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Reflecting on a Graduation Speech

Luis Cerro (MMM '23) looks back on the speech he delivered to his fellow graduates last year and shares how MMM helped him grow as a person and hybrid innovator.

Luis Cerro

Last year, Luis Cerro (MMM '23) was selected to be the graduation speaker representing Northwestern's MBA + MS in Design Innovation (MMM) program — a dual-degree program between Northwestern Engineering and the Kellogg School of Management. 

Cerro spoke about learning what it meant to be a hybrid innovator, his appreciation for the varied Post-It notes stuck to walls around the MMM studio, and how he and his classmates grew during their time in the program.

Now, one year later, Cerro is an associate at McKinsey & Company, where he advises companies on how to ignite digital transformations, create exciting user experiences, and build new products and services. 

We checked in with Cerro to reflect on his speech and his MMM experience.

What was your goal for the graduation speech?  

I wanted to showcase how members of our class had grown in different ways throughout the program. For some, the biggest changes happened in the classroom, working on hands-on projects, or through career pivots. For others, the biggest changes came in their personal lives by trying out new activities or traveling the world with their classmates. During the speech, I gave a non-exhaustive list of things members of our class did in the last two years: from hosting their first art show to publishing their first song, from running an ironman to doing their first race, from getting engaged to welcoming a new baby to their family. 

You said in your speech it took a while to understand what a hybrid innovator is. How would you describe it now? 

Someone who approaches a problem not by saying "how can we grow a business by solving this," but by using empathy to connect and understand the people who are affected by the problem and who have unmet needs or desires. From there, we design solutions that users want, but that are also feasible and viable for the organizations launching them. Finally, we bring them to reality through an iterative process: build a prototype, pilot and test it with users, gather their feedback, and then go back to the drawing board with the three lenses of desirability, feasibility, and viability. 



You commented about all the Post-It notes in the MMM studio and said you'd like to add three more. What were those three, and why were they important to you? 

  1. Greatness and humility in success, and resilience and the ability to learn in failure 
  2. The wisdom of years of experience, and the endless curiosity of a child 
  3. The warm embrace of friends, and the compassion to be a good friend 

I feel that those three messages reflect the spirit of our experience as a class and I wish that each one of us keeps finding opportunities to grow through them in our future. 

What were your goals when you started MMM?  

My goals initially were very related to building a new set of skills through human-centered design and building a new community. Looking back, the program gave me much more and I stretched in multiple ways. I discovered a passion for user research. I took a group of 30 of my classmates on a trek to Peru, my home country. A classmate and I also created a new story sharing space for our class that we hope becomes a tradition for the classes to come. 

What were the most important lessons you learned in MMM?  

Three things. First, inspiration for a good idea can come from anywhere and anyone, so go out there and see things, interact with new experiences, and build connections with people. Second, it's not only important what you're doing but also who you're doing it with, so foster a team with different backgrounds and skills where everyone is encouraged to bring and be their full and true selves. Third, pause. More and faster won't necessarily get you where you want to be. Clarity can come from pausing, looking at what's on your board, and connecting the dots. 

What advice would you give a prospective student considering MMM?  

Go all in, don't hold back, and trust those around you to have your back. You're investing these two years in yourself. There's no point in holding back. 

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