This time I have something to tell you about my visit to Peru. I had been nominated to receive an honorary Doctorate degree from the University of San Martin de Porres (USMP) in Lima Perú. USMP is one of the most prestigious universities in South America. Thus, when I got the offer from USMP and saw people who previously had been awarded honorary degrees, I felt I was in great company. James Martin (the father of case tools and much more) and Nick Negroponte (the founder of MIT’s Media Lab and the “One Laptop per Child” Initiative) received the honorary degrees in 1997 and 2007 respectively.
October 21 2009 was the day of the award ceremony. It started with a press conference at 4 pm with simultaneous interpretation. The questions were very generic. For example, I was asked “What do you think we need to do in Peru to become an IT nation?” I said that I got this question ten years ago when I met some ministers from the Peru government. My answer today is the same as it was then, and unfortunately you may not like it. The standard language for publishing in the software field is English. Most people here at the universities are not fluent in English so you can’t absorb the latest information until they have been translated. That is a time lapse of a couple of years. In contrast, the employees in Indian companies are all very fluent in English, so they pick up new trends as soon as they have been formulated.
After the press conference, I met 12 members of the faculty who interviewed me for an hour. I got some very interesting questions, for example, questions related to outsourcing.
At 6:45pm the ceremony started. I had gotten a purple doctorate hood and a purple gown, the same kind as the other seven or so dignitaries from the university. This was the party of the year. The dignitaries walked into the big auditorium one after the other, very solemnly. They were introduced to the audience of 1300 people, most of whom were graduates and students. I was told that 30% of them came from industry in Peru. Sweden has no ambassador in Peru so they invited the Swedish Consul, who attended the ceremony.
The ceremony started by singing Swedish national anthem. Amazingly, the choir was singing in Swedish. Then it was time for the Peruvian national anthem. It all was very solemn. Then three speeches were given by the chancellor and two other prominent people. They emphasized from different perspectives why I was given the highest recognition by the university. A lot of applauses and cheers. My family was sitting in the front row and I guess they were surprised at all the nice things they heard.
Finally, it was time for the award. The chancellor asked me to come up and stand in front of him while he was reading a brief motivation for the award. He then gave me a medal in Inka shape and a doctorate diploma. A trumpet played a tune to finish the process. Now I had become an honorary doctor, and also a professor at the university.
Next, it was time for my speech. First, I thanked them for the award and told them I was very humbled by having been awarded it from this university. Then I addressed the new graduates providing them with some advice:
1) Be passionate
2) Be persevering
3) Believe in yourself
4) Be positive
5) Embrace new ideas with an open mind
After these introductory words, I gave my talk “What they don’t teach you about software at school - Be Smart”. People enjoyed the talk so much even though it was simultaneously translated. My joke was laughed at as usual. The dignitaries dared to smile and laugh as well. Afterwards, I was a bit worried that I had broken some unwritten law, but thankfully, the chancellor assured me that everything was fine.
After the ceremony, drinks and snacks were served and we watched traditional Peruvian dances. I was actually asked to dance with a short pretty lady! But just one dance :-). I think we definitely need more dancing in life.
After a couple of hours, I had to run to the airport to take a 1:40 am flight to Los Angeles and en route to Beijing via Tokyo, for a total of more than 30 hours, in economy class. I believe that is being smart. :-)