Matt Phillips: Intergenerational Interaction & Other Benefits

A mentor’s take on the ADC Mentorship Program

Matt Phillips lives and breathes audio. Educated in the UK, he studied music technology and audio system design - eventually achieving a masters in acoustic engineering. In 2014 he came to the US and landed a job at Extron Electronics in Anaheim. His experience and growth in the industry led him to wanting to launch his own company and in 2020 Phillips Audio Designs was born. Working with different clients who need everything from simple algorithms and reverbs to full scale development from the ground up, he is passionate about sharing his knowledge and was thrilled to be asked to participate in the ADC Mentorship program. We sat down with Matt to talk about the elation and the challenges of being a mentor.

Why did you get involved with the ADC Mentorship Program?

I've been very fortunate that I've been able to develop software for some really big companies. And I felt that I should give something back, even if it was just a helping hand to someone starting out in the industry or someone who was looking for a bit of guidance. I’ve attended the ADC and think that it’s awesome, so it seemed like the right thing to do with the right organization.

Tell us about the process of becoming a mentor.

It was a very, very straightforward process to sign up. Someone at PACE (PACE Anti-Piracy Inc. owners of JUCE the people behind ADC) said that it might be a cool thing to do. It was very easy. I just filled out a form with my details and answered some questions, such as “How many mentees would you like to work with?” etc.  And then they were assigned to me. So it was a smooth process. And that is great because, when you want to give something back like this, it’s more appealing when you don’t have to jump through 100 hoops. I felt like they really looked at my background and assigned the right mentees. Almost like they were hand-picked for me and it’s worked out very well.

Matt Phillips

What were some of the challenges of being a mentor? 

Good question. I think trying to feel out what the mentees actually needed. I was assigned two mentees.  They were both really great guys. And when I first spoke to them, it was really about finding out what they were looking for and what they actually needed in terms of support and guidance. They were both very modest, and needed a lot of guidance, so trying to figure out how I could help was a challenge. 

Did you find that generational experience and communication were a challenge as well? 

Definitely! These guys are a lot younger than I am and that's been interesting. Even just the vocabulary that they use. I don't see it as a communication barrier, but it’s very interesting to see the way that they approach audio engineering and software and how they talk about it, how they communicate about it versus how I've been trained. 

It seems like you’ve learned a lot from them as well.

Oh my goodness. I've learned a huge amount!  It's a two way street. Because they approach things so differently, they've given me ideas for how to solve problems in software. They give me inspiration on how to approach things in the industry just through the smallest things. I'll be talking to one of them and they'll say, “Oh hey, I saw this online” or “I tried this system online” and they are things that I've never heard of that turn out to be really helpful to me. 

Can you tell us more about that experience?

I think when you get to my age as a developer, you become slightly siloed. You’re comfortable doing what you're doing, thinking you're doing everything in the right way. And then a mentee will say  “check this out”. It could be a company or a person or a new discovery. Even today, one of my mentees sent me a link to a company I'd never heard of with some audio examples, and it was really incredible. I would have never found that on my own.

It's really important to have that intergenerational interaction, which I would not have been able to have outside of the mentorship program. Without the ADC mentorship program, I'm not sure I would have been able to bridge that gap.

What kind of mentoring sessions have you done and what were some of the highlights?

I had two mentees. One of them is more established in the developer community than the other. I would give them assignments. I would actually write and give them problems to solve, papers essentially to write like getting engineering DSP assignments to work through etc.  I would grade them. They asked for that level of guidance. They’ve come leaps and bounds. I would hire them if I had the budget! I also met with them a couple times in person. It's really all about tailoring. The guidance to what the mentees actually need. I structured it almost like a teacher-student kind of thing. They’ve both thrived.

How does that make you feel?

Great! That's what I was hoping would happen.  That I could just impart some knowledge on someone who is new to the industry, who wanted to get involved in audio software development, and needed just a little bit of guidance.  Not necessarily help, but just to point them in the right direction. It’s incredibly rewarding to help someone like that and develop a friendship in the process. I mean, you can't really ask for more than that.

Have you continued your relationship with your mentees? 

Yes - I've actually become really close friends with one of them. It’s not something I was expecting or even wanted to get out of this but it's really nice, when that kind of stuff happens.

Why do you think this program is important? 

 It's really important because while you can get a lot of information online from forums and blogs, I think when you have someone who will actually speak to you on a human level and confidentiality, in some respects, without every word being examined or criticized publicly - you grow. That 1 to 1 guidance is really important. Forums are awesome. I've learned a lot from those pages, but forums can be a hostile environment if you do something wrong or if you ask the wrong question. You'll have people who shoot you down, tell you to go away and hit the books. It discourages users from getting involved. And I think the mentorship program kind of bypasses that. You get an actual human talking to you saying, “Try this.This is probably what you should do”.  No judgments. I think that's really important.

Mentorship program

Do you think this type of mentorship program adds to the industry?

Without programs like this, there are developers who may have some amazing ideas and wouldn't be able to contribute those ideas to the industry if they didn't have someone to help. They may be very well educated. They've gone to the right schools. They've got the right engineering background in terms of education but don’t know where to start. I think without programs like this there's a danger that some of these amazing engineers will slip through the cracks and we need them in this industry.

Is it a responsibility that we have to hand off the baton at some point to this next generation?

It is a responsibility. We have to give something back. You can't blindly wander into obscurity. There is a responsibility to the industry to pass on this knowledge about things that you wouldn't necessarily be able to find out from going to school or reading on a forum. One of my mentees asked me how to form an LLC as an audio developer. That wasn't so much a technical, engineering requirement. They just didn't know how to get started. So it can be anything from business knowledge to how you write a reverb algorithm. Regardless - we need to seed the next generation in this industry.

Mentorship program

Code and development are powerful and it’s a big responsibility to write and develop it.  It sounds like they need guidance about more than one thing, not just writing code but also accountability and integrity. 

Right. Integrity. It’s really about doing things the correct engineering way. And I think, like I said, you can learn a lot of that stuff in school. You can learn a lot of stuff online to some extent. But quite often that's not handed down unless you work for a massive company such as one of the big plug-in companies or one of the big audio software companies. I think that's another reason why this program is so important.

So would you recommend that other people in the industry get involved in this program? 

Absolutely. It’s not even a recommendation. I think it's more of a responsibility. I think it's something that we should be doing as aging software developers in the audio industry. Not a requirement, but it's something you should want to do if you're really passionate about this industry. Everyone can learn something in this program.
ADC Mentorship Program

About the ADC Mentorship Program

The ADC Mentorship Program is centered around the Audio Developer Conference (ADC) to help encourage interaction between experienced members of the audio software community, and those who are just coming into it.

<p">ADC Mentorship Program goals include fostering a welcoming and inclusive environment, encouraging communication in the audio developer community, and promoting diversity among members. Mentors have the opportunity to give back to the community that they’ve been involved in for years and make valuable contributions to people’s development within it. Mentees will be able to get guidance and advice for navigating a career in the audio industry. 

For more information please visit:

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