CommLeader Spotlight|Matt McWilliams, Cohort 13


Graduation date or expected graduation date: Summer 2015

Area of interest (within the MCDM/MCCN program or in general):

I have become focused on the importance of practicing transparency to inspire trust among customers or constituents. People expect greater choices and better experiences that promote a better quality life. I like to think of it in terms of re-creating Main Street USA, which promotes a real sense of belong and provides a means to hold businesses and community leaders accountable.

What exactly do you do professionally or what are your professional goals?

I have worked in the public policy realm and envision the Communication Leadership program to transition to commercial work focused on creating meaningful customer experiences.

How are you directly applying knowledge from the MCDM or MCCN program in your daily life?

Digital media technology has become inescapable, affecting all facets of life. I am constantly applying lessons from my coursework to everyday situations, no matter whether it’s a civic, cultural or commercial experience.

As a full-time or part-time student, how have classes worked into your schedule?

The program’s flexibility has been invaluable while I have had to manage other obligations. I remain deeply impressed by the faculty’s commitment to supporting student needs. It has been wonderful to experience such sincerity in all my interactions with faculty members. They are genuinely interested in your work and in providing the best educational experience for students.

Which classes have had the most impact on you personally and professionally?

My favorite has been Leadership through Story and Communities because it focused on managing during a time of profound change by focusing on timeless skills, such as story and community. The readings, the lectures, the projects and guest speakers about the importance of human relations in achieving meaningful and sustainable impact. Technology may aid business practices, but it doesn’t replace the basic competency of managing people to achieve organizational results. Insightful analysis still requires human judgment. More than ever organizations need to invest in their people to achieve meaningful and sustainable impact.

What’s your favorite Comm Lead experience?

Again, Leadership through Story and Communities provided a wonderful opportunity to integrate my long-term interests with the course subject matter for a final project focused on change management. As such, I created a sculpture inspired by Seattle’s built environment to explore the role of design in achieving organizational goals. I chose this approach because I thought it would allow people to visualize the impact of design on communities and workplaces. In the world of traffic engineering, that has meant less reliance on traditional technological solutions to managing traffic in favor of behavioral approaches that actually have a much greater impact on system performance in improving traffic flow, reducing the frequency of accidents and creating better places to live, work and play. Traffic engineers have learned the folly in ignoring the fundamentally social nature of navigating the complexity of roads and intersections. Great design invites participation, builds trust and promotes a sense of belonging. It’s the social capital that makes everything work and leads to places we care about. Work can and should be the same way.

Career-wise, what is your ultimate digital media goal?

I care about intentionality. Mostly, I want to work with good, smart people doing interesting things that address some of today’s challenges. I like to think I can be part of something that makes a meaningful difference in people’s lives by promoting a greater sense of independence, choice and control. If I can accomplish that to some reasonable degree, then I’ll be pretty satisfied.

What digital trends are you most intrigued by right now?

I believe Do Not Track may become in the next few years one of the most important issues, as data collection continues to challenge traditional interpretations of consumer protection and fair trade law. Although the digital advertising industry has established a voluntary system, questions remain about its effectiveness as long as there remains no meaningful legal enforcement mechanism. Fundamentally irreconcilable differences have emerged within industry, underscoring the need for federal legislation. A voluntary solution no longer appears practical.

And for the sake of a silly question:

What’s the strangest food you’ve eaten and under what circumstances?

I am willing to try most anything, although I am not particularly fond of sweet things. I can’t stand watermelon.


Ilona IdlisCommLeader Spotlight|Matt McWilliams, Cohort 13
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