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Make your own luck: Nora Aufreiter, HBA ’81

Jun 21, 2018

Nora Aufreiter

If you ask a successful leader how they got to where they are, chances are they’ll tell you a combination of hard work, focus and commitment, and luck.

And how can you become lucky? Nora Aufreiter, HBA ’81, suggests making your own luck.

Aufreiter, a retired Senior Partner and Director of McKinsey & Company, received an honorary Doctor of Laws from Western University at the June 19 HBA Convocation. She began her speech by saying when she was an HBA student, no one would’ve picked her as the most likely to succeed.

“Why am I standing here today?” Aufreiter asked the HBA Class of 2018. “I made my own luck. And you can do the same with purpose, people, and paying it forward.”


Aufreiter encouraged the new graduates to be practical and define their purpose. What are you trying to accomplish after graduating? Why is it important to you?

“In the first few years of your career, you’ll be presented with different opportunities. How are you going to make choices? If you’re going to make your own luck, you need to know what’s right for you.”


If there are people helping you along the way, you are much more likely to succeed, Aufreiter said.

“Look for your people. Find those mentors and sponsors that will help you succeed,” she said. “Take risks so you can indeed make your own luck. It’s much easier to have folks around you than to do it alone.”

Aufreiter suggested the new graduates build a reliable network of people who will support them throughout their careers. And it’s equally important, she said, to choose a life partner who will help you succeed.

“I could not have been successful if my husband hadn’t been an absolute 50-per-cent partner on our family and our household obligations. Even though he had career obligations, too, he had to create the time. That made him a better father. Women and men alike, there’s a lesson for you.”

Pay it forward

Aufreiter, now retired, spends a lot of time paying it forward. She sits on numerous non-profit boards, coaches executives, and helps teach entrepreneurs.

“But it’s not one way. I get as much as I give,” she said. “It makes me a more effective leader, teaches me who I am and what my purpose is, and builds a network of folks with a similar purpose who I never would have met normally.”

She urged the graduating students to find the time to pay it forward early in their careers. It’ll help them learn who they are, she said.

“In the next few months, ask yourself three questions: One, what is it you’re really trying to do over the next few years? Two, who are the people you’ve got who will help support you and give you advice? And three, where can you pay it forward?”

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