There’s what you know. There’s what you don’t know. And then, there’s what you don’t know you don’t know, or so an old saying goes.

Matt McHale discovered the latter after graduating from MSU in 2003 with a marketing degree from the Eli Broad College of Business and en route to his current role at Google as head of mid-market acceleration based in Ann Arbor. In his nearly nine years at the information search giant, he has managed multiple billions of dollars in revenue.

Matt McHale

Matt McHale

Along the way, he built upon what he learned at Broad as changing times and new opportunities gave him new perspectives. Like the growing importance of data to any company’s success.

“At Google, we have a saying that we use often: ‘data beats opinions.’ I believe that data is a company’s oxygen. The firms that make data management a strategic priority will be well-positioned to compete and win,” McHale said. “I see a lot of opportunity for data-driven marketers to have greater influence in the future.”

“Marketers have historically been great at consumer insights and have been internal champions about knowing the difference between data points and strategic insights. Many people are good at data and many are good at insights but few are good at both,” he said. “I hope Broad students across all majors are learning the difference and graduate ready to lead in a data-driven world.”

The lessons learned in real time doesn’t mean that time in college had no value. On the contrary; it is the solid base on which those professionally earned lessons are placed.

“Broad gave me a great education. I was very well prepared for my career. I was a marketing major and Broad gave me a solid marketing foundation. I fondly recall Professor (Gilbert) Harrell’s Marketing 300 class which solidified for me that I made the right choice of majors,” McHale said. “I also really appreciate the other non-marketing business classes that I took. It is cliche to talk about how professionals need to be well rounded but it is also very true.”

Still, there are some things McHale knows now that he wishes he knew then, and he’s happy to share those lessons with today’s Broad Spartans. Those include:

  • Marketing is a science, not an art: “Many people think about marketing as a creative discipline. I certainly did when I was an undergrad. Marketing is creative but this is rapidly changing,” McHale said. “Marketing is a science more than an art. Comfort with data and insights is critical to marketers. Consumer and business data is more important than consumer and business opinions.”
  • Selling internally: “I believe that business schools give this important topic short shrift. Selling ideas internally and influencing internal stakeholders has been a critical part of my success in multiple firms,” McHale said. “When I was an undergrad and when I was more junior in my career, I did not realize the importance of nuances related to influencing organizations from the inside.”
  • Impact versus effort: “I look at a ton of resumes. The first thing I look at it is whether or not there is measurable impact laid out versus descriptions of actions or effort,” McHale said. “I would encourage people that are starting an initiative, project or role to begin by thinking about the specific and measurable impact they would make if they were wildly successful and then work backward from there. Some people would call this starting with the end in mind. It is great advice as long as the ‘end’ can be measured in some way.”
  • Organizational behavior: “When asked what class I would go back and take or pay more attention to, I always say Organizational Behavior,” McHale said. “Most people take this as a required class and few dig in. I have managed 100 people at Google and been in positions of internal influence at multiple firms. I have seen how important understanding culture, human/team behavior and professional bias and motivations is to professional success.”

That last point is critical in McHale’s view.

“As a senior manager at Google, I need to rely on the quality of my ideas and my ability to get others on board with them rather than my position of authority and my title. Google is great because our senior leaders really care about what the front line employees think,” McHale said. “When I was more junior in my career I assumed everyone would be marching to the company drumbeat but I have since learned that we have to earn the buy-in of internal stakeholders as well as external ones.”

That’s good to know.