Andres Puel

AGE: 20
INTERESTS: Code, modern vulnerabilities, drawing, sleep

How did you get into programming?

Early into high school, I got really into gaming consoles – like modding games or doing add-ons. Through that, I learned how to take apart games. I got really good at reading data and just seeing what I was looking at and understanding how it works. It was a step to start learning how to program so I started writing my own tools and making little modifications to things. I did that for a couple of years and got decently good at it. I got really into things like cybersecurity, and I learned about vulnerabilities, how they work, and what it’s like to find them. All from gaming and consoles!

How did you find out about 42?

One day out of the blue, one of my brother’s friends barged into my room and went, “Hey, let’s take a two hour test really quick!” I didn’t know what he was talking about, and he said it was for a school called 42. At this point, I didn’t really have any other plans in life. I was going to go to Kansas and live with my sister and find some job out there, probably not even related to programming just because I thought of it more as a hobby than a job. 

I took the test and thought it was a lot of fun. When I was reading and learning about 42 after the test, I thought it was really cool and sounded like a scam. But I didn’t have much to lose since I was already living in the area. And even if it was a scam, it’d be a fun scam. I ended up visiting the campus a couple weeks later when they had a check-in, and after seeing all the computers and the people working, I saw myself going there so I signed up for the October 2017 Piscine.

What was your Piscine like?

It was a lot of fun. It was the first time where I witnessed a ton of people all working together to figure stuff out. Having the deadlines was also kind of interesting, I’ve never been very fond of deadlines, but it was always fun to try to meet them. And then even if I was done, I wasn’t done working. I always had other people I could be helping, people I could be talking to. The community experience is probably my favorite part. I met a lot of people that came from a lot of different backgrounds, which is really cool and what I miss the most about the Piscine, and I would absolutely do it again.

What made you decide to become a Bocalian?

Before joining the Bocal, I was very awkward. And that’s one of the major things 42 helped me with, was because it’s such a large community and people were talking to you all the time, I was basically out of my comfort zone 24/7 because I had to talk to people. I spent like two or three years not talking to anybody before 42, and suddenly I was talking to everybody because if I needed help, I had to do that. If anyone else needed help, I wasn’t just going to sit there and awkwardly shrug them off. I think sometimes that if I didn’t come to 42, I’d still be very awkward and that meant a lot to me. 42 is a free resource that gave a lot to me and I felt like I had to give something back.

What was your experience like as a Bocalian?

It was very different than I expected. I had assumed I would have all the time in the world to still work on my 42 projects as well as do things in Bocal, but that didn’t happen. There’s a lot of people that come in and ask questions, which is the big thing that I didn’t really expect. And then there’s always something that needs to be fixed. So there’s always something I could be working on or improving. And a lot of it was figuring out how things work and then coming up with a better solution if you think you can. Bocal did a lot more work than I thought they did too. As a Cadet, I didn’t really see the work that Bocal was doing, so I was under the impression that there wasn’t much. Obviously, that’s not true and now I know that.

What was the main difference between your experience as a Bocalian vs being a Cadet?

It’s real-world problem solving. It’s not just a project that you get. You have real problems and you need to come up with real solutions. And that was a really big difference. One of the first projects I worked on was Portal(an internal student progress website) and it was born from wanting an automated solution to an issue we kept having. As well as that, the topics that come up are a lot more real-world. When I was a Cadet and when I’m out in the lab talking to Cadets, the topics are always either about a project or what you’re learning on the side. But in Bocal, there’s always an actual topic that is on-hand, it needs to be resolved, how are we handling this, etc. When students come in and talk to me, they’re not coming in and asking me how to do a project (although they do sometimes), but they typically come in because they have a problem and they want to know what they should do.

What do you like best about 42?

Everyone is always working on something. they’re always expecting to work together, group projects were my favorite because I wouldn’t be the only one contributing. And after everyone works on a separate part, you find out how they feel about a product that everyone got to contribute to. So it’s definitely the community. Everyone being there and working on similar or the same things.

Always having someone to talk to you about your projects. Always having people to work on or work with on the products.

What’s your dream job?

This has changed so many times in the past two years. I think maybe at some point I might like to get into embedded systems. It’s a lot closer to what I used to do before I came to 42, with game consoles. Learning how microkernels work and why they’re good, working without an operating system or working with a very limited operating system. Those kinds of things. Those challenges would be fun. I really enjoy that, but I also like cyber security and software auditing. I did a lot of bug hunting and exploiting vulnerabilities so I know the topic very well.

What’s your biggest piece of advice for those in the Piscine?

Pace yourself. Don’t burn yourself out because you will burn yourself out. Plan things out. Make sure you have enough time to take care of yourself, because I didn’t. It was awful. A really big key point is definitely that if you don’t schedule things properly, you’ll get tired and you just won’t want to work anymore.

What’s your biggest piece of advice for Cadets?

Always have something you’re trying to work towards – some goal or something in mind so that you have the motivation to do the things you’re currently doing. Like if you want to get a job, think about what kind of job you want and aim towards that. If you know that you’re technically skilled, work on your interviewing skills or try to figure out what the job you want is looking for. Just always have goals in mind. If your goal is to become a software developer, it’s too vague and it won’t work.

Any last parting words to wrap up your experience at 42?

The 42 system works, you just have to make sure that you’re doing it. It works if you participate, that’s kind of the big thing. You have to put in as much time as you can. You have to work on the curriculum and you have to use the system. You can’t just be in it.

Connect with Andres on LinkedIn
Interview by: Kim Alvarez