From Army Vet to Web Dev: Matt Carpenter’s Journey to the Job of His Dreams
Matthew Carpenter’s journey to becoming a web developer didn’t happen overnight. In fact, to get there, it took an almost eight-year stint in the Army, 12 years working in electronics at Verizon, and a great deal of motivation.
A born self-starter and lifelong learner, Matt decided a few years ago to seriously pursue the developer career he had always wanted. While working at Verizon, he taught himself basic programming languages before realizing that, despite his natural talent, he needed more experience to grasp the advanced concepts.
“For three years, I tried to make a career change,” he said. “It was too rocky and hard finding time to make advancements while working full-time.”
Matt ventured out in search of an opportunity to level up his learning and came across the Georgia Tech Coding Boot Camp. The curriculum included all the applications and languages that were missing from his skill set, and he was drawn to the course’s intensive nature and flexible hours.
Almost a decade after leaving the army, Matt enrolled in the program and prepared to take on a very different kind of boot camp.
Overcoming high hurdles
From the very beginning, Matt knew the boot camp would be a lot of work. “I’m not going to lie—I panicked when my instructors first told me there would be 20 or more hours of homework each week outside of class,” he said.
That panic didn’t grip him for long. He quickly found that this extra work was necessary to master the material, and he enjoyed every moment that brought him closer to his dream career.
Still, it wasn’t smooth sailing. Many of his fellow learners had a computer science background to draw on. Despite his aptitude for absorbing new coding languages, Matt found the coursework daunting at times.
“Some of the more advanced topics were pretty heavy, and I felt like I may not have the background needed to learn them,” Matt said. “Initially, this was a roadblock for me, but the boot camp had great resources at every turn.”
Losing fear, gaining everything
In the boot camp, Matt picked up more skills than he could have imagined. “Of course, you have the skills they teach you,” he said. “But I learned so much more that I hadn’t even signed up for.”
Something that stood out to Matt was the program’s sense of community. TAs and learners would not only support one another in the classroom, but also became close friends outside of class.
Matt also got to work through projects and brainstorm solutions as part of a team. He grasped the concepts in class so firmly that fellow learners often looked to him for additional help, giving him management and instructional opportunities.
“One of the most prominent things I picked up was communicating on a deeper level,” he said. “If someone doesn’t understand a concept and you do, it’s worth your time to invest in getting them up to speed. It helps you become a better developer, too.”
Adding extra dimensions to his foundational knowledge, Matt took away a diverse array of front-end elements, including CSS and UI design. He also rounded out his back-end skill set and became a full-fledged developer in mere months—something he had been trying to do on his own for years.
Finding creative freedom
In the past, Matt didn’t always have opportunities to express himself—especially through technology. The projects he worked on at boot camp allowed him to have fun and create. He would often look at the assignments for the week, master them, and then build his own apps using what he learned.
“What drove me to web development in the first place is the freedom to be a creator in your own right,” he said. “You can build anything you want.”
Gaming was something Matt always wanted to dabble in. He developed his final project on his own as a test of his strengths and creativity. The result was GameCal, an interactive calendar website designed for video game lovers who don’t necessarily have time to keep up with new releases. Building something he would use himself was one of Matt’s proudest moments throughout the program.
Taking steps into the future
Since receiving his certificate of completion, Matt is living out his dream of being a full-stack web developer. The career transition may not have been so linear had he not entered the Georgia Tech Coding Boot Camp—and he’s forever grateful that he made the change.
Matt’s advice to those looking to enter the field is simple: work hard and never stop learning.
“The one thing you can do is to always remain a step ahead,” he said. “Try to teach yourself as much as possible so you’re not falling behind. Just put in the time, because no matter how advanced you think you are, there’s always more to learn.”