Walking into the Weatherford College agriculture classroom to speak with a group of students brought on déjà vu for Matt Brockman, who was a student in the same room 30 years prior.
Brockman, the Publicity Manager for the Southwestern Exposition and Livestock Show in Fort Worth, paid a visit to Vance Christie’s ag classes earlier this semester to share experiences from his career that he hopes are beneficial lessons for today’s students.
Brockman attended WC from 1979 to 1982 before attending Tarleton State University. He worked his way through school on the ranches of western Parker County.
He spoke highly of his WC instructors Mike Bergman, J.C. Colton and Mike Brown, none of which were much older than he was during his time as a student.
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“They were full of ideas and full of energy,” Brockman said. “They weren’t afraid to get outside the box and talk to us about the industry and where we might could possibly fit in.”
Brockman told the students their career is a journey that starts when they are in school, and WC placed him on a great path.
“I knew I wanted a degree, but beyond that I just assumed I’d do something in ranching or livestock industry,” he said. “I had no idea that in just two or three short years I’d be living one block away from the United States Capitol and working in the capitol itself.”
While attending WC, Brockman met Congressman Charlie Stenholm and his perseverance in attending town hall meetings, meeting the congressman’s staff and making good impressions led to a job offer.
For a young Texan who had never been east of Tyler, north of Kansas or seen the ocean, moving to D.C. was a life-changing experience. After some time in Stenholm’s office, Brockman left to lobby for the National Grain and Feed Association and traveled the nation.
He later returned to Texas to work for then-Agriculture Commissioner Rick Perry, spent two years in Dallas working in finance and, in 1991, accepted the position of Executive Vice President of the Texas & Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association.
“They had financial trouble and I had to go in and make some hard decisions,” Brockman said. “We restored their financial stability.”
After TSCRA, he wasn’t sure what life had in store for him, but he soon joined the team at the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo as the Administrative Manager. He now works as the Publicity Manager overseeing advertising, new releases, website and social media.
During his motivating talk with WC ag students, the groups’ attention was peaked when Brockman started listing the seasonal jobs and internship opportunities available to them during the 23-day stock show and rodeo.
He spoke of the importance of first impressions and what they post publicly on social media, because potential employers will look them up online.
“Your smarts, talents and abilities will only get you so far,” he said. “The rest comes from work ethic, your attitude and your network. That network that you are starting right now with each other. You don’t know who in this room 10 years from now is going to be in an important position or you may be in that position. Start cultivating that network, and use it with sincerity.”
He also encouraged them to be the best communicator they can, both in the spoken and written word. Brockman said when he was their age he thought he could write, but he received a wake-up call when he was asked to answer letters for the congressman during his D.C. job.
“I had an electric typewriter, and I started writing these letters,” he said. “About a day later the chief of staff came back as said, ‘We’ve got to talk about your writing. It’s not good.’ That was a big eye opener for me.”
But he didn’t let it get him down. Brockman enrolled in a writing course, and later ventured into feature writing and photography which are a big part of his current job.
“Being a good communicator, putting thoughts down on paper – and it can’t be this text message writing – it has to be real writing,” he said. “Never stop learning.”
His other nuggets of advice to the students included an encouragement to volunteer, to learn from disappointments, and to remember their journey will include peaks, valleys and dead ends.
“Weatherford College is still the wonderful institution it was when I attended here more than 30 years ago,” Brockman said following his talk with students. “It’s nice to come back to campus and see everything. You can see that there is still something really good in higher education, and it’s right here.”