42 Silicon Valley Recognizes National Hispanic Heritage Month

National Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated in the U.S. from September 15th to October 15th. It is a time to recognize the history, heritage, and culture of Hispanic and Latinx individuals.  We would like to recognize all of the amazing Latinx students that are part of the 42 Silicon Valley community. One of the best aspects of 42 Silicon Valley is having a chance to learn how to code within a global community. Students from Panama, Perú, and Mexico recently sat down to share their unique stories with us. We were able to learn more about their life before 42 and how they hope their knowledge and skills will make a positive impact.

José Ramón Alemán

Tell us more about where you are from and what you were doing before 42:

I am from Panama. I lived there for 20 years before I moved to Florida to start a new life. In college, I studied Mechatronics Engineering, let’s call it a mixture of mechanical, electronics, electrical and automation engineering. I received my bachelor’s degree in 2015 and then I decided to pursue an MBA.

What led you to pursue a career in technology?

When I was a kid, I loved tinkering and taking stuff apart to see how they work. Later, I got into computers and I started to learn how to build websites. A lot of people asked me to do websites, and at first, I didn’t know a lot. I had built some in the past, during high school with WYSIWYG  (what you see is what you get) editors.

After finishing my bachelor’s, I decided to freelance and I started to build websites for different clients and companies because getting a job in my field of study was impossible at that time. There weren’t positions to work as a mechatronics engineer. Later, I decided to found a startup with some friends. The startup was inspired by Yelp, but more localized to small businesses and small places to visit in different countries.  There are plenty of good places people don’t know about, so we wanted to solve that issue.

Why did you decide to attend 42 instead of a traditional college program?

I wanted to pursue a master’s degree in computer science but decided not to after I realized how expensive it is to study for that type of degree in the U.S. Instead, I was taking a lot of online classes, trying to build up my skill sets. The next year, I traveled to Panama for a few months to see my family and friends. While there, my best friend, Jairo Guzman, told me about 42 Silicon Valley. At first, I was skeptical because after moving to the U.S. and seeing the high cost of college, free tuition and free dorms didn’t seem real.

At first, when I learned that the school was not accredited, I felt that I might be wasting my time. But during the piscine, I realized I have met so many people from different countries, I have made so many friends, and have learned so much. When I found out I passed the piscine, that was probably one of the best days of my life.

What are your goals, and what ways do you think 42 will help you achieve your goals?

 I would love to actually make a social impact. I really want to help my country; especially the tech area because there are a lot of small gaps in the education system. Panama has a lot of creative, smart and talented people who are proud of their country, so if I make an impact I want to do it there. Also, I would love to make an impact here in America as the education system isn’t perfect.

As of now, I am a co-founder of a startup, Easyworking. I founded it early this year with a very good friend of mine, Cristian Franco. We want to change the hiring process and improve the learning process of new technologies, especially coding related in Latin America. 

I want to make an impact because being here in Silicon Valley is not something a lot of people can do, and I am thankful for all the opportunities I have had in the past. Actually I would say 42 has given me a lot of opportunities to network with people, make a lot of connections, make a lot of friends, learn about different cultures, and be outgoing and more adventurous. It is very exciting to see how it helps you grow and change your perspective on life. You know a lot of things are possible if you are dedicated. I will always be thankful.

Katherine Soto

Tell us more about where you are from and what you were doing before 42:

I am from Lima, Perú. Since I was a child I always loved math and physics. I studied industrial engineering at PUCP in Perú. Before 42 I was working in the departments of marketing strategy & design in the energy industry. After 7 years of experience, I decided to become an entrepreneur using technology & engineering in vegan food. I wanted to explore how machine learning can be used to simulate meat.

I always loved science and innovation, that’s what I always try to implement in my work. After this first half-year of entrepreneurship experience, I noticed that the next step that I want in my professional career was to learn how to code. That’s why, when one friend talked to me about the 42 program, I sent my application to start the piscine! I believe that with coding, we can create innovative new products and solve actual problems that we have in the world.

What led you to pursue a career in technology?

In Perú, I concentrated on a career in marketing, project management and design for seven years. I always liked technology that’s why I was involved in projects like apps and web pages. During the time I was in the field of innovation I was always interested in learning how to code but I saw it as something unattainable as studying a second career for 5 years or as something very difficult. However, after the piscine, I was surprised that I gained a lot of knowledge in a short time and I enjoyed learning it. That’s why I decided to take one year off and try to learn more knowledge at a faster pace. Also, because I think that life is about doing things that you like, and that any moment is perfect for it, I decided to give a new direction with my career and enter the 42 program.

Why did you decide to attend 42 instead of a traditional college program?

I think that the 42 program came into my life at the perfect moment. Before finding out the program existed, I thought about getting a master’s degree in data science or biotechnology in the U.S or Europe. But the problem I had with those options was the expense and also because I think that learning how to code will benefit my career the most. 

My friend, who was in a piscine told me about 42. She told me how I can learn at a faster pace, that it is tuition-free, and based on peer-to-peer learning.  At first, I couldn’t believe it. After she finished her piscine and told me more about it, I decided to apply to the piscine just for the experience.

I came to initially try the piscine and after passing it I decided to attend the program. I liked the program because I am learning how to code in a supportive environment and I do not have to work alone.

At 42 you learn from other people and you are solving problems together. When it comes to peer-to-peer learning, you can apply this learning system to other parts of your life. My friends here are teaching me English and Russian and I am teaching them Spanish. I like 42 because it is a good place to study and learn. So for me, it is perfect. I can study at my own pace and also after my first months here, I want to start to apply this knowledge in my personal projects or eventually when I apply for jobs.

What are your goals, and what ways do you think 42 will help you achieve your goals?

My goal is to combine my coding and business skills to work on innovative projects. I would like to first work in a big company, and maybe after work for a startup.  In my career before 42, I didn’t have all the skills I needed to work on the projects I wanted to work on. The 42 program can help me develop the skills I need to work on innovation projects, like at a tech company or at a startup. I feel like I have the potential, but I need to learn those additional technical skills. At 42, the work atmosphere is a lot like a startup, so this experience will be good for me and I am putting my efforts into learning as much as I can.

I also like how 42 is multicultural. We learn to search for problems together. We can find different solutions and explain it to each other and see that maybe one code is more simple or runs faster. I like to work with people because when you work alone, you can’t ask other people so it is more fun that way. If I don’t understand something, a friend will teach me; and if my friend doesn’t understand something, I can teach them. We take turns teaching each other, and you learn more when you communicate ideas with other people. And this is a good thing because, at work, we need to also work on projects with people to achieve the goals of the project.

Kevin Lozano López

Tell us more about where you are from and what you were doing before 42:

I am from Monterrey, Mexico. I was born and raised there my whole life. When I went to college I majored in economics, which was really fun. But honestly, the work environment and job opportunities are boring. I always wanted to be an entrepreneur and start stuff, I am very active, and try to live life fast. Although I love it, and it helps me understand things, economics is completely the opposite. I started teaching at a community college, and I started making personal finance content for kids, teenagers, young adults.

Eventually, I started a personal project, nothing fancy, but basically I started playing with eCommerce. It was during that time that I realized I like building websites in WordPress. Additionally, I always have a huge file with ideas and I wanted to develop them but had no idea how. Most of these ideas were financially related. I didn’t know where to start, they were always long-term dreams that I wanted to do. So a couple of years ago I decided I wanted to attend a coding boot camp, but they were really expensive so I decided to work and save money. When I discovered 42 it seemed too good to be true. I decided to try it, and now I am here.

What led you to pursue a career in technology?

I wanted to study economics because I wanted to help people. Realizing that a lot of problems start with economic issues, I wanted to study that and come up with solutions. My goal was to also develop a business from that knowledge. But I realized it was not enough; I had a theory of how to create products to help people, but I didn’t know how to make them. It is hard to be a non-technical person and create solutions for people. 

Also to equate that with starting a career, I knew I needed to learn how to code to create these solutions. That pushed me towards learning the basics, mostly web dev. I just got hooked, to be honest, it is similar to economics in that it is meticulous and procedural. Once I started with C, the basics of it, I realized that I really want to do this as my career for sure. 

Why did you decide to attend 42 instead of a traditional college program?

I learn by doing a lot, and I always felt like at a traditional college that I wanted to learn faster. I know how I learn, and I felt 42 could give me the exact environment I needed such as learning at my own pace and project-based learning. What I think is most important that I didn’t realize at first was the community that is here. While you are learning it is extremely important to learn from other people who are sitting next to you and can point you in the right direction. So overall 42 gave me what I needed: the community, a good curriculum to follow and just the resources to do it.

What are your goals, and what ways do you think 42 will help you achieve your goals?

I really want to help people with financial problems, there is a lot of opportunity there. I already have a background in finance and economics to understand the core issues. 42 has given me the tools to develop something and the ability to continuously learn. I know things will change and not be what I expect them to be. With 42, I know I can tackle almost any problem. So I have that mindset of,  I don’t know what the problems will be but I am sure I can overcome them and create what I want to create. 42 helps bridge that gap between people with a knowledge base and passion and helps them get those technical skills they need to reach their goals.

Increasing Diversity in Tech

According to a report released by the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), when it comes to people who identify as Hispanic, there are only 8% in tech vs. 13.9% of the private sector. Careers in computer science and engineering are growing at twice the rate of the national average. With jobs that tend to provide higher pay, and in a sector with a lot of growth potential, it is even more vital to make sure that tech career opportunities are available to everyone. Additionally, it is well-established that diversity in tech leads to more innovation.

The first step to increase diversity in tech is through education. 42 Silicon Valley turns the traditional educational model upside down and provides industry-leading college-level education that is tuition-free with no teachers, classes or books. We also boast an open admissions process that is entirely merit-based. At 42 Silicon Valley, we are passionate about making tech education more accessible. We hope to help train a diverse workforce that will be ready for the tech jobs of the future.