Sea Change: An Everyday Journey to Great
Matthew Knutsen started working with Pure Water Systems at just 19 years old. He’s now 25 and has grown up with the company. What he’s learned during this time - about water and himself - has fundamentally shifted his perspectives on career and life.
A career catalyst
When Gold Coaster Matthew Knutsen took on a sales job with a local, family-owned water filtration business, he had no idea what was ahead. At 19, he’d had a couple of sales gigs, and saw this as more of the same. And ‘more of the same’ felt ok - having moved out of home at fourteen years old after a family fall out, he needed the cash.
Little did Matt know that he was starting an important journey, and that six years later, he’d still be at Pure Water Systems, as an embedded team member and advocate.
“I was originally hired in the outbound sales team but it wasn’t the perfect fit for me. A couple of months in, my manager, Crystal, approached me. She said, ‘You’re awesome at dealing with customers but not so much at sales!’ She asked if I’d like the opportunity to work in customer service instead, and that was definitely the right step for me.”
The fact that Pure Water Systems (PWS) helped Matt move into the right area meant a lot to him, and when he transitioned to customer service, he really found his niche.
“You have to have passions in your job, and my main one is trouble-shooting. I actually really like helping customers who have come to us with a problem, and finding a solution for them. When a customer is unhappy at first and I can turn it around for them with solutions and positivity, that’s a great result.”
Another important milestone in Matt’s journey was the arrival, three years ago, of former CEO, Jill Annear. It’s clear that her approach to leadership had a big impact on Matthew, and he has enormous respect for her as a result.
“From the moment Jill started, the whole company went in a completely different direction. She really pushed an employee-first perspective, with a belief that ‘the happier your employees, the happier your clients.’ The recognition and respect she gave everyone has done a heck of a lot for our organisation - she’s given us a voice.”
Growing up – a fresh perspective
Jill’s arrival also encouraged Matt to make some changes in his life.
“I’d left home very young - I thought I was wiser than I was. When Jill came into the company, I started really thinking about my future. I decided to move back home in order to save some money and get established. Then I met my partner and we moved in together. We’ve been living together for almost a year now”
Meanwhile, Matt’s job has changed him in other ways. He works with water every day, and the more he’s learned, the more he’s been affected.
“When I started here six years ago, I was completely uneducated about water and what’s in it. I thought I was just selling another product. But the more I researched, the more I realised how important it is.”
This awakening sparked something of a health renaissance for Matthew, who became more mindful about what he was putting in his body.
“When water is your main focus at work, it makes you look inwards and consider other parts of your life. I went from eating fast food every day - I loved Maccas – to eating fruit. I’ve also started working out every day and I quit smoking – it’s been a year since my last smoke. Making those changes has had a snowball effect on my whole life.”
A new wave
When you’re passionate about your product and you’re a positive person, it’s inevitable that you’ll do great things. Matthew recently took out Pure Water Systems’ Team Member of the Year Award - an honour that his former CEO says is well-deserved.
“It’s been such a joy to see Matt progress from a teenager working to make some cash to spend on the weekend, to a mature young man who has found his strengths and recognised his own personal ‘mojo’ - which is all about helping others. Whether it’s his teammates or customers, Matt always goes above and beyond. He is a fantastic problem solver and does it all with an amazing smile - always!”
When asked about the Award, Matt is characteristically humble. However, it’s also obvious that he’s deeply proud.
“Each person nominated for Employee of the Month goes into the running for the award, and everyone who stood up there as finalists 100% deserved it. Winning was a very special achievement and an honour. Pure Water Systems has always looked after me and helped me become who I am today so I will always be grateful.”
As he reflects on his journey over the past six years, Matt comes to one clear conclusion - none of it would have been possible without the right people in his corner. While Jill Annear has moved on, it’s clear Matt remains positive about the opportunity he has at Pure Water Systems.
“The leadership team here really believes in me. I’ve had the opportunity to undertake training and develop my skills - now I train new employees. I think that outstanding leadership is about caring and really knowing the people you work with. I feel seen and appreciated for who I am.”
As our conversation ends and Matt heads back to his customers, I can’t help but feel energised. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from the work we do, it’s that everyone has a career story to tell. I’ve come to realise that it’s not all about drama and big impact - the quieter, everyday journeys of people ‘doing their thing’ are often the most important. Why? Because they remind us that we all matter, and that we all have impact on other people’s lives.
Matthew Knutsen is a great example of precisely that.
About the Author
Mark Puncher is Employer Branding Australia’s Founder and Chief Energy Officer. Having spent much of the last 20 years with one foot in recruitment and the other in marketing, Mark loves helping fantastic, imperfect organisations bring their stories to life to engage their future superstars.
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