Alumna gives inspiring speech at graduation ceremony

Thursday, 07 July 2016

Helana with Nigel Crook, Head of Computing and Communication Technologies

Computing alumna Helana Santos gave an inspiring speech at the department’s graduation ceremony on 20 June. This is what she told the graduating students.

“It is an honour to be here today with you all to celebrate your academic success. Around nine years ago I was standing where you are standing right now. I remember feeling proud of myself for having completed my degree. I felt a weight of responsibility from my parents had lifted as I accomplished that milestone. I remember feeling excited about the future, about what I would write on those first pages of my life as a graduate. But I also remember feeling scared for all the unknowns as I had only planned what to do until the graduation moment.

I grew up in a country that faced, and still does to some extent, many economic and political difficulties whilst having to overcome a civil war. I've seen very poor people but people extremely rich in dreams. Many of them would never have a chance to realise them.

This has inspired me greatly to not let opportunities in life pass by me. Inspired me to be part of something, to be a creator, to help and hopefully inspire others. I would like to talk about failure.

Many people are scared to try to achieve their dreams, to try new things because they are scared to fail. They fill themselves with a pressure to succeed at all costs without ever failing. Failing is part of the journey. You learn by making mistakes, and then by not making the same mistakes again. If you don't try then you have already failed.

Many people are scared to try to achieve their dreams, to try new things because they are scared to fail. They fill themselves with a pressure to succeed at all costs without ever failing. Failing is part of the journey. You learn by making mistakes, and then by not making the same mistakes again. If you don't try then you have already failed.

I would also like to talk about passion.

It is so important to find what you are really passionate about. When you work on something that you really care about, something that you love, it becomes truly enjoyable.

Now a few words about success.

The meaning of success is quite subjective. It varies depending on the critic’s eyes.

Some of you might feel that you failed because you didn't get a first. Others might feel you succeeded even if you just passed because you were the first in your family to graduate.

It is really about expectations that you set for yourself and that you allow others to put on you.

But let me tell you that success is a lot more than just reaching your destination and moving on to another. It is about the entire journey. Which methods you've applied to get there, who you had around you supporting you or not, what you have learnt and what you will take with you. It's about all those times you failed and all the passion that drove you to continue. It's about being able to focus on a detail without losing perspective of the bigger picture.

How many times people have asked me if I'm successful or if my game has been successful for making loads of money.

Success for me is not about how much money or items I have but it's about defeating all the odds. Is being able to wake up every morning and say that I love what I do, I love being part of the games industry. It's about being able to say that I'm OK with myself, I'm living and I only regret what I haven't yet done.

Growing up I knew I wanted to study computers and I knew I needed to be involved in something creative. I had no idea how to get there but through hard work, perseverance and determination I got there. I achieved a degree in computer science, a first, without having ever studied programming before the first class at university. After graduating I secured myself a job in the games industry, as a programmer. Today I am the co-founder and technical director of a games studio. I am one of the directors of a co-working space in Leamington Spa and I am on the board of UKIE, a games trade association. Who would have thought? Me...that girl who grew up in Mozambique.”

Don't be fooled into thinking this was an easy journey. It never is. So my advice to you is this:

Surround yourself with people that matter. With people that cheer your success and tell you truths in hard times.

Find who you really are and what you are really passionate about. Don't let your fear of failure get in the way of reaching your goals. Don't let people dictate what you should think or do. Trust yourself to know what you want, what you have and what you should do.

Don't expect everything to land in front of you on a silver plate. Plant your efforts, water them with responsibility, integrity, initiative and imagination. Harvest your achievements and feel proud of yourself.

Keep challenging yourself. Remember that if you feel too comfortable where you are then it is time for a change. Embrace that chance.

Keep learning. You will never know enough, you will never know it all. So be realistic, be humble and inspire others.

Don't let closed doors stop you from jumping through that small hidden window where you can create your opportunities. Remember, you have all the tools to build your future.

As the famous Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa once wrote... "Stones on the way? I keep them all… One day I’ll build a castle!"

Class of 2016, a huge congratulation and I wish you all an amazing life full of passion and dreams that become your reality. Go and build your castle!"

Thank you!

Helana Santos