2014 Tuck Investiture Ceremony

Read the full story by Joni B. Cole, published by the Tuck School of Business.

Investiture speaker Sherri Oberg ’82, Tuck ’86, told Tuck’s newest graduates to take risks in their careers. “If you’re not taking risks, you’re not stretching yourself.”

Sherri Oberg In her address to the graduates, Sherri Oberg ’82, Tuck ’86, shared three important lessons. The first: how to take risks. (Photo by Mark Washburn)

When Oberg was thinking about leaving her job at a venture capital firm to head up a fledgling pharmaceutical company, even the drug company’s scientific founder called her crazy. “This is the Titanic heading at high speed to the bottom of the ocean,” he warned. “It can’t be turned around.”

Oberg took the job anyway.

In her address to 280 MBA graduates at Tuck Investiture June 7, Oberg used this story as a jumping-off point for three lessons she learned after business school. The first: how to take risks.

Oberg explained that she took the job with Acusphere in 1993 partly because she’d been the one to convince her venture capital firm to invest in the company. While the drug company had sound technology, it was behind in its technical milestones, lacked a business plan and CEO, and was down to about three months’ worth of cash. Still, Oberg believed new business leadership could save the young firm. In addition, she recognized it as a rare opportunity for a former history major, one with no CEO experience, to potentially advance her career faster and further than via a more traditional career path.

“I was passionate about my career because I was doing well by doing good,” she said, assuring Tuck’s Class of 2014 that similar opportunities would come their way. “But how do you know if you’re taking enough risk?” she asked, leading into her second post-Tuck lesson: how to fail. “If you’re not failing, you’re not taking risks,” she said. “And if you’re not taking risks, you’re not stretching yourself to move forward.”