Machine Learning and Data Science Alumni Story: Becoming a Developer Matthew Fife Uses Six UW Certificate programs to fuel his career growth
Machine Learning and Data Science Alumni Story: Becoming a Developer Matthew Fife Uses Six UW Certificate programs to fuel his career growth

Seven years and six certificates. That’s the amount of time and number of programs Matthew Fife, a structural engineer for a manufacturing company in Washington, has finished through UW Continuing & Professional Education. Matthew’s taken so many certificates several of his earlier programs are no longer running or have been revamped to keep the curriculum current. Completing one certificate a year has been an incredible journey, one that Matthew is enormously proud of.

“I started with very little programming knowledge and finished as an advanced programmer in various disciplines,” he says. “I've come to appreciate computer science and machine learning. I'm an advocate for all my coworkers that are interested in the field.”

Matthew’s exploration began in 2014, when his cohort in the University of Washington Foster School of Business needed to create a mobile application for the business client competition at the UW. “It started with not knowing anything about programming and some of my friends in the UW Foster School of Business telling me, ‘You should do this,’” he explains.

Having always been interested in more than basic engineering, Matthew saw it as an opportunity to expand his education and try programming to develop applications. In June of that same year, Matthew enrolled in his first program, the since retired, UW Certificate in iOS and Mac Application Development. He spent the subsequent nine months learning how to develop an application from start to finish and creating 18-19 applications on the Apple App Store.

But after completing the UW Certificate in iOS and Mac Application Development, Matthew wasn’t done learning. He realized Apple Apps only cover half of the mobile world and started getting into Android development. To learn more about the process, Matthew moved on to his second certificate program in the fall of 2016, the UW Certificate in Android Application Development, which is also no longer available, to help round out his knowledge of the mobile world.

A few months after Matthew completed his second certificate, his UW Foster School of Business cohort asked him to help create another platform — a website to improve the team’s efficiency. Knowing that he needed to combine statistics-based math and computer science with his existing programming skills, Matthew again turned to UWPCE for a third nine-month certificate program in the fall of 2017.

“I enjoyed the iOS, Android and web development programs, so when I saw there was a UW Certificate in Machine Learning, I thought, ‘This is perfect. It's predictive analytics,’” he says. “The program combined skills I learned in engineering, like statistics and math, with computer science, which I didn't know before.”

Continuing His Education

In the fall of 2018, Matthew’s company was migrating from using older servers to operating in the cloud, which led him to his fourth program, the UW Certificate in Cloud Application Development, since discontinued, to get firsthand experience. He quickly discovered he could use the knowledge he gained in multiple ways.

“In addition to transitioning some of the code I'd written from our servers into the cloud, I realized I could apply the skills from my certificate to the mobile applications I was building,” says Matthew. “So, I started developing intelligent apps and websites that use cloud-based services to store data.”

In the winter of 2020, the pandemic hit. Matthew’s passion for programming motivated him to keep learning and enroll in his fifth program, the UW Certificate in Data Science while working from home.

“I thought it might be a good compliment to my UW Certificate in Machine Learning and offer more detail on the whole process flow, including gathering, cleaning up and executing on the data,” Matthew says. “The certificate expanded my knowledge and I'm applying those skills right now at work and using them to develop the apps I'm creating.”

By 2020, Matthew completed a whopping five certificate programs and became a talented developer. However, he decided to join his sixth program, the UW Certificate in Software and Design Essentials, at the beginning of 2021, to fill any remaining knowledge gaps.

“I took the UW Certificate in Software and Design Essentials to see if I was missing any skills, which was great because I did catch a few things that I didn't quite understand about web development,” he says.

In His Own Words

Alum Matthew Fife explains how the six UW certificate programs he's taken have been invaluable to his career growth.


Exploring His Possibilities

Besides increasing his skills, Matthew notes the best aspect of taking six certificates is that they allowed him to branch off from his company, try something new and develop his own projects.

“I learned so much through the programs I took, and they’ve been invaluable to my career growth,” Matthew says. “I received the bite-sized knowledge I needed to progress out on my own, which I wouldn't have been able to do otherwise.”

Additionally, the instructors in the programs are well-connected in their fields, and Matthew valued the ability to collaborate with faculty and students across programs.

“A lot of the instructors had connections to other UW certificates and some students enrolled in multiple certificates, making it possible to collaborate and communicate with them throughout my journey,” he says. “I'm looking into joining UWPCE’s official alumni communities on LinkedIn to see if I can progress into a different area or company through networking.”

Whether you’re improving your expertise for your personal development or an employer, Matthew believes UWPCE’s programs are a vital tool for boosting skills.

“I appreciate that the certificates teach you how to create a product as opposed to giving you busy work that checks a box,” he says. “I've been able to develop websites and apps in the App Store, so I'm proud of being able to have a tangible result from my learning.”

For more alumni stories from UW Professional & Continuing Education, visit the News & Features section of our website. To learn more about our certificates, specializations, degrees and courses, explore your options or contact us.

Author Brenna Ciummo

Brenna Ciummo

Brenna Ciummo is a senior editor and writer at the University of Washington Continuum College and has more than 15 years of writing and editing experience. She's developed a wide range of copy, from in-depth feature stories to bite-size blurbs across various industries, including education, travel and food. She enjoys covering student success stories and the latest trends in the career and education space.

Ciummo has a B.A. in communication and writing certificate from Arizona State University. A firm believer in lifelong learning, she is also an alumnus of the UW Certificate in Storytelling & Content Strategy and a UW copy editing and design course. 

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