Focus on today
Commencement speaker offers news graduates tips for future success
By Bonnie Blankinship
BGSU alumnus Emanuele Conti offered some words of wisdom to BGSU’s most recent graduates during commencement ceremonies Dec. 18. Conti, who received a bachelor’s degree in finance in 1989, is now an operating partner for Providence, a premiere global asset management firm with over $40 billion in assets under management across complementary private equity and credit businesses.
Giving the commencement speech was also the occasion for a sort of homecoming for Conti, whose parents and younger brother, Steve, also a BGSU alumnus, attended, along with some of the many Theta Ki fraternity brothers with whom he has remained close over the years.
As the eldest son of Italian immigrants, he was the first in his immediate family to graduate from college, and has more than fulfilled his parents' wish for him to get an education and be successful.
When he moved into Kohl Hall as a freshman, he taped to his desk a clipping from the Wall Street Journal he'd brought with him about careers in finance, and assumed that was what he would pursue.
Yet even though did well in finance and was vice president and treasurer of the Finance Club for two consecutive years, an astute professor advised him to go into general management instead.
"He saw that I had a broader set of interests," Conti said, an observation that proved to be true and the best path.
Another important figure in his college career was Dr. Sung Bae, finance. "He really pushed us and some of us were almost intimidated by him," Conti said. "He was tough, but we learned we were capable of understanding vey complex financial strategies. I know now we have way more potential than we think we do. It's important to surround yourself with people who challenge you."
One of his favorite experiences at BGSU was serving as a resident adviser in Anderson Hall, beginning as a junior. "I enjoyed helping the freshmen and seeing them make their way."
He implored the new graduates to not dwell on what they plan to do with their lives, but to “focus on today."
“Not only is it impossible to know the person you will be in 30 years, but I find it more productive, and comforting, to appreciate everyday opportunities. See, the best way to shape your future is to make the most of the opportunities you have today, which is easier than attempting to orchestrate a future you can't predict,” he said.
Conti revealed that he received some vital advice early in his career when his then-CEO told him to make the most out the opportunities presented. “It’s actions taken today that leads to success tomorrow. It does not work the other way around.”
He went on to explain that a year later, he had a chance to run a business and nearly blew it. “I thought to myself ‘this business is not a priority of the company, it's quite small, no one knows what to do with it.’ Thankfully, I took the role and heeded the advice.
“I approached it as if it was the most important business in the company. In one year, the business doubled and I created some wonderful memories along the way that will last a lifetime and it led to my next opportunity to run a larger business.”
Conti encouraged them to learn how to sell themselves—to create the “proverbial 30-second elevator pitch.”
He said a good pitch reveals your passions, skills, and motivations and how you can help others, and should be practiced until it can be delivered naturally and confidently to a complete stranger.
Conti's philosophy revolves in part around "making yourself accessible to people. Tell them what you want to do, and how you think you can help them. They can't read your mind. This can help open many doors."
When it comes to overcoming challenges, Conti said it’s a waste of time to ask “why.”
“A friend of mine even said, which I think is so true, ‘Asking why actually only leads to more problems and drama, never solutions.’
“Instead, be open to challenges. Spend your time focused on solving them and if you can't on your own, and this is very important, ask for help. In fact, it is a strength, not a weakness, to ask others for help.”
A strong believer in collective wisdom, Conti said he has helped orchestrate many business solutions by realizing "I don't have to do this alone," instead calling upon the knowledge and experience of others, making himself accessible to them to elucidate the focus of the challenge.
"You can learn from almost anything and anyone," he said. "We all learn from each other."