Human on the Inside with Mental Health Australia’s Matt Berriman


5 min read

We’re big believers in the power of human skills. But don’t just take our word for it – the evidence for excellence powered by human (‘soft’) skills are everywhere! In this engaging, ever-enlightening series, we speak with industry leaders, innovators, and game-changers to learn a little about their personal career journeys, and how human-led strategies, philosophies, and cultures are proving a force for good in their working worlds …

Welcome Matt, and thanks for stepping into the #SuccessIsHuman spotlight! 

You’re an advisor specialising in founder-led companies with Strategic Planning, Corporate Development / M&A, and transformation commercial deals and capital raising, whilst also advising CEOs and Boards about the changing world of media, digital and the general transformation needs in a world that’s evolving at a rapid pace. You’re also the Chair of Mental Health Australia – the peak body representing the mental health sector and wider community.

In 1 sentence (ok, we’ll give you 3), what does your job/work entail?

Working closely with amazingly talented people and helping them with insights, learnings and frameworks to make the right decisions for themselves, their business, or in that moment. My best work is when I understand the person, their motivations and what they truly want to achieve.

As you’ve described, I wear many hats, so it’s complex to switch regularly and sometimes instantaneously.

Prior to your current consulting work, you were involved with many high growth digital ventures in Australia, USA & UK in varying roles from founder, executive, to advisor, corporate development lead, investor and board member. This included Co-Founding Unlockd, a transformational venture that in ~3 years went from concept to $20m+ ARR (and a $200m market cap) nearly reaching ASX listing before interference by Google after launching in multiple markets internationally including USA, UK, India, Indonesia, Australia and UAE.

Whilst continuing to Chair, Invest &/or hold Non-Executive Director roles with the likes of Glow Dreaming, Tailwind International, and TRAVLR, your role with Mental Health Australia gets the most attention thanks to your public sharing of personal experiences living with bipolar disorder, and attempted suicide in 2017.

A few chapters ago you were also a professional Australian Cricket representative and spent five years at the Victorian Institute of Sport as a coach and player!

How does all this work speak to your personal purpose and what drives you as an individual?

Reading that back, it sounds a lot but there are many chapters in one’s life. I’ve always had a drive for excellence in everything I do and that’s helped me achieve some great things in sport and business but my health setback and coming back from mental ill-health has been my greatest challenge and achievement to be honest. Nothing was harder than that and I’ve learnt alot about myself in that process, for the better. It’s forever changed me as a person (for the better despite the pain).

What drives me now is to be healthy, happy and enjoy life and the people I spend it with. It’s really simple but amazingly effective.

Tell us a little about your personal education pathway/s – what led you to where you are now? How closely do your formal qualifications match your current career?

Grew up in Wodonga and left at 16 to play cricket in Melbourne and school at McKinnon Secondary College. Completed half a uni course (Commerce Marketing) by correspondence and have very little formal education to be honest. 

I’ve learnt my MBA in real life I suppose!

If you could share one piece of career advice to your 21-year-old self it would be …

People. Surround yourself and work with the best humans – the rest will follow.

Maximising the potential of individuals, communities, and businesses through the power of human skills is the reason Maxme exists. Can you tell us a little about the role and/or value of human skills in the work/workplaces you’re involved with right now?

Human skills are the core of all roles, especially my field in technology. It’s all about the people, how they perform, what motivates them, keeping them happy and fulfilled. A lot goes into the people aspect of companies these days and I’ve always been a big believer in that.

Self Awareness sets the critical foundation for all Maxme learning experiences. With that said … what’s your strongest trait/personal superpower?

Reading and relating to people. From the homeless man on the street to a billionaire, I can relate and interact with them and everything in between.

And on the flip side, what’s one human/‘soft’ skill you’ve had to really work on improving over the course of your career?

Patience. I’ve tended to try and get places too quickly (sometimes for the better, but sometimes for the worse).

If you could share one piece of advice with students, tertiary graduates, or even those mid-way through their careers and keen to start exploring a career in either mental health, or perhaps the fast lane of startup tech enterprise what would it be?

Follow your passion. Not titles, pay cheques or where someone else wants you to go. Back your heart and passion and you’ll be way more fulfilled.

You’ve been granted approval to add one University graduate to your team, but have 100 applicants, all with outstanding academic results. How do you find your perfect candidate – what are you looking for?

Hard one when I don’t know the 100. So I’ll take Elon Musk 😉 

Generally speaking though, I look for competency, ability to adapt/learn and above all else honesty, integrity and empathy. If they have those combinations they can learn and evolve.

In the words of John Dewey, “education is not preparation for life, education is life itself.” What’s next on your #learning agenda?

Being comfortable not trying to change the world, or be the best in the world which is what I’ve tried in both sport and business. So now taking a much more relaxed view on life and being present, enjoying the small things and living a healthy and happy, fulfilled life.