CRA Mentor Series – Getting to know Matt List
We encourage consultants to take an opportunity to connect with one another. In this interview, Analyst Chris Dalla Riva gains insight on professional and personal development from Principal Matt List. Both Chris and Matt are members of the Antitrust & Competition Economics practice and based in Boston.
Principal Matt List and Analyst Chris Dalla Riva
Chris: Hi Matt, thanks for taking the time today. You were my supervisor when I was an intern here at CRA two years ago. I’m reflecting back because our 2018 interns are currently here for the summer. Do you have any advice for them?
Matt: I think this is a hard job to learn. There are no books or guidelines on being an analyst. There is a lot of learning on the fly. Your internship at CRA is a way to get your feet wet. You should use your months here to get a head start and pick things up that you can’t learn in a training module. The work you do here is the same as if you were a full-time employee, but you have the advantage of being in a position where your colleagues and supervisors know you’re mostly here to learn.
I still remember my internship here. My first project was with John Griffin [Vice President, Corporate] and the first lesson he taught me was don’t ever go into a meeting without a notebook and pen. Of course, I learned other things too, like how to program in SAS and check a report. I also worked on a long-running, large scale price-fixing litigation. I was fortunate because I had the opportunity to get pushed into the fire and learn a lot with projects like that.
Chris: Something you’ve always stressed and taught as a supervisor is that it’s all in the details, whether checking a report or running code. It seems that’s the bread and butter of the work.
Matt: Absolutely. Details are important. I’m not sure there is one single thing you can do to make your career here. However, being careless is one surefire way to ruin your reputation. You can’t shake that once you’re known for it. Our clients have high expectations. Project managers who are given a choice of whom to work with on a case will naturally always choose the detail-oriented team member.
Chris: You mentioned John Griffin. Any other mentors?
Matt: Definitely. As I climbed through the ranks here, I was given more responsibility by many others. I also took the time to learn from colleagues who started out as project managers and are now vice presidents. Andrew Dick, Sean May, Peter Boberg, and Monica Noether (all VPs in the Antitrust & Competition Economics practice) are just a few of the people who have been great teachers. For someone who has spent their entire career at one company, I can say that the more advantages you take to learn and prove yourself, the more opportunities people are willing to give you.
Q: Switching gears—how do you maintain balance between your professional and personal life?
A: Honestly, it’s become harder. At first, I was an intern sharing an apartment with five roommates. Rent and pizza were my living expenses. I had no commitments outside the office. As you move up within the organization though, your personal commitments increase over time too.
Setting expectations is key. People will always have demands on your time, but you’re not doing anyone any favors by over-extending yourself. You have to be honest with yourself, colleagues, and clients. I have two kids, so I try to make it home for dinner and bed time, and then sign back online after they’re asleep. That part of my day is really important to me.
What is interesting about CRA, and the Competition practice in particular, is that in many ways we’re structured similar to the law firms that we work with. Often times, my corresponding counterpart at a law firm has the same type of demands on his or her time, both professionally and personally.
In addition, I’ve learned that finding out how your peers handle work/life balance helps. You can pick and choose from other people’s approaches and experiences and create your own, efficient system.
Chris: If you could give advice to your younger self, what would you say?
Matt: When I started out in my career, I would sometimes send emails to my project manager without keeping their viewpoint in mind. Looking back now, I realize I wasn’t thinking ahead to what questions may arise or which details my manager would need to know. Sometimes, my messages may have been too detailed. Details I thought were significant were not as important to the other person synthesizing the information. Your communication goal should be to make peoples’ lives easier. All deliverables should be clear and well thought-out.
Chris: I agree with that perspective. You can spend a lot of time contemplating how to phrase something, but you have to keep the receiver in mind.
Matt: Yes, and it also comes down to writing well. Being a good writer is an important skill. The ability to take something complicated and write it succinctly—in a way that will be clear to a broader audience—is a skill that takes practice.
Chris: Last question—what do you love about working at CRA? What keeps you here?
Matt: When I applied for an internship at CRA in 2004, I didn’t think I’d still be here today. [Laughs] I like that things don’t get boring. Project work changes all the time, even the long projects. Also, your tool set is constantly evolving through discussions with colleagues, both within the Practice and across the firm. CRA always has a way of keeping things interesting.