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2012 Digital Grad Loves Career
Kait Matthey
Students are often asked, “Where do you see yourself in 10 years?” as they graduate from high school. For Kait Matthey, who completed the Warren County Career Center Digital Design program in 2012 and graduated from Franklin High School, her answer was to teach at WCCC for a while, freelance as a digital artist, and then become a software developer. Ten years after her high school graduation, she is a Software Engineer for Kroger Technology & Digital, and loves her job.

Along the way, she has done freelance digital art, and was both a Long-Term Substitute Teacher for three years with WCCC, and taught on two satellite campuses before coming to main campus as a Career Technical Laboratory Assistant. “Even though life certainly had other plans for how I would accomplish that (my career goals), I’m proud to say I did everything I set out to do,” she said.

Kait discovered her interest in computer programming at WCCC’s High Tech Career Camp in 2008.

“In the Digital Design rotation of the camp, I got to write ActionScript, a programming language, to create my very own Snake game,” she said. “I loved it so much I decided to attend WCCC. In 2011, WCCC was piloting an e-learning platform where I got to take my first Java class. Java is the core language I write in today! Because of WCCC, I fell in love with film, photography, and programming. I also went through a pretty rough time at home, and the staff at WCCC was there for me when I needed help. They helped me get a prom dress when I couldn’t afford it and sent me the winter coat and boots that kept me warm when I moved to Chicago (for college). I wanted to give back in the same way WCCC helped me.”

After high school graduation Kait was accepted and started at Loyola University in Chicago. She had earned a scholarship and was excited to work on her degree. During her college years, she began having serious health issues and eventually faced choosing her health over finishing college in her last year.

“I got all the way to my final semester of college, and ended up shattering a bone in my foot that required emergency surgery, and I failed all of my remaining classes because I couldn’t attend my finals,” she said. “When I was finally able to return to school years later, I was informed that the degree requirements had changed so much that it would take me another three years to complete my degree. I was in a lot of medical debt and needed relief immediately. That’s when I decided to go to a coding bootcamp. I couldn’t afford the bootcamp, so I ended up in a program called Apprenti, which matched me with an employer, Kroger. My training was covered in full and I was guaranteed a job afterward. It just so happened that Kroger is exactly where I wanted to be, and I’m so grateful I got the opportunity to interview. Now that I’m successful in my career, but still growing, I do think I’ll finish my degree. However, my main focus at the moment is to ride this wave of growth that I’m on. I’m in a unique position to be able to influence by example both within and outside the Kroger organization. There are a few certifications I would like to work on obtaining, but nothing on my horizon is required by my job – degree included.”

Kait started out at Kroger as an apprentice in software engineering, and after three promotions in two years she became Technical Lead on a team called “Snakes on a Train” that worked in the Customer Loyalty space. She has just started with a new team that works with targeted offers.

“I was recently brought on to a new team called ‘Wonder Woman’ for my expertise in a graph database called ‘Neo4j’ and we are building some new functionality that will enable Kroger to create more specific and targeted offers and sales,” she said. “You won’t see any of our work in the real world just yet, but we’re working with some exciting technology. In my time at Kroger I’ve learned a lot about this Neo4j database and became a Neo4j Certified Professional. I used that knowledge to be published as a co-author in a scholarly paper in August 2021 entitled ‘Simplifying License Information Through the Use of a Knowledge Graph.’ I’m on the Kroger Talent Pipeline, where I have a hands-on say in continuing to grow diversity, equity and inclusion at Kroger by interviewing and bringing on new talent. I’ve had the opportunity to have great influence on a number of things at Kroger, including strengthening our release management in order to minimize the amount of technological issues faced in stores across the country. While my work is far from done, I’m thrilled to be a part of it.”

Kait said she had always wanted to get into software development, and specifically Java.

“Even though I started on ActionScript, I really fell in love with Java in 2011 when I took that course at WCCC,” she said. “I continued to study other C-Based languages, like C# in college and C++ for fun, but my heart really stayed true to Java. I did envision I would spend much more time teaching, but given my struggles with health and home I just couldn’t put my future on hold any more.

“I have a certificate in full stack development from MAX Technical Training, where I’ll actually be teaching in October for a part-time full-stack coding bootcamp. Again, I like to give back where I can. I recently also completed a five-month leadership training, where I was given a certificate called the FMI Food Retailer Certificate. This sets me in the grocery industry as an up and coming leader. I look forward to continuing to grow as a software engineer and inspire other young women to enter into STEAM jobs.”