Student Profile: Matt Sly '07
Post-MBA Position: Program Manager, Microsoft
Thereís something pretty compelling about writing a letter to your future self. Itís a very human exercise to sit down and ruminate over who youíre going to be in the future and what you can do now to help the future you become who you want that person to be. Iíve owned the domain name for FutureMe.org since at least 2001. I was at a point in my own life where I was wondering, what am I going to be like in 5, 10, or 15 years from now? I was trying to map things out for myself and I figured there were all these people out there going through the same thing and I thought it would be a good idea to have a community where people can share in this. As we try to craft our approaches to the future, as we wrestle with these big existential questions, itís helpful to know that there are others out there, too, who are going through the exact same things.
The idea to actually go forward with FutureMe.org came on a night when we had some friends in our house and we were talking about whatever you talk about when you have dinner and drinks with your friends. We were playing Trivial Pursuit and not surprisingly we got to talking about how inaccurate memories are. I remembered how we had to write these letters to ourselves the first day of freshman year that were collected by guidance counselors and returned to us when we were seniors. The idea for the website basically sprung out of that. Everyone thought it was a great idea, especially Jay Patrikios, whoís my partner in FurtureMe. There was one friend, who said, ďThat is the dumbest thing I ever heard.Ē She thought it was an utter waste of time. We havenít been shy about letting her know how wrong she was.
We launched FutureMe.org in 2002. We didnít expect it to amount to much. But Jay worked at Lycos at the time and he knew a lot of people and we got a mention on Webmonkey, which is an online web-building magazine that targets hipster web hackers, and then it just took off. It was really organic. I still canít figure it out. Weíve been in the Los Angeles Times and on NPR. We average about 25,000 hits per day, and have had upwards of a million after some of this press. We even have a book deal now. A book of the best emails is coming out in November. Itís crazy.
For three years ó 2001 to 2004 ó I did a lot of technology work for a charter high school. I built out their database and their website and their scheduling system and their fundraising system and managed their system in the labs and the budget. I would not be surprised if over the long term I have some kind of melding between technology and education.
A lot of the reason why I came here is because I felt like I had technology skills and I enjoyed programming and I enjoyed building projects, but I didn't really want to just focus on implementation my whole life. And I was interested in thinking about the bigger picture and being part of management decisions relating to technology. SOM, with its diverse student body and emphasis on public and nonprofit sectors, has prepared me to do that.
Itís funny that a lot of my friends at SOM didnít know I was doing FutureMe until they heard me on NPR. The popularity of FutureMe reminds me of the fire I have for building projects ó itís just really rewarding to have real people out there getting real value from this thing that Iíve help create. When I graduate Iíll be working for Microsoft, where Iíll be a program manager. Itís really exciting. But Iíll continue with FutureMe. Iíve reached out to some friends for help, but I donít foresee ever really handing it off to someone. Thereís a lot of my heart and soul poured in there; itís my baby. But itís stressful. Itís just gotten so big. Anytime we make a little change I hold my breath. There are 390,000 emails in there now. Thatís a lot of people counting on hearing from their past selves, so I've got to be careful not to hit the wrong button and delete them all.
Interviewed on April 2, 2007.