Michael Mordak is joined by Matthew Fox—Independent Consultant—to talk about how community has impacted his professional career and why you should definitely get involved in adventure racing.
- Matthew’s background [1:49]
- Started at Discover Card – fresh out of school, was in marketing project management at that time.
- Had gone into digital BA work, was in an advertising agency called Arc Worldwide for a little while, and went into some odd jobs after that.
- Ended up as a project manager BA in another very small agency.
- He’s been freelancing since the end of 2015.
- What other communities are you involved with? [4:04]
Whether it’s professionally or personally, it’s trying to figure out how to take the strength of all the people around me so that way, in a high tide, all ships rise.Matthew Fox
- Have you done an adventure race? [5:57]
- Retired back in 2005, but he’s originally from Chicagoland.
- In the early 2000s, he did a whole bunch of different races. The longest one was 16 hours from start to finish.
- Then he volunteered for a variety of races – the longest was 10 days.
- Why do you regularly participate in communities? [6:57]
- I am where I am today by standing on the shoulders of giants before me.
- Used to be part of a triathlon – but really got to understand the volunteer side of things about how much work it takes to put on a race. Matthew volunteered at the Chicago Marathon.
- He’s been an Ignite Denver speaker – Ignite are these five minute lightning talks where you have 20 slides auto rotating every 15 seconds behind you. He has spoken there before, and then saw some of the organizers out at a local place and tracked them down.
- Opportunities that stem from community [11:07]
- It started happening organically in 2015, where Matthew transitioned out of one company and was working with a career coach at the time.
- I Will Teach You To Be Rich – the Ramit Sethi community. Matthew went to a 10 year anniversary for one of his events and ended up working pretty closely with someone in that group.
- Matthew moved away from LinkedIn and Indeed or all these other places where people post jobs because he’s nameless and faceless in those communities.
- The communities reinforce the value of the shadow network of the job world.
- It’s not who you’re talking to, it’s who’s watching what you’re doing in the community.
Regardless of what’s going on in the world, it’s who you know and how you all can support each other that will get you through the tough times.Matthew Fox
- Is there something to paid vs free communities? [14:53]
- The barrier to entry can be challenging for some people. Some folks struggle in finances or receiving support.
- There are other groups where people can donate.
- For niche groups like DPM, having a little bit of a barrier to entry means that people are here for a reason – you’re serious about being here.
- Belong – book synopsis [17:02]
- There’s a group called Daybreaker by Radha Agrawal – she created a community about health, wellness, dance, and connection.
- Some of the cornerstones of the community is finding that safe, non-judgmental place for people to show up however they are and to feel comfortable asking questions that they may not normally ask.
- Radha’s book Belong: Find Your People, Create Community, and Live a More Connected Life
Meet Our Guest
Matthew is a project manager, trainer, and virtual producer with a strong background in public speaking and critique, skilled at delivering constructive feedback that inspires action and change. A true people person with the ability to gain consensus among multiple stakeholders to drive projects to completion and achieve company objectives.
His professional background includes various positions in technology implementation, project management, facilitation, and end-user training. And has led and mentored cross-functional teams.
Matthew loves to give back. He is actively involved in several volunteer organizations, including PAWS Chicago and Toastmasters.
Some of the cornerstones of the community is finding that safe, non-judgmental place for people to show up however they are and to feel comfortable asking questions that they may not normally ask.Matthew Fox
Resources from this episode:
- Join DPM Membership
- Subscribe to the newsletter to get our latest articles and podcasts
- Connect with Matthew on LinkedIn
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Read The Transcript:
We’re trying out transcribing our podcasts using a software program. Please forgive any typos as the bot isn’t correct 100% of the time.
Michael Mordak: Hey, it's Michael from The Digital Project Manager and welcome to today's Member Spotlight!
Now you may not know this, but we've managed to stream together the baddest collection of project managers who are out there creating change and challenging the paradigms that exist in our projects today. These people are so cool, and so forward thinking that I felt obligated to share some of their thoughts, insights, and experiences with you.
Today we're speaking with DPM expert and longtime community member, Matthew Fox. Matthew's been involved in the community for over 10 years and probably deserves some kind of award for the amount of value that he brings to the discussions day in and day out. So let's jump in and talk to Matthew about how community has impacted his professional career and why you should definitely get involved in adventure racing.
So Matthew Fox, welcome! I'm so glad you were able to take this time with me and talk about community because I mean, we've just been speaking for the last, I don't know, 20 minutes now. I think about just the impact that community can have on people no matter the industry, different ways of getting people involved. And so I'm excited to chat with you about this today.
Matthew Fox: Likewise, I think you do an incredible amount for the DPM community, which I know there's a lot of intentionality behind that. And it's a, a fantastic place that I know we were talking just before, I mean, I think it's been like 10 years or 9 years or something like that, like a long time that the community has been around and I've dipped in and out of it over that time.
Michael Mordak: Yeah, I mean, it's definitely well pre-dates me, but, uh, I mean, I'm just lucky that I got to stumble into it when I did. And, uh, it's really cool to jump into this and be a part of something where, yeah, you speak to people who've been here for 10 plus years and who've, you know, I've seen all the changes that we've gone through and, and how we evolved to get where we are. So that's super neat.
I think a good way to start this off though would just be to start with, you know, kind of a brief, who are you and maybe where are you and maybe one thing you're working on right now?
Matthew Fox: Yeah, absolutely. So I always like to think of myself in the sense of the sport of orienteering.
Where a lot of project management, especially in the digital realm is getting lost to find myself where most of the time as a PM, you're not entirely sure what's going on. And that ties back to my early career where I started at Discover Card. Fresh out of school, really didn't know up from down, uh, was in marketing project management at that time.
Had gone into, uh, digital BA work, was in an advertising agency for, called Arc Worldwide for a little while. Went into some odd jobs after that, ended up as a project manager BA in another very small agency. Then I've been freelancing since the end of 2015.
And that to me ties back to a lot of the orienteering things where you're taking a map, so you've got a predefined area, and there's checkpoints that you're trying to find and tracks. And that's a lot of what I think we do in project management is trying to understand the map and the territory we're in. And then try to find those important checkpoints as we go throughout the process or as we go throughout the evolution of the project, which brings me to where I am today. I help out with, uh, process consulting, operations, sales, and then of course, account and project management.
Michael Mordak: Nice. I love that. And as somebody who I just joined a search and rescue shop recently, yeah, and so the orienteering definitely hits home. Something that we practice a lot. And I, I think about also a lot of the conversations that I hear about in our community where a lot of people are getting ideas or just, or just discussing generally around that idea of orienteering.
But I think about what it would be like to jump into a project and get on board onto a project. And, you know, be handed this map and have to figure out, you know, where the limits are, where the borders are. And like you said, you know, all the checkpoints you have to hit along the way. So I think that's a really cool way of summing it up. I love that.
But yeah, we're going to jump into it today and talk some more about community and kind of how it's impacted you and your career. I'd love to just get a sense of, obviously we're, you know, we chat almost every day in the DPM community, which is great. But I was wondering if you could share some, maybe other communities you're in, whether it's PM related or whether it's, you know, orienteering communities, whatever.
Matthew Fox: I'm definitely a community oriented person, and the Bureau of Digital, I know there's a very close kinship between that group and DPM. Whatever group I'm in, we talk about each other all the time. I'm trying to think of other professional groups, and I don't think any others come to mind. I do belong to a couple social groups.
One is a men's group out of the Evolutionary Power Institute up in Boulder, Colorado. And I sit with them every couple weeks. Another one is Archipelago here in Denver, and that's actually something I forgot to say in the intro is I'm located in sunny Denver, Colorado. And Archipelago is actually a fantastic wellness space where there's sound meditation and healing, and I think that's a really important part of community is how to heal and get self care within a community.
And then orienteering and adventure racing are other communities that I'm part of. For example, this weekend I'll be going up to Wellington Lake, Colorado to teach a workshop on orienteering and then help support three races that are going on Sunday, a 6, 8, and 12 hour adventure race. And probably the one takeaway from all of that is the joy that I get in cross pollinating across communities. Whether it's professionally or personally, it's trying to figure out how to take the strength of all the people around me so that way, in a high tide, all ships rise.
Michael Mordak: That's super cool. I love the mix of kind of personal stuff in there as well. Have you done an adventure race on your own or do you mostly volunteer with them?
Matthew Fox: I retired back in 2005, but I, I'm originally from Chicagoland. And from basically the early 2000s, I had done a whole bunch of different races. The longest one I did was 16 hours from start to finish. And then I volunteered for a variety of races, including up to, I think the longest race I volunteered for was, uh, 10 days.
Michael Mordak: That's a super long race.
Matthew Fox: It's like your entire life for two weeks. One time I went out to Utah, and that was a Don Mann production called Primal Quest. And then, like the following year, we were out in Montana, and I've been up in British Columbia. Uh, Maria, she was running Primal for a little while, so yeah, it's been pretty wild, all the things that I've seen, getting to be on the volunteer and staff side.
Michael Mordak: That's awesome.
Yeah, with those communities, I mean, I guess what is your main reason for actively and regularly participating in them?
Matthew Fox: Yeah, so there's a variety of reasons. I think one thing is I am where I am today by standing on the shoulders of giants before me. And I think there are so many people, whether it's willingly or without my knowledge that have gotten me to where I am today, very early in the racing circuit.
I used to be part of a triathlon. I would go in and I would race, but I really got to understand the volunteer side of things about how much work it takes to put on a race. I volunteered at the Chicago Marathon. I've volunteered at some other big races and the community is what makes all of these things in life possible.
For example, there's been a dissolution of it and I will start and end it with on the religious perspective that there's a lot of valuable things communities like that bring. And the flip side of it is that with, at least here in America, a lot of us have moved away from that. So it's getting too engage. I know being a remote worker since the end of 2015, if I don't engage online with different communities, I don't have a community to engage with.
And so that to me, it ties it back to a professional situation that as much as my little kid Braine would like to think I know everything, at the end of the day, I am only as good as the people that I surround myself with. And that's another big benefit for me with communities is I've helped create a mastermind here in DPM, and there are some incredible people that both reflect back my strengths and then help me understand where I may have blind spots or the things that I may be missing out on. And I think that goes across all the different communities that I'm in.
Michael Mordak: I feel like a lot of times too, even if it's a community that you've joined online, a lot of times, like you, you know, you mentioned, and we were speaking about before, you might run into these people in your own town. Maybe they're visiting, or maybe you find out that you live down the street from them, you know, a lot of these people you connect with that way.
And otherwise, if you hadn't been part of it, you might not even have come across them because they were just, you know, you might never have seen them, you know, down the street or at the store or whatever it is. But it turns out you guys have a ton in common and, you know, get together all the time.
Matthew Fox: That reminds me of something that happened this past weekend. So I've been a, uh, Ignite Denver speaker, where Ignite are these five minute lightning talks where you have 20 slides auto rotating every 15 seconds behind you. And I had spoken there before, and then I saw some of the organizers out at a local place and actually track them down.
And it's like, you know, Ignite is amazing. And that's actually happened with another group that I forgot to mention that I'm loosely a part of called Ramit's Brain Trust. And I used to be much more involved with that community, but I've actually gotten work. I've gotten friendships. Part of the reason that I'm sitting in Denver right now was because of someone that I met in that community and we developed this very deep friendship and inspired me to move across the country.
Michael Mordak: Wow, that's really cool. And so you moved there to be closer to them?
Matthew Fox: Yes and no, like part of it was to be a lifestyle change for a variety of other reasons, but it was through the community that I had, like, it's this built in network. So I know, and I imagine the same thing with DPM, like I know no matter where I go in the world, I can drop a note into the community to say, Hey, I'm visiting the town.
And people will come out of the woodwork and say, you know, we'd love to meet up or, you know, let us know where you're going to be. And, I don't know where else you can get that type of experience unless you've been very fortunate to have a huge family.
Michael Mordak: Yeah, no, I totally see that. And it's almost like making sure that wherever you go, you're going to have some people you can reach out to and spend time with.
I mean, there's a huge advantage to that as well, because, you know, if you're exploring a new place, you've got somebody who might be local and can show you around and show you some of the cool spots. And you know that you've already got shared interests. So there's no kind of awkward reaching out to some random person who might have nothing in common with you. You already know that you've got a shared ground, which is super neat.
I'd be interested to know, you mentioned a couple things too, but I guess I just kind of want to get it more directly from you. But are there any significant career moves or opportunities that you came across through being in a community that you might not have otherwise, you know, been able to find on your own?
Matthew Fox: A hundred percent. Yeah, it probably, it started happening much more organically in 2015 where I had transitioned out of one company and was working with a career coach at the time. And he recommended that I go down to this co-working space, and then I met someone at the co-working space who I'm still doing work for today, and that was seven years ago.
And then, and, uh, the IWT, which is, I Will Teach You To Be Rich, the Ramit Sethi community. I went to a 10 year anniversary for one of his events and ended up working pretty closely with someone in that group. And then still stay in contact with another person that I met and we'll, we'll still have one on ones and they're a mentor of mine.
There's a, another group outside of DPM where they had seen me posting in DPM and I went and got to speak to a class that they were running. And then they've helped place me in different positions over time. So I think for me, I've moved away from like LinkedIn and moved away from like Indeed or all these other places where people post jobs because I'm nameless and faceless in those communities. Where within something like DPM or the Bureau of Digital or other spaces, it by developing a reputation in there and a resource that people feel comfortable to go to, there's a ton of opportunities and doors that opened that I had no expectation or even realization.
Like if you told me 20 or 30 years ago that this is where I'd be now in my career, I, I would be like, no, that, like, why would someone do that? And none of that makes sense. That's not how people get jobs. Like you have to write a resume and apply. And I would argue the communities reinforce the value of the shadow network of the job world that I don't think a lot of people take advantage of.
Michael Mordak: Yeah, that's huge. And I've been doing a little bit of research recently into, you know, more recruiting and hiring and that kind of stuff. And I was super surprised to come across a number of places, like a number of different sources that listed similar stats. But something like 80% of jobs get filled before they even get posted anywhere just from networks.
And a huge part of that, you know, comes from communities, people catching wind of a job and posting it to a community that they're involved with before it actually sees the light of day. And then it gets filled just through that connection right there, which is, I mean, a huge opportunity. Obviously, there's, you know, a lot more to communities than just, you know, getting a job and hiring, but huge advantage.
Matthew Fox: And I'd add on to that, one of the really fascinating things that I don't think people in the mid or senior levels of their career realize, it's not who you're talking to, it's who's watching what you're doing in the community. Because more often than not, like if you got like those amazing jobs that are out there that you're just like, holy cow, that sounds amazing.
How did you get it? It's oh, well, you know, I developed a reputation somewhere where I was doing this thing, which I was really passionate about and being engaged. And sometimes that's community, that those people will kind of connect behind the scenes and I mean, you may be able to develop businesses with these other people, you can develop friendships, you can develop mentoring.
It's all about professional networks. Because regardless of what's going on in the world, it's who you know and how you all can support each other that will get you through the tough times.
Michael Mordak: Yeah, no, I think it's a massive point. And I wonder, I'm curious, like, do you think that there's something to the idea that some of these communities you're speaking about are paid communities rather than free communities like LinkedIn?
Matthew Fox: Yeah, actually I go back and forth on that because I do think the barrier to entry can be challenging for some people. And there's certainly some folks who I know finances are a struggle or that may be something to receive support around. And on the flip side of it, it's if you're investing either time or in the point that you're bringing up about money, I think there's an additional level of engagement there because you can say I'm, I'm part of, I'm trying to think like I'm, I'm part of like a certain political party and I donate to them.
Or I, I'm part of, some of the other groups are not coming to mind, like Earth Hour or something where people donate because there's some cool factor in doing it. But for the niche groups like DPM, having a little bit of a barrier to entry to me means that people are here for a reason. Like you're serious about being here and it actually, it's like a pre-qualification step where if I am looking for someone to hire, or if I am looking for a community of professionals and peers who are walking the talk, then I would want to try to find a place where, you know, people are paying to be there.
Because even if a company is paying for it, there's still that sense of, it's not, like anyone can create a profile on LinkedIn. I think it's a different way to frame it and here, you have to have some intention or there's some vetting that goes in. So you know you're getting a certain level of person or quality of person.
Michael Mordak: Yeah. I mean, that's definitely the sense that I get from, I mean, at least from, you know, my, experience with the DPM, just, I find that the people that come in are, you know, really engaged and they have, like you said, they've got a reason to be there, you know, they paid, literally paid into it.
And it's not just like a free file that, you know, that kind of gets shared out. So, yeah, I think I really like that perspective that you, you have on that. Yeah, I mean, that's really all I've got for you today. I think we got to dive into some of the questions a little bit more than I had even planned, which is awesome.
And, you know, I don't want to take up your entire day, but I do appreciate your time just going through these questions and kind of getting a better sense of your experience with the community. You shared a book with me beforehand, which I'm definitely going to look into that was, I'll share it here as well for everybody.
It was Belong. You said you read parts of it, right? If you want to give a quick synopsis?
Matthew Fox: Yeah. So there's a group called Daybreaker, which Radha, and I can't remember her last name offhand, but basically this amazing person created a community about health, wellness, dance, and connection. And to me, I think those are some of the cornerstones of community is that connective piece is finding that safe, nonjudgmental place for people to show up however they are and to feel comfortable asking questions that they may not normally ask.
Where there's been times in my career, if I were to go back to a, like the owner of the company or a manager and feel like I am asking what I would label as kind of like a dumb question or something that I think I should know that I may not have asked that.
And I missed the opportunity where tying back to that community perspective, it's having that safe space to go in and be like, I don't know what I'm doing here. This is what I think is happening. Can someone bet it? And so, yeah, I'm a big fan of, of Daybreaker and community and then Belong. So if you have a chance to check out the book and you're trying to build the community, it could be a good starting point.
Michael Mordak: Yeah, definitely. Awesome. Well, I appreciate the suggestion. I'm definitely going to look into it. But yeah, this has been a lot of fun. I've already sent you all the swag, so that's on its way. I've mailed it a couple of days ago, so, uh, keep dry on the meal for that. And yeah, looking forward to our next chat and we'll just keep in touch in the DPM Slack.
Thanks for tuning into our Member Spotlight with Matthew Fox. If you would like to continue the conversation or chat more with him one-on-one, come check us out in the Slack channel. You can learn more about it on our website, thedigitalprojectmanager.com/membership.
Until then, we'll see you on the next one.