Among UCLA Anderson’s student body and alumni network are several U.S. Olympians, many of them medalists. As Rio 2016 escalates, we’re profiling five standouts who talk about their athletic team training and how an Anderson education influenced their esprit de corps.
By David Davis
Matt Smith (’10), Swimming
2008 Beijing Olympics (alternate)
Matt Smith’s Olympic experience was bittersweet. His time in the pool was fast enough to qualify for the 2008 Games in Beijing, but he was beaten out of a spot for the Estonia team by a fellow swimmer. “It would’ve been awesome to go to the Olympics,” he said, “but just trying to make it was a very enjoyable process. Pushing yourself, having a goal, and tracking how you’re doing was great. I swam my personal best in qualifying, so I don’t feel like I left anything on the table.”
Smith found that, in sharp contrast to the individualized nature of competitive swimming, studying at Anderson was a powerful “community experience.” Said Smith: “At UCLA, the thing that felt the most genuine was the interaction between all the students, with everyone helping each other and motivating each other, rather than trying to compete with each other. Even now as an alum, I find everyone to be so supportive.”
Working in groups, as Smith did at Anderson, has helped his business career because “I learned how to delegate work effectively,” he said. “I learned how to trust and empower other people to do whatever components of the project they’re in charge of. Teamwork is about communication and making sure everyone has at least an understanding of what you’re looking to accomplish.”
When he was in the pool, Smith had clear-cut training goals and personal benchmarking. He has adopted that sort of regimen in business. “Having goals and metrics in your career is helpful,” he said, “because you can get stuck if you don’t have any idea of where you want to be going.”
Smith now works in the emerging technologies group at San Diego Gas & Electric.