How to Use Government Experience in Private Sector Job
In Chapter 17 of 18 in his 2012 Capture Your Flag interview, public affairs and communications strategist Matt Curtis shares how his experience working across local, state, and federal governments has given him the knowledge to help private communities better navigate the political landscape. He notes how positive and solutions-oriented initiatives are more successful than simply pointing out problems. Matt Curtis is the director of government relations at HomeAway Inc. in Austin, Texas.
Erik: How are you applying your government experience working in a private sector job? Matt: You know, I mean I spent so much time in public service working mostly, you know, at the city but I also—I was at the state and I was at our public transit authority. And I worked, you know, closely with our county authority, and I worked pretty heavily on the federal level as well. So what I know is how those different levels of government tend to work, and that helps me help the private sector and help these communities, the private sector and communities working together to find ways that their ordinances in their communities, their laws in their communities how -- so it can work best for everybody. You know, that some elected officials in different government bodies what they’re gonna respond to and what they’re not gonna respond to. I try to advise everybody, go into your government body no matter what level of government it is, and be positive and solutions oriented. That’s where you gonna have the most effect. Going in and raising a stink and saying, “I don’t want this, and this is bad.” That only works for so long. You really wanna be positive and solutions oriented. You wanna come up with something and work with all the different stake holders. And that’s how you find a solution to the problem. Erik: What do you find most challenging about your new position? Matt: I work with a wide variety of government entities and that hasn’t been challenging, I think my challenge has probably been working with the wide variety of communities and knowing that there are people out there that really wanna find a solution to their problem, and in some cases, it means a lot to them, and this is very, very serious, they’re getting personally involved and personally engaged in a problem that faces them. I take a lot of that on personally. I really do. I think for as much I loved Ireland, and I loved being there, all the guilt that the Irish Catholics are so well-known for, I certainly feel it. And it weighs heavily on me to hear somebody who’s got a problem and to know I’m doing the best I can to help them solve the problem. That’s been the most challenging part. Erik: How about being surrounded with different skill sets? Matt: Boy, you know, I never take it for granted that I know anything. I mean I think I’m constantly learning and I will be learning for the rest of my life. But, boy, I get to be surrounded by some very, very smart people sometime. And it’s challenging for me because they’re so smart and they’re so good at what they do that I find myself at the end of an 8-hour work day or 9-hour work day that I’m exhausted. I mean I am worn out. My brain bandwidth is just gone. And so, you know, I learn a lot from them, and of course I try to teach what I know to them, but I sure feel like I learn more than I teach. You know, it’s been fun. It sometimes is a little bit of a challenge to talk to somebody who might be in a radically different field than I am and has no real knowledge of the things that I do, and say, “Hey, you know, here’s what I’m working on, here’s why it’s important.” But you know I find 9 times out of 10 if I just sit down and have a, you know, a safe conversation with them, if I sit down and I just talk about what I’m working on and why it’s important, they get it. I mean they’re smart.