An Interview with New Seidenberg Advisory Board Member and Pace Alumnus Matthew Knell, VP of Social Media and Platform Partnerships at About.com

Matt Knell headshotMatthew Knell is one of our favorite alumni for various reasons. A hardworking student who went on to an exciting career in social media and digital marketing, Matt is a thought leader in the industry, having spoken at conferences including SXSW Interactive, Social Media Week and SocialFresh, and having been featured by leading publications including Fast Company, CNBC, PR Week, TechCrunch, AllThingsD, and Advertising Age.  He also contributes regularly to publications and maintains a thriving site discussing digital media trends on Medium.

Even while leaping from success to success, Matt has never forgotten his experience at the Seidenberg School. He is always happy to attend events and lend his support – which is why we asked him to bring his expertise to the Seidenberg Advisory board (spoiler alert: he accepted).

We recently had a chance to sit down with Matt, shortly after his appointment to the board – giving us a unique chance to learn about Matt’s career, inspirations, and very particular selections for making a PB&J. Enjoy!

What motivates you to support the Seidenberg School in so many ways?

I was the first in my family to go to college, and Pace has a soft spot in my heart because of that. Scholarships and great instructors gave me a great way to get out of what could have been a very ordinary and average life. Not a bad life, but ordinary. When you have the opportunity to learn from great staff, people who really care, the community, you want to give back to that and help other people so they can have the same chances you did.

How would someone get to where you are now?

The way I’ve built my career is about being open to different things and trying things that are interesting. I was an Information Systems major, which gave me a fundamental understanding of how systems work. Learning how things are put together helps because you learn in time that everything in life has a system. Understanding the core frameworks of systems helps you figure them out. If you can understand how a system works, you can master it.

I’ve learned to be open to new ideas and, as much as possible, to be flexible in work environments. I  try to be the nicest person in the room. Relationships help you get far in life, and having a core group of people who you help and who help you is never a bad thing. I try to make the world a better place and to do the right thing by people. I don’t always get it right –  I don’t think anyone does. But, don’t let that make you afraid to make mistakes, because you’re going to. If your heart’s in the right place and your motives are pure and genuine – then you’re probably going to be alright.

For fun I took a personality test, and found out my personality type is “virtuoso”.  I think it describes me well.

Who has inspired you in life and why?

All people I know have inspired me a little bit at a time. This industry (digital media) allows people to be creative and it’s inspiring to see people problem solve when presented with new things that have never been seen before.  Each job I’ve had, I’ve been lucky enough to have a mentor to help me through things.  In terms of outside of work, I’d have to rank  Jim Henson as an absolute genius. What he built with the Muppets was genuinely amazing. I’ve always thought Kermit the Frog was very pragmatic and you see a lot of Jim in him.

Would you rather be liked or respected?

Probably respected. Treating people fair and equitably means you’re always going to do things that people don’t like. You can be kind and thoughtful in horrible moments of life, and people remember that, even if you’re doing a difficult thing.

Do you think you’d be in your position if you were a jerk?

No, definitely not. The CEO talked to a lot of people who know me and this is where being the nicest guy in the room really matters. I think good hires are a strong blend of character and talent. No one likes working with a jerk.

What do you think about when you’re driving alone in your car?

Typically what I’m gonna do next, make next, how can I make my job better – it’s forward thinking.  But you’re just as often likely to find i’m thinking about the next Mets game and where I can get a great sandwich.   

How do you make a PB&J?

Generic Wonder Bread (though I do love Trader Joe’s Texas Toast when I can get it), creamy not crunchy PB. It has to be grape or strawberry jelly, and if it’s grape, it has to be concord. Cut the crusts.

What would you do if you won $10 million in the lottery?

Besides buying a house and paying all the debts, give to animal relief organizations. They gave us all our pets; we’d like to give back. Invest in tech businesses – giving start-ups like Codapillar a chance to grow.

Matthew Knell sneakersBest gift you’ve received?

When I was a kid, I wanted a pair of Ken Griffey Jr sneakers so badly I got a job to save for them, but I didn’t end up getting them. A few years ago, they made a retro version and my wife got them for me. Getting them was a culmination of 12-year-old Matt’s delight and glee.

What were your experiences when the internet first started to roll out?

I was a junior in high school. I remember being one of the first to get on Staten Island’s internet provider. My first experience with the internet was Compuserve and I remember vividly playing text-based trivia games you’d play for $4 an hour. Email addresses were all numbers @compuserve.com

I remember AOL being the hot thing because it has pictures. Old AOL chatrooms, followed by IRC, which was the next wave of ‘how do you get on the internet?’ Then the web browser came along. When I was a junior in high school I taught myself HTML, then I started going to Pace. Having the experience of watching the internet grow was really cool.

If you were stranded on a desert island, what three items would you have to have?

Food, obviously! My wife, of course, somebody to talk to. Then probably my iPad because I can do so much, even if it doesn’t have connectivity.

You’re still on that desert island, but you now have all the items in this room: what would you build?

(In the room: a long conference table with 12 chairs. A TV, lots of snacks)

Does the island have internet access? A superentertainment system. Plus, I have Chips Ahoy!

You wouldn’t try to get off the island?

Not if I have everything I need!

Tell me about one of the items on your work desk

I have a bunch of things. A picture of my wife. A little plastic Wall-E toy, and a Wall-E and Eva, which reminds me of my wife and I. I have a LEGO business card holder – a reminder that you can always keep building on things, and if things aren’t working out you can always build them again. them. And, of course, a Pace t-shirt.

What’s the best advice you can give to technology students?

Talk to people – especially people who aren’t technology students. Get out and learn from people who are not technologists.  The number one personality type I hire is a technologist who can actually communicate. It’s wonderful to be smart and be able to build the most awesome things, but if you can’t communicate it to others, it’s just not going to happen. Go to conferences. Go to hackathons. Meet people – your 20s are for building a life.

This is New York: invent a pizza topping

Chopped up Nathan’s Fries. They get just gooshy enough that if you cook them they get soft, and they’d go great with the cheese.


Thank you, Matthew, for a wonderful conversation and we are looking forward to having you as a member of the Seidenberg School Advisory Board!

Read Matt’s Medium post about his Pace University experience.

About.com’s Matthew Knell Gives Seidenberg His Executive Advice

About.com‘s Social Media Executive and Pace alumnus (BS/IS ’00) Matthew Knell stopped by last week to explain a thing or two about his work experiences. He has been employed at a number of positions at a number of companies, including JetBlue,  AOL, and About.com. If you recall the blog post from June, Knell was also the moderator for the AOL Social Media Salon. The students who stayed at Seidenberg last Tuesday for the free food ended up staying for the free advice Knell dished out. Not only was he highly informative about Social Media, but he covered a multitude of topics within the world of computing.

To begin with Knell’s forte, Social Media (hereby shortened to SM), a few things he was adamant about. In SM, Branding, or Website appearance, Knell stressed the importance of choosing the right font and having consistent graphics. Specifically, he said to avoid Arial and Verdana (and everyone knows that Comic Sans is the butt of all font-related jokes) and suggested trying out different fonts from Type Kit. As far as consistent graphics go, Knell used the example of the slide show banner that many websites use on their home pages; he explained that it’s visually enticing when the changing graphics have an underlying similarity to them whether it be color schemes, text placement, font, or all three.

For the students who aren’t as concerned with SM, and cared more about the programming and software related positions Knell had experienced, Knell had a few things to say. One student expressed his concern in starting a project, but having it become invalid before it is complete. He asked how Knell would deal with such a sense of failure, to which Knell’s simple reply was, “Drink.”

Everyone got a laugh out of his response before he elaborated with an anecdote. He told the group of a project he had been working on at JetBlue that had failed miserably. The airline had been trying to create it’s own reservation system, but once they were deep into the process, they realized it was necessary to use the system Sabre, which was less restrictive than an exclusive system. Knell’s advice to dealing with the failure was to learn from it and notice the signs before things go sour, and later, when a recruiter asks about it, let it be known where the faults were and they were not your own mishaps.

Everyone thanked Knell for dropping by and giving us his advice. He even looked over Seidenberg’s SM sites to give them a quick review and offered a few constructive points. We have already began implementing them into our posts! So, thank you, Matthew. It was a pleasure having you around and we hope to collaborate on similar events throughout the years.

Spotlight on: Tamika Joseph, Pace Marketing Class of 2005

What does a marketing major have to do with Seidenberg? Not all that much, directly, but indirectly the two are closely related and those who are involved in Seidenberg will eventually bump into the Lubin and Dyson kids down the road. While visiting the offices at Microsoft this past week with the Seidenberg Summer Scholars, I ran into Pace alum Tamika Joseph who is working as an Account Manager for Microsoft. Since Microsoft is so heavily based in computer sciences, I decided to ask her about working along side some of the biggest projects in technology  and how she got there from Pace, even though she works in the more business-oriented parts of the company.

Joseph majored in marketing, with a concentration in Advertising and Promotion, and minored in Statistics during her time at Pace. Afterwards, she continued her studies at Fordham to receive her MBA by 2011 in Communications and Finance while minoring in International Business. When I asked about her position at Microsoft, she stated that her favorite part is the culture within the workplace. Even from an outsider’s point of view, touring around the headquarters warrants the same reaction.

Joseph’s position consists of processes that can be challenging, but her determination keeps her on par with the company’s expectations. Naturally, I asked how Pace played a role in her path towards scoring a position at Microsoft, other than offering her a degree; Joseph recounted the bonds she made during her undergraduate career, her success in graduating at the top of her class, and how she landed a full-time opportunity at Disney-ABC upon graduating at only 21 years old. Joseph also mentioned her C+ Programming class, which she passed with ease, and how it was pivotal in directing her toward where she is, today. And lastly, because I always ask for a woman’s advice, Joseph added, “[when] working in a predominantly male field, persistence and determination are key. Never give up!”

Thank you, Tamika, for you enlightening words and may your success encourage Pace students of all focuses to realize how realistic their goals can be.

Seidenberg Alum at New York Tech Meetup (NYTM)

New York Tech Meetup (NYTM), if you haven’t already been, is a must for anyone interested in the NYC tech scene. My first time attending was on Tuesday, November 13th–a special NYTM dedicated to the work in, by and for academia. There was a wide array of students and professors presenting their own work, and also professionals building software for use in education. The work shown was mind-boggling in many ways–from DOM, a student developed bookmarklet that transforms any website into an interactive 3D environment, to Qeexo, a group at Carnegie-Mellon exploring new ways of interacting with touch devices.

New York Tech Meetup (NYTM), if you haven’t already been, is a must for anyone interested in the NYC tech scene. My first time attending was on Tuesday, November 13th–a special NYTM dedicated to the work in, by and for academia. There was a wide array of students and professors presenting their own work, and also professionals building software for use in education. The work shown was mind-boggling in many ways–from DOM, a student developed bookmarklet that transforms any website into an interactive 3D environment, to Qeexo, a group at Carnegie-Mellon exploring new ways of interacting with touch devices.

I was especially excited to see Jeremy Pease, an alumni of the Seidenberg School, and his partner Rob Caucci, also a Pace alum, present first. They demoed their start-up company, Space Splitter. Space Splitter is “Forever changing the way roommates manage their household finances and relationships.” This is a perfect description of Space Splitter–a platform to use when you and your roommates can’t remember who is supposed to buy toilet paper next. Admit it, we have all been there, and Jeremy made sure to remind the audience of that (to their overwhelming amusement). I must admit, Rob and Jeremy are quite theatrical–the audience was absolutely engaged throughout their demo.

Our friends Emmett Butler and Diego Garcia, both students at NYU, came onto the stage soon after. They just released a game called Heads Up Hot Dogs, published by Adult Swim Games, about dropping hot dogs on people’s heads. Yes, I did say hot dogs on people’s heads. These hot dogs are dropped right from your fingertips onto the heads of oblivious pedestrians, to chagrin of your pixilated uptight businessmen, joggers, cops and whomever else may be wandering the frank-fest streets of Heads Up Hot Dogs. Emmett and Diego gave a demo of their game that showed off the drag and drop touch screen dynamic. I don’t think he was trying to make jokes, but Heads Up Hot Dogs is so fun and quirky that the audience was giggling uncontrollably every time Emmett said the magic words “hot dogs.”

Once the presentations were over, and we were all inert from the shock of everyone’s overwhelming talent, we got to head upstairs to the after party! There were tables set up for the presenters to show off their work and a great crowd to boot. Everyone grabbed drinks, networked and had an awesome time chatting.

My experience at NYTM was incredibly positive and I must admit that I regret not having gone before. The people there are friendly and enthusiastic about technology. If you want to meet the best of the best then I recommend checking out the next NYTM event. You can check out their website here: http://nytm.org

 

Written by Nina Freeman

Matt Knell to Serve as First Tech Mentor-in-Residence

At the invitation of the Seidenberg School, Matthew Knell (MS/IS ’00), director of social media at AOL, has assumed the role of Tech Mentor-in-Residence for the 2011-2012 academic year.  In this capacity, he will share his considerable expertise as a social media marketer and Web technologist with members of the Pace community. Continue reading “Matt Knell to Serve as First Tech Mentor-in-Residence”

Seidenberg Extends Warm Welcome to new Director of Development

The Seidenberg School extends a warm welcome to Pam Yosh, its new Director of Development. Pam comes to us from SUNY New Paltz where she has served as an individual gifts officer. She replaces Dawn Rigney who has assumed the newly created position of Executive Director of Alumni Relations and Annual Giving for the University. Continue reading “Seidenberg Extends Warm Welcome to new Director of Development”