#19: Matthew Dean Brooks – Wood making to Software Engineering

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Breaking into tech from the arts was not a smooth ride for Matt Brooks, but he never allowed obstacles to get in the way because he was willing to embrace failures. Matt started out as a fine arts major and was doing wood work and one day until one day he decided to give computer programming a try. He started to learn how to code but initially gave up. He went back to try it another time and got rejected from Hack Reactor the first time he applied. His job search experience wasn’t an easy one either. But persistence was the key theme for Matt. He kept going and going and sought the guidance of a mentor until he finally found his current job working as a software engineer at OpenTable.


Years in Tech 2
Grew Up Petaluma, CA
Current Job Software Engineer
Date Recorded 6/24/2016

Key Points:

  • Learning how to code the first time can be really frustrating but don’t give up. Keep going and take those small steps.
  • Reaching out to a mentor will give you the guidance you need because they can give you a roadmap of where you want to be.
  • It’s easy to get discouraged when you’ve been rejected so many times but you can’t let these obstacles stand in your way. Embrace frustration and failure. It’s okay to fail. You’re going to fail but you have to keep doing it until you make it.
  • Even if you have no idea what the position is going to be like, you’ve got to have a positive attitude and come off as an energetic person.
  • Do not be afraid to write cold emails because you never know what doors of opportunity could open up for you. The worst thing they can say is no.

Show Notes (focus on the Stepping Stones):

[01:15] Matt’s background: his early dreams of pursuing art, landing a wood working job.

[03:54] His transition into the engineering world: Working at a translation agency doing project management and jumping into a startup doing enterprise software; working in WeWork and learning Python and JavaScript by using free online resources

[06:29] How Codecademy gave him the confidence he needed to learn web development

[10:10] Persistence + Mentorship – Matt gave up learning Python but he went back and learned JavaScript. Matt reached out to a mentor who gave him the first bit of the road map for applying to a bootcamp.

[12:24] How Matt prepared for the bootcamp application, what the interview process was like, and getting rejected in the end

[14:19] Rising up in the face of rejection Never giving up, prepare, and surround yourself with a solid support system

[17:34] Matt’s Hack Reactor experience: Getting surrounded by other smart people gave him the motivation.

[19:53] The job search experience: Dealing with a slow start, doubt starting to creep in, but getting a lot of interviews in the end

[22:56] The power of cold emails: The advice Matt got from Artur that got him to the front door

[25:21] What’s next for Matt: There’s a ton of room to grow!

[27:01] The Lightning Round:

If you had to start all over again and you had $100 and you’re in a new city, what would you do and where would you start?

  • Matt would find a mentor to give him some guidance.

Throughout the process, pick one song, movie, blog, or quote, or something that really kept you going?

  • Everything Marcus Phillips says. (Marcus is the Founder of Hack Reactor)

What is one piece of advice you would give to someone who’s considering starting this journey?

  • Embrace frustration and failure. It’s okay to fail. You’re going to fail but you have to keep doing it until you make it.

What is one thing that you fundamentally believed in that you changed your mind on after this process?

  • Matt used to believe that people have innate talent but he later realized that doesn’t matter nor does it make a difference.

Articles Mentioned & Resources:

Learning Resources

Hack Reactor

Contact Information:

Matthew Dean Brooks
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/matthewdeanbrooks
Facebook :https://www.facebook.com/matthew.d.brooks.39
Twitter: @deanboop

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