Q&A with Roger W. Ferguson, Jr., President and CEO of TIAA
Roger Ferguson Jr., president and chief executive of TIAA, one of the largest finance firms in the United States, will deliver the Commencement address for Stevens Institute of Technology on Wednesday, May 23 at the Meadowlands Expo Center in Secaucus, New Jersey.
Q. Technology is at the core of the educational experience at Stevens. Amid the rise in machine learning, what is your outlook on the future of the workforce, and what can students do to prepare for the trends of tomorrow?
When I talk to students across the country, many express a degree of anxiety about what the future holds – particularly in regard to technological changes, the rise of artificial intelligence (AI) and what that means for their careers. I have a sense that the student body at Stevens Institute of Technology feels differently. You have access to teaching and learning methods at the intersection between technology and education and understand how industries can transform through AI and automation. Students and alumni alike at Stevens are already leading this evolution.
My advice to prepare for the workforce of tomorrow is to focus on what you can control today, starting with your education. Direct your attention toward building key skills – both foundational skills like critical thinking, communications and business acumen, as well as specialized skills in areas such as financial systems and technology and cybersecurity. These will enable you to navigate whatever the 21st century may bring. Adopt an attitude of flexibility when you think about your career. Those able to adapt to the changing needs of the workforce, and to capitalize on new technology, will be positioned for lifelong success.
Q. What are some ways that students can become more financially savvy to help ensure their own financial well-being?
Students, undergraduate and graduate alike, are in a prime stage of life to receive financial education, since they are typically taking on a range of financial responsibilities for the first time. When students graduate and begin repaying their loans, it’s important that they also start saving for the future. I recommend that you begin by consulting credible sources to build a foundation of financial knowledge. One excellent source is our website, TIAA.org, which offers an extensive education section, as well as tools and content geared to meeting the financial challenges of different life stages. It includes inspiring stories from some of our Millennial customers about how they are meeting their financial goals. Students can also consult campus financial aid offices for resources.
TIAA has also collaborated with the Council of Graduate Schools to launch a one-of-a-kind tool called GradSense that helps students understand how the type of degree you pursue can impact your future earnings. The website also provides advice on loan repayment, spending tips, salary calculators and career guidance. With GradSense, you can better plan for lifelong financial success.
Q. As Stevens Institute of Technology students think about their careers after graduation, what values would you say are most important to look for in a company or organization?
When starting out on your career path, it’s important to try to find a company that aligns to your values. For me, I believe that a diverse and inclusive workforce is a key strength and measure of a company’s success. It’s not a nice-to-have – it’s a must-have. At TIAA, we’ve learned that all types of diversity – of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, spiritual beliefs, values, experiences, and backgrounds – help us to better understand our customers’ needs. Research also shows that diverse teams, with different points of view, make better decisions and perform better, which drives the success of a company.
Inclusion is the other side of the equation. A metaphor that sums this up nicely is that diversity without inclusion is being invited to the party, but not being asked to dance. Inclusion is making sure everyone feels valued, respected and treated fairly. Both of these qualities are extremely important factors for success, and I would encourage all recent graduates to look for an environment where they will feel appreciated for who they are and what they bring to the workforce.