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Commencement speaker: Continue learning to ensure success

December 21, 2013
Rakesh-Sreenivasam-web 
Rakesh Sreenivasam

EAU CLAIRE — Graduates at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire should keep honing the listening and learning skills they developed as students to succeed at their post-college goals, a fellow Blugold alumnus advised during commencement ceremonies Dec. 21.

Rakesh Sreenivasam, a 1988 UW-Eau Claire biology graduate, delivered his alma mater's commencement address during the morning and afternoon ceremonies in Zorn Arena.

Sreenivasam is vice president of operations for North America for Nestle Health Science. Over the course of his 19-year career with Nestle, he has worked throughout the country and the world. Sreenivasam has worked at Nestle facilities in Switzerland, Morocco, Germany and Mexico. He also has been based in Virginia, Illinois, California, Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin. Sreenivasam and his family currently live in Eau Claire.

At the many places where he has worked during his career in the food industry, he has often encountered new college graduates who seek his advice as they start their careers.

The theme of his advice is to be open to continued learning, Sreenivasam said.

"Truly, your learning curve has only just begun," he said, adding that when presented with leadership opportunities, graduates should be humble in their activities and practice servant leadership.

"Servant leadership is serving your employees by mentoring, coaching and guiding — providing necessary course corrections," Sreenivasam said. "Leadership like this moves the business forward and delivers extraordinary results, as we say, with ordinary people."

Sreenivasam offered graduates a lesson for job success that can be recalled by remembering the letters SSLL, which stand for smile, silence, listen and learn.

Smiling conveys confidence, even when a person is nervous on the inside, Sreenivasam said.

"Remember to smile and be happy to have this amazing opportunity," he said.

Silence should be the goal during a person's first 90 days at a new job, when the employee should answer only questions that are directed at him or her, Sreenivasam said.

"Do not try to answer questions for others," he said. "Be respectful; you will learn something. Remember, you don't need to prove how smart you are."

While aiming to be mostly silent, a new employee also should focus on listening, Sreenivasam said.

"As you are just beginning your career, you need to continue what you have done these past four years at UW-Eau Claire: Listen and learn from your peers as you have listened and learned from your professors," he said.

Finally, recent graduates should learn from what they hear from others in the workplace, Sreenivasam said.

"Remember that you do not know everything and you will not learn all the skills you need by day two or even month two," he said. "These skills take a lifetime to learn, and if you allow yourself to, you will learn something new every single day."

Sreenivasam was one of nine alumni to receive awards from the UW-Eau Claire Alumni Association at a luncheon and ceremony in conjunction with commencement. Sreenivasam received the President's Award, which recognizes outstanding professional and personal achievements and service to UW-Eau Claire. See a news release with details about the alumni award recipients.

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