James Madison University

JMU CS Alumnus Finds his Footing

By Vilina Phan
Posted: April 24, 2013

PHOTO: Matt Makai“I've known I wanted to develop software since I was about 3 years old. I always knew I'd go into this field. It's very rare to have this clarity of purpose but I've been very fortunate that that's what led me down this path [of software developer],” said Matt Makai, a 2005 JMU CS alumnus.

Throughout his career, Makai has worked on several projects supporting clients in the government, non-profit, and commercial sectors.

Taking a break from office life, Makai will embark on a five month journey called Coding Across America. Makai’s objective is to meet with various technology companies across the U.S. and remotely assist in developing software for these clients.

Codingacrossamerica.com is a blog created by Makai to document his travels, learning experiences, and work. Makai’s journey began in March. Over the next five months, he will make various stops across the country, ending in Washington D.C. in August. At the end of his journey, Makai will return to the nation’s capital to continue working for Excella Consulting.

“I wanted to...learn from people around the US. I felt that by listening and writing stories on my Coding Across America blog that I could show examples of how software development is an amazing field to have a career in,” said Makai.

Makai started his career developing software at Freddie Mac. Simultaneously while working for Freddie Mac, Makai decided to pursue a master’s degree in Information Technology at Virginia Tech.

After completing his first master’s degree in 2008, Makai decided to continue his education at the University of Virginia, earning a second master’s in Management of Information Technology in 2010.  

While at the University of Virginia, Makai left Freddie Mac and accepted a position at Booz Allen Hamilton. While at Booz Allen Hamilton, Makai developed classified biometrics software for the Department of Defense.

Not quite finding his niche, Makai moved from Booz Allen Hamilton to Sapient, a global consulting firm, which develops classified software for the FBI. Although this position was interesting, Makai soon grew tired of the “typical government consulting gig” and joined Excella Consulting in 2010 upon graduation from the University of Virginia.  

At Excella, Makai was given the opportunity to develop software for Marriott International as well as other organizations including the Consumer Financial Bureau, George Washington University, and Motley Fool.  

“The most rewarding part of my job is creating tangible software that solves problems. I really enjoy sitting down with a person who has a problem. We hash out a potential solution on a whiteboard. Then I go and build it in a day or two. I demo the software and we iterate on the software until it's ready for use,” said Makai.

This past January, Makai spoke with the JMU ACM chapter advising students on how to gain a competitive edge in the field. The presentation was titled “Everything I Wish I Knew as a JMU Undergraduate,” which included a checklist for students to follow. Makai advised students to create projects that they are passionate about and to devote time to learn a language taught outside the classroom.

Since graduating in 2005, Makai has managed to stay busy by building a successful career in software development, crediting his success to the people around him and “JMU’s awesome Computer Science program.”

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