By Adam Fluck
As he moved closer to a degree in computer science, Matthew Polky worked for a California based startup and began to wonder if he had a future as a designer.
But soon thereafter, reality hit. “I got out there and thought, ‘Maybe I’m better at coding,’” Polky recalls. “It was a good experience, but it shifted my focus back to what I do best.” He credits that stint for learning how to communicate with users and better understand the problems they are having. And it makes him that much more equipped to write programs, something he does often as a software engineer at Guaranteed Rate.
How do you describe your role and the work you do?
“I get a lot of work that has fallen through the cracks. If something has been passed along from person to person and it makes its way to me, I’ll take it on and make sure it gets done. I’ve worked on four or five different teams [at Guaranteed Rate] and touched a lot of projects. As a result, I have a lot of familiarity with a wide range of things. That helps when I need to jump in and solve problems.”
Is there one project from your time with Guaranteed Rate that you particularly enjoyed?
“Working on our mobile app with one or two other developers and getting our work done within one or two months was pretty amazing. We didn’t have much experience in that area, so it was a very big learning curve when it came to getting our app tested on various devices and into the Apple Store. That was a cool experience and now I hope to continually add features to the app when we can. Our loan officers have been very receptive to using the tool and they’re dying for some enhancements. It’s possible that eventually the app could serve as a hub for so many of our services. There are definitely ways we can make it smarter and more advanced.”
What has it meant to be an engineer for a mortgage company that considers itself to be a technology leader in the industry?
“It’s one of the reasons I’m here. I’ve moved from team to team internally, but with each move I’ve learned something new. I was approached about the opportunity to work with [senior software engineer] Bob Beaty and I jumped at it. I knew working with him would allow me to learn so much. I’m very grateful to have this opportunity. I’m getting paid to learn but also deliver. It’s a great experience.”
Speaking of Bob, he describes you as an “up-and-coming engineer who works tirelessly.” How has leadership affected you?
“The leadership definitely push us to our limits. But I put a lot of pressure on myself as well. When I’m thrown into the deep end, I’m used to that. Having their support is very helpful. I know I can go up to them anytime and let them know if I’m in a jam. Bob used to be a professor so I couldn’t ask for a better mentor. My end goal is to teach others when I get far enough along. You know you’ve learned something well when you can teach it to someone else. Hopefully in the next year I’ll be leading a team of my own and I can trickle down some of the knowledge Bob passed on to me.”
What advice do you have for aspiring software engineers?
“Starting out fresh is good because in some ways you want to forget everything you know when you first get a job, unless perhaps you have a functional programming background. I once read an article that said learning your first programming language is like learning how to drive a car. It becomes much easier once you figure it out. But I look at it as now I’m not driving a car; I’m driving a spaceship. It’s a totally different mindset.”
What are three words to sum up your tenure at Guaranteed Rate?
“Evolving, personal and challenging.”