It’s a Living: Computer Scientist for the FAA

Snapshots of professionals in a variety of interesting jobs

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Love it or hate it, we all have to go to work. Some of us are better with people than we are with computers and some of us are better with numbers than we are with words. With as many goods, services, and industries as there are, each of us is responsible for contributing to the bottom line somehow. Here’s how some of us do it.

Clarke has been programming computers since he was nine

Name: Matthew Clarke

Age: 30

Company: ASRC Research and Technology Solutions

Location: Pomona, New Jersey

Title: Computer Scientist

What do you get paid to do?
I design Web and software applications for the Federal Aviation Administration.

What are the chief skills someone in your position needs to have?
To be a good programmer one needs a strong mathematical background and acute attention to detail. You need to be a self-starter and be able to learn new programming languages on your own and frequently. Unix administration skills are a big plus.

How did you get this job?
After serving in the U.S. Army and later in the public sector, I wanted to see what working in a corporate environment would be like. Good skills and a good resume will get you anywhere you want to go.

What kind of educational background do you have?
I have a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science from Kean University, but I have been programming computers since I was 9 years old. I hear there is a large community of hobbyist programmers still using QuickBasic, which is where I started.

How long have you been in this industry?
I have been working as a Federal contractor for three years.

How long have you been doing this kind of work?
I have been developing software and freelance programming for 10 years.

What do you love most about your job?
I get to spend most of my day doing what I have always loved to do–program computers and find new unique solutions to complex problems.

What’s the most challenging aspect of your job?
The biggest challenge in my job is simplifying extremely technical terms into a language that can be understood and that is valuable to management.

What’s an entry-level position that might lead to the job you have?
Most tech jobs nowadays have a lot of crossover between them, but the best base one could have is shell scripting and system administration in Unix.

What would be the next professional step up for someone in your position?

The next phase for someone like me would be to serve as a technical team manager.

  • Morris Tshaka O. Hendricks

    This article is pretty on point. It shows how we can discover our “nitch” in this world and apply it to our profession. Thank you to the writer Sonja Mac and to the subject Matthew Clarke for giving us a glimse into his nitch.


    The first line of this post struck me as interesting. My first thought was we do not all have to go to work. There are many who work from home as free agents. The second thing that struck me was that it seems in direct opposition to the entrepreneurial spirit advocated by BE. I do not mean to be critical; these are simply the first thoughts that were generated when I read the post. The other comment I have which I would LOVE feedback on because I am curious. I am also a computer scientist. I have been a professional software developer since 1986 and I took a lot of match during my undergraduate years because everyone said:

    To be a good programmer one needs a strong mathematical background

    I must say I disagree with this. I have used many languages and I do not remember needing anything outside of basic math skills to be very successful. Perhaps I have been programming so long I am missing something. I definitely agree with attention to detail, self-starter, continuing education, but in 2010 I see those as being critical to any profession and not solely the programming profession.

    Great profile. I enjoyed reading the article. Keep up the good work.

    Warmest Regards,
    Kai Dupé

  • Angela Moore

    I am one of Matt’s coworkers and an occasional reader of BE Mag. While advanced math may not be necessary to program (Kai), credentialed analytical skills certainly are. In this particular environment, math or science degrees are almost always prerequisite, if not strongly expected. It is what sets apart the professional from the casual programmer. In addition to being a computing whiz, Matt is a friendly and witty guy and talented musician. Congratulations to you, Matt!