Thursday, April 3, 2014

Catching Up With: Matthew Bischoff '09

In today's post, Mr. Turner '00 chats with alumnus Matthew Bischoff '09 (Sicklerville, NJ) about St. Joseph's Prep, iOS apps, and his job at Tumblr.

It was clear that Matt had an interest in computers. While some students preferred a pen and pad for notes, Matt's PowerBook suited his learning style. But like all Prep guys, Matt's interests were varied - drama, service, retreats, and course work complemented his tech background. I had the chance to talk with Matt, a former student, about his time at the Prep, his current job, and what it takes to thrive in the tech world. Here's what I learned:

What have you been up to since June 2009, Matt?
Matthew Bischoff '09

After the Prep, I attended the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT), studying Human-Computer Interaction for two years, before landing a job at The New York Times as an iOS engineer. While at NJIT I played Tobias in the school's production of Sweeney Todd, and did some research related to my major.

My Prep classmate, Brian Capps '09, and I starting writing iOS apps during senior year at the Prep. Our first app, Quotebook, was released while I was at NJIT. Since then we released another app called Velocity. We also do contracting for other people - building iOS apps. That's also my full time job - I'm an iOS engineer at Tumblr.

Can you take me through your day-to-day at Tumblr?

I come in and look at a list of things we need to accomplish - some of them are going to be bugs (problems in the current app), and other things are new features, exciting stuff that we want to add. I work with my team to decide who is best suited for each task and then we start developing it. We write code to start making things happen, and then we share those changes with each other before submitting a beta version to the internal community at Tumblr. Once we're confident with the update, we submit it to the App Store.

It's my favorite job I've ever had. It's such a creative place to work - we're all so focused on making the best publishing platform. And it's incredibly exciting.

Tumblr is the best way to follow the world's creators. And if you're a creator yourself, it's the best way to share your work with an audience.

What skills and background does one need to do what you do?

I was interested in computers from an early age, so that helped. Studying computer science as much as possible. Advanced math skills are nice to have, but not essential.

A lot of it is logic - critical and rational thinking. Anything that would bolster those kinds of skills is good.

But the way that I really learned how to do it was by coming up with the thing that I wanted to exist in the world - an app that I wanted to build. If you commit to that, you're forced to learn how to do it. If you're learning how to do it because you think you'll make a lot of money or because it sounds interesting, I don't think you'll persevere due to the amount of failure in this line of work. Several hours and even days are spent building things that don't work the way you want them to. That's hard to stomach unless you have an end goal in mind.

Matt's senior yearbook photo
Did the Prep prepare you well?

Absolutely. No question about it. The Prep helped me both to think critically and to make an argument in a rational and respectful way. I consider myself to be well-read and can see things from multiple perspectives. I have the Prep to thank for that. In addition, I can usually draw from something that I learned in, say, Latin or History class when I'm trying to solve a problem.

What about your Prep experience are you most thankful for?

My teachers truly cared about me as a person. I remember times when I was stressed out because I had so much on my plate and my teachers could sense that. They were very empathetic.

Why should a family consider St. Joseph's Prep?

It's different for every family - I was drawn to the Prep's excellent theatre program and the level of trust the school gave to students with respect to the use of technology. So my advice to families is: talk to people who've experienced the Prep and be sure to visit the school. Once you're there, you'll feel that St. Joe's Prep is somewhere that you should be.

This blog post was written by Mr. Ed Turner '00, Director of Admission.

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