Before Thinkful, Matt taught 5th grade language arts, social studies, science, mathematics, and technology. No matter the subject, he was always determined to incorporate more technology education into the classroom.
After a successful stint inspiring the next generation of techies, he realized that it was time for him to dive into the world of software development too, so he enrolled in our Software Engineering bootcamp.
Check out his experience at Thinkful and learn about his new Solutions Architect job at Onit!
Tell us: what were you doing before Thinkful?
I went to college at SUNY Cortland for Physical Education and graduated in 2010. I never really knew what I wanted to do, but I knew I loved sports and I was pretty good with kids. I really enjoyed school, but I actually never ended up teaching/coaching P.E. Instead, I spent six years teaching 5th grade language arts, social studies, science, mathematics, and technology. Every year that I taught, I was actively looking for ways to incorporate more technology into the classroom, especially when I moved to districts where that wasn’t a priority.
What made you enroll at Thinkful?
The main reason I enrolled wasn’t because of the price. One reason was the fact that I could do the course remotely. But the main reason, if I’m being honest with myself (and whoever is reading this), was that I really wanted to learn web development, and I needed something to hold me accountable. I tried doing it on my own, but once I signed up I thought, “I need to work my butt off to make that money well-spent.’’
Describe your learning experience at Thinkful. Was the program what you expected?
I loved the experience and the program was exactly what I expected. It started off fairly easy, and then ramped up quickly with bigger projects. One major thing that I learned was that you can either “skate by” by just doing the projects and assignments on time, or you can really make the most of the program by signing up for extra group sessions and asking for help whenever possible. It took me a while to ask for help!
Since you were a teacher, how was your Thinkful experience compared to a traditional university or secondary school setting?
I think the major benefit with Thinkful is that you get to do the work on your own time. I was still teaching when I did the program, so my work needed to be done early in the morning or later in the afternoon. The main difference between Thinkful and university is that you get limited mentor time and nothing is in person, so it can be tough at times. But another benefit was the structure of the lessons. Thinkful did a great job of scaffolding (fancy teaching term), which basically means that the lessons started fairly easy but ramped up and built on previous lessons — I really appreciated that.
How did you balance learning at Thinkful with your other commitments? Describe how you managed your time.
I became super motivated once I put the money down :). So setting time aside wasn’t super challenging for me. Whenever I create a goal for myself, I will do anything possible to achieve it. So for me, that meant waking up at 5am to put in an hour of work before school, setting aside a few hours after school, or sometimes both time slots in the same day. Scheduling your time in a calendar can be really helpful. If you have a significant other, set up a shared calendar so they know what to expect, but get it done somehow.
How was your mentor relationship beneficial to your learning experience?
I thought my mentors were great; some were better than others. I wish we had more time during our meetings. I believe I could still be successful without a mentor, but it would’ve taken a lot longer!
My mentors had some really good real-world experience and they were fairly easy to talk to. That was awesome because I could ask what the real-world tech industry is like and I could carry on a conversation pretty easily.
What has been your hardest challenge throughout the program?
My hardest challenge was asking for help. I ran into several stumbling blocks and for a time I felt really dumb. During those times, I just tried to work harder. Sometimes you need to stop and ask for help, or at least stop and take a walk to refresh your mind.
What was your favorite aspect of the program?
The Slack channel and group sessions were both really cool aspects of the program. You can chat with other students, ask for help, and learn really cool tech that has nothing to do with the current stack you are building with. These are in addition to making really cool projects that you can put on a portfolio.
Describe your new role at Onit!
My new title is Solutions Architect. It means something slightly different than what you see if you google “Solutions Architect”. My company, Onit, has built their own software to build SaaS products. Our team is in charge of using this software to build process management solutions for major law teams, typically for Fortune 500 companies. I started off solving issue tickets for clients, but have worked my way into more of a niche area — performance improvement. So now, I work on existing client builds and make them faster. It’s like solving a new puzzle each day and it’s really fun.
Do you have any advice for prospective students?
Ask for help, watch the extra videos, come prepared with questions for you mentor meetings. Take advantage of the money you spent and don’t settle for mediocre.