Learn How to Express Yourself: Video Transcript

Matthew Hoffman (MA Geography, Miami, 1993) [Equity Research Analyst covering stocks for Japan-based Mizuho Securities]: Miami had a marketing geography program at the time that integrated something called geographic information systems [GIS] into demographics, population studies. It was a very applied program, something that I could go out and find a good job in industry. There was a recession at the time, in 1991-92, and jobs were at a premium, so this was something I felt was pretty marketable at the time and it was unique. It did work out; it was a very good program.

Geography is, of course, one of the classic liberal arts. It teaches you to think about people, it teaches you to think about places and how the two come together. And that was really—there was a couple of sides to geography. People think of the physical side often, but I was really more on the human side and how people interact with their environment. And the commercial side of that, really turned out to be where my interests were. So it turned out to be marketable and could really be applied to marketing programs and industry, which were kind of gobbling up the GIS people and the population people were doing back in the 90s. It was a really good way to kick-start my career.

Connecting the masters that I got at Miami in geography to what I do now as an equity research analyst is actually pretty direct. The background in market research that I got coming out of school and then going into—I got married and I had to move to North Carolina, and it turned out to be the broad-based skills that I learned at Miami and also got at my first few jobs that allowed me to get a job at Ericsson, which is still today the world’s largest maker of wireless infrastructures and base stations and things you see as you go along highways; Ericsson made those.

At the time they were also making mobile phones, and so I became the head of market research for Ericsson mobile phones in the mid-90s. It was an incredible position—I got to travel the world, learn all about the cell phone industry, as it was brand new. So, there was a boom on Wall Street in the late 90s, and they needed somebody who understood wireless technologies and understood the markets, and I was recruited out of that. I'd actually gone to Gartner Group, out of Ericsson, but it was the Ericsson, Gartner, then on to Wall Street—boom, boom, boom. It was a pretty direct link, actually.

Liberal arts help you to understand people, and they help you to appreciate what's going on around you, to think about the wider picture. The mobile phone industry is, of course, global, and it allowed me to go to Indonesia and do market research on the satellite phone opportunity; it was ultimately one we decided we weren't going to pursue. But, at the same time, understanding cultures and understanding people, religions, helped me to have Ericsson make the decisions about what types of phones to build.

We were involved in some very exciting new technologies, like Bluetooth, something we had invented at Ericsson in the mid-90s. I was not part of the patent team, but did do a lot of the market research on Bluetooth for that team, and it was just a really exciting time. You had to be able to grab into a lot of different areas, so liberal arts definitely was an important part of the experience set that I brought to the table.

The advice I would give to a liberal arts student right now is to learn how to write, learn how to express yourself. Really what industry, what business, and probably other employers really value is the ability of an individual to express themselves and to get their ideas across. You want to be able to look at the people, look at your surroundings, adapt to them, understand them, and then communicate to them your ideas and what your inputs are in terms of making a product better, making a place better, making the world better. Whatever you're going to do, you want to be able to communicate it, and I think that's really what a liberal arts background has as the most important thing. Also, if you can learn something with a computing language, in math, those are also richly valued, but I would come back to the communications side first and foremost.

In order to stand out right now, the first thing you do is build a network, and get to know people in any way you can, whether it's your Miami connections or it's your connections from your hometown. Network well. It always is an advantage to be able to know someone and be seen that way, but when you get that opportunity, make sure your resume is crisp. Make sure you've got a well-written cover letter. These are the things that…as I sit through resumes, you see ones that are not well-written, that are not well-presented, cover letters that are not written well, people who are sloppy. And those are not people who tend to get interviews. So you do want to network well—that's really the most important thing, but then when you get the chance, make sure you're communicating properly through your resume and any other sort of communications with that employer.

[September 2013]