Influential technology executive Scott McCorkle today urged Ball State University’s newest graduates to embrace change and risk as they enter a technology-centered workforce.
“Thanks to a startup, I was a self-made millionaire by 29, and by age 36, I was totally broke — I had gone through my savings,” said McCorkle, chief executive officer of Salesforce’s Marketing Cloud, who gave the Spring Commencement address. “There is no way I would be where I am now without these experiences. There is nothing like a failed startup to prepare you for change.
Watch highlights from Ball State's Spring Commencement.
“Now, I am not telling you all to go out and fail. Rather, I am imploring you try. And to understand that success and failure go together. Don’t let fear stop you from trying. I encourage you to take risks. These risks can lead to successes and failures. You will learn so much from both.”
McCorkle told graduates and their families attending the ceremony on the Fine Arts Terrace that he cherished his time at Ball State. The son and brother of Ball State alumni, he is a 1989 graduate of Ball State with a bachelor’s degree in computer science. He also earned a master of business administration from Indiana University.
“Am I the first tech geek to give the commencement address?” he asked. “I think back to 1989 when I graduated. It snowed!”
Salesforce is the world’s No. 1 customer relationship management (CRM) company and fastest growing top 10 software company. McCorkle was appointed to his current role in 2014 after Salesforce acquired Indianapolis-based ExactTarget the previous year. He led ExactTarget in technology and strategy in various executive positions since joining the firm in 2005.
McCorkle began his career at BorgWarner Automotive’s Technology Research Center, developing computer vision-guided robotic systems, and then spent several years at Eli Lilly and Company’s Lilly Research Laboratories.
About 2,800 degrees were conferred in May. Spring Commencement is among the university’s greatest traditions and left several new graduates in awe of their seemingly short college lives.
“Don’t let fear stop you from trying. I encourage you to take risks. These risks can lead to successes and failures. You will learn so much from both.”
— Scott McCorkle
“This has been a blessing because Ball State has been everything I wanted out of a college,” said Alex Call, who earned his bachelor’s degree in entrepreneurial management in three years. “I really loved my time studying business because I am a risk taker, so the ability to start a new company is very appealing to me.”
Soon after the ceremony ended, Call, 21, who is from River Falls, Wisconsin, was in his Cardinals’ baseball uniform transforming into one of the nation’s top outfielders.
Through the end of April, he was leading the Mid-American Conference (MAC) in runs, doubles, total bases and slugging percentage. He also led the nation in doubles while ranking third in runs scored and 10th in total bases. Last summer, he also played in the Cape Cod Baseball League, the premier summer league for college baseball prospects.
“I have a chance to get taken during the pro draft on June 9-11, but one of my goals is to make it to Major League Baseball. I would be one of the very few players with a college degree. And if that doesn’t work out, I have a college degree that will open so many doors.”
Commencement was a bittersweet occasion for Chao Wang, who came to Indiana four years ago from her hometown of Hangzhou, China.
“I came here all by myself from a large town of about 8 million, and when I got here I was like, ‘OMG, it is so peaceful,’” said Wang, who studied art and advertising and is applying to various master’s degree programs around the country. “It didn’t take long to make friends because everyone was so friendly. Now that I am graduating, I am really going to miss them.”
Former women’s basketball player Shelby Merder, 21, was all smiles as she hugged her parents, who made the three-hour drive from her southern Indiana hometown, Jasper.
“I am going to miss this place,” said Merder, who completed her bachelor’s degree in speech pathology in three years and plans to enroll in graduate school in the fall. “Since basketball season ended, I’ve been taking a lot of walks around campus and just taking it all in.
“Looking back, I am so proud that I got to play college basketball and keep a really high grade point average. The skills I learned in prioritizing will be invaluable as I continue school and then work in my field.”