“Embrace change”: Dr Shantanu Narayen’s advice to students

Dr Shantanu Narayen

Rama Krishna Sangem

Adobe Inc chairman & CEO Shantanu Narayen who was conferred honorary doctorate from Osmania University at its 83rd convocation on October 31, told the students to embrace change. In his convocation address, Dr Shantanu, told the gathering which included Chancellor, Vice-Chancellor and others that the world has changed a lot in the last four decades when he moved to the US.

“Today, the world is an oyster. stay true to your purpose, trust your instinct when the answers aren’t obvious and stay intellectually curious in all aspects of your life. Go forth, be the architects of your destiny,” he told the audience. He felt that Indian students need not go to the US for better opportunities as was the case during his time. Now, they can find better avenues to realizes their goals here.

Here is the full text of Dr Shantanu Narayen’s speech:

I am profoundly grateful to join you as an honorary Doctor of Science at Osmania University’s 83rd convocation. I want to thank the Honorable Chancellor Shrimati Tamilisai Soundararajan and Vice-Chancellor Prof. D. Ravinder for the tremendous distinction and honor of being awarded this honorary doctorate.

I would like to congratulate the Vice-Chancellor Prof. D. Ravinder for the incredible advancements that Osmania has achieved under his stewardship. Te University has had a profound impact on the country as the alma mater of Prime Minister Shri P. V. Narasimha Rao and multiple chief ministers including chief minister Shri. K. Chandrashekar Rao as well as many distinguished graduates in the arts, literature, flm and sports as well as research, business and politics.

To the Osmania graduating class of 2023, my heartfelt congratulations! Your Osmania degree, interaction with faculty and fellow students and the history you’ve lived over these 4 years have prepared you really well for the path ahead.


I’m proud to be Osmania’s alum and Hyderabadi

I am proud to say that I am an Osmania alum. Growing up in Hyderabad, I was acutely aware of the prestige and traditions of this hallowed institution. My father graduated from OU with a degree in Electrical Engineering (and in fact, did his frst year of studies in Urdu). My mother’s multiple degrees culminated in a Ph.D. in American Literature, following which, she taught for decades at both the Arts College and Women’s College.

Numerous other relatives attended affiliated institutions including Nizam, Medical and Law College. I was fortunate to follow in their footsteps with a degree in Electronics and Communication Engineering that set me up for what has turned out to be a blessed professional career.

Being a student at Osmania University was an incredible academic as well as a “coming of age”  experience. My early years in ECE were marked by making lifelong friends, engaging in extracurricular activities like sports – tennis champion in Engineering, representing India in sailing, debates and quizzes all across the city and somehow getting by in academics (my thanks to the faculty who were generous in their grading while encouraging me to pursue my potential). In the fnal year,

I buckled down on my studies and fell in love with computers while studying microprocessors and doing my fnal project of writing a rudimentary operating system in assembly language. It kindled in me the desire to pursue both a Master’s in Computer Science and then an MBA and eventually to join Adobe where I have spent the last 25 years. I am proud of being Roll Number 80321 in Electronics and Communication Engineering.

My Osmania education played a significant role in my success. I want to thank the faculty and staff for helping me prepare for my professional career. Te collegial environment encouraged me to learn, not just from them, but also from my classmates. Given our shared beginnings, I thought I would deconstruct my own life lessons and share them with you, from one OU grad to another—without a lot of pomp and from the heart.

Lesson #1: Embrace change. Tere’s one truth that we’ve learned many times over these past four years and that is that change is constant: industry change, personal change, political change, technology change. As you completed your studies at Osmania University, you navigated a global pandemic, witnessed wars erupt around the world and private citizens travel to space; you saw the rise of digital India and a record number of Indian start-ups, India’s frst moon landing, and the explosive growth of generative artifcial intelligence.

Dealing with ambiguity is an important skill in dynamic times. None of us can really know what the future has in store and that can be prety scary. But there are ways that you can embrace the change, roll with it and proft from it, if you’re willing to let go a litle. I truly believe that the Indian philosophy of taking the long view can help us see our immediate circumstances in light of our bigger goals.

This brings me to lesson #2: Know your purpose. To me, this means identifying what drives you, what you’re passionate about, and what you hope to achieve in your life and career. This deep awareness of what maters most to you, will keep you balanced and grounded, in the midst of uncertainty. I’ve always believed that for me to be successful, it’s critical to understand the values that the company I work for represents and how those values align to what’s important to me.


Pursue your passion

As you enter the professional world, you’ll be bombarded with myriad choices. While it’s okay to seek prosperity, it’s equally important to pursue passion. If you do what makes you genuinely happy, you’ll certainly excel. In the face of adversity, doing what you love can be your anchor, guiding your choices and fueling your motivation. Growing up, I wanted to be a journalist. In India in those days, most people were encouraged to study engineering or medicine. As I studied engineering, I realized that I love to build products and to invent. I’ve been fortunate to have been able to combine these varied interests over the past 25 years at Adobe, revolutionizing digital publishing and transforming digital experiences.

Being grounded in my purpose gave me the freedom to look at how different opportunities could be combined to realize one of my life’s passions. Life can and will throw curveballs. But remember that you have the power to reinvent yourself as ofen as you choose. Don’t let others defne how you measure your success. Know your purpose, stay true to yourself and be open to different possibilities.

Which brings me to lesson #3: Trust your instincts. In a world saturated with information, there will be moments where you’ll be lef with more questions than answers. Tat’s the reality of life. Every new beginning starts as a question of possibilities. In business, every new market starts out as a zero-crore rupee business. No spreadsheet in the world can make the case for it but that’s how industries are shaped.

Take Adobe Photoshop for example. Most of you probably know it – it’s the standard for photo editing around the world and part of our daily vocabulary as in, “I photoshopped this picture.” Yet, early in the product’s evolution the business case for Photoshop was not that compelling but it did meet a need and customers loved it. But then what happened? Digital photography eclipsed film, digital imaging and phone cameras exploded; and the rest is history.


Trust your instincts

I’m not knocking analysis. Facts and data are critical to gaining insights and informing your decisions but ofen the key pieces of creative knowledge we really need to fnd our direction are not captured in a set of numbers. In these moments, trust your instincts. Te education you received here was not just about absorbing facts, but about honing your intuition. It was about learning to think critically and making decisions in the face of uncertainty. So when you face that crossroad, pause, listen to that inner voice, and trust in the wisdom that resides within you.

On a personal level, there’s no guaranteed formula for a successful career. Early in my life, I didn’t have the right academic focus and I certainly did not have the right grades. However, I wanted to explore a variety of interests that engaged different parts of my brain. While I did not plot my career, I was motivated to add value in my unique way and to live my parents’ mantra to put in my best effort. Te Sanskrit saying from the Bhagvad Gita sums it up best: “Karmanye Vadhikaraste ma phaleshu kadachana” – let the focus be on the work.


Be ready for unexpected

Te unexpected will happen and you should have the confidence in yourself to adjust. My fnal lesson is to stay intellectually curious. In life, you are always a student – the more you age, the less you know! Every new position, every promotion, every advancement, is more a refection of your ability to “learn” rather than knowledge you possess. Today marks your transition from structured learning to self-driven exploration.

Continue to question the status quo, seek answers and knowledge and expand your horizons. Surround yourself with people who challenge you, inspire you, and teach you something new every day. Tey’ll be your sounding boards and mentors, and can offer fresh perspectives, critical insights and friendships to guide your path. In equal measure, look for people who believe in you and are your supporters.

Tinking back to the early days of my career I had a mentor, who saw a potential in me and constantly challenging me to do things. In hindsight, while I wasn’t aware that this was what he was doing, I’ve embraced what I learned from this time and atempt to pay it forward in my own approach to leadership.

In that vein, while you might not realize how impactful the faculty has been on you, let me thank them on your behalf right now. You will recognize over time the profound infuence and they’ve had on who you are as individuals and the confdence they’ve given you.

In a world that’s continuously evolving, staying intellectually curious will ensure that you remain adaptable and innovative and foster lifelong personal and profession growth. In closing, you’re entering a new phase of life, filled with opportunities, surprises and challenges. Embrace the journey ahead with an open heart and a curious mind.


Learn to adapt and be resilient

The lessons you’ve learned during your time here have equipped you not just with knowledge but the resilience and adaptability to chart your own path. Forty years ago, I had to leave India for the US to fnd great opportunities in technology.

Today, that is no longer the case. It’s an incredible time to graduate from Osmania and to have the opportunities that you do here at home, in Hyderabad and the state of Telangana as well as in India at large.

The world truly is your oyster: in this, the fastest growing economy, with amazing demographics and the unprecedented access to capital and entrepreneurship. I’m incredibly excited for you and for India to see the next generation of advances that you develop. Remember to embrace change, stay true to your purpose, trust your instinct when the answers aren’t obvious and stay intellectually curious in all aspects of your life. Go forth, be the architects of your destiny, find success and fulfillment and create lasting, positive change in whatever you do.

Jai Hind!

Rama Krishna Sangem

Ramakrishna chief editor of excel India online magazine and website

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Rama Krishna Sangem

Excel India national news magazine is a media startup founded and piloted by Rama Krishna Sangem, a Hyderabad based senior journalist with over three decade experience in the field of media, mostly in print journalism. His rich experience in reporting for both Telugu and English newspapers and heading a TV news channel and some online outfits will be of immense use to this venture. Excel India English news magazine seeks to fill the gap of analytical understanding to our readers who today are confronted with myriad media platforms. Our online version not only offers regular updates and commentary on happenings around us, but also gives larger stories not limited by space constraints of a print magazine. Excel India is ably run by a team of senior journalists committed to values and quality standards in the profession. We urge you all to support and guide us in this endeavour. Reach us at excelindiaweb123@gmail.com