Even if we hope to skirt them, life is full of zigs and zags. There are some  life changes that we plan, but many switch-ups that we don’t. There will be jobs we love; those we’d leave tomorrow. Life throws many curveballs. We all jump around a bit–or a lot–on the way to our futures.

For most people, careers no longer happen in straight-line fashion with upward trajectories. Whether you’re a young graduate headed to a first after-college job; a mid-level job-changer, or a later-stage worker whose career was upended by others’ decisions, “rules” no longer apply.

What’s more, it seems that zigging and zagging through a work life can produce highly satisfying results—or maybe that’s just how it is in the information and technology fields. Many entrepreneurs and IT experts who have visited the iSchool have shown students, by excellent example, that success can come unpredictably. Often, that happens because someone had ideas that defied convention. Someone once told me that “quitting often” was a career strategy. She did so; I doubted it then, but perhaps she was right.

sign 1For the last three years, the iSchool has invited Convocation speakers that have shown that a willingness to zig or zag, color outside the lines, follow their inner voices, and do their own things…steps that have resulted in great successes. Here are some snippets of their advice from their speeches.


Krista Canfield via LinkedIn.com

Krista Canfield

The Class of 2015 heard from Krista Canfield, a 2003 SU graduate who’s been a news reporter, PR account manager, head of Communications for LinkedIn (which became a global networking force with her help), and now is VP/Communications at Travel startup GoGoBot. (She’s also on the iSchool’s Board of Advisors.) She left LinkedIn and a job she loved to again experience the exhilaration of innovation and growth, she explains, with this bonus: it’s at a company that encapsulates her love of world travel.

krista on stage

Photo via iSchool.syr.edu

In an inspiring speech, Krista, who loves quirky shoes and has led an adventurous life (such as bungee-jumping in New Zealand and going to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro); provided iSchool graduates with some practical insights:

  • “There is no blueprint for life”
  • “Things aren’t black and white”
  • “The things that scare you are what make life an adventure”
  • “The scary times stretch you into the person you are destined to become”
  • “It’s the unexpected twists and turns that yield the most surprise and delight.”

bence oliverBence Oliver

The Class of 2013 heard from Bence Oliver, a 1995 iSchool IM & T grad. He has held a few fairly conventional IT roles: director of strategic sourcing at ebay for five years; operational sustainability lead at Pay Pal for four; director of global alliances at Nortel Networks; senior manager in international strategic sourcing for Intel Corporation.


Oliver addressing the Class of 2013 / Photo via iSchool.syr.edu

Recently, though, he shifted gears. His focus combines his interest in altruism with his roles as a Member of the Board of Directors of the Global Gratitude Alliance (fka The Gracias Foundation), an organization that empowers vulnerable women, children, and young adults with resources to lead dignified and self-sustainable lives. He also is director of partnerships for Knowledge Universe, where he is accountable for establishing scaleable supply chain solutions in support of accelerating innovation and customer success.

He advised the graduates that:

  • “Life is not fair, everything just happens”
  • “The world isn’t orderly. What you should prepare for is a mess”
  • “Don’t life a live according to boundaries set by ordinary people”
  • “Show the world what makes you special, and what once was work becomes purpose.”
  • “Be the architect of your future rather than be bound by your past”
  • “Keep pushing the envelope and you will find an extraordinary life.”

Philip Kaplan via LinkedInPhilip Kaplan

Then there’s Philip Kaplan, the epitome of success in the information field through unconventional thinking and counter-intuitive (perhaps to the rest of us) career paths. He has cofounded and sold several Internet companies (including the largest privately-held ad network AdBriteTinyLetter, an email newsletter service acquired by Mail Chimp; and PKInteractive, a web consultancy). He founded Blippy, a venture-backed social shopping company, and created several popular iPhone apps. He’s now following his passion for music as founder and CEO of DistroKid, a service that allows musicians to easily publish their tracks to online marketplaces; and Fandalism, a social network for musicians to share their work and interact with other artists.

As someone who is sincere about folks adhering to their inner voice, he offered these words of advice to 2014 iSchool graduates:s

  • “Quitting…that’s OK. You can start as many jobs or companies or products as you want.”
  • “If you’re working on something and you decide midway through that it sucks, paint over it and start again.”
  • “Think about [your] work like art, and to strive to be prolific.”
  • “Listen to the stories…people have to tell about their work and their successes”… but act on [your] own instincts.”
  • “Think of all the people you want to be like. And think of their stories. And see how far you can get.”
  • For a creative person, happiness isn’t whether you made the right or wrong decision, it’s that you made yourdecision, and that you realized your 

Here’s Philip’s talk:


deans scholars - ischool

2015 Dean’s Scholar Award honorees / Photo via iSchool.syr.edu

A world of knowledge is compacted in the Convocation messages of these three diverse information-field leaders. You can read more details of their Convocation talks here, here and here.

What advice do you have to offer new graduates?

What’s the best advice you ever got about switching jobs or changing careers?

Let us know in the comments!