Business Alumni Update | 2015

On the frontline of the fight against Ebola

Matt Simpson, Master of Business Administration

Matt Simpson on site in West Africa

If someone had told him five years ago that he would study in the Caribbean and work in West Africa, Matt Simpson would never have believed them, but that is exactly what happened for this UniSA MBA graduate, who decided to head back to university for post-graduate study ten years after receiving his Bachelor’s degree.

Armed with a Bachelor of Information Systems from the University of Melbourne, Matt began his career with Apple in 2003, working as technical support and team leader located both in London and Sydney.

After leaving Apple he became an ICT Coordinator for Monte Sant’ Angelo Mercy College in Sydney, until an opportunity presented to his wife posed new possibilities for his own career too.

“My wife was offered a year-long volunteer assignment in Dominica (East Caribbean), which gave me the opportunity to focus on post-graduate study while I went to support her,” Matt says.

“I’d already started seeking out MBA courses, and UniSA was highly regarded and offered the most flexible study options – I ended up being able to do more than half the course from a Caribbean island!”

Matt finished his Masters of Business Administration at the beginning of 2015, and in January he flew across to West Africa, to Sierra Leone, to work for Concern Worldwide as an Ebola Response Manager.

Concern Worldwide, an international humanitarian organisation, has been working in Sierra Leone since 1996, and as part of this team, Matt helped the fight against the spread of the Ebola epidemic in one of the two worst-affected countries in the world.

“As an Ebola Manager in the district of Tonkolili, my role was to coordinate Concern’s surveillance activities; teams would receive community alerts about sick or deceased persons, and others would travel to collect information about their symptoms and recent contacts.”

Matt’s roles included building informal relationships and developing communications with partners and communities, as well as assisting a local NGO, Real Women in Action Sierra Leone, with basic budgeting, reporting, marketing advice and human resourcing guidance.

Matt’s experiences during his time working and living in one of the poorest districts of Sierra Leone have stayed with him since his return six months ago, and have influenced him both professionally and personally.

“Before I arrived, I was given the great advice to rid myself of preconceptions, and in the end I became very good at two things: preparing for any eventuality, and continuously asking questions and checking my understanding,” he says.

“I feel more resilient – to change, and to challenges; I have a better understanding of where my limits lie, and when to ask for help.

“Personally, this experience has made one thing clearer: the joy in growing and learning, as opposed to the futility of comparing ourselves with others – plus, a hot, clean shower is something truly special when you’ve gone months without consistent running water!”

Matt, living once more in Sydney, has recently joined Qantas as part of a new Service Integration team, focusing on business value and the employee experience, and says that considering his career journey so far, he cannot imagine what awaits him in the future.

“I never saw myself studying in the Caribbean or working in West Africa; I feel fortunate to be in Sydney now, working with an exceptional organisation on an ambitious change project.”

Matt has this message to new and future graduates starting out in the world: “you can guarantee that opportunities will present themselves to you, in some way, throughout your career.

“You can’t predict when, or what they will look like; just be prepared to say yes to things that feel right.”

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