Success Story: Justin Matos, Covanta

Decades ago, Justin Matos’ mother packed her belongings and made the decision to embark on a journey from Puerto Rico to the United States. She was 18-years-old, alone, and knew little to no English but she didn’t let that deter her from leaving the life that she knew behind to build a better future for herself. “There wasn’t a lot of work on the island and she made the move when she was young,” said Matos. When she came to the U.S. she settled down in Pompano Beach, Florida where Matos was born and raised. Growing up, he watched his mother work tirelessly; seven days a week for years on end in efforts to make ends meet. Her resiliency, determination, and strength as a single mother is something that has inspired him—especially in regards to his career.

From a young age, Matos, now 27, had an infatuation with technology. While in middle school, he assembled his first computer. “Somebody gave me a collection of parts and I put them together,” he said. After high school, while many of his friends went the college route, Matos decided that that path wasn’t for him. After graduating, he took his love for tech to the military where he served in the Army as an Information Systems Specialist. “I enlisted because it was logical for me at the time,” said Matos. “I just didn’t have the mentality at the time to go and do four more years of school especially because I would have had to pay for it. So I figured the military was a good chance for me to figure out what it was that I wanted to do without having to incur that debt that a lot of college students have.”

While serving, Matos worked on several Information Technology projects. In the Army, he learned about computer hardware repair and how to troubleshoot software. He also made education a priority and earned his bachelor’s degree in Computer Science. Matos, who served for six years, credits the Army for giving him a sense of purpose and helping him hone the career path that he wanted to pursue. “The military really put me on a path and gave me purpose. It gave me time to learn about who I was, what it is that I liked, and what I wanted to do,” said Matos.

After leaving the Army, like many other post-9/11 veterans, Matos struggled to find job opportunities; especially ones that were aligned with his passion for technology. A year after serving, he landed a dead-end manual labor job where he found himself unhappy and decided that it was time for a change. While perusing through job boards online, he came across a WOS posting and decided to take a chance on the program.

The position, which was a part of WOS’ On Demand service, was based in Morristown, New Jersey, but Matos didn’t let that stop him. He packed his bags and traveled from Florida to New Jersey, to take a leap of faith for a better future; similar to what his mother did years before when she made the decision to cross the waters from Puerto Rico.

After moving to New Jersey he was placed in a consultant role at Covanta—a global company that provides sustainable waste and energy solutions. During his consultancy period, Matos struggled with adapting to the corporate world. “It was a whole new world for me,” he said. “It was an environment that was really different from what you deal with in the Army. You have to re-learn how to communicate with people and how to present yourself.”

With the guidance and mentorship of WOS Client Service Manager Patrick Spurgeon, and his Covanta Supervisor Greg Johnson, Matos was able to prove that he could be an asset to the company. “Like everyone else transitioning into an unfamiliar role, Justin experienced some difficulties.  What made him stand out was his ability to willingly accept feedback, internalize it, and then apply what he had learned about himself, and the expectations for the position, to overcome those difficulties,” said Spurgeon. “Once those barriers were lifted, he quickly excelled and became a valued and trusted member of the team.  It has been a great pleasure to watch him realize his full potential.” Two years after he began his consultancy period, he was brought on board full time as a Technical Analyst for Covanta’s Plant Support Systems team where he supports the software technologies used to maintain the company’s Energy from Waste power plants. One of the primary aspects of his role is training other employees on how to utilize the technologies, which he finds very rewarding.

Matos credits his Vice President Ben Cabrera, a former Marine, for keeping him motivated as he transitioned into a full-time employee. “Ben is very big on supporting all of us WOS guys, especially the veterans. He makes it a point to look out for us and is always accessible.”

As far as what the future holds for Matos, he hopes to continue to grow within Covanta and wants to use his journey as a way to inspire other veterans who are feeling stuck. One of the biggest lessons that he’s learned from his career experience is the importance of being patient. “It takes time to build relationships and for people to see what it is that you’re capable of doing. If the praise, the job, and promotion doesn’t come immediately don’t worry, keep working hard because it’s on its way.”