Starting a Software Development Career at 18 – Launcher Stories
Matt moved from Texas to Boston at the age of 18 to enroll in Launch Academy and kickstart his career in software development. Now, a little over a year later, Matt is living his dream working as a Full Stack Developer in Boston.
My name is Matthew Bowler. I was in Boston Cohort 22 that started in July of 2018, and currently I’m working as a software developer at a pharmaceutical company.
Prior to Launch, I was working full-time at restaurant. I was busing, I was waiting tables, busing, doing host, basically running the entire front house, and I wasn’t really enjoying it. I was fresh out of high school, I was young for getting out of high school, I was 17 years old, and I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. I didn’t plan on going to college. My goal was to go into the military, and that kind of blew up due to medical reasons, so I was kind of lost for what I wanted to do, and my dad recommended like, “Hey, I know you always liked to code, so I think you should check out the bootcamp programs.” So I did some research, and I found Launch Academy, which is in Boston, and coming from Texas, I didn’t know if I wanted to do that. I didn’t know if I wanted to find one of the ones in Austin, but it seemed like it would be good to get out of my house, and I had a fallback plan of just flying back to Texas if everything fell through. So I just said why not? And I flew over to Boston after the Ignition stage of Launch, and hopped Airbnbs throughout the program.
So my first exposure to code was at a fairly young age, I’d say 12 to 13 years old. I was coding Java and it wasn’t really coding, it was just copy paste and adjust. I was making mods for video games. I say video games…it was exclusively one. It was Minecraft, and that was the only thing I knew how to code on and I never felt like I was an actual programmer. I just felt like I knew how to mix cool stuff.
Coming to Launch, I was 17-years-old whenever I started the Ignition program, and that was definitely very scary. A lot of my peers were going off to college, going to trades, and I was looking into a bootcamp that isn’t really, not really the typical form of learning. And so having to take that initial loan out, and make the jump to go to Launch was definitely really scary. And it just, the hesitation of not wanting to fail was really what drove me to almost not do it, but my dad took me aside and he was like, “What’s the worst that’s going to happen? You’re just going to end up here waiting tables again.” And so I was like, “I mean, yeah, I mean that’s not…you’re not wrong.”
My first week at Launch…well my first week with the Launch program was in July of 2018 and that was the Ignition program, and that onboarding process was awesome and we had a wonderful community on Slack, but then actually taking the flight to Boston in early August, I believe 2018, was exhilarating. I didn’t know what was going to happen. I got to Boston three days earlier than I was supposed to and I would just sit in the cafe down the road doing my Launch homework, just staring at the building ready to go. And when I walked in, I saw every demographic you could possibly see. I saw young people, I saw older people, I saw people that came from engineering, people that came from the food industry, just like me, people with college degrees, people without college degrees. It was really overwhelming in the sense that I didn’t expect that at all. And there’s definitely people from every walk of life and every personality. There’s so many friendly faces and it was such a welcoming environment the first week there. I made friends right off the bat, so that was really good. Yeah, the first week was better than expected, and it really blew my expectations away.
Initially coming into Launch, being the youngest in the cohort was definitely imposter syndrome immediately. Normally people talk about it at their first job or they talk about it weeks into the job, I had it as soon as I got in the door. I felt like I did not belong. I was very scared, and I didn’t know what to do. But 20 minutes into talking to people, I realized like once you’re out of high school, it’s kind of just like everybody’s friendly and like, hey, we’re mutual peers now. Yeah, I wouldn’t say age really impacted anything other than my own self confidence, but that went away very quickly, in terms of gaining confidence in myself and my ability.
Prior to coming to Launch, I was in a pretty tough spot in terms of self motivation, and you could say I was having a quarter life crisis. My main goal in my life was to join the military – that’s the only thing I wanted to do. I didn’t take the ACT or the SAT, it was just the military. And when they said no, it was very much just like a truck hit me, and I didn’t know what I was going to do. I felt really lost and helpless and whenever I thought a year and a half into future, I was terrified that I was still going to be working at that restaurant.
I have no debt. I paid it all off. I’m completely student loan free. I’m living in my own apartment with a cat, and it’s great, and I love it, and it’s ridiculous. Never in my wildest dreams would have expected that this is where I would be, and I’m so thankful that Launch helped me get here.