Matthew Kubiak was on track for a career in some kind of athletic pursuit.
A runner during his high school and college days, Kubiak competed from 2005-07 under an endorsement from Reebok after earning a bachelor’s degree in health and wellness from the State University of New York at Buffalo. He then obtained a master’s in health and physical education/fitness from the University of Arizona.
While in Arizona, he learned about a weekly rodeo in Pagosa Springs.
“I had a bucket list, and on that bucket list was bull riding,” he said.
So he gave it a shot and moved to Pagosa.
“I got a [Professional Rodeo Cowboy] license and a [Professional Bull Rider] license, and I actually kind of did well at it,” he said.
His rodeo career lasted five years, until he was severely injured in August 2014. That injury was life-changing in more ways than one. Besides altering his career trajectory, it solidified his relationship with the Colorado Springs woman who was to become his wife.
Kubiak, now a sales engineer at Axis Business Technologies, community activist and father of five, spoke with the Business Journal about his career path and why he thinks it’s important for young professionals to get involved in the community.
How did you get into bull riding?
Somebody who wears sandals every day, right? I think I’m an adrenaline guy. I like to ride dirt bikes and motorcycles, and it was just kind of a bucket list thing. I wanted to do it once, and I did. And a friend of mine was the stock contractor for that rodeo. … and he asked me how I liked it afterwards. And I said it was fun. … And he said, ‘You know, I think for whatever reason you’re crazy enough to have a little bit of talent. I’d like to train you.’ The rest is history. I just kept doing it.
[My girlfriend lived in Colorado Springs.] She was with me when I got hurt pretty bad. I was in a coma for about a week, and in the hospital and recovery for almost six more months. And she stuck around the whole time. I married her, and that’s how I found my way here to Colorado Springs.
So you got into sales after you retired from track and field?
I sold boats and motorcycles — power sports, is what you call it — at a dealership in Arizona while I was going to grad school. Then I relocated to Pagosa Springs, and I sold timeshares for 4½ years. I’ve had three jobs since I lived in Colorado Springs. The first was a really short stint doing case management for a life insurance company. … Then I went to work for a nationwide hearing company that’s based here. I became their executive director of business development for managed care. And then I went to Axis, and that’s where I’ve been for the last two years and change.
What does your current job entail?
Axis started out as a copier company, and about nine years ago, the owner of the company rebranded and became a full-service office technology company. We still do copiers, but we also do things like servers, computers, AV conference room solutions, video walls, a little bit of IT services — everything that falls under the technology umbrella for business. My job entails meeting with business owners and talking about what their processes look like … and how can I help improve that efficiency using technology? [As a Digital Signage Certified Expert,] I delve into [return on investment and return on objectives], software for content management and what businesses can expect out of digital signage.
What professional skills have you gained over the years?
There was really a paradigm shift for me about two years ago, when I started working with Axis. I realized that I was an athlete, right? So I was very much focused on myself. And there was this shift that happened — I started trying to give back any way that I could. That led me to where I’m at today. I sit on three different board of director positions. I am chairperson of the young professionals committee with the Southern Colorado Women’s Chamber of Commerce, and then various other committees for the Banning Lewis Ranch Academy. My specific involvement with them is for their 5K road race. In giving back as much as I can, it’s actually come back and helped me in a business sense. I started to learn more about what people’s needs, goals and wants are, as opposed to what I can sell them. And so that’s really, really helped me to both be respected in the community and a trusted advisor when it comes to technology for these companies.
Why do you think young professionals should be involved in community service?
We genuinely are the future of everything that will take place in our community and other communities as well. I mean, someday, the mayor of the city will be somebody who is currently a young professional, or at one time was a young professional. These are all needed in our community, and by having young professionals involved, then someday, when those leadership positions open up to continue those organizations, it’s able to happen.
You are past president of Pikes Peak Pros. How did you get involved in that organization?
Pikes Peak Pros began as another organization, and I was their third official member. And they had a giant shift in leadership, and we held a meeting to decide what direction for that organization to take. We elected to rebrand and have a big shift and they elected me the president. It was essentially a leads group. I don’t want to join a leads group — a group where there’s forced referrals and things like that. It’s just not how I operate. … And so Pikes Peak Pros started to give back to various organizations like Tri-Lakes Cares. We try to do community education for business owners. There is a referral aspect to it, but it’s really just trying to do something good for our community business owners.
Do you think that it’s a good idea for young professionals to join networking groups like this?
I think that it’s extremely important to network. I think the type of networking group that young professionals elect to join can vary. It’s important for them to join the right type of group based on what their business goals and their needs are. As professionals in general, but certainly young professionals, we can get caught confusing motion with progress. And so making yourself busy and going to events and things like that, that don’t do anything to grow you as a professional or grow your business or whatever your goals are, is absolutely that confusing notion of progress.
What advice would you give to other young professionals?
I think that it’s extremely important to get involved in the community. In looking back on my professional working career, I was focused on really just a couple of things, myself, my paycheck. Then there was that shift that happened, where I just decided, ‘Hey, I’m going to get involved in everything that I think is important.’ An easy example for that is the Women’s Chamber of Commerce. Their core values of trying to do good and promote and help move forward women and minorities doing business are super important to me. And I think that for young professionals, if you can find something that you are proud to do, and it gives back to the community, it’s going to help you tremendously in your career.
How does it help?
So there’s education seminars, there’s professional development, there’s professional growth. There’s, of course, the networking aspects — everybody’s got their business after hours, or the breakfast that happens monthly, or whatever it may be. There’s the relationships that are created through all of this.
What do you love about the Springs?
What I love about Colorado Springs versus Denver, because I do a little networking in Denver — it’s a transactional city up there. I could legitimately probably go to an event up there with a contract in my pocket and sell it and close that deal up there. That’s never going to happen in Colorado Springs. Colorado Springs is very, very relationship-focused, and I love that about it. Two years ago, I didn’t know anybody in the city but my wife and my wife’s friends. I didn’t have any professional connections here. I threw myself into the city and, today, I know a lot of people and most of them I call my friend. And that goes along with business as well — nobody can do it on their own. And so to have those resources, friends, relationships — whatever you want to call it — that you can reach out to is super important.
There’s a huge population of people in this city that are doing amazing things, and I get to be a part of that, and I love it. You know, when I look at Colorado Springs, I should say from an outsider perspective, I step back and I see the growth, and the innovation and all the good things that are coming out of the city. What I really hope for, for Colorado Springs, is that we continue to be prosperous and make these great advancements but always maintain that feel that it has right now, which is the relationships, the friendliness, the not being Denver.
So any lingering desire to get back on a bull?
Yeah, there’s a desire. But you know, I’ve got five kids and a wife and a mortgage and everything else that comes along with it. So for me, while I want to selfishly ride a bull again, I absolutely wouldn’t put everything that I hold much more important at risk.