Making the Right Call
Matt Florell never expected to end up where he is — professionally or geographically. Below, he shares the twists and turns that got him where he is today.
After graduating high school, I majored in computer science but after a year of that, I changed my major to communications, and also took digital art classes.
At the end of my junior year, I learned that I had apparently taken exactly the right classes for a new hybrid degree called “Graphic Communications,” and could still graduate on time if I switched my major. I decided to go for it because it sounded cool.
I also interned at a small local advertising company, where I created websites and print pieces. After graduation, I moved to the Chicago area to build websites for a larger company. This work rekindled my interest in programming, and a few years later, I landed a job as the head programmer for a startup dot-com company. I ended up managing my team — and getting promoted after only two months.
Our company soon merged with a marketing company in Florida, and I had to downsize our staff and coordinate the move. That company primarily sold international travel packages, and after September 11, 2001, the business collapsed. We ended up shifting our focus to business telephone services.
For the next two years, I focused on back-end programming and database administration. Because we needed a more flexible business phone system, I started writing my own open-source business phone integration system.
Within weeks of the first release of the software, I had outside paying clients for whom I would customize, install, and configure the software. Within four years, I had so much consulting work that I was able to quit my day job. And a few years later, I joined a few other consultants to found our own company, which is what I’m still doing today.
In college, I never dreamed of running my own company; it seemed like more risk and responsibility than fun. But then I had a lot of bad managers who taught me how NOT to manage people. I also realized that being your own boss means that you can say no if you don’t want to do something. You can even fire clients if they treat you poorly, which is a big perk.
Changing from building websites to programming business phone systems was at first mostly a job requirement. But as I got more into it, I saw that there was a lot of room for growth — and a lot more money, which was a strong motivator.
Every step in my journey has shaped who I am and made me happier and more fulfilled than if I had just stuck with what I started doing. It’s very important to spend some time outside of your comfort zone. You just may find something that makes you happier than what you are doing now.
I’m most proud of my family, while not perfect, we overcome obstacles together and love and laugh a lot.
Chloe Folsom Fall 2023 • Junior
University of South Florida, Tampa
Hard-working. Ingenious. Mechanically inclined. My approach to design is to follow instructions and always add a little charm.
Caleb Smith Fall 2023 • Senior
Florida Polytechnic University, Lakeland