Celebrating African American History Month with Aryaka Chief Executive Officer Matt Carter
February is African American History month, also known as Black History month. It celebrates the achievements of African Americans and the role they have played in shaping U.S history. This leap year, as we get inspired by leaders from all over, Aryakans don’t have to look too far for inspiration. We are thrilled to have an accomplished leader residing in the corner office at Aryaka HQ – our CEO, Matt Carter.
As he’s one of the primary reasons I joined the company, I thought it would be good to get to know the man behind the title, to see what makes him tick and allow his experiences and vision to serve as an example for other leaders and entrepreneurs.
Here were ten questions I posed to Matt. Let us know what you think.
[Shashi Kiran] Looking back at your childhood, where did you grow up and what were some of the influences that shaped who you are today?
[Matt Carter] I grew up in a tight-knit working class Bostonian family, the oldest of five children and a police officer father, that instilled a level of discipline, a commitment to lifelong learning, and an unconditional love that parents and siblings have for each other. I feel that this is my greatest gift.
[SK] Coca Cola. Bristol Myers Squib. Sprint. You started off your career building brands, and your responsibilities just seemed to ramp up from there. How did that happen?
[MC] I was always interested in communications, PR, and marketing. I was fortunate to begin a career in marketing when I was done with graduate school. I worked with brands that were always in a state of reinvention, instead of brands that simply needed refreshment, and had no blueprint to follow. I was able to explore and bring new ideas to help reinvigorate and infuse new growth into these brands. Coke, Sprint, Boost Mobile—each of these companies needed a new blueprint and I helped create one rather than simply following one.
[SK] How important was your education and the schools and colleges you went to in determining your career trajectory?
[MC] I’ve always said that education starts at home. I came from a household that greatly valued education. My dad would come home from work and say, “Have you kids done your lessons?” I was exposed to this early on—come home, do my homework and then go and play. Attending an old New England boarding school in Maine was an eye-opening experience for me. I was now living away from home and the school was deeply rooted in high academic standards. This instilled in me the confidence that I could learn, grow and apply those skills to the real world and the academic rigors at Northwestern—all because of the discipline I had developed and honed.
[SK] What are some of the major accomplishments in your career that you are most proud of?
[MC] What I did at Boost Mobile. It was a brand that had fallen on hard times and I was assigned to essentially shut it down or grow it. There wasn’t much optimism to reinvigorate the brand. I assessed the market and understood the prepaid market for cell phones and realized that I needed to provide something new for Boost Mobile. We were the first to offer nationwide talk and text for $50 and became the fastest growing brand in wireless, essentially stabilizing the company.
I also take great pride in the people that have worked with me over the years, as well as those that I have mentored, who have gone on to great success. I’m most proud of what they’ve all gone on to accomplish. It is an amazing feeling to me when I see that these very same people are now running their own companies.
[SK] Who were some of the mentors that contributed to your success?
[MC] My parents and the mentoring and insights I gleaned from them. They were migrants from the South that moved to Boston and had to adjust and adapt to the same. Knowing how to navigate that move and establish their professional lives in Boston while sustaining their own resolve is just so impressive.
[SK] What is your leadership philosophy?
[MC] At the end of the day, it’s all about the team and making sure everyone can bring their best self to be a successful member of the team. Helping them to put their best foot forward. The star of the team is the team itself.
[SK] You could have gone different places. Why did you choose to join Aryaka?
[MC] I saw Aryaka as a company that had great potential in a market that was growing phenomenally but had lost its footing. I felt that it was sub-optimizing its own potential and felt my experience could help this company grow. I thought “wow, this is a company that has championship caliber attributes. Maybe now we make them a heavyweight champion in the SD-WAN space.”
[SK] What is your advice to young entrepreneurs?
[MC] Be focused. It’s easy to get distracted. Be open-minded when new ideas come along. Constantly be seeking, searching, growing. Be focused and disciplined while remaining open and flexible. A balance of both will help you grow and enhance the focus of what you want to go after.
[SK] You’re a sports buff. So, if were to choose one sport’s great to sit next to you on a flight, who would it be and why?
[MC] It would have to be Bill Russell (Boston Celtics Hall of Famer). He’s more than just a basketball player. He is a person who is socially engaged. His platform is recognized because he goes beyond himself. How does he do that? He helps others to progress and succeeds. What did he do to make the Boston Celtics win 11 championships? How did he take different personalities and make them gel? There is a good message here around social progress because it shows that we don’t always need to agree, but there should be cohesion. With cohesion, great things can be achieved. Russell saw that it was more than just about himself.
[SK] Any parting words of wisdom?
[MC] You have to come to a point in your life where you ask yourself a question. “Am I all that I can be?” How you answer this question will determine how you move ahead in life. If you say, “I can’t because I’m of a certain race or gender”, then you are simply going to see all the barriers that are in front of you. There might be barriers that you have to overcome BECAUSE of race or gender but you can’t have these hinder you. Don’t fall victim to societal paradigms. Always look at yourself and love yourself because if you don’t, no one will. If you love yourself, it’ll give you the positivity and energy to sustain your life’s journey. If you love yourself, you can truly accomplish anything.