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Doerr gives advice on jobs, school

By Kevin Lin     11/11/10 6:00pm

John Doerr (Lovett '73), a venture capitalist whose gift made the opening of the Rice Center for Engineering Leadership last year possible, returned to campus a week ago to share some career advice with students at RCEL. "Rice engineering students are well known for their excellent technical education," RCEL Director Mark Embree said. "However, we haven't consciously challenged our students to develop the other essential skills that will enable them to make their greatest possible mark on the world."

These other skills are identifying and engaging in the challenges of real-world problems that might require further technical study, entrepreneurship or policy to see them through. During his address, Doerr provided his opinion on how these skills can be obtained.

"I think the most important thing to do is to have a state of mind to continue to learn and grow," Doerr said. "The compensation at the start and end of your career is not what you should be trying to make the most of."

Instead, Doerr said that learning should always be the key goal.

"You want to build a really strong foundation of experiences," Doerr said. "Do something you might not imagine yourself doing for a long time."

Outside of personal development, the next major emphasis should be meeting others.

"I think the most important thing you can do is to interview," Doerr said. "Network, network like crazy. Meet all sorts of people and stay in touch with them."

When checking out new work places, Doerr said to pay attention to several important factors: the sort of work you will be doing, the people you will be working with and the culture of the company. Doerr described a company as falling into one of two categories when it comes to culture: mercenary and missionary. Mercenary culture is fueled solely by the lust for making money, whereas missionary culture is fueled by the lust for making both money and meaningful contribution. One is driven by paranoia, the other by passion. The difference between the two is the difference between making a life of success and making a life of both success and significance.

Doerr charged Rice students to be more. He said it's not good enough just to be a good Rice student.

According to Doerr, leadership is going to be the key ingredient is helping make this happen. Doerr said that leadership is all about the ability to listen and think critically.

"Very few of us on our own can change the world," Doerr said. "It takes a team to win."

McMurtry College sophomore Yize Zhao is an electrical engineer who attended Doerr's talk.

"It was a very inspiring talk," Zhao said. "My big takeaway is maintaining human personal relationships and personal connections. Don't get too much into school work and forget about that other part of college."

That other part of college is what the center is trying to push Rice engineers toward.

"RCEL is designed to make our students uncomfortable," Embree said. "We challenge students to get out of their comfortable cocoons, to grow through experiences that are personally challenging but ultimately transformative.

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