Address to convocation

by Dr. Darryl Diamond Fry

Memorial University, St. John's


(June 5, 1997, Gazette)

It is definitely a thrill for me to come back to my homeland, receive an honorary degree, and have an opportunity to talk to some of Newfoundland's finest. Thank you very much. I really appreciate it.

I would like to say a hearty "Congratulations" to the graduates. You have been in training for many years with parents, teachers and professors. Now many of you go into training with companies like mine. The major difference is that I will pay you and expect significant returns on my investments. To get ahead, people will tell you "it's not what you know that counts, but who you know." Neither is right. Going forward, it's what you can do that counts. You are moving into a results-oriented world where people pay for performance; where it will not matter whether you are an A student, B student or C student; where you get left behind if you are not willing to put forth the extra effort. So, in many ways, the education process is just beginning.

I can only guarantee you one thing right up front, right now: 90 per cent of you will do better than you currently think. There will be ups and downs but you will prevail because you are Newfoundlanders or Newfoundlander "wannabes." Being born and raised on this very difficult island has blessed you with the genes of independent thinking people who have persevered through many tough times. Canada has taken some of that independence away but not enough to destroy your desire and motivation to excel. My wife and I became American citizens nine years ago. We also retained our Canadian citizenship. People ask me today, "Are you more American or Canadian?" I say "Neither, I am still more a Newfoundlander."

Let me give you a forecast of what I see in your future: You A students are God's gift to mankind. You will advance our lives with your technical breakthroughs or you can go on to become professors or business executives.

You C students will be the entrepreneurs or the "easy riders" with guts, not afraid of failure, and blessed with good people skills. You will eventually hire some As and Bs to do a lot of your work.

And then there are the B students. You folks always wanted to be A students, so you will continue to try harder. You are dependable. You can get things done. Maybe you are not brilliant but you have good "street smarts." Many of you will be overachievers.

I was a B student. The reason I have done well is I am an independent-thinking Newfoundlander. I don't follow the herd. I like being different. I took jobs others did not want, to get experience. I understand people's needs, whether customers or employees, and I always set high goals. This stuff is not too complicated. Actually, it's very simple. The bottom line is, there is a fit for everyone and you will definitely find your career following many directions before you get to my age.

Let me give you a few thoughts on different directions. First of all, to maximize your career advances, you have to move out of Newfoundland. Not just to Toronto, or Vancouver, but think Hong Kong, South America or Louisiana, where there are different cultures and lots of action. That may seem difficult at this point but if you set it as an objective, you will find a way. We all have love of this country. I tried unsuccessfully to get a job at Come By Chance. I eventually obtained a job at Long Harbour, but the company I was working for at the time convinced me to stay in Ontario. Like the homing pigeon, there is always that instinct to return, and you should -- for the right opportunity.

Also, don't get stuck on ego trips with large companies where you can get lost. If you are good you can get broader responsibility earlier in the small to mid-size companies. Be careful about working for the government. Many governments take my money and my company's money and inefficiently put it into ineffective projects. That's not a good environment to develop a career. Giving away Churchill Falls power and investing your hard-earned tax money in cucumbers should be a cause for more than just impeachment.

Certain government jobs are essential and should have priority over everything. But there should be a law that you have to have experience in making money before you can get a job in giving it away.

The U.S.A. now has 4.9 per cent unemployment, low interest rates, and a super economy. Do you think that came from Bill Clinton and company? In my view, he is one of the worst American presidents in 50 years. The U.S.A. prosperity has come from young hotshots, like yourselves, going into industry, where they learn pragmatic American management skills that provide the proper balance between paternalism, socialism and capitalism, and do very well. Regards your taxes going to support the university, I would definitely put it on the high priority list. MUN is a jewel on this island. When I heard government funding to MUN was being reduced I was much more interested in contributing to the university. Countries like Newfoundland that are isolated, with difficult climates, such as Chile or Norway, have done well by focusing on effective utilization of their natural resources, and education. They have stayed away from silly projects brought in by less than reputable promoters. So be careful of government jobs or working on government projects.

Some of you at the B.Sc. level are saying "Yes, MUN is pretty good, but I'll probably need more formal education," because a B.Sc. from Memorial is not exactly a ticket to the rest of the world. You are probably thinking about going on for a master's, a PhD or an MBA. Maybe to a big name school.

I would highly recommend going for a PhD if you really intend furthering the sciences or becoming a professor, or running an industrial R and D lab. I would not recommend going that route as a necessity to a good career in most parts of the business world. I would never recommend against higher education, but you could be better off spending the time getting hands-on experience under your belt in industry. The primary recruiting that my company does today is still at the B.Sc. chemistry and engineering level. And last year 48 per cent of those hired were women.

At the executive level in Cytec we do have a number of advanced degrees from big name schools, such as PhD chemists from MIT and Notre Dame, a Harvard MBA and a masters chemical engineer from Cambridge, England. We also have some bachelor-level executives from high quality, less recognized schools -- like Memorial -- that have done well.

The biggest gaps in my education were in the arts, not in the sciences or business. Anyway, with the mix of educational backgrounds we have at Cytec -- led by a B.Sc. from Memorial University of Newfoundland -- our company has done pretty good.

The Harvard Business School has studied Cytec's way of doing business. Currently five professors teach the Cytec case. Earlier this month, CEO Magazine published its list of the top-performing public companies in the U.S.A. over the past three years. A company had to be worth over $500 million to qualify for the list. There were about 1,000 companies eligible. The performance ranking for each company was judged by sales growth, profit margin growth, return on equity, stock price growth, and a number of other measurements. There was only one chemical company in the top 100. It was Cytec Industries. Actually, Cytec was ranked number four of the 1,000. Only three software computer firms were ahead of Cytec. This was not accomplished by who you know or what you know. It was accomplished by independent thinking; being different; not following the herd; and lots of hard work -- all qualities that are in your genes because you're Newfoundlanders. The important thing to remember about the Cytec story is not the name of the company or the CEO. But what you should always remember about the story is what Newfoundlanders with a B.Sc. from Memorial can do. Yes, that's you, and you, and you. So be proud of Newfoundland and Labrador, and Memorial, and most importantly, yourself. You will be taking a lot from life as you go forward. Make sure you give something back to your university and your island.

So thank you for your attention. Congratulations! I wish you the best.