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Founder

Ryan Potter, CTO and Co-founder of Matchstiq

One of few kids without access to the internet at home growing up, it seems unlikely Ryan would end up a Software Engineer and a damn good one at that. Ryan shares more about his journey into tech, the importance of leaving your ego at the door and ultimately how he ended up as a co-founder of Matchstiq. Thanks for sharing, Ryan. 

Firstly, how would you explain to a five year old what it is you do?

I lose a lot of sleep solving problems for people that they didn’t know they had.

And for the adults, what does that translate to in regards to your day-to-day?

My day-to-day generally consists of working closely with creatives and trying to transition their visions to the digital realm. Ideas are thrown around, and we work out how we can utilise current or upcoming tech and sell those ideas to our clients.

“I suppose there are a few stereotypes in the industry, mainly that we’re all massive nerds who sit away in a basement somewhere never seeing the sun”

What are some of the common misconceptions about working as a software engineer?

I suppose there are a few stereotypes in the industry, mainly that we’re all massive nerds who sit away in a basement somewhere never seeing the sun - I mean I am a massive nerd, and I do spend a lot of my time indoors but in reality the software industry attracts a pretty diverse crowd. 

There used to be a bit of a stigma around programming, and jobs that surround it, but as people have been exposed to it more in high-school and tertiary education they find a passion for it and can craft their own little niche in the industry.

Today we have a huge variety of job titles; from traditional database and backend engineers to people who work solely on creating animations for apps. It’s a new and exciting world for new developers.

Was working in tech something you dreamed about doing as a kid, if not what was?

I never dreamed of being a programmer as a kid, mainly because we had a computer that was 10 years behind the times and I got special dispensation from school because I was one of very few without the internet. My goal was always to get into architecture, as I had a passion for drawing and it seemed pragmatic at the time.

Turns out if you pick a career for yourself as a child you should also figure out if you hate actually doing that kind of work.

“I find myself incredibly lucky that I was in the right place and the right time to move my career down that path, and I often reflect on what my life would be like if I didn’t see the advert that day.”

Tell us a little bit more about your career journey and ultimately about how you ended up working at Matchstiq?

As mentioned, programming was never in my sights career wise. My flatmate was studying web development at the then Natcoll Design Technology and the stuff he was making at home as part of his course work looked incredibly fun.

I was working in town one day, and they had an intake for the same course so I parked illegally on their front doorstep, applied for one of the last spots and handed in my resignation that day.

I find myself incredibly lucky that I was in the right place and the right time to move my career down that path, and I often reflect on what my life would be like if I didn’t see the advert that day.

I’ve been working professionally as a developer now for a little over ten years, and have worn many hats in that time; Mobile banking security to Creative technologist and everything in between. There has literally been blood, sweat and tears, but on the whole it's been a journey I wouldn’t trade for anything - except perhaps for my failed childhood dream of becoming an All Black.

Can you share some more insight into what that transition was like? 

It’s always hard doing something for yourself. Normally a project comes to a close, you get paid and then you get to forget about it. Projects that you own, that you obsess over are a whole ‘nother beast. My partner says I work too much, and she’s probably right but there’s also something amazing about putting a decades worth of skills to use for something you’re truly passionate about.

What is it specifically that you like about working at Matchstiq relative to your past jobs? 

I suppose knowing that the buck stops here. Any successes and failures come from what I directly put in. I don’t have to worry about a manager pulling the plug, or a client going in a direction that you know will ultimately hurt a project. It’s also nice being so close to the end users, hearing what they have to say and what they think will work for them - it’s not usually something I’m a part of.

“Tell people what you know and don’t know honestly, and ask for help when you feel a bit lost.”

Do you have any advice for people considering tech as a career path and how they might get there quicker?

Use Matchstiq, of course! Learn from others what they find interesting and see how that resonates. I’ve met with tonnes of people that haven’t considered trying a certain aspect of programming and ended up loving it. On top of that, I’d say have no ego.

Tell people what you know and don’t know honestly, and ask for help when you feel a bit lost. This job you will always be learning and evolving, so it’s important to be open to that from the get-go.

What was something that happened in your career that made you change your workflow?

I was called up one night by my then boss, and was told that a client’s e-commerce database had corrupted and they were losing tens of thousands of dollars worth of sales every hour that the site was down. We had the whole office in at 1am manually editing database fields because we had no workable backups… That kind of thing only happens to you once in your life before you put a whole bunch of redundancy in your workflow.

Lastly, Matchstiq continues to evolve.  What kind of candidates do you think Matchstiq is looking for in terms of experience, attitude and character?

In my experiences on both sides of the table: hiring, and being interviewed - companies look for culture fit first, and capability second. You can be the best developer in the world, but if you’re a bit of a dick then you may be passed over for someone who’s objectively a little worse but works well in a team.

There are very few jobs where you won’t be working closely with those around you so emphasis on soft-skills are a great way to get ahead. Willingness to admit you don’t know an answer but giving it a good guess is also something I look for in a candidate.

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