Career wisdom from the rink


“I skate to where the puck is going, not where it has been.”

— Wayne Gretzky

Learning from Wayne Gretzky

Being the best on the ice and in your career

FROM THE DEAN’S DESK—So much of our career success is determined by where we set our gaze, the goals we set for ourselves, the relationships we build and the risks we take. In the famous quote by Wayne Gretzky—my favorite Canadian and the best hockey player ever—we get to see the secret sauce of his extraordinary success. It’s a simple but powerful guidance for achievement. Look ahead and plan for that destination.

Gretzky credits his father, Walter Gretzky, for telling him to look ahead of the puck. With the recent death of the elder Gretzky, I have been reflecting not only on the legacy we leave but on what we learn along the way and how good things happen to us when we focus and then act. It is really that simple. 

We are often at a crossroads. Before us are many options that would probably work more or less equally well, especially in these disruptive times. All we need to do is focus on an option that excites us and then go for it.

Let passion guide you

When I was growing up, I was fascinated by computer technologies. It was obvious to me that this was where the puck was headed. I dove passionately into the world of technology and it has been quite a journey. 

“And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”

— Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

Paulo Coehlo said it best when he said the universe conspires in helping you to achieve your goals. That is the beauty of sincere intent, of belief supplemented by passion. 

Eventually, after a successful foray into government as the CTO for the State of California, I became involved in TiE, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to fostering entrepreneurship across the globe. TiE has been hugely successful because its leadership envisions future trends and generates opportunities for people heading in those directions. My love for technology and for Silicon Valley’s collaborative culture has now shifted to the higher education sector.

Take the shot

Along the way, of course, I have made numerous mistakes, big failures. That has been a huge gift—to understand how important it is to “fail fast and fail early.” I learned not to fall in love with my ideas, but to try them out.

“You miss 100% of the shots you never take.”

— Wayne Gretzky (and others)

Another famous quote about taking risks is often attributed to Gretzky. Any time you’re mapping out a career, you’re taking chances. That’s what entrepreneurs do. It’s one of the things we teach in our Silicon Valley Startup courses—celebrate failure and get on with finding the opportunities.

Where is the puck headed in today’s job market?

While the economy has been in crisis during the pandemic, there is now light at the end of the tunnel. I believe that we’re gearing up for a brighter future. And, this is the time to personally move toward with it. Where will we see the most demand? There is huge pent up demand and all the makings of a boom times are in the offing. 

One of the major growth areas is still in that of technology. We are moving into the next generation of information technologies propelled by artificial intelligence and machine learning. The need for technology acumen will be a foundational skill for every industry. (Even hardware is back in demand with embedded solutions in VLSI and IOT.) A differentiator for many job hunters will be how well they apply computer technology to their occupation.

Other than mainstream IT, there are many other fast growing areas.  In a recent report by EAB Global, an educational research company, the top five pathways to a successful career were identified as:

Chipping and flipping the puck

Like any athlete, once you have the vision, you need the skills to get over obstacles. For busy professionals, pursuing a master’s degree may not be practical. But, in many careers, it’s the agility, adaptability, and the willingness to learn that make a difference. A focused course, specialization or certificate can often get you there just as easily. 

At the UCSC Silicon Valley campus we have more than 350 courses to support your journey. If you’re interested in one of the top five areas mentioned above, or a subset industry, we’ve got you covered. From education and instructional technology to human resources, biosciences, statistics, global health (coming soon!) entrepreneurship, and business leadership—we can get you the experience you need to land a job.

We would love to hear from you about your job plans and help you get out ahead of the pack.

So what are you waiting for? Start skating to where the puck will be for you!

PK Agarwal
Dean, UCSC Silicon Valley Extension

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