Matthew Michaelis

Matthew Michaelis
Matthew Michaelis

Biographical profile
Matthew Michaelis

Matthew was born in Boulder, Colorado, and raised in the adjacent city of Louisville, Colorado.
He has been studying computer science at the University of Colorado, Denver since 2014, and is acquiring his bachelor’s degree in Computer Science in the Spring of 2019 with the intention of continuing to the PhD track.
As he is near the beginning of his career, he has only held a few positions. In 2016, he was employed by the University of Colorado to do intrusion analysis for their cybersecurity operations team, at which time he became professionally certified in cybersecurity from CompTIA, and he still holds their Security+ Certification. Since 2017, he has worked as an accessibility consultant and prototype designer for VOTEC Corporation working on secure and accessible poll book check in systems. He is most pleased with the work he has done with VOTEC, as he believes it’s the most good that he has helped put into the world so far in his professional career.
Holding the positions of Intrusion Analyst, and Accessibility Consultant, has given him a keen understanding of how the two disciplines interact and can conflict at times.
He has been interested in cybersecurity since he began his degree study and, “Truly realized to what extent we trust technology to keep us safe. Our entire lives are now up-linked to a vast and decentralized global network. At any time, a new glitch could be discovered that gives anyone access to your phone, your banking details, etc. We are entering an era where personal data is intangible, and there is no concept of shredding records. Cybersecurity isn’t simply a matter of making sure you can’t guess someone’s password, it’s about making sure the way we use technology can’t be abused by a malicious actor. Everything from making sure people can’t be tricked into logging in to a fake version of a known website to ensuring that people aren’t fooled by propaganda disguised as facts on social media. These are major problems that we face as an increasingly technologically reliant society, and I wanted to make sure that I could help solve them.”
He became interested in the topic of accessibility much earlier in his life. His father dedicated his career to helping those who were often ignored by society. His influence made Matthew understand at a young age how lucky he was to have all the abilities that nearly every aspect of our society was designed with the expectation of. “He would tell me stories of how poorly society accommodates people without some of those abilities. It was patently obvious that life inherently wasn’t fair to everyone, but that fact only made it more important to work towards a society of fair and equal treatment.
He always tries to think through a problem as much as possible before he begins implementing a solution. “There are quite a few programmers that jump in to solving a problem without a plan in place. These programmers end up over-complicating everything, and very often end up with a very complex solution to a simple problem. Even if they refactor later, there are still elements of the original work in 90% of cases, as other parts of the program rely on the way the original solution worked. This leads towards unmaintainable code that takes more work to fix because of a lack of planning, which I do my best to avoid.”

He really enjoys solving complex problems, and his work gives him a good combination of technical and logistical problems. Oftentimes simplicity, accessibility, and security are a closely intertwined balancing act. “In the end, it all boils down to the user being able to both use and trust the end product. Software itself has the potential to improve people’s lives immensely. Because of the internet, we have free services like Wikipedia that freely offer a near sum total of human knowledge at the press of a few buttons. This is unfathomably amazing, but because of how easy it is to use, we immediately take it for granted. When you do things right, no one will notice. That’s my goal, and what I strive towards; making software that is so intuitive for anyone to use that it takes no effort to use it. Creating unobtrusive, simple solutions to complex problems.”
Matthew’s father has worked in user accessibility for nearly his entire professional career, either working directly to design products, or as an advocate for accessible design. His dedication throughout his life to help others is a continuing inspiration to Matthew and has been since he was very young. He also introduced Matthew to computer programming very early on which lead to his current career path.
“My main goals are to help people use technology to accomplish their own goals, whatever they may be. I want to ensure that software and information are both securely and effortlessly accessed by anyone who is authorized, but no one that isn’t. Simplicity and standardization in design that keeps everyone at every level of ability in mind through every stage of the design process.
There are a lot of people who believe the best way to do something is the most complex, cutting edge way. This is especially true in computer science, where a new paradigm is always around the corner. The problem with this mentality is that new paradigms are adopted in the technology’s infancy. The designers spend so much time and effort to solve very specific, generic goals that benefit the average user, but leave many users with specific needs in the dust. Be it massively bloated libraries that need to be downloaded on every page-load which expect everyone to have access to high speed internet, or information hidden in obscured frames that is inaccessible to screen reading software to make them look fancier. By the time users have pointed out these issues, and the designers have (hopefully) taken the time to implement fixes, there’s a new paradigm that everyone jumps on board with.
My point is that an overflowing stack of immature technologies which are often poorly implemented is not the way to design anything, especially not the global standard interface for nearly all human knowledge (The internet). Unfortunately, this has become the standard in many web development environments. Everyone is expected to use the internet to get their information, but individuals in control of that information often try to amplify their message through paint and polish that only makes it harder to access.
My point isn’t to suggest that technology should never evolve, quite the contrary. We should adapt to the needs of all users, but we should not abandon previous progress in the pursuit of extravagance.”