Geneva Airport CEO Gives Commencement Speech
The annual commencement ceremony for Webster University's Geneva campus was held on Saturday, May 13th, at the Intercontinental Hotel. With 113 students graduating, representing 52 nationalities, the event celebrated the academic achievements of Webster's newest alumni with distinguished guests from Geneva's diplomatic community, family and friends.
Dr. Clementina Acedo, Director, Webster Geneva Campus, welcomed Mr. André Schneider, CEO of Geneva Airport, who delivered the commencement address to the graduating class, sharing insights and wisdom about leadership, risk and innovation from his own unpredictable career path.
Mr. Schneider began his career as a professional musician, yet reinvented his path by returning to study computer science to serve both academia and industry. He joined CERN, worked with IBM and spent years in leadership at the World Economic Forum. In 2013, he joined EPFL as Vice-President for Planning and Logistics, and was appointed in 2016 to his current position as the CEO of Geneva Airport.
Mr Schneider shared ideas about how students should moving forward after graduation, with some key takeaways from his diverse professional experiences.
Beginning his career as a professional musician, he practiced untold hours, which taught him that to achieve something great you must "put in the energy"--often more than others around you.
Leaving a successful music career, which included performing for the Berlin Philharmonic, he took a big risk and dove back into Computer Science studies, adding a second takeaway that you can't be engaged if you do not believe in the work you do--and that it's better to start anew with courage than to become stale in old routines. His later career transition from Chief Technology Officer into a broader leadership role at the World Economic Forum led him to discover his third takeaway from the speech: "Be willing to try new things" (even if risk of failure provides lessons learned). His final lessons were on leadership: You will achieve success as a leader through the talent, creativity and innovation of those you lead, and "listen first". Mr. Schneider received a big round of applause when he added, "We need to fight for women to be paid the same as men for the same job."
Mr Schneider concluded his speech by reinforcing that we need to be guided by our own personal aspirations, but they need to support the society around us. He told the graduating class, "Listen to yourself and distill your own learnings - because this is how you progress."
The themes in Mr Schneider's speech about putting in the effort, being engaged in what you do, and trying new things outside your comfort zone will stay with the students, distinguished guests, friends and family members long into the future.
Congratulations, Class of 2017!