Business Monday

CEOs’ advice to students as new school year begins

Dr. Alejandro Badia is an orthopedic surgeon who leads a network of orthopedic urgent care centers called OrthoNOW based in Doral. The company has locations in Miami-Dade and Broward counties.
Dr. Alejandro Badia is an orthopedic surgeon who leads a network of orthopedic urgent care centers called OrthoNOW based in Doral. The company has locations in Miami-Dade and Broward counties.

This week’s question: With a new school year starting, how would you guide students entering 10th grade? What should they study? How can they best position themselves for success in today’s economy and a happy life?

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The world and the opportunities for young people have changed greatly since I was in 10th grade. Today, students need to consider the long-term implications of academic effort against future earnings. The humanities are vital for being well-rounded, but in an increasingly technological society, mathematics, the sciences and computer science continue to be pathways to white collar careers. For those whose interest is not in that realm, they would be well advised to consider a trade vocation.

Alejandro Badia, orthopedic surgeon and founder, OrthoNOW

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High school students today can position themselves for future career success by using the time to explore different areas and find their personal passion. If you are studying something that gets you excited and motivates you, then you are going to be more devoted to your studies and ultimately the results are going to be better. The key to career success and a happy life, I firmly believe, is about finding a job where you enjoy what you do.

Hilarie Bass, co-president, Greenberg Traurig

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We have been participating in the summer internship program of the National Academy Foundation’s Academy of Hospitality and Tourism for several years. Our interns are generally 10th- or 11th-grade high school students. The hospitality industry is not for everyone, particularly if making a lot of money is your primary goal. However, the hotel business can be a dynamic, people-centric and enjoyable way to make a living. If you have an affinity for it, there are many opportunities to grow in the Miami hotel market and have fun at the same time. Enjoying what you do for a living is a necessary factor for professional success.

Peggy Benua, general manager, Dream South Beach

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I think communication is one of the most important things in business and in personal relationships. If you know how to say what you want to say, you will be at an advantage. So, I would suggest getting on a debate team (which I never did, of course, and wish I had). The second is to learn how to program/code, even if at the most basic level; not just using technology but understanding how it works will give you a leg up. If you haven’t, take up a sport. Sports teach you so much that is transferable to business. Last, volunteer. There is so much need, and everyone needs to give back. It will make you a better person and strengthen our community.

Meg Daly, president and CEO, Friends of The Underline

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My message of guidance to all students, not just 10th-graders: “Be whatever you want to be, but strive to be best in whatever that is.” Be clear about what makes you happy, and even clearer about what makes you successful. If it is a three-bedroom, two-bath house, and a new car every four years, the money earned from a trade buys the same car a lawyer’s money buys. I tell them, “You study those things that fulfill your preparation agenda to be what makes you happy, not what makes you liked or acceptable. In the meantime, if you come to school every day, prepared and excited about learning, and make no less than A or B, in the future, you will be all right.”

T. Willard Fair, president and CEO, Urban League of Greater Miami

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First, prepare for a career that you believe you will enjoy. If you are unsure about your preferences, try to intern at different types of places to help you decide. Work makes up a lot of your life and liking what you do is important. From that starting point, be realistic about the career opportunities in your chosen field and the type of life it will provide for you. Consider the required education level, work schedule and earnings potential of your chosen career. Aside from that, know that success requires work and dedication; there is no shortcut for the individual effort that it takes to succeed.

Vicky Garrigo, market head, U.S. Southeastern Region Private Banking, HSBC Bank

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I believe 10th grade is a critical year for students as they lay the groundwork for college applications and prepare for the next step in their academic lives. Students need to begin researching careers which are both in demand but also offer excellent foundations for the future such as law, accounting, engineering and computer science. Many new options, such as IB and magnet programs, can give students a major leg up. All of these should be investigated. More than anything though, students at this age need to start embracing a commitment to excellence and hard work. They will quickly learn that many other students are smart, but what makes a difference is discipline, hard work and the drive to do well.

Mario Murgado, president and CEO, Brickell Motors

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I would advise high school students to seriously consider what they intend to do for their life’s work, and then use that vision to focus their studies and create a path that will get them there. If the career goal requires a four-year degree, immerse oneself in subjects and activities that will lead to acceptance at a school specializing in that field. That being said, there is an incredible demand for trades and vocations, which do not necessarily require the time and monetary commitment of a university. We are seeing a peculiar trend in young people, as they take on significant debt and time studying subjects they do not ultimately use. Lastly, the vital supplements to any education and career are dedication, diligence and passion.

Steve Perricone, president and owner, Perricone’s Restaurant

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Take public speaking and writing classes. Learn to read and communicate. It will help you every day going forward and make everything easier. Also, take upper level or Advance Placement classes. These will prepare you for college. Most importantly, try to enjoy and appreciate the opportunity to be learning. It is a gift often not appreciated until we are older and have no choice but to work.

Craig Robins, president and CEO, Dacra

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I think most jobs that 10th-graders will occupy have not yet been created. So, I’ve always told my own children to match their passion and skill with an academic track. Then, I challenge them to be innovative and create their own jobs in the future. This guarantees both happiness and progress.

David Samson, president, Miami Marlins

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It’s increasingly important for students to have an understanding of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) curricula; for a company like Florida Power & Light, this knowledge foundation is critical for so many of our employees. But the advice many of us received from our parents, and the advice that I give my own son, also remains true — find subjects and explore careers that interest you and challenge you intellectually and emotionally. A happy life often comes not just from a bigger paycheck, but also from working in a field that you are passionate about.

Eric Silagy, president and CEO, Florida Power & Light

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My advice is to find what you’re passionate about and give it 100 percent of your effort. The path might not always have an obvious end point, but I believe that if you work hard and love what you do, opportunities find you. You will be more open to them if you have a flexible outlook along your professional journey. In looking at others’ careers, I often observe that when they are shaken from their path and forced to change course, they are often surprised by the new doors that open and the satisfaction waiting behind them. I took the somewhat nontraditional path and chose to get my Ph.D. in marine biology, when many of my classmates from my science classes were going to medical school. I wouldn’t have changed a thing. I never knew I’d be here, but leading Miami Waterkeeper and fighting for our environment and clean water every day is incredibly rewarding and fulfilling. It doesn’t feel like work, and I think that’s the ultimate goal!

Rachel Silverstein, executive director, Miami Waterkeeper

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