As IT student Matt Price graduates and launches his professional career leveraging his IT skills to do do great things, he shares his academic experience in the hope that “it can make a difference with future IT students.”

As sometimes happens, Matt’s academic career stuttered in the beginning. College and computer science were brand new to him and he says that he “lacked discipline and ended up enjoying college too much.” He left Illinois State, re-focused his efforts, and after two years attending community college, earned an associate degree and gained re-admittance to Illinois State. His perseverance and eagerness to seek out challenging opportunities have opened the door to great opportunity.

After returning to Illinois State in 2015, Matt discovered an opportunity to work as a part-time software developer for the Human Trafficking Initiative (HTI). HTI, based in Omaha, is a nonprofit organization developing software that identifies Internet traffic indicative of human trafficking activity and reports to law enforcement and service providers. Through his work with HTI, he discovered that classroom concepts that initially seemed unrelated to his goals, in fact, had direct application to the real-world problems he was working on. He continued working with HTI throughout his academic career. Matt recently completed an internship with a prestigious IT service provider on the west coast who offered him a position at graduation. However, he has decided to continue his important work with HTI after graduation.

Matt’s experience has shown him the value of committing oneself to your path and seizing or creating opportunities. He offers this advice to other IT students:

  • Seek out opportunities to apply your IT talent to real world problems. “Everything tends to seem theoretical in classes….. When you have real-life programming problems ……, everything changes.”
  • Do something sooner, rather than later. Matt observes that many students feel they aren’t prepared to accomplish meaningful tasks but, “The reality is that we already have some level of core skills that we can apply to literally anything we want.”
  • “[W]e’re lucky that we chose this profession because our skill set is one that is able to create opportunities rather than only being able to seek opportunities. We have the luxury of being able to build something useful to society without spending a dime or even leaving our homes. Really, the hardest part is just committing yourself.”