My name is Matt Phillips. I love learning, challenging myself, and occasionally putting some of my knowledge to use by building things. I also enjoy writing stories and finding new ways to express my ideas. I strive to never stop learning and hopefully I can help instill that desire into other people and help them grow as well.
I started this blog as a way to capture my thoughts and be able to reflect on them as I grow as a person. Our lives are ever-changing and so are our belief systems and understanding of the world. I hope that one day someone will stumble upon my words and find that they can learn something from them.
I grew up in a middle-class family in a small town east of Dallas, TX in a typical Nuclear family - My Mom, Dad, and two kids (me and my younger sister). My parents worked very hard to provide a safe and comfortable life for me and my sister and I personally feel that they excelled at that. I never felt poor, I was never hungry and I always felt loved. Some times were rougher than others for a number of reasons, but through thick and thin they persevered and made it work. I will be eternally grateful for the struggles that they endured to give us the things that we had. A big part of my definition of happiness came from my childhood experiences and growing up with certain expectations.
Like many children I grew up playing lots of video games. One game in particular called Ultima Online I played religiously for many years starting from around 9 or 10 years old. After a few years of playing I discovered that a group of people had put together some software that would allow you to create your own replica Ultima Online server running from your home computer. This was the coolest thing I had ever seen and jumped on it instantly. It took some learning and troubleshooting but I eventually managed to get it up and running on my computer. After some more tweaking I was able to get my friends to connect to my server. From there the possibilities seemed endless. I was able to modify the code and see the changes take effect in game. I was able to find new additions and add-ons online that I could add to my server. I found a passion for building worlds, and for programming (though I did not really know what I was doing at the time.)
This led me to the dream of one day becoming a video game developer (a fairly standard dream for boys of that age). As I grew older I had to start thinking about what I wanted to do for work, and of course I still wanted to be a game developer, but there wasn't a very clear way on how to do that. After searching for some time I found a school in the Dallas area that said they offered some Game Programming classes - ITT Tech. Everything seemed perfect as I looked over their information online and so one afternoon I drove out to the campus for a tour. They were excellent salesmen and convinced me this was a great move. My parents were skeptical though, and rightly so - though I didn't quite understand why. My mom told me something along the lines of: "That is a very narrow career choice, and I wouldn't recommend going down that path".
Hearing those words from my mom felt like a personal attack and I was very disheartened and so that dream slowly became less and less of one until one day it felt so unattainable that I felt I needed to let it go. Of course that was not her intent.
I had heard: "Do not try to be a game developer or go into computers"
But what I think she meant was: "Choosing specifically a game development degree will pigeon-hole you into a knowledge set that is obscure and potentially not useful. Think about how you could expand on that idea and broaden it into something more applicable."
I held onto my resentment for quite some time but eventually I let it go and moved on. In the end, I am very thankful that she made that suggestion.
As I graduated from highschool and moved into university I struggled to find what exactly I wanted to do with my life. I spent a year or so going to community college sort-of just going through the motions and taking my basics. Then I went off to Texas Tech and changed majors a few times but never truly felt that anything was the right choice. After a few critical events happened, I ended up moving to Houston with my girlfriend (now wife), enrolling in the University of Houston and switching majors to Computer Science. I had decided that I spent so much time with video games and computers that I needed to make a career out of it one way or another. It was around this time that I reflected on what my mom had said and realized that this might have been what she had intended. This was one of the best decisions I have made in my life, and it has opened more opportunities for me than I can count.
I started attending my Computer Science courses at the University of Houston in Spring 2011 and I met a lot of really great people. The campus was nearly an hour away from where we lived at the time and so I tried to always stack as many classes together as I could in an effort to make that drive the least amount of times as possible. This usually meant aiming for my preferred Tuesday/Thursday class schedule where I would drive to campus early in the morning and attend class all day, and head home in the afternoon. Some semesters I had to switch to a Monday/Wednesday/Friday schedule due to course availability. Sometime in my first semester one of the people I had met mentioned that many of the Computer Science students congregated on the 5th floor of the CS building in the computer lab - room 532. I started spending a lot of my time between classes in the lab to study, hang out, meet people, and try new things.
The time spent in that computer lab may have been some of the most valuable time spent at school. It was here that I was able to find study partners, new friends, improve my programming, and ultimately grow my "Network". I learned which professors to take for which subjects and how to build relationships with those professors. I came out of my shell and at one point knew just about every face that would enter or exit the lab. This was truly a safe and happy place for learning.
During my Junior year I attended my first career fair and I had just about no idea what I was doing. I put on my suit & tie and printed out copies of my freshly created resume and headed off to the fair. I was overwhelmed and unsure of myself, but despite my naiveté I somehow landed a Summer internship at JP Morgan & Chase in their Technology Analyst Program. This was an incredibly exciting moment because while I had hoped for something like this, I never seriously thought it would happen at this time. But it did! I spent that Summer working at JPMC and learned an incredibly amount about real world programming and working on a team. After my internship was over I received a full-time offer as I headed into my Senior year and I accepted graciously. I was thrilled to have a job secured going into my last semester of school and that took a lot of the pressure off of me. I graduated with my Bachelor's of Science in Computer Science from the University of Houston in December 2014 and after a short break started working full-time at JPMC in February 2015.
At JPMC I worked on a fairly small team with some very smart people doing some work in Java. As with my internship I learned a lot in a short amount of time about things like source control, production releases, more about how to work well with others and the glorious red-tape and bureaucracy of corporate America. Most importantly however, I learned that the world of finance and banking was not something that interested me in the long term. I stuck around for a year and ended up leaving in February 2016 to work at my current company Pariveda Solutions.
Throughout my time at JPMC I kept in touch with all of my friends from school, a few of them ended up at JPMC with me, and the others all went their various separate ways. Two of my friends went to work for Pariveda and had been exceptionally happy with their work and helped introduce me to the recruiter over a lunch meeting. Shortly after that I started the interview process. After a few phone calls and an office visit I was ready for the final interview step, an "all-day" interview at the office where I would be given a "Case Study" that I had to solve and present to a panel of judges. This was one of the hardest things I had ever had to do up to this point and I felt incredibly inadequate throughout the entire process, but somehow I won them over and ended up getting a job offer.
I am still currently working for Pariveda Solutions and it has been a very great opportunity. Pariveda is a technology consulting firm and so I am frequently changing projects, teams, and technologies. I have grown in many ways that I did not plan or expect, and I have not only been able to keep improving my technical abilities but I have been able to work on things like communication, team-building, planning, estimating, and getting face-time with executives for demos or requirements gathering. It has been an incredibly enlightening experience and I look forward to where this takes me in the future.
I would never be where I am today without the love and support of my family. I am grateful to my parents for having raised me and helped me get through my highschool years and off into college. I am proud to have a sister who has always supported me and helped be a voice of reason in troubling times and an eternal gaming partner. But I am perhaps most thankful for my beautiful and loving wife Stephanie who is the mother of my two amazing children and constant source of love, trust, and support over the years. I would have never been able to accomplish as much as I have without these people, but there are countless other friends and family who have helped shape and impact my life as well. To each and every one of you I say thank you from the bottom of my heart, I hope that I can make you all proud.