Alumnus Matthew O’Hare: 5 years on

A former student of Kent accredited campus London Contemporary Dance School (LCDS) and recently recognised future leader in the ‘40 under 40’ (Scottish Business News), International Executive Matthew O’Hare took some time out of his busy schedule to tell us more about his memories of studying through Kent and shared what he has been working on since graduating with a BA (Hons) (2011) and a PGDip (2012) in Contemporary Dance.

It’s been a whirlwind almost 5 years since my journey with LCDS came to a close and what a lot has happened in that time. I now work with in the Scottish Government’s international economic development arm – Scottish Development International (SDI) – delivering senior Ministerial visits overseas.

As an Executive, I am tasked with maximising trade and investment visits aligning with the Scottish Government’s Programme for Government (PfG) on a global footprint. Core to this, is working with in-market specialists across our Global Network (SDI has 29 overseas offices, either sole operations or co-habiting with FCO) and sector specialists delivering briefings, high-quality event management, speeches and media/comms/marketing activity.

I’m also involved in a number of external projects including the US State Department’s Youth Leadership Programme YLUK, am fortunate enough to be mentored at CEO level of a major public sector company and most recently received Ministerial approval to take up a Non-Executive Director role as a Board Member of Scotland’s largest education region – Lanarkshire – where I sit on the regional strategic body.

So how, you may be thinking, does an Executive working in the area of Economic Development wind up in such a high-profile role with a background in Dance? The correlation between my work experience and education is actually a lot closer than you may assume. I had several Universities I was choosing between and I remember being so drawn to LCDS for its reputation for high-quality teaching, opportunities for collaboration and feedback from students on the skill-set they left with that served them well, regardless of the profession they pursued. I was fortunate to be put forward by my lecturers to coordinate graduate touring across the UK and Europe. This was really my first experience doing what I now call ’Stakeholder Engagement’, coordinating international events and really opened up my mind to the skill-set I could extract and apply in almost any sector.

And I have – my professional break came through the Commonwealth Graduate Fund gaining employment as a Producer on the Commonwealth Games Culture Programme. Since working in Local Authority; I have developed events and strategic relations experience also working in the Education sector, at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, before taking up my current position at the beginning of last year.

My earliest ambitions go back to an enthusiastic young man thriving off passionate environments. Platforms where you can share a genuine drive to make a change. Parallel to my dance training was an abiding intrigue in diplomacy, politics and international relations and to those that know me it’s little surprise I’ve taken the route I have to where I am now. I take great joy in the networks I operate in and various roles I have doing my part to help make a difference.

One of the biggest pieces of advice I would impart to recent or upcoming graduates, is to proactively look out a sounding board to talk through your ambitions, challenges and if you can – someone outside your direct employment. Experienced strategic guidance is gold dust. Amongst the best pieces of advice I’ve ever been given by my mentor is “Learn to Walk before you Run”. Ambition is great and don’t ever loose your core purpose of what drives you and where you want to go. But don’t miss out on enjoying the experiences you already have around you, take the time to hone your craft, build your networks and importantly reputation – these are all vital exercises and in the long term will pay off far more than jumping on to the next project or job before you’ve really drawn all you can from your current circumstances.

The immediate few years after graduating are by far the most fast-paced, exciting, challenging and potentially memorable in your life adventure. They are a time to build your resilience, follow what genuinely makes you tick and by putting in the effort to invest in yourself can be truly rewarding. Many of my former University classmates often remark how it is many years after graduating that lessons our lecturers imparted come to fruition – this is so true and I would implore each student currently at or coming to a close in their studies through Kent to draw as much from your lecturers and fellow classmates as you can. You never now when and just how useful this training can be.

You can connect with Matthew via LinkedIn.