Matthew JamesBy: Anne Maxwell
One could argue that Matthew James has done things a bit out of order.
He first landed a fabulous job.
He then bought a house in his hometown.
Finally, he earned a bachelor’s degree in computer science.
While James’ goals were not achieved in standard sequence, he couldn’t be happier about the progression of his professional and personal life. And, he says he owes it all to a recommendation he received one summer at the county fair when he was back home. An acquaintance who knew James was studying computer science at Kansas State University mentioned an opportunity to receive coding trading through an online “boot camp.”
James knew it was something he had to look into.
“I had decided to go to K-State for my computer science degree, but I was coming from a small, rural-area high school where there wasn’t a lot of opportunity for technical education,” he explained. “When I got to college, there was some tech knowledge they expected you to have and so I thought the coding training could be a great way to get some additional training while I worked on my degree.”
Once immersed in the Rural & Remote Coding Academy, James immediately sensed the difference between traditional university curricula and “boot camp style” online training.
“The university setting offers intro classes for different types of programming, but there’s not a great starting point that explains all of the basics,” James said. “When I began the coding academy, I got a really great foundation to learn and to build on.”
Balancing his traditional coursework with the online training was possible due to the self-paced format of the coding academy and the ability to complete tasks as his class schedule allowed.
“It was definitely manageable,” he said. “There were times I got up early to do my coding work before class, and there was times I would do it late at night. The key was to stay disciplined and keep on top of it.”
There was also the added benefit of gaining skills in the academy that benefitted him at KSU.
“In one of my classes we were using a language that I had learned in coding academy, so that really put me way ahead of a project I had to do,” he said.
Rural & Remote’s Coding Academy also helped James hone in on the area of tech that best suited his skills and the challenges he enjoys.
“Computer science is really a broad field – not just one type of programming – there are a lot of areas of study,” James explained. “The coding academy was specifically tailored toward being a full-stack developer, which is building a front and back end of an application or a website.”
The field of full stack development in and of itself can still have a lot of differentials, which is why James said further experience helped him discern what he liked best. After receiving his certificate from the coding academy in the spring of 2019, he received the opportunity to complete a 500-hour apprenticeship as a web developer with Primitive, a digital solutions company based in Lubbock, Texas.
“It really gave me a view of how the actual job was done on a day-to-day basis,” he said. “I was able to see what all went into it. I could tell from working on projects that I really liked front-end development best because it’s the point where you get to see the site come together. One by one, page by page, you get to the see a site come to life.”
After his apprenticeship, James was hired as a full-time employee of Primitive in January 2020 – almost a year before he’d earn his college degree. So how did it feel to secure a great job with benefits before ever donning a cap and gown?
“It’s great,” James said. “I do see a lot of people who are my age trying to figure out what they are doing in their life and for me, it all came together. I have nothing to complain about. Since I first reached out to Rural & Remote, I’ve done the work and things have moved forward.”
Best of all, James is able to take all that hard-earned training and knowledge and use it in a field he enjoys and where he feels most comfortable – right at home in rural Kansas.
“It’s true that when you live in a rural area, there’s not a lot of people who have the opportunity to come back,” he said. “There’s not a lot of times that people get to go back to their hometown to build and to enjoy their life with family and friends.”