Mark Gerencser, the recently named chairman of CyberSpa and former executive vice president at Booz Allen Hamilton, recently gave the commencement address for the University of Maryland, University College.
The 30-plus-year industry veteran is a UMUC alumnus, graduating as a member of the first Executive Masters of Science program in Technology Management and currently chairs the board of visitors.
Gerencser’s work with UMUC extended through his time with Booz Allen, where many employees receive cybersecurity training with the university through a special partnership.
In his remarks, he stressed UMUC’s efforts to address the shortage of cybersecurity professionals in the U.S. – “a problem in every sector of the economy” – through its online undergraduate and graduate cybersecurity programs, each a first of its kind.
Among his core messages to the graduates was to remain open to “reimagining” life pursuits when obstacles present themselves and leveraging their imagination to understand, learn and master “the fire within you.”
“The key question… goes well beyond how smart you might be or how many degrees and titles you have after your name,” Gerencser told the crowd.
“The question is this: do you have that special fire within you? In other words, will you allow your heart to play a significant role in your future and the impact that you could have on the world?”
Once dead set and on the fast track to becoming a doctor, Gerencser needed to abruptly change fields after an unexpected passing in his family.
The math skills he learned in measuring pulse and blood pressure unexpectedly led him to a consulting position with Booz Allen, which required that skill set for its early work designing spacecraft and reconnaissance satellites.
Applying his skills to new practice areas would be a constant over the course of his career as he would lead operations in areas including national security, defense, homeland security , healthcare, financial services, infrastructure and energy.
“When I first entered the world of consulting, I was confident in my intellectual capabilities,” Gerencser said. “There were plenty of smart people all around me, as there are here today.”
“What I didn't know was whether I would ever be able to find the passion that I felt toward medicine, to know that my heart – or more specifically, that fire in my heart – was with this new career.”
“I just needed to be willing to look at my life from a different perspective: Not as the doctor I had always assumed I would become, but to re-imagine my life and the differences I could make in the lives of so many.”
But, whether it be a Magna Cum Laude graduate, a high-level executive in the private sector or someone’s whose response to passing their courses was yelling ‘Oh, thank you Lordie!’, skills need to be applied with an internal driving passion and intensity to have maximum effect.
“Brains and smarts enable you, but that fire in your heart determines the degree to which the world around you will be a better place as a result of your efforts,” Gerencser said.
And that’s where Gerencser says the power of the imagination is strongest. Whether swimming directly in your planned swim lane or unpredictably thrown into a completely unforeseen field, he stressed to learn how to leverage your imagination to stoke the flames.
“To truly master your destiny, learn to use the spark of your imagination to ignite that special fire in your heart in everything you do!,” he exclaimed towards the end of his speech.
“If you can do that, with your education, your life experiences, and now by understanding and mastering that magical ingredient, your fire within, you are able to accomplish great things of monumental impact.”