2013 30 Under 35 Profile: Matt Taets

2013 30 Under 35 Profile: Matt Taets


Matthew Taets
District Sales Manager, RAB Lighting

By Joe Nowlan

Think the personal interview is an important part of the hiring process? Forget it.

In 2006, Matthew Taets was hired in sight unseen by RAB Lighting. He was working in Germany when RAB Lighting’s New Jersey location had an opening for an art director.

While Taets sent RAB some digital files of his work, they spoke only via conference calls without an in-person meeting. Not even on Skype.

They offered Taets the job and a couple of weeks later he flew to New Jersey to sign the contract and find an apartment. Hardly your normal hiring process.

“I guess there was a little bit of risk involved for both. For myself, having never before seen the facility or the factory [in New Jersey]… And of course they had never met me in person. But it’s been a wonderful relationship ever since I started there,” Taets said.

Actually, Matt had never even been to the East Coast before, having grown up in Iowa. He was working in Germany as was his wife, Yana, who is Russian.

How he and Yana ended up married and living in Germany is another story by itself.

After finishing high school, Taets lived in Russia on a student exchange program. He was staying with a host family in which the daughter (Yana) was the only one who spoke English.

When Taets moved back to Iowa he went to Iowa State University to study graphic design. He kept in touch and knew that Yana had moved to Germany.

Taets went to work for Cabela’s, the large hunting and fishing retailer based in Nebraska. The job eventually involved some overseas travel. On one trip, Taets made a stop in Germany.

“I e-mailed [Yana] to tell her I was going to be in Germany for a few days and asked her to dinner. Even though I hadn’t seen her in about six years,” he laughed.

So the two arranged to meet for what turned out to be “an amazing dinner,” Taets explained. Taets invited Yana to visit him in Nebraska. A few months later Yana came and stayed for 10 days.

“On the seventh or eighth day, I proposed to her,” Taets said. The two were soon married and moved to Germany.

He is now a district sales manager for RAB, not an art director. What happened was that two years ago, RAB decided it needed more district sales managers out in the field—specifically the Midwest.

“They asked if I would be interested in moving from my art-design role into a sales role,” Taets recalled. “It was a nice opportunity to take a step up. And it was an opportunity to move back to the Midwest.”

He manages RAB’s upper Midwest District— Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska, Kansas, North and South Dakota, Montana, Wyoming and parts of Wisconsin, Illinois and Washington State.

The Taets have lived in Chaska, Minnesota for two years. Yana and Matthew have a four year-old son, Alex, who already speaks English and Russian.

“He can switch between English and Russian with no effort,” Taets said. “Occasionally I’ll hear [mother and son] in another room talking to each other in English [and then] in Russian. It’s pretty much interchangeable.”

Q. What advice do you have for other young professionals in the electrical industry?

A. The best advice that I could give is to not believe that you’re destined for any particular thing. Believe that you can create your own destiny. You can affect where you end up if you are willing to show people your interest and keep developing yourself. Never stop learning because one day you might be an art director, and you think that all of your knowledge is in design. But if you apply yourself and show interest in other areas, people will recognize that drive that you have and you’ll be rewarded for it.

Q. What is one of the biggest challenges of running your department in today’s economic climate?

A. I think that most people are trying to do more with less – fewer people, fewer resources. So one challenge is making sure the information that I give to my reps and the help that I give them is an effective use of their time and mine. The last thing I want to do is make a sales call somewhere and sit down and BS about the weather for two hours [for example] and give them no useful, practical information. I want to make sure when I’m going on-site and traveling… that the information I’m giving people is information that can benefit their business and help them be more successful.

Joe Nowlan is a Boston-based freelance writer/editor and author. He can be reached at

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