hope, and with hope comes endless possibilities,” Tan said. “BU has made us engineers. The world is now ours to change.”
He used his final moments at the podium to thank his family for traveling from Indonesia to attend his graduation.
As recessional music played, graduates wended their way towards proud families who engulfed their graduates with hugs, congratulations, flowers and balloons – more evidence of Hirschtick’s message that people are the most important part of an engineer’s life.