Former Chef Brings Passion for Software Engineering to Via

“There’s a creative aspect to both disciplines,” says Alex Mathieu

Alex, aka Chef, getting ready to make something delicious!

Alex Mathieu left the restaurant industry years ago but at Via TRM, the backend software engineer will always be known as “Chef.”

Alex, who started at Via in November 2019, began working in restaurants as a dishwasher toward the tail end of high school in Southern New Hampshire. Gradually, he moved up to line cook, lead line cook, sous chef and then chef de cuisine at a restaurant in Denver, where he’s lived since 2013. (What’s a chef de cuisine? Also known as a “head chef,” a chef de cuisine is a chef that leads and manages a restaurant or hotel kitchen.

“Despite growing up across the hall from my French-Canadian grandparents, who cooked all the time, I didn’t grow up thinking, ‘I want to be a chef,’” Alex says. “I was fortunate enough throughout my career to have a number of people, mentors, who took an interest in me and facilitated that growth. I got lucky.”

Cooking provided a creative outlet for Alex, who says he was creative even as a little boy. “I was always building something, whether it was with Legos or something else. It’s always something that piqued my interest. I like to create.”

After about 10 years in the restaurant industry, Alex was ready for a change. “It’s a tough environment working nights and weekends,” he says. “I got to a point where I thought, ‘I don’t want to do this anymore.’ I wanted to learn something new.”

Up Next: Personal Trainer Certification

Alex and his ToMarket team at the Governor’s Cup in Colorado with samples to taste!

An avid fitness buff, Alex decided to get certified as a personal trainer. He helped a friend open a gym and began building up clientele. But Alex, a self-proclaimed introvert, says sales and marketing were difficult for him. While fitness continues to be an important part of his life, he decided to pursue a different career.

Alex went to work with another friend who had started a business marketing local produce through a software platform. Since it was tied to the restaurant industry, Alex thought he’d be a good fit for the job. He started out in sales but the more he worked with the software developers, the more he realized he wanted to become a software engineer. He enrolled at the Turing School of Software & Design in Denver.

“I really missed the creative aspect of cooking,” he says. “Like I said, I’ve always been a builder. I’ve always been an engineer in one way or another, whether it was with Legos or food or software. It’s the same mindset to me.”

Via Combines Alex’s Passions

Coming to work for Via as a backend software engineer is “a culmination of a lot of different passions,” Alex says.

“Learning has always been fundamental to me,” he says. “If I’m not learning, I’m at a loss. At Via, I’m always learning something new. Every day is different.”

Alex says he was attracted to Via’s mission to power global experiences to change the world.

“Studying abroad lends itself to creating a greater perspective in the world,” he says. “I think that’s a very powerful thing, particularly when it comes to solving the problems we’re facing in the world today.”

The Via team getting ready to make paella together, with Alex leading his very own virtual cooking class!

As a backend software developer, Alex works on backend applications, mostly with data security. “I’m more about the behind the scenes: ‘What happens when you click the button?’ as opposed to, ‘What does the button look like and how does it function?’” he explains.

When developing new software features for Via, Alex says he puts on his “architect’s hat” to figure out how the features are going to look, how they’re going to operate, and how they can be implemented in terms of coding. He’s also involved in maintaining data security, including keeping servers up and running 24/7.

“I enjoy the problem-solving aspect of my work with Via,” he says. “Every day offers another opportunity to be creative and think on my feet.”

Working with the Via team is the best part of his job, he says.

A variety of paella dishes from everyone at Via, right before the final taste test!

“All of the people I work with at Via are smart. They’re all very passionate about international education. I’m fortunate to work with some pretty amazing people on a daily basis.”

On occasion, Alex brings his passion for cooking to Via. “Chef Alex” led a virtual cooking class, teaching his Via teammates how to make Spanish paella to celebrate International Study Abroad Day.

There are similarities between software engineering and cooking, Alex says.

“There are creative aspects to both disciplines,” he says. “People may not think of creativity when it comes to software engineering, but it really is. There’s no roadmap when you’re creating a new solution. You’re building something for your clients and you’re putting it out there for feedback so you can make it better than you did before. That’s true in the restaurant world too, though the feedback is probably more immediate.”

Let’s Connect

Via TRM believes global experiences will change our world. That’s why we created traveler relationship management and travel risk management software, which helps universities and study abroad program providers to empower global experiences. With this blog, we’re looking to feature people who share Via’s “why.” If that’s you or one of your colleagues, tell us more. We might just feature you here!


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