Park Perspectives: The plan after the plan

By: Park Perspectives
Matt Pundmann, Two-Year MBA '19, with Johnson classmates in Tokyo
Matt Pundmann, Two-Year MBA ’19, brought in the 2019 New Year in Tokyo, Japan with a group of friends from Johnson.

By Matt Pundmann, Two-Year MBA ’19
Park Perspectives are authored by Johnson’s Park Leadership Fellows.

Creating “the plan”

About eight years ago I was “studying” in the Hatcher Graduate Library, more commonly known as “the stacks,” at the University of Michigan. I was staring at my computer unable to focus, as I was frustrated with a second straight semester of what I considered sub-par grades. This frustration only grew when thinking about the future because I knew that I wanted to integrate sustainability into the business world and the leaders within the space all seemingly followed a path that necessitated traditional metrics of success.

More specifically, when I looked at individuals’ career paths from Blu Skye and EDF + Business (two leading sustainability consulting firms that I envisioned working at) everyone seemed to have worked at a major consulting firm and obtained an MBA—accomplishments resulting from academic success. While part of my anxiety stemmed from apocalyptical thinking that is a distinct specialty of being young, I recognized and was frustrated with the gap between my desired career and my current grades.

Unknowingly and preemptively, I channeled the lessons from my first class here at Johnson, Leading Teams, and I wrote a contract to myself stating that I would do whatever was necessary to study at a top sustainability-oriented MBA program. That scrap of paper was placed in my wallet and remains there to this day. While the contract is a cringe-worthy read these days (are there any personal journals or contracts that age well?), it clearly served its purpose and helped keep me focused throughout the highs and lows since that day in “the stacks.”

Becoming comfortable in uncertainty

This is all a roundabout way to state that I have lived my life according to a plan for nearly a decade and I have to ask the question: What is next? I have ostensibly completed my goal and am now mere months away from graduation with a job in hand that gives me an opportunity to integrate sustainability into my daily work, but I no longer have a linear path in front of me like I have had for the past eight years. Additionally, my metrics of “success” are changing from objective, close-ended questions (i.e. did I get a consulting job and was I admitted to an MBA program?) to more subjective, open-ended questions (i.e. am I happy, is my job fulfilling, and what do I value?). In theory, these are all questions I should have asked myself before coming back to graduate school or taking a job, but here I am.

This transition into the unknown might come off as frictionless, but I am not comfortable with the idea of not knowing. As a result, I have attempted to devise another plan for the next eight years on numerous occasions, but my efforts go about as well as you’d expect—nowhere. An unexpected benefit of these efforts is that they have fueled interesting conversations with my amazing classmates about jobs, life, family, and relationships. It is through these conversations and in this community that I find a similar sense of stability and understanding which used to come from living according to a plan. I have not been able to answer the questions that face me in this next phase, but I don’t think anyone ever truly can. These questions include but are not limited to:

  • Am I being a good partner, son/daughter, and friend?
  • When is the right time to move to the next stage in life? Is there a right time?
  • What values do I stand for, and how do these values impact the people around me?
  • Is this job/activity/organization producing impact that I believe in?
  • Am I spending my time and effort on people and activities that I care about?
  • How do my priorities align with the distribution of my time and effort?
  • How do I and how often should I assess what I am doing to ensure alignment with my values and desired impact?

All we can do is to surround ourselves with a supportive community to create the space to ask the tough questions, and luckily, I have found that very community and space here at Johnson. While I do not know if I will ever be able to establish a long-term goal like the one that I made to get here, my immediate plan is to fully invest myself into the remainder of this experience and the people of this community to ensure that we all have the space to ask the tough questions long into the future.

About Matt Pundmann, Two-Year MBA ’19

Matt Pundmann

Matt Pundmann is a second-year MBA candidate at Johnson. Before business school, Matt worked with Deloitte Consulting primarily focusing on optimizing large organizations’ end-to-end supply chains. After graduation, Matt will be returning the Deloitte Consulting as a senior consultant within the Strategy & Operations offering. Matt holds a BA in environmental science and a BBA from the University of Michigan – Ann Arbor.

Read more from Matt: