Matthew Williams, EMBA ’20, has worked for the U.S. Navy for his entire career. Having started as a pilot, he has since worked his way up to headquarters at the Pentagon where he oversees the Navy's preparation against future threats in the realms of technological and information warfare.
Now one year out from completing the Executive MBA program, Williams remains connected with his Sloanie network and continues to leverage and adapt the skills he gained as a student to meet whatever challenges or opportunities come his way.
What is the biggest idea you're working on right now?
I'm working with an EMBA ’21, and we're exploring opportunities to use artificial intelligence and machine learning for national security purposes. We're forming a startup idea and really trying to use those technologies to do better intelligence analysis.
Have you been connected to the MIT Sloan Veteran’s Association?
Yes, we have a WhatsApp group, so I've been connected with them, and I'm still a member of that group. The group is mostly MBA student focused. But beyond that, it's a great place to network even further and in different venues. Actually, we started our own little vets group inside my class too, and we’ve hosted a social for the 21 vets when they came on board. It is a great resource, and I’ve stayed connected with them in student capacities.
How has attending MIT Sloan—specifically the EMBA program—influenced your work?
When you first start the program, they talk about having a fixed mindset or a growth mindset. With a growth mindset, you can learn to be new things and do new things and try new things, and that's probably my biggest takeaway. Inside the government, I’ve taken a broad and diverse path, but compared to the rest of the world, it's fairly narrow, so I’ve realized that I can go and be whatever I want to be. I don't have to be constrained to working for the government. Right now, I’m actually exploring leaving the government—I don't know where that is exactly at the moment, but I would say the biggest influence the EMBA program had on me was changing my mindset to a growth mindset.
Who or what inspires you and the work that you're doing now and that you're pursuing?
I would say, most of my career has been focused on a duty to my country, and that's really what has driven me. But once I adopted the growth mindset, I realized I can do things differently—I can grow as a person. I'm actively looking at outside opportunities really as a commitment to my family—to better take care of my family. That's what's driving me at this point in my life.
Have you found the MIT Sloan network to be helpful in that search?
Absolutely, in fact I’ve used the MIT Sloan network almost exclusively. I use the Career Development Office. I work with a career coach, Shauna LaFauci Barry. And all my classmates have been super helpful. Not even just my classmates, but I'm working with people who are members right now—the class of 21—to explore opportunities. I wouldn't feel comfortable leaving the government, if I didn't have this MIT Sloan network.
Has 2020-2021 impacted how you network?
Yes, and I’ll give you some context. When we're in the EMBA program, we get an executive coach—mine was Michèle Berg. The goal I set with my coach was, I wanted to learn how to use my network more effectively. I knew a bunch of people, but I didn't know what to do about that, and I could go to events, chitchat, and follow up with an email the next day, but I didn't really know what happened after that, so my executive coach basically gave me the skills to do that, and I've been able to apply it for this last year, and it's been fantastic.
Having zoom, I've caught up with classmates from high school, I've caught up with tons of people—even people I hadn’t met in person before. I attended the Sloanies Helping Sloanies event, and I connected and networked with people, then I connected others to my EMBA network as well. There was a current student who worked at Apple who I connected with a classmate of mine who has a startup in sustainability, and I’ve made a couple of other connections like that.
I really enjoyed the networking aspect of it, and I've had the time to do it because I don't have a commute—I'm fully working from home—but I also have the tools where I can reach out to someone anywhere in the world with Zoom, so I've actually found it super useful for nurturing and growing my network, especially as I prepare to look at career changes.
Why do you think it's important to reconnect and exchange ideas with your fellow Sloanies at Reunion?
Parallel story: my class is actually planning a retreat in August. I'm helping plan it, and I am super looking forward catching up with everybody, and the idea is the same at Reunion—I'm able to catch up with everybody. All the better if it was in person, but I think it's important because with a growth mindset, there are opportunities everywhere whether it's an opportunity for you or an opportunity to help someone else. And that's why I think connecting at Reunions and similar events are super helpful. It's the Sloanies Helping Sloanies, right? You have to be out there to be able to help other Sloanies and then let them help you.