On Communication and Adaptability – 2019 Commencement Speakers Yaz Iida and Nanette Reid
Author: The School of Business
Posted: June 10, 2019
Yaz Iida

As our 2019 class of undergraduate and graduate students is about to learn, a degree from The School of Business at Portland State University has the power to transform your life. At this year’s commencement ceremonies on June 15, two people who have experienced this for themselves will share their stories, advice and encouragement with students about to embark on the next phase of their lives. We’re excited to have Yaz Iida (‘91), president of Rakuten USA, and Nanette Reid (‘01, ‘03), senior vice president of U.S. Bank, as our 2019 commencement speakers.

As a student at The School of Business in the early 1990s, Iida built a strong network, values and foundation of business knowledge that he still relies upon today. He went on to lead marketing programs at Gillette, The Walt Disney Company and Dyson, and now heads the Americas regional division of Rakuten.

Reid, who earned an undergraduate business degree and then an MBA from The School of Business, says the technical and leadership skills she developed at PSU have been instrumental in her success. At PSU, she developed a self-confidence that ultimately allowed her to continue growing, take on more responsibility and become a leader. Reid, who started at U.S. Bank as a bank teller when she was 16, has now worked her way up to a senior vice president role with the bank.

Despite their differing career paths, Iida and Reid agree that two skills have become increasingly important: communication and adaptability.

Articulating your vision and “tooting your own horn”

Good communication goes beyond the typical advice to listen more than you speak – leaders have to be adept communicators themselves. Iida says it hinges on being passionate about what you do every day.

“You have to know your why – that’s the core,” Yaz adds. “Once you know your why, you have to be able to articulate your vision. You should also be able to help your team and your organization articulate their why.”

Communication skills are often even more crucial for young women entering the workforce, Reid says. As a woman in a male-dominated industry, she advises up-and-coming female leaders to find their voice.

“Tooting our own horn doesn’t come naturally to many women, but networking and telling your story is very important if you want to climb the corporate ladder,” she says. “Be articulate, be succinct and speak with confidence. You have to work hard, but you also have to let those above you see the great work you do.”

Nanette Reid

Embracing the art of adaptability

The business world moves fast. Reid advises graduates to avoid spending too much time thinking about the current business landscape; it’s what’s coming tomorrow that matters. She lists agility and speed alongside adaptability as top skills all graduates should be honing. Reid also says graduates shouldn’t be afraid to take risks.

“Be bold, not perfect,” she says. “Make mistakes and then bounce back. Learn and grow and be resilient.  The world is constantly changing, and it’s only going to move faster from here.”

Iida has one piece of advice for new graduates: never give up. The mistakes he made along the way helped him learn and adapt, paving the way for him to succeed with bigger goals and visions.

“If you stop trying, that’s a failure; if you keep trying, you never lose,” he says. “Aim for trial and error and learning. And to do that, you have to put 100% of yourself out there.”