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.
As a tribute to Stephanie, and definitely not just because she asked me to, I would like to recount the story of the fateful day our paths crossed one rainy afternoon in Lubbock, TX.
I started school at Texas Tech University in the Fall of 2008 and lived in the Wall dormitory for my first year. I met a lot of crazy people and did a lot of crazy things, not the least of which was to start playing Rugby. At the end of my freshman year in Spring 2009 I needed to decide where I was going to be living that Summer and the following semester. So I and a few of my friends from the Rugby team banded together and signed a lease for an apartment adjacent to campus so that we were independent but still within walking distance for our classes.
The Fall 2009 semester quickly rolled around and classes began. Most of my classes were bunched together in the early morning or afternoon with the exception of a History class that started around 5:30 pm. One evening I was walking to class and noticed a pretty girl walking the same direction I was. Being an introvert and lacking much confidence in myself, I simply admired her from a distance hopefully without being too much of a creep. I ended up seeing her a few more times in this way, never interacting due to shyness or distance as she was usually either far enough ahead or behind me that it would be awkward and noticeable if I sped up or slowed down to make conversation.
After a few weeks of this, one rainy evening walking my usual route to class I had to stop and wait to cross the one road separating our apartment from campus. As I waited for the opportunity to cross, I look over and see the same girl standing there waiting alongside me. I instantly became a nervous wreck and stood there awkwardly in silence trying hard not to make it obvious I was avoiding eye contact. As the traffic slows and the pedestrian light come on I see her take off her flip-flops to cross the lightly flooded streets. Since I was also wearing flip flops, I thought this was a clever idea and so I said "Hey, that's a good idea" and got a small smile from her.
We crossed the street separately and donned our footwear as we reached the other side and continued walking to our separate destinations. As I kept walking I noticed she was going in roughly the same direction I was, and I realize that she was actually headed to the same class that I was except by a slightly different route. It was a massive lecture hall of at least 200 students, and she sat towards the back on one end of the class whereas my usual seat was closer to the front on the opposite end. I spent the rest of class trying not to be obvious as I found numerous reasons to look back in that direction to catch another glimpse of her.
After class ended that evening I tried to walk slowly back towards the street to help increase my chances of running into her again, and it worked. We ended up waiting to cross the street in a very similar situation, this time I took my flip-flops off first and made some sort of stupid comment like "Here we go again" to which I received a similar smirk as before. Finally mustering up some confidence I introduce myself and make some small talk as we walked back in the same direction. I was headed to my apartment and she was headed to a student parking lot that was along the way. As we drew closer to the end of our short walk I began to experience all sorts of nervousness and anxiety because I knew this was my chance to ask for her number.
We arrived at her car and the peak of my anxiety but I somehow managed to ask the question: "So....do you have a Facebook?" I heard myself utter.
What. Facebook? I couldn't even ask for her number? I had only ever asked 1 other girl for their phone number and it was the most awkward thing I had ever done, until this moment.
Caught off guard, she actually laughed out loud at the request and responded with: "Sure, but do you remember my name?" After a brief flash of panic, I had indeed remembered her name. So we parted ways, and I rushed home to add her as a friend and send her a message. We messaged back and forth over the next week or so and I eventually asked for her number...through a Facebook message...
Not long after that we had our first official date at the Starbucks where I worked (ugh...come on Matt). I was smitten with her from the start and as I dropped her off at her car that evening we hugged and said goodnight. She later confided in me that I give really good hugs, and that was one of the reasons she was attracted to me. A few more days went by with us messaging each other more and more frequently until we eventually had our second date. It was a Tuesday and so we picked up Rosa's Mexican food for Taco Tuesday and headed back to my apartment to watch Kung Fu Panda.
As we sat eating our food and watching the movie I decided to make a move - I tried to hold her hand. I don't know why that was such a difficult thing, but it really was for me. As I reached out and gently grabbed her hand in mine, she held it for a moment but then pulled away. I forget exactly what she said because I was so devastated. Did I really just get denied a hand-hold? Wow. I figured that meant she was uninterested and the remainder of the date was awkward and I ended up driving her home not long after.
We still texted a few more times after that but not as much as before. Since I figured she wasn't interested I didn't try as hard to keep the conversations going until I finally had to ask straight out what happened. She confessed to me that she was nervous and her hands were a bit clammy and that made her self-conscious. Feeling a bit relieved but still somewhat unsure if that was the whole truth I decided to give her another chance and we continued talking. Things slowly started going back to the way they were before the hand-holding incident and when we finally met up again it was clear that we both had feelings for each other despite some of the initial awkwardness.
We went on a few more dates and eventually late one evening in late October we "made it official" and have been together ever since. We ended up getting married on our 5 year anniversary and are currently living happily ever after.