Elson Matthew (Matt) - From EMT to Software Engineer

Matt [Firehose Graduate '17] was working as an Emergency Medical Technician. After deciding that he wanted to change careers and become a web developer, Matt jumped in and joined the Firehose Project Full-Stack Web Development Course.

Since completing the course, Matt has launched a successful career as a Software Engineer at Immersed, a VR startup. At Immersed, he's helping to transform the way remote teams work together to optimize productivity. 

Matt shares his journey from EMT to Software Engineer:

Tell us a little bit about your background and how you became interested in coding.

When I was in high school, I took a few CS classes serendipitously. I still remember being called by my school counselor during summer break saying that the tech ed elective I had selected had been filled. She listed my options and I chose Computer Programming I. I thought I had signed up for a computer applications course where I would learn the ins and outs of Microsoft Office Suite. Little did I know that was not the case. As I progressed through my college years, I slowly went away from coding and entered the medical profession. I was an EMT for 3.5 years before I joined The Firehose Project.

So, how did you come across Firehose?

Renji Bijoy had been a mentor at The Firehose Project for a little when I talked to him about my thoughts on a career change. He recommended The Firehose Project for the real world experience that it would give me and the meticulously thought out curriculum.

What have you been up to since you graduated?

Since I graduated, I have been working with Immersed as a Software Engineer. I started with building a Rails portal for our clients, and now I have turned into a Unity/C# engineer. At Immersed, we help remote teams collaborate in-person to increase productivity by immersing them in a VR workplace!

How did you find the transition from EMT to Software Engineer?

The transition was actually pretty difficult. I had geared my thinking to a certain way, especially working in Emergency Medical Services, so to break away from that was pretty difficult. I also believe I'm not the best developer in the world, but I give 100% every day to get at least 1% better. I think it definitely is possible to thrive as an EMT turned Software Engineer, but it will take work to master your craft!

What does a normal day look like for you at your startup?

A normal day typically starts for me around 07:30 with a cup of Limitless Coffee. We usually have our daily stand up at 07:45 CST. We discuss what we worked on the day before, what we will be working on that day, and what roadblocks we are facing. I then either open up our Trello board and choose the next task in the queue or continue finishing the task I started the day before. I typically take a 30-45 min lunch break at around 13:00 while watching a Ted talk or reading up on the latest AR/VR/MR tech. My day typically ends around 18:00 CST.

Speaking of the latest technology, what do you read and listen to in order to keep up with current trends?

Medium is very helpful, Road to VR, UploadVR, and Engadget all have great VR content. I also like to keep up to date on new SDK updates, so I will check out Oculus Dev site and Google Daydream Dev sites. I also like to creep on our competitor's blog pages. They usually have good information and new releases to their product. I also watch Ted talks on AR/MR/VR to get unique insights from giants in the field.

If you could give one piece of advice to someone looking to move into a new career in software engineering, what would it be?

I would tell that person the possibilities are endless if you apply yourself. Software Engineering can be one of the most rewarding jobs. You are literally building worlds with the stroke of a few keys on a keyboard. With the right attitude and time, anyone can learn to develop, but the attitude and time commitment must be there. Shifting into a new career in Software Engineering can be extremely frustrating, but you have to keep at it. I compare it to a stubbornly tough wall. Every hit with the sledgehammer weakens the wall, but you never know when it's going to break. You just have to keep hitting it until it finally gives! In the same way, keep tackling your code problems and slowly but surely you will figure it out!

David Watson