My Commencement Address

Last week I gave a commencement address to graduates of computer science at University of Ljubljana. Since the topic is very specific to Slovenia, I didn't feel the need to translate it to English. But upon a special request by @SlovenianSteve I've translated it anyway. And it might give an additional insight in the nature of Slovenes to our foreign friends who sometimes have troubles understanding what's happening in our beautiful (but quite secluded) Alpine valley.

Dean Zimic, professors, graduates, parents, friends.

Thank you for the honor to be able to share a few words with you at this special occasion.

Three weeks ago I was in New York. I was visiting my colleagues who are selling our service. And as a head of product development at Zemanta I must be constantly in touch with the market and its requirements.

I stayed in the part of New York called Williamsburg. The fastest way to get from Williamsburg to our Manhattan office is L train, which stops in Williamsburg at the Bedford avenue. Every morning I therefore walked four blocks from Zemanta's appartment on Kent avenue to Bedford avenue and observed with great curiosity other people heading to work on Manhattan, just like me.

In Williamsburg young people live, of your age or just a little bit older. Namely, in this neighborhood of New York the rents are still low, many interesting things are happening, girls are good looking, and boys handsome. All these attract young, ambitious people who couldn't resist the energy of New York. As I watched them enthusiastically entering a new day, I couldn't resist but to envy them at least a bit the freedom expressed in their every move.

As I watch you now, they seem in many regards very much like you. Maybe they have a few piercings or tattoos more, and they certainly weren't as dressed up as you're today, but quite some of them are programmers and were just like myself on their way to one of the many start-ups on Silicon Alley.

I've met many people over the past five years working at start-ups, mostly from US. Without exception they are all very smart, erudite and educated people. Some of them graduated at prestigious, world-famous universities such as Stanford, Harvard, or MIT. But majority of them come from universities such as Florida State, George Washington, Northeastern and others, of which you've never heard before even though they are among the top 5% of the best universities in the USA. The graduates of these universities talk with great pride about successes of their sport teams, achievements of alumni of their Alma mater, and logos of their universities are prominently displayed on their LinkedIn pages.

Let me ask you this. In the next few years how often will you say with pride that you graduated at University of Ljubljana, the best university in Slovenia and one of the top 5% universities in the world? Unfortunately, it will be seldom, according to my experience. But you should and could brag about it more often! I've got my bachelor's and master's degree at University of Ljubljana, but this has never made me feel inferior to anybody. On the contrary. Even when I was meeting graduates of the best universities in the world working for some of the best start-ups in the world, such as Twitter, Spotify, SoundCloud and others, I have never felt my knowledge would be worse than theirs or inadequate.

Never again in your life, you'll feel as free as today. You probably don't have kids yet that you would need to care about. You probably don't have a mortgage and installments you'd have to pay every month. And even if you hold a steady job already, your responsibilities aren't that big that you couldn't quit anytime. And if you're still living at home, trust me, you can leave it, your mother will do just fine without you.

So grasp this freedom, go abroad and spend at least some time out there. Doing so is the only way to build a realistic image about yourself and your role in this globalized world, which knows ever less borders.

The degree you'll be receiving today opens every door in this world and makes you welcome everywhere, from cold Finland to hot Australia, from entrepreneurial USA to ambitious China, from green Ireland to aspiring Turkey, since everybody wants to attract people that will build the world of tomorrow.

All you need now is some courage and determination to step into the unknown.

Trust me, you won't regret it!

Good luck!


Ljubljana, July 2nd, 2014