June 27, 2019

Hey there, my name is Matt. I’m a husband, dog dad, software engineer, musician, photographer, coffee enthusiast, life-long learner, backpacker, home chef, volunteer, public speaker, and party planner. I’m probably many other things as well but that’s what came to mind. I consider myself a passionate person in general and I feel those who know me would describe me thus. Now here I am beginning a blog. Primarily in order to share professional learnings in a more public forum but at times to also divulge more personal stories or recipes. My life sometimes seems to revolve around code and food so as of now those will be the primary categories of this blog.

I began web development as a middle schooler, working on my school’s website as a media center admin as well as the website of my local Minneapolis public library. Oddly I spent a lot of time in libraries, which didn’t always amount to as much reading as some of my peers, but I can say I love the feeling (and smell) of being in a library. A large part of me hopes that we will always have physical books and libraries to house them.

I had no idea what I was doing at first and to be honest I wasn’t writing much code but I do remember Netscape… The public library website could only be edited from Netscape. I continued to dabble throughout high school but at that time in no way was I thinking of computers or coding as something I would be doing as a career. I had always tinkered with computers from a very young age but I didn’t consider it something I would get a degree in.

It was in my second year of college that I decided to get a degree in computer science, and it might be a surprise to you but I really didn’t enjoy it. There was so much math, so many equations to memorize, so many tests to fail and information to know. It all seemed too impractical, learning to make GUIs with Java, programming image processors in C++, and nothing that I thought, oh cool that’s what I want to do for the rest of my life! So how did I end up here, where I can genuinely say I love my job? I fought through 3 years of data models, Java, and discrete math simply because I thought it was my best chance of graduating in a normal 4 years and getting a job that could pay off my loans. I was taking 18 credits a semester to finish my double major with Biblical-Theological Studies and I had a hunch that major wasn’t going to be helping pay the bills.

Thankfully I found a job late in the summer after graduation doing Java for a lab resource company nearby. I worked there for a year but quickly found out that my true passion was in developing user interfaces and creating delightful user experiences. I taught myself, in this year, as much as I could about front end technologies. At the time, sass and FE build tooling was just beginning to come out, everyone still used Bootstrap and Zurb’s Foundation. So I started there, creating websites for my company but also building RSVP sites for parties that I was hosting on the site. I taught myself about sending emails with php, I taught myself about hosting providers and apache, bash scripts and basic AJAX requests. I can’t express enough how little I knew about all of this when I started, but it was the first time in my life I truly became passionate about being a developer. I became driven to learn and to build as much as I possibly could. The first time I used Ember on todomvc.com I was blown away. I’m sure some of you were right there with me.

After a year I left that company to build front end UIs exclusively, although there was a bunch of php mixed in there as well. The agency I was hired at required all of us to pretty much handle full stack responsibilities even though we had defined back end and front end developers. Over the next 4 years at Spyder Trap, the acquisition of our company by a health care startup, and my work now at the Nerdery, I can say that my knowledge has exploded and I can never go back to not building with software. I became stuck in the best of ways.

I would like to not here that while I had decided Java and building back ends was not for me, and I would say that I learned none of what I do now in my computer science degree, I would also say that I’m thankful for what I learned there. Tree structures are all over the place in web UIs if you know how to spot them. Knowing what makes an algorithm fast or slow (discreet math) is increasingly useful the more javascript we inject into our pages. I wouldn’t say it’s necessary to get a CS degree before getting a developer job, but I’m thankful for the path that has led me here. No regrets.

Now I find myself passionate about quite a few things. A deep love for the UI, empathy with users and their experience, appreciation for good thoughtful design, an understanding of what makes software performant and secure, an appreciation of what goes into creating an API or handling user auth, and even some interest in the business side of things as well. At this point, I’m not quite sure where I’ll go next and you may see some of that come through in the topics I write about on this blog. I hope this explanation of my past helps to give those ramblings some context.

My weird smorgasbord background has led me to create a number of dead-end side projects: a scheduling app for schools, a hall pass app, kitten critic (tinder for cats), food truck finder, a Dungeons & Dragons app, and a number of others. I think I just like coming up with ideas, engineering how I would solve problems with code, what database would be the optimal choice, and learning from all my failures along the way. I think it’s a big part of what makes me who I am.

I’ll stop this ramble for now but I wanted to give an introduction to who I am and why I’m here. I hope that through all the articles I write on this blog I remain in a state of humility and empathy. I don’t know everything, and I absolutely never will. Other people probably know more than me and definitely have ideas better than mine. I am here to listen as much as I am to write. I am here to learn as much as I am to teach.


Written by Matt Gregg, a UI engineer who lives and works in Minneapolis, MN

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