July 28, 2014
Matt Polantz, a 2005 MIS graduate, dreamed of using his technology experience to influence how an IT department can run as a business. And for the past two years, he has been able to realize that dream as IT service management manager at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) Consulting's Pittsburgh office.
Throughout his career, Polantz has played an influential role in major IT projects, and he loves being able to follow an entire project from inception through client delivery. His accomplishments include the implementation of service management platforms at some of the world's largest retailers, pharmaceutical divestitures, large government contracts and fast food chains.
The world of consulting is an ever-changing one; clients come and go, and despite the consistency of having PwC as a firm behind him, the work is ever-changing. But the constant transition has allowed Polantz to develop his people skills, which are a critical part of his work.
"I used to think the ability to make friends was great people skills, but that's actually not it," Polantz said. "That's one element. But when you really think about people skills, (it's about) being able to understand personalities and that people will react to what you're saying in different ways."
"It's one thing to be extremely capable from a technology perspective, but if you can articulate things in a way where you can hit home with those who want extremely detailed data, as well as those who want a very concise message, that's when you start to advance further," he said. "Trying to understand what you can do to fill (each client's) needs – that's a huge thing that a lot of people don't get right off the bat."
Polantz's favorite aspect of the business is that it's up to him how far he can go.
"In consulting, it's really what I make out of my career and my day to day life," Polantz said. "That's the exciting part. If you push yourself along and look for new opportunities, the sky's the limit."
These days Polantz pushes himself to go far, but rewind about 10 years ago to when he was taking classes with professors Graham Peace and Nanda Surendra. Back then, the pushing was often external.
"Dr. Graham Peace was a phenomenal professor but he was frustrating at times," he said with a chuckle. "I'd go to his office looking for the answer to something. He'd never give you a direct answer, but he'd give you the hint to find your way. As a result, you had to go learn more. He valued drive, and that has carried on through the years for me."
"I could easily have received an A in (Dr. Surendra's) class by going through the day to day," Polantz continued, "but he made me want to push beyond that. That has carried on for me, too. Today, I am constantly going to new learning opportunities where I work to get deeper into my profession and at the same time improve myself as a person."
Through the years, it has been extremely important to Polantz to stay plugged in at B&E. He's kept in touch with professors and former classmates and visits campus to speak to MIS students about tech consulting. He said it's important for alumni to give back to the school by way of sharing insight.
"If nothing else, it's trying to better the B&E over time. The marketplace has really changed over the past decade," he said. "The only way B&E gets a pulse on those changes as they're occurring is through its alumni. You can read papers, and see what's going on in the news, but those are secondhand accounts. As a result (the school) can really benefit from alumni who can say, "These are the major trends we're seeing. These are the things that will help your students progress."
Polantz urges current students to be actively involved throughout the B&E.
"Focus on the things you're doing and how those things feed into your future. The MIS Annual Case Competition got me my first job," he said. "Without that, I don't know if I would be where I am today."
Polantz finds that sharing the fact that he's a Mountaineer often enlivens a conversation with clients.
"When I bring up West Virginia, it really is amazing how much recognition the University has across the U.S. (When I talk to others I find) they've been to the University, they've been to football games, and they were amazed at the beauty of the area. So that has really been the best part of being a Mountaineer – the respect the University has garnered across the nation."