Matt Condon is a 23-year-old software engineer from Louisiana, USA. He spent the last two years helping startups set up their business as a location-independent consultant, and lately has been looking into developing code for the Ethereum blockchain.
Before he was a digital nomad, he was internship-hopping in New York and doing software development for a couple of cool tech companies like Google and IFTTT.
So how did this tech geek get from sipping coffee in hipster Brooklyn to working remotely in the only coffee shop in Bocas del Toro, Panama?
How Being a Superstar Intern Led to Matt’s Digital Nomad Lifestyle
Hailing from the southern state of Louisiana, Matt began college thinking he would graduate with a double major in physics and electrical engineering. But life took a turn for the better after he was granted a fellowship at hackNY – a summer program that pairs up quantitative or computational students with startups which provide the students with interesting problems and mentors them along the way. The summer program opened his eyes to the New York tech scene, while also introducing him to other college kids in tech.
During his time at hackNY, he was given the opportunity to intern at a marketing tech firm called Magnetic, where he developed a new method of acquiring context from client websites to do intelligent ad bidding. The whole experience was life-changing to him: Matt became passionate about software development. After his fellowship, he decided to change his major to computer science.
As Matt wanted to venture deeper in the tech scene, he applied for a winter internship at IFTTT – a platform which lets you automate tasks in various social networks and apps. To no surprise, Matt got the placement. He had a very successful internship and was even given a trophy for being IFTTT’s Best Intern of 2015.
Matt continued his streak of successful internships as the next summer, he scored a placement at Google. The icing on the cake was when Matt got invited to be a mentor for 34 hackNY students that year – a program where he himself was a student just the year before.
Upon finishing his Google internship, he was unsure of what to do next. So he wanted to jump the gun: “I heard about Hacker Paradise through a mutual friend of Casey Rosengren, and I decided to meet up with them in Tokyo – probably one of the best decisions I ever made.”
How a Digital Nomad Retreat Helped Matt Adjust to His New Life
Matt didn’t do much to prepare for his new life as a digital nomad, but he did start it with an open mind. At the Hacker Paradise retreat in Tokyo, Matt was joined with other digital nomads who helped him smooth out the transition: “I avoided the initial ‘I don’t know anyone here’ isolation shock, and their general expertise on the lifestyle helped build a foundation for me.”
He spent almost three months with the group, meeting people from different parts of the tech industry. Many of them gave him insights about how to transition into freelancing. Matt says that among the most valuable advice he received was to charge based on the value provided, not effort expended.
After being more confident about becoming a freelancer, Matt figured it was time for him to get himself out there. Through his hackNY alumni network, he learned that a startup in the insurance industry that needed help in building their software and that’s how he found his first client: “When I started out, I pretty much had a single main client where I was part of a team to build the startup’s minimum viable product. I think this aspect worked out really well because I wasn’t context-switching constantly. I haven’t used any sites or any other methods for getting clients, except for blogging. I’ve been super lucky with the word of mouth and networks I’ve been a part of.”
Why Aspiring Software Developers Are Tapping into Blockchain Technology
Matt is an avid blogger, and it has been one of his preferred methods of customer acquisition. He uses Medium to write articles about his work, and also to follow topics and other bloggers related to tech, especially blockchain.
Previously, he had written an article about a blockchain-based platform, Ethereum, which actually led him to pursue projects in blockchain: “It got praise from pretty much all of the people in the industry that I respect and resulted in chats with quite a few companies and is definitely the reason I felt confident pivoting my career in this direction.”
Matt is extremely excited to play a part in the blockchain ecosystem, as it is still growing. He says that there is a lot of work to do in terms of developing and its architecture: “It’s also relatively new and we’re still in the process of designing and documenting standards and developing the fundamental concepts that future projects will build upon.”
He also actively contributes to conversations with other blockchain industry players on Twitter, and uses it to post updates about his blog, or his Github profile, which has hundreds of followers. He says that these platforms are best for networking in the blockchain community, as it helps him to create real connections: “Most of the networking I do online is just chatting with friends, asking and answering questions, and sharing ideas.”
If you are looking into going into the blockchain tech world, Matt says the best approach is to first gain a foundation in coding in general, and then to start solving simple blockchain problems. He also suggests you to look into these GitHub pages: Ethereum Reading List, and Smart Contract Security Best Practices.
Matt’s Best Tips for Working as a Location Independent Freelancer
Ever since he jumped on the freelancer wagon, Matt says that he still finds it hard to discipline himself. However, he found that a good way to minimize distractions is by managing his energy, rather than his time: “For me, this means getting a good 2-3 hours of work in after breakfast when I’m in the right attitude. Once that wears off, I’ll do non-work related tasks, until I’m again excited to build something.”
Matt also has developed a preference in taking his travels slow by staying in a specific location for at least a month, to familiarize himself with the new city. Although he says he misses his life in New York, he would much rather find a new city to contribute to the local tech community.
He also shared some of his most insightful advice:
- If you can do your job in a location-independent way, start small by working from home, or quit and start traveling – pick something that fits your risk profile and see if you’re comfortable with that and slowly grow out of it;
- Start by building a small project, and increase complexity over time – you’ll realize you’ll be running your own startup;
- When you want to apply for a job in a company, research about them through their blog posts and genuinely comment on their work. Apply for those you’re excited about, as it comes across in your application.
Interested in Following Matt’s Footsteps?
Check out these online courses to learn how to become a successful software development consultant in blockchain technology, just like Matt:
- Blockchain and Bitcoin Fundamentals
- Getting Started with Ethereum Solidity Development
- Ethereum Blockchain Developer: Build Projects Using Solidity
P.S. Shoot Matt an email anytime for solution architecture and blockchain tech-consulting.
P.P.S. Matt said that networking is not his forte, so he focuses on building connections by keeping his existing networking close. Do you think that you’d do it differently?