‘Everything’s customer service. It’s all how you make people feel’

April 24, 2024 About Us

For Matt Wallace, flipping burgers proved a valuable career step

Matt Wallace hasn’t eaten fast food since his last day as a manager at McDonald’s many years ago. But if the cholesterol has long since cleared from his arteries, the lessons he learned there have stuck.  

“It was a really great introduction to customer service and how to resolve challenges quickly,” said Matt, who joined Granite Edvance as assistant vice president of education partnerships last year. What he didn’t know then was how much he’d rely on those skills along his career journey.  

Like many teenagers, Matt got a job so he could drive. Unlike many teenagers, he was cool with getting to work at 4 a.m. on Saturdays and Sundays and happily accepted a promotion to opening weekend manager.  

“I’ve always been motivated to work hard, grow, and take opportunities,” he said.  

When it came time to select a postsecondary pathway, however, Matt had a slightly different motivation. “I knew I wanted to be able to mountain bike from my dorm and ski as much as possible,” he said. “Much to my mom’s disappointment, I submitted one application, strictly based on the location where I could bike and ski the most.”  

That fall, he enrolled at Plymouth State with $1,500 in his pocket. “I thought, ‘that’s plenty,’ ” Matt recalled. “And then by October I realized, ‘oh, I’m broke, I need a job.’ ”  

The good thing about McDonald’s is that you’re rarely far from one. Matt quickly landed a job at the Plymouth McDonald’s and spent the next four years working as a night manager.  

Meanwhile, he was trying to figure out what to do with his life. Graduating in 2010 with a history degree—after changing his major three times—he hoped to go directly to graduate school so he could teach but wasn’t financially ready. Falling back on his hospitality experience, he ended up taking a job waiting tables at Lago in Meredith. That led to a stint bartending, then a management position at the Lake House Grille.  

Matt loved the area and didn’t mind the hard work and long hours until he met his future wife, Riley, and knew he wanted a schedule that was more stable and more aligned with her teaching schedule. He was able to transfer his restaurant event planning skills to a job as an admissions events coordinator at Plymouth State. The job meant a significant pay cut but put him on a new, promising path. From there, he worked his way up the ladder in admissions, eventually serving as interim director for four years before coming to Granite Edvance.  

All the while, his customer service skills have served him well.  

“The reality is that every job is at its core is a customer service job. It doesn’t matter if you’re offering your skills, a product, or your time, in the end, it’s all about how you make people feel,” said Matt, now a father of two and still living in ski country. “You have to be genuine though. You have to treat people fairly and honestly. It makes all the difference.”  

This is the first in a series that aims to help inform students about possible career pathways by sharing our own stories. Stay tuned for more, and don’t forget to follow us on FacebookInstagram, and LinkedIn.

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