CIAT Resource Library

My Tech Journey – Mathew Birchard

Episode 1


Mathew talks about his background, military and past college career, career goals and why he chose IT.

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00;00;42;13 – 00;01;56;27

What made you want to start a career in IT?

So my name is Matthew. I’m starting the dual degree program or a dual degree program with CIAT. I am pursuing the Associate’s to Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Information Systems with a Cybersecurity concentration, which basically means I’m going for a Bachelor’s in cybersecurity, and at the same time I am pursuing an Associate’s Degree in Software Development

So I’ve done really I’ve done a lot of things in my life, just everything from working on a farm to helping in construction and in the military. I owned janitorial company, I owned actually a couple of landscaping companies. And, you know, as I started to get older, I’ve realized that without a sense of direction that I had until very recently, I needed to identify that direction, and I needed something stable I needed to find something that, you know, gave me the ability to be home with my kids, to take care of them and to just have that kind of flexibility.

That was something that was absent before But at the same time, I couldn’t sacrifice income, so I needed to make sure that I could support my family, that I had the income that I needed. And then the third component of what made me finally choose the IT path was that it had to be something that I was good at, but also wasn’t going to really just cause a lot of unnecessary wear and tear on my body.

Because, like I said, I’m getting older and I’m really not in the best shape. Not nearly as good a shape as I’d like to be.

00;01;56;27 – 00;02;56;09

How long did you serve in the military and what was your role?

So I was in the Army for eight years. I signed up in 2006 with my brother at which point I was actually supposed to become a Patriot missile operator. But they said that I couldn’t get my security clearance for it, which I did get actually when I got to my unit and the First Sergeant pulled me into the office and said, “Birchard, why do you have a Top-Secret security clearance?”

Because you don’t need that as a truck driver. So I spent four years as a truck driver driving trucks with seriously 48 wheels. We had tanks and everything that’s gigantic in the military, and then I spent four years as a trucker, as a Chinook helicopter mechanic, and when I was downrange, I ended up being the radio telecommunications operator for our battalion, which is basically the guy who he works behind a desk dealing with all the communications equipment and stuff.

00;02;56;09 – 00;04;28;19

What was it like transitioning from military to civilian life?

It was really difficult. Scary, very scary. So uncertain. In the Army, you do you have you have these routines and this pattern, the consistency, the structure and the income that you know, that you can depend on every single month, even when the government saying, “hey, we’re going to shut down and nobody’s going to have their paychecks this month”. That’s never happened.

And you know, you just get used to that level of stability and predictability. And so when you go and you leave that, especially after being in for eight years, the question haunts all of us. You know, what am I going to do? How am I going to make ends meet? You know, how am I not going to fall flat on my face?

And then especially for me, I have a family or I had a family at the time. I was married with two kids. And it was super, super important that me not cause any harm, you know, or seriously, I’m really proud. I guess I’ll say, you know, I didn’t want to cause any inconvenience for my family. So the loss of, you know, not being able to put food on the table for a week was just not an option.

So for seven years after leaving the military I honestly had no sense of direction and I never landed on my feet until the IT thing came up. And so it’s been quite the stressful journey doing just a little bit of everything, trying to figure out where do I fit, what is my purpose and what is my mission.

00;04;28;19 – 00;05;50;19

Tell me a little bit about your previous degree path & college classes prior to attending CIAT?

When I got out, the desire to actually pursue my bachelor’s in agricultural sciences, that was the first thing that I went and tried to do. And it was derived from the fact that when I was younger, I’d lived on a farm for a while. I was always very good with plants. I maintained my own gardens and when I was in, I had been introduced to some really unique agricultural concepts called spin farming and some other things.

And so I got out and I decided to pursue my Bachelor’s in Agricultural Sciences with Oregon State University on an online degree because we were in Florida, that’s Oregon. And ultimately what I even though I loved it and I was good at it, I wanted to start a farm. I wasn’t able to actually start the farm because I bought land and a house that was in an area that was zoned improperly.

And when I did get the opportunity to actually attempt to start or try farming, I found that the work was very, very much more difficult than I had originally anticipated. And so it wouldn’t have been a good fit for me anyways. But yeah, so it’s just a degree program that I didn’t end up completing. And I got a lot of experience and had learned a lot about myself, but I’d never ended up with the degree or even using it.

00;05;50;19 – 00;07;11;02

You told us how you built your own computer lab – have you always been passionate about tech?

So when I was younger, I was fortunate to be surrounded by people really that had a lot of interest in skills and knowledge and technology. I, I actually had a really good friend who had an extremely high IQ, ridiculous person who I am still envious of today. His dad worked in a nuclear facility, so they had their computers right off the bat.

We had computers and we got to play with. When I was in middle school, I had a good friend who hosted one of the largest actually cheat code and hacking websites in the nation. Which is crazy for a middle schooler to do that. And then I had my, my opportunities to get my hands dirty with it as well by going into the school and offering to build a computer lab for them.

And then they they gave me the resources and the go ahead to do that. So I’ve always had an interest in IT. And technology in general – loved it, even though for some reason I didn’t pursue it and we come into the computer lab, you know, I decide I’m kind of an all in guy. I decided I was going to pursue IT.

I ripped out my bed, I sold it actually and so what I’m sitting in is my computer lab. But it used to be a bedroom. I don’t have a bed anymore. I sleep on a cot, but I did, you know, I guess that’s one of those things that goes into the story where you get to say, yes, I love this room.

I walk in and I’m surrounded by something I’m absolutely passionate about. This is my space. And by the way, I sleep on a cot.

00;07;11;02 – 00;08;04;07

What are your current career goals?

When I leave CIAT in two years, I fully intend to have secured at least an internship with Tesla. I would like my my present career goal. Although I’m working as an intern currently I ultimately want to work for a company like Tesla, if not Tesla.

As a cybersecurity systems architect, I’d like to provide solutions, creative solutions. That’s who I am. And, you know, that’s just who I am. And I’m passionate about doing that. And so I’d like to be able to provide those services that have a high level of impact to the most people possible. And I believe that Tesla can provide that opportunity for me.

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