As we attempt to navigate our way through the college experience and, eventually, across that graduation stage, we all have at least one of those moments when we wonder why we are even here. Why bother with college? We wonder whether the seemingly endless toil of studying, test-taking and then studying some more is really worth whatever’s laying on the other side.

In moments such as these, it’s often helpful to look at the achievements of those who went before us, those who pushed past those occasional apathetic moments and went on to achieve great things. One such achiever is Matthew Gomez, a 2007 graduate of UTSA’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

Following Gomez’s graduation from UTSA, he went on to be the first UTSA graduate to ever be accepted to the University of California, Berkeley – ranked by U.S. News as the 22nd best school in the nation – on a full-ride scholarship. After attaining his Master of Science degree in Structural Engineering, Gomez began his employment with Jaster-Quintanilla, an Austin-based structural engineering firm.

In 2009 Gomez was laid off from Jaster-Quintanilla, but quickly found new employment with Protection Engineering Consultants, where he is currently working.

At Protection Engineering Consultants, Gomez is responsible for engineering contracts with a number of big-names, not least of which is the United States Department of Defense. Gomez’s specialty in blast-resistant designs – buildings that are able to withstand terrorist attacks – makes him a valuable asset in this post-9/11 age of terrorphobia.

As Gomez describes both his schooling at Berkeley and his work experiences, it is clear that he is not only good at his job, but he enjoys it too – something that often tends to be overlooked when we go about choosing a career. When describing his time at Berkeley, Gomez says, “One of the coolest things… was taking classes directly from people who had written the engineering code.”

Gomez goes on to describe one assignment, completed while working for Jaster-Quintanilla, which he found particularly enjoyable – “to take a building that was falling apart and fix it in a very short time period.” He adds that the building’s structural instability was much more severe than initially assessed, a fact that ended up requiring very creative measures to maintain the structural integrity of the building.

When asked to what he credits his success, Gomez is quick to mention that understanding the little things involved in a project – the stuff that a global college course tends to neglect – are actually what makes the biggest difference between success and failure outside the collegiate environment. He also emphasizes the need for an ability to communicate ideas. “It’s no longer enough to say, ‘my idea is right,'” he says.

In order to be an achiever, Gomez suggests that students, especially hopeful civil engineers, attain at least a master’s degree, preferably from a well-recognized school. During his brief stint of unemployment in 2009, Gomez realized the benefit of having a degree from a high-end school. He says that “of the three people laid off, I was the only one to get a job shortly thereafter and it is because of my connections with Berkeley; name dropping sometimes works!”

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