Matthew R. Bisson
View From Speare Hall (Dorm) Window, ca. 1997
View From Speare Hall (Dorm) Window, ca. 1997

I am Matt Bisson.

“… Computers have sparked my imagination for a long time.”

As long as I can remember, I have been tinkering with computers. I can remember playing around with the operating system as a child, trying to see what was inside the guts of it, and of course I can remember playing many games to suit my interests. Computers have sparked my imagination for a long time. Being a software engineer was the adopted career of my father — after starting off in the music business — and when he saw my interest, he introduced me to the world of writing programs.

Before I was in high school, I wrote my first C program.

Nearby Northeastern
Nearby Northeastern

Even before high school for that matter, I was fascinated with how the bits of the operating system fit together, so I often played around, making things like terminal applications using Visual Basic, creating new MS-DOS console fonts, and implementing the UNIX ls command for DOS. It was only logical, then, that my friend and I would petition our high school to introduce a C programming course — which they did! It turns out one of the math teachers was fluent in C and C++, and so after studying C for a year, we asked them to add a C++ class. Almost every student from the C class joined the C++ one as well. For our final project, we made a top-down racing game, which was incredibly fun to make, and my friend and I have been writing software professionally ever since.

When I got to Northeastern, I pretty much thought I knew everything.

Only by surrounding yourself with smart people can you really understand how little you actually know. Yes, I already knew how to write software in C and C++, but when I got to Northeastern, they wanted well-rounded people to graduate from the university. I honestly didn't know how to really study until about half way through my time there, and I give great credit to Northeastern for really teaching me how to learn. There, I focused on compiler design. I feel knowing what the machine is doing as much as possible yields the best code, even at the higher levels. I always loved the science and precision that goes into writing a compiler.

Northeastern also introduced me into the professional software development world with their co-op program. This is actually the reason I chose to attend the College of Computer Science (CCS — incidentally, the “nation’s first computer science college.”1). To this day, I’m still so proud of the colleagues I met at Rational and Availant, and the work we did on ClearCase and IBM AIX high availability, respectively. It also (in combination with CCS) gave me exposure to nearly every form of UNIX and Linux.

A busy workstation
A Busy Workstation

I graduated into a recession.

Almost immediately after graduation, the “dot com bubble” burst. My peers had gone from companies trying to get us to drop out of college with signing bonuses, to nobody returning phone calls checking for openings. It was tough — I still have a list of companies I cold-called to check if they were hiring. I had a lot of time to study software engineering on my own, but with a little luck, I also learned the power of personal connections at building your career. Through a former co-worker of my mother’s from two decades earlier, I was able to talk to someone with the power to hire. I told them, “I will work for free for a month, and you will be so impressed with my work, you’ll have to hire me.” …And they did.

Mobile software development — a fortunate choice!

This first job I acquired after college was building applications and data synchronization conduits for various mobile platforms. This was a great field, not only because it required very careful use of system resources, but because hand-held devices were about to see explosive growth, which continues to this day. Connections at this job got me into Palm, where I developed an OOP framework for the mail application (and eventually other PIM applications). Connections from Palm later got me into RIM (the BlackBerry company), where I did the same kind of work, as well as back-end work for Text-to-Speech and the BlackBerry Playbook PIM data connections.

The IntelliVid Office
The IntelliVid Office

I honestly can’t be happier being a system software engineer.

It’s been a long road, but I have been a system-level software engineer for many years now. I got my start between Palm and RIM at a start-up called IntelliVid, which did video analytics. There I worked very closely with someone that knew the guts of things like pthreads inside and out. It was a place where people challenged each other to “prove it” when one made assertions. Later, when VMware came calling, I jumped at the opportunity. I learn so much every day, trying to prove it, and helping people (that are already smart) with things that I know. At VMware, I’ve worked on the SRM disaster recovery solution, and have made my way down in the software stack to the I/O path with data replication. I’ve had the opportunity to work on anything from system software to C++ coding standards, and everything in between.

I can’t wait to see what will happen next!

Yeah, but what else is cool, Matt?

Thanks for asking. I have a lot of interests, probably because I’m an only child, so I try to keep myself occupied. Stuff like…

Billerica Little League
Billerica Little League
  • Photography — I can remember having my first camera as a very small child, maybe three or four years old. It’s ridiculous, but I still have the blurry, crooked photos I took back then. My favorite part about travel is bringing my Leica around with me, taking lots of photos, and printing up a little book of the trip. I particularly love looking at photos from long ago (including before I was born), and imagining being there myself. The reality of photos is what draws me to it.
  • Travel — Travel, honestly, keeps me sane. I have been to a number of (US) states over the years, but I had always dreamed of going to Hawaii, and I finally did shortly after college. After having met my wife (and travel partner), though, I have really gone out and visited some of the places I’ve always wanted to go, taking multiple trips to Italy, France, the UK, and even going across the globe to Japan, or far up north to Iceland. These are memories I’ll never forget.
  • Baseball — Being from Boston, it’s almost a requirement that I love baseball and the Red Sox. I can remember watching the games with my grandmother, who watched religiously since they first came on in the 1950’s. There is no greener grass on earth than there is at Fenway Park.
  • History — The older, the more fascinating. I think the love of history is not just about avoidance of being “doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past, yada yada,” but about sparking the imagination. It’s about putting yourself behind the eyes of someone that lived in a world nothing like our own.
  • Martial Arts — Studying jūjutsu has taught me a lot — not the least of which is reminding me how to learn from the state of knowing nothing, like a child. This by itself is an extremely valuable experience. Many years back, my friend and I were bored, and looked at adult classes for something to do. It was between jūjutsu and American Sign Language. We have been going multiple hours almost every week for over a decade, and we haven’t looked back.
  • Guitar — Both of my parents were musicians, but for me, it never seemed to take. Until, that is, my college roommate got a guitar on a whim, and I ended up monopolizing it so much, I had to go get one for myself. There is something really gratifying about the experience of not only listening to my favorite guitar riffs, but actually making them come from my own guitar. I cannot explain it. For a while there, my ritual was to come home from work, and play along with my favorite songs for 2+ hours every night.
  • Learning languages — I had an affinity toward Japanese history and culture in college. I actually created a “subarea” based on Japanese film and languages courses that I applied toward a graduation requirement. I honestly wish I could speak all the languages in existence, but I would have to study for many lifetimes to get there. At one time or another, I had an OK understanding of both Japanese and Italian. If I ever feel good about those two, my next language to study will have to be French.

If you have made it this far, I want to say thanks for stopping by, and thanks for taking the time to learn all about me!

The Early Days
The Early Days

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