About Me

Posted 2012-05-30
Written by Matt Frost
Category code

Boring Work History Stuff

I was blessed to be able to attend php|tek12 for a day, and I'm new to this whole community scene.  I'm not sure if anyone is really wondering who am I or what I'm about, so if you're interested...here's a a little bit about me.

I made my first page at the ripe old age of 13, I used Angelfire and had dedicated my website to the most important thing in my life at that time, Metallica.  I taught myself through online examples, books, whatever I could get my hands on.  I always had a desire to put content out on the web, I've enjoyed it since that day.   This was before the days of blogging, before the days of the vast content management systems that we have today.

Fast-forward to High School, I had taken a Visual Basic 6.0 class and loved it.  If you've ever done anything with VB6, you'll know it was a pretty cool platform to work with, far better than the .NET stuff that's around today.  That was my first taste of programming; and a great first experience for me. I don't want to spend too much time on my pre-PHP days, but I guess it's important to know that I love this stuff...

I went to the University of Toledo, enrolled in the school of Engineering and got started down Computer Science Engineering Technology path.  From what I understood at the time, the CSE program was highly theoretical and the CSET program was highly hands-on.  I went with the hands on route, because I just wanted to write code.  In hindsight, I would have gone the other route.   It would have been nice to get a co-op or an internship, and even nicer still to have spent more time on the tenets of software development; alas it was not the path I chose.  It was here though that I was introduced to PHP and where my interest in the language began to grow.  I did what any n00b would do, I played around with it, learned stuff, broke stuff, fixed stuff the whole nine yards...

Fast-forward again, I landed my first job in the newspaper industry. The local paper here in Northwest Indiana hired me as a hybrid PHP Dev/IT Help Desk tech.  Obviously I was less than thrilled about the Help Desk side of things, but I had a chance to write software for a company using the language I had been playing with for the last 2 years of college.  To editorialize, this is where it would have been extremely helpful to have a Senior Developer to learn from...I didn't have that.  I went on my merry way, writing software that worked.  PHP 5 hadn't taken hold at the newspaper and since it was release in 2004 (my sophomore year of college), we learned everything in procedural PHP.

Being in the IT department meant that I got to work on some pretty darn cool stuff, at least compared the content and advertising management bore that was the newsroom.  Production reporting modules, apps for the different departments to schedule conference rooms, and tons of other small practical applications.  The big one came when I was about 6 months in, it was a project we called Zone Manager (for those of you unfamiliar with the newspaper or zoning, it is essentially the ability to produce a fixed number of different editions and being able to share pages across those editions when applicable).   Really all this application did was provide the designer with a filename to use for their page and inform them when their page had reached the destination.  There certainly was more complexity in the v 2.0 release that took advantage of jQuery and some of the really cool plugins/UI elements. 

The developer that was stationed in the newsroom had left for greener pastures (although not out of the newspaper industry...so not that much greener) and naturally everyone freaked out.  I was approached with the idea of taking over his position, and although I liked my current boss and wasn't real excited about working for the guy who was down there; it was more money at a time where raises were cut-off.  My first warning flag should have been that they were willing to pull me out of my department, but they wanted to quabble with me about 2k in compensation, I guess at that point I felt committed so I took it.  I hated it.  I hated dealing with the ad reps, the journos left me alone for the most part, but the ad reps never stopped coming in...After helping to lead a large scale CMS cut-over, they laid me off...then contracted me to do more work.  I'll spare the details here...

So after being laid off a few months, I found work in Chicago.  That's where I am currently a Senior Developer and typically lead the development effort on SugarCRM customization projects.

Introspective Glance

I have much to learn, I'm extremely grateful that I was able to work unfettered for a while.  I realize that there are a lot of negatives that came from that but I've been able to glean a lot of positives as well.  I find that I generally lack confidence when it comes to my abilities as a programmer.  I've had success, which has been a blessing, and that success isn't by accident.  I'm a good developer, I'm just not a 'heavy hitter' and that bothers me to some extent.  If I come across as persistent to the point of annoying, that's probably because I have learned something from you at some point and want to get to you know you better.  If it's annoying you, tell me.  Despite some unfortunate experiences, I love what I do, I want to get better at what I do.  I love to read books and blogs.  I have tattoos that I am unapologetic for, I love punk rock music.  I lost my hair at age 19, my wife wears the same size shoes as me and is the same height as me.  I have 2 awesome kids Carson Matthew and Madisyn Wrigley, yes I'm a Cubs fan.  I talk too much, I love slapstick comedy.  Although I went to Toledo, I've been a University of Michigan fan since the age of 6 and usually have some sort of UM attire on my person...

Other "cool" things

I was All-State Honorable Mention in the 100 yard breaststroke in the state of Indiana.  I was a scholarship swimmer at the University of Toledo for a year before the school discontinued the program.  I have run 3 marathons and can play the harmonica with my nose (so ask before you play my harmonica).  I play the drums in our church worship band and when needed play guitar for the AWANA program at church.  Other than my time at school, I've lived in Northwest Indiana my whole life and I think it'd be cool to go somewhere else at some point.



John Congdon


Awesome story Matt. It mirrors mine very well, and like I posted, php|tek has changed my life. And I am sure it will change yours too.

You will quickly learn to have confidence in your ability, or at least know where to go to learn some of the latest best practices. The key is knowing what you don't know and then learning it.

For me, it was all about the development to production workflow. This was one of the biggest things that I attended php|tekX to learn. That year, I was shy and introverted, but still met a few great people. I continued to put myself out there more in the community and now I feel part of it.

I know I sat there with you and Lonnie for quite awhile, but we didn't really talk one on one. But it was nice to at least listen to your story, and interact even if it was just a little bit.

Maybe we will catch up next year at Tek13

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