It seemed that Daniel Matthewson’s interview was doomed before it even began. The phone rang two hours before the appointed time, jarring Matthewson ‘20 awake. His prospective employer, Joseph Ndesandjo ’01, was waiting on the other end of the line.
“He woke me up, and I wasn't prepared,” Matthewson confesses. But amazingly, after talking through their mutual goals, Ndesandjo offered him the job–with the stipulation that he accept within 24 hours. Otherwise, he would lose the opportunity. Even though Matthewson had neither met Ndesandjo nor spoken with other potential employers, he decided to take the leap. He accepted the job with SiteOwl, a security device management tech company, after only thirty minutes of deliberation, and what started off as a nightmare scenario turned out to be a promising beginning to a new career.
Matthewson, who received the President’s Scholarship from Trinity, initially had no intention of designing software for a security integration company. Inspired by his mother, who came to America from China to study economics, he planned to follow in her footsteps as an economist. However, his career path changed directions after arriving on campus.
Matthewson selected Trinity out of an extensive lineup of other institutions. Looking back, he calls his choice “a game changer,” particularly due to the student/professor engagement that comes with smaller class sizes. “I ended up taking a computer science class from Professor Hicks first semester of freshman year,” Matthewson explains. “We started talking about my major, and he convinced me to switch to CompSci. He said it would be a ‘waste of talent’ if I didn’t.”
Without this encouragement, Matthewson would never have started the journey that’s brought him to a new field, a formative internship, and a love for user experience. “I have friends in bigger schools who tell me their entry level classes have 400 people in them,” he says. “I wouldn’t have pursued computer science if I’d been in a class that size because I wouldn’t have had a professor come and tell me to pursue it.”
Eager to build on his new skills, Matthewson began to explore leadership and internship opportunities in computer science. He joined the Association for Computing Machinery, the Trinity chapter of a national computer science organization, eventually going on to become president in 2019. Finding an internship, however, presented more of a challenge. Like most first-year students, he found the prospect of competing against older applicants daunting–they would have more experience and more time to build up impressive resumes. But Matthewson pushed his anxieties aside and applied to SiteOwl through the Students + Startups program.
Four years later, Matthewson could not be more grateful for his choice. “It changed my entire trajectory,” he says. Despite its rocky start, his time at SiteOwl has allowed him to develop an enduring passion for creative technical solutions that he still pursues today. Matthewson’s summer internship turned into a part-time job with increasing responsibility over the years. He spent his senior year as a salaried product manager overseeing a team of designers and developers. Now, since graduating, he is fully leading product and creates work for up to 15 developers. “They’re in their 30s and 40s, which sometimes can be strange,” Matthewson admits. “Sometimes I wonder if I’m viewed as inexperienced just because of my age, but in the grand scheme of things, I’ve been with the company three years, and I know what I’m doing.”