Tuck celebrates 40 years of diversity

by Zach Swiss | 11/13/06 6:00am

The Tuck School of Business celebrated 40 years of diversity at its 12th annual Tuck Diversity Conference this past weekend. Part student recruiting session, part networking conference, part alumni reunion, the program brought together prospective, current and former students with faculty members and business leaders.

"The conference has been such a journey from 1993 when it first began when I think we had a total of 20 students. I hope to see you all next year," conference founder Scott Johnston Tu'93 said before introducing Paul Viera, one of Saturday's keynote speakers.

Viera, the CEO and founding partner of Earnest Partners, LLC, an investment firm responsible for $20 billion worth of investments, offered advice to aspiring entrepreneurs and described his own business experiences.

He began by asking the audience who wanted to become entrepreneurs. After several hands shot into the air, Viera warned that, in some ways, a Tuck education could be an obstacle to overcome in terms of beginning a new business.

"You're a hot shot Tuck graduate and because you're a hotshot Tuck graduate you are recruited by all the finest firms in the country," Viera said. "To seduce you, they're going to pay you pretty well. Your salary might be $125,000. You've got a nice house, you vacation at places you used to only read about in Conde Nast; you even go so far as to whisper how much you make in the ear of your boyfriend or girlfriend just to make them feel a little better about you."

Achieving such a high salary and comfort level so soon out of business school might deter graduates from pursuing their dreams of creating a new business because they overestimate the potential risk of such a move, Viera said.

Viera then described his own hypothetical curriculum for potential entrepreneurs -- which would emphasize stamina, resourcefulness and salesmanship.

The stamina class would keep students busy performing a variety of tasks such as getting copies and picking up business cards at Kinko's to make them realize that they cannot have it all, Viera said.

"Anybody who suggests that you're going to have these perfectly balanced lives is presenting a ruse to you. The consequence of that is that all your friends, you don't see them quite as much, if at all," he said.

The second class would focus on completing projects with constrained resources.

"I'm going to give you a project that by every right takes $1,000 to build and I'm going to give you $100," Viera said.

The final class in Viera's curriculum would teach students how to sell their ideas to investors and potential employees.

"There's no getting around it. You're selling a concept to a buyer that if they had any rationality in their body, they would just say no," he said. "You're convincing your classmates to come work with you for nothing. Can you sell? Because that's going to be at the heart of the matter."

Viera also addressed the myth that becoming an entrepreneur means having no other bosses.

"That isn't true. I have 35 clients times 10 board members per client so I have 350 bosses," he said.

Both Viera and Carla Harris, a managing director at Morgan Stanley who also spoke at the conference, were featured in Black Enterprise Magazine's "Top 75 Most Powerful Blacks on Wall Street." Ruben King Shaw Jr., CEO of Mansa Equity Partners, and Ramsey Jay Tu'05, an associate at Morgan Stanley, also spoke at the conference.