Matt Rubinger, at age 25, is director of luxury accessories for Heritage Auctions, an international auction house. Three years after graduting from Vanderbilt University in 2010, Rubinger made $9 million for his company, according to Forbes.
Rubinger made his career in sales after spending his high school and college years buying and selling luxury handbags, educating himself about the merchandise with which he dealt.
Fresh out of school with a European history degree from Vanderbilt and never having run an auction before, Rubinger was offered a job and a six-figure salary by Heritage. He was also charged with heading the brand-new luxury handbags department of the firm.
This year, Rubinger landed a spot on Forbes’ 30 Under 30: Marketing and Advertising list.
He spoke to The Hustler via email about his interest in selling and buying, his professional experiences and the influence his Vanderbilt education had on his success today.
InsideVandy: I read an article about you in Forbes late last year, which told the story of how you got started selling bags in high school. Can you elaborate on what drew you to trading?
Matt Rubinger: I just thought it was fun. I started by being a scavenger – I found interesting things around the house and sold them. I thought it was fun to discover a piece, research it, market it and sell it. I think it taught me more about sales and marketing than I realized at the time!
IV: When did you decide that you wanted to make a career out of what Heritage calls “luxury accessories”?
MR: When Heritage offered me the job. Although I had significant expertise in the area by that time, I was more interested in pursuing a more traditional marketing career. When I was approached by Heritage to launch an entire category, however, it was too good an opportunity to pass up.
IV: How did your European history major help or hurt your career, if at all? What made you choose that field of study?
MR: I chose European History because it was one of my favorite areas in high school. I have a knack for languages and love to travel, so it all seemed to fit. I was always excited about studying abroad, so I thought this would be the right major to get me ready for that. It didn’t have too much to do with the work I was, and am, doing, but it did tangentially relate in some ways. Retail, particularly in the luxury and fashion sectors, has its root in Europe. Many of the brands that we work with are based in Europe and have been around for hundreds of years.
IV: Can you elaborate on the experience of getting such a major job offer right out of college? How did you approach that challenge?
MR: Fake it ’til you make it. Just kidding. Sort of. The answer is confidence and hard work. I knew I was good at what I was doing and had faith that the team who hired me knew what they were doing by hiring me. Given that I was so young, I knew that I had a lot to prove. I worked long hours and I worked weekends. I answered all my emails and returned all my calls. So much of being successful is just being willing to work hard.
IV: How did your time at Vanderbilt shape your career and your life today?
MR: Vanderbilt has shaped my career and my life in many ways. Personally, it is where I met many of my best friends, and my girlfriend. It was one of the best times of my life. Even though it likely made my career what it is today, I still wonder sometimes if taking that semester off was the right choice – you only get to go to college once. Vandy is an amazing place. Professionally, it is where I learned to be a person. I learned many of the skills required for the working world during those years.
IV: Do you have any suggestions or words of wisdom for current students as they look towards their futures?
MR: One page resume. Thank you notes. Stay late and get in early.