Matthew Cobham: the bright career of a mountain enthusiast

05 NOVEMBER 2018

Matthew Cobham has climbed snowy peaks from the Alps to the Himalayas from the age of 17. But this all-consuming passion for the mountains hasn’t prevented this British man from enjoying an action-packed career. His primary objectives? To learn and to excel.

Born in London, Matthew Cobham was still a teenager when he began mountaineering. At 19 years old, he climbed the Pamir mountains between Tajikistan and China. “I was immediately fascinated by the world of mountain climbing and the idea of successfully overcoming challenges as a team, something we couldn’t manage on our own. Between the ages of 19 and 25, I was incredibly focused on my passion for the mountains, rather than my studies and my career...” Matthew Cobham confesses today.

However, this lack of focus was only relative: he graduated with an undergraduate degree in Business and Marketing and Master’s degree in Architectural Lighting before deciding on a career in lighting. Recruited by Saint-Gobain Ecophon to work as a business manager in 1997, he soon grew to love the industry. “It was my first encounter with the world of acoustics and lighting; I knew immediately that I wanted to specialise in those areas,” he explains.

The city of lights: an obvious choice

 The industry gave him the opportunity to take on challenges which were just as exciting as his mountaineering exploits. At the beginning of the 2000s, Matthew Cobham worked on lighting for papyrus, extremely delicate artefacts, for the British Museum. He then moved to Lyon in search of new challenges. An obvious choice, looking back. “I wanted to learn another language. I chose Lyon because it’s the ultimate “City of Lights”with plenty of work within the lighting industry — and the mountains are very close to the city. ” He went on to meet his wife in Lyon, before starting a family.

His career climbed to new heights, with various roles with significant responsibilities. Recruited by Philips, he carried out several studies to improve the lighting when broadcasting sporting competitions on TV. Working alongside federations including FIFA and the International Olympic Committee (IOC), he and his teams also won the lighting contracts for the 2006 World Cup stadiums and the Asian Games’ stadiums in the same year in Qatar. “I loved meeting people as part of my job. It was a very varied position and my first managerial role, working directly with other cultures,” he adds.


A conductor’s role

His career and his passion led to continued travel around the world: he worked in Singapore and the Netherlands, all while climbing mountains in the Alps. He then returned to Lyon as Signify’s Innovation Marketing Director for indoor and outdoor lighting. “I directly manage 14 people; the aim is to ensure that each of my team members is in sync with the company’s European strategy. I also interact with the other departments, providing functional reporting. I’m a kind of conductor,” says Matthew Cobham.

Keen to strengthen his skills, this father of three has recently taken on a new personal challenge: joining the Executive MBA at emlyon business school, while continuing to work. It’s a challenge which doesn’t seem to frighten him. “I’m in the middle of my career and I’m getting ready for the second half. I want to learn more about finance and marketing and improve my skills and knowledge too. I like the open-minded nature of this course, the focus on personal development and reflecting on the meaning of teamwork and my value within my company,” he says.


“We share our ideas and our desire”

Matthew Cobham describes the diversity of his fellow students.“There are almost as many men as there are women: managers, engineers and a surgeon and a nuclear physicist too. It’s rewarding and because we’re not competitors, we share our ideas and our desire to succeed.” Currently half-way through the course, Matthew Cobham says that he’s already putting what he’s learned into practice on a daily basis: “I’m more confident when interacting with a team. I work with people from very different backgrounds and there are different ways to thank them and acknowledge their work. I wasn’t really aware of that before,” he adds.

This skill development will enable Matthew Cobham to continue his professional ascent within the lighting industry, focusing on smart lighting. A new passion.



6 key dates in Matthew Cobham’s career

1997: He starts working at Saint-Gobain Ecophon as a business manager in acoustics and lighting

2000: He joins Concord Marlen as a lighting designer

2004: He is appointed as team leader of Sports Arena Lighting Solutions at Philips Lighting Global

2007: He moves to Singapore to continue working for Philips Lighting; he implements a joint regional marketing strategy for technical lighting specialists

2010: He joins Philips Lighting Europe, working at its Dutch headquarters as Marketing Director for architects and technical lighting specialists and managing indoor lighting innovation

2015: He’s promoted to Innovation Director for indoor and outdoor lighting at Signify (formerly Philips Lighting)




The Executive MBA, a course with two options

With 3 days a month of teaching for 20 months or 10 months of full-time, fast-track teaching, the emlyon business school Executive MBA is for experienced managers and executives who intend to undertake a new project or want to challenge themselves by acquiring new skills focused on the challenges of today's business world. This option is ideal for taking a step back and focusing entirely on single, specific objective. The course can also be part of a career change. Ranked 5th worldwide for career progression by the Financial Times (2018), the Executive MBA explores business and strategy issues, decision-making, management, data and personal development and situations.


For more information: Safae Aboukaram