Austin Pickett

AGE: 22 
INTERESTS: Video games, board games, hiking, traveling, and reading comics

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

I am from Dallas, Texas. Before 42 I was studying at Collin College, taking classes that would transfer into a radiology program, so I was basically taking pre-med courses. I had a few family members who had cancer and they were always getting chemotherapy treatments and CT scans. When I was younger, I was always with my grandma during her treatments. So radiology was something I was around at a young age and interested me. 

I was always into computers, and used them my entire life. I was the person in my family that others would call if they had a technical question. Right before the piscine, I was accepted into a 4-year radiology program. I was specifically going into nuclear medicine. I knew the risk I was taking by throwing away all of my progress as a medical student. But I always loved computers and thought I would try it and see if I liked it as much as my friends did. 

Did you have any programming experience before 42?

I had zero experience, I was learning about the human body and biology, nothing about writing software.

How did you hear about 42?

Ryley Matos, a friend from right before Collin College, told me about how much fun he had coming out to California and participating in the first piscine at 42 Silicon Valley. He told me about the entire 42 experience and peer-to-peer learning. That model of education sounded so foreign to me that it piqued my interest.

What did your friends and family think about your decision to attend 42?

Obviously, my friends wanted me to come out here. They told me that it was awesome, that I should try it out. My family was not around to the idea at first, they thought the school wouldn’t be legitimate. They were concerned it was a scam because free education in the U.S. doesn’t sound real. Eventually, they came around after I told them about my friends’ experience. Now they love the school for the positive influence it has had on me.

What was the piscine like?

My first piscine was in July 2017, and my second piscine was January 2018. I met people during both piscines that I am still great friends with. Both experiences were challenging, 10-15 hours per day of work, and you are always focused on the code at all times during the piscine, that is all you can think of. Having said that it was one of the best experiences I have ever done, I got to meet people from all different places and collaborate.

What was it like when you received your post-piscine decision email?

Honestly, when I got declined in July I was upset at first but I took it as a challenge. I held my head up high, went back to Collins College, took a couple of intro to coding courses, strengthened my knowledge and came back to do another piscine. After seeing my achievements finally come true after a semester of studying, I got accepted into the 42 program.

How does the cadet program differ from the piscine?

So the piscine is 28 days of you being here constantly and working constantly for a short period of time. The cadet program is a longer process, you have to pace yourself for a marathon. In the cadet program, you have to make sure you work constantly and that you have the motivation to move forward every day so you don’t get burnt out.

How do you find help with your projects?

“Google-Fu” is the first technique you have to master as a cadet if you want to survive. If I can’t find enough information through Google, I will go ask one of my friends. If my friends don’t know I will ask if someone else can help me. Because the school is peer-to-peer I have to ask my friends and other people I haven’t met. That is one of the things I like best about 42.

What are some cool tech events you have been able to participate in?

I became an ambassador because we go to meetups and tech events all the time. I have gone to several hackathons, those are a great experience for advanced and beginner programmers. One of the events I enjoyed the most was Startup Grind 2018. I went as an ambassador and student, we cheered on Wilderness Patrol and met several different startups there. I met people in different fields and talked about 42, and what a student would need to get into the work environment. All around being an ambassador is fantastic, you get to meet students, fellow programmers, and sometimes executives of tech companies.

What do you like best about 42?

I like meeting people the most. When I came out here I wasn’t as social as I am now, I was a shy and reserved person. Because 42 is a peer-to-peer environment,  you won’t survive without communicating with others. You have to come out of your shell, that is what 42 has done for me, I am more social and it has created more opportunities for me. If I was a quiet person in my corner, I wouldn’t be getting these opportunities. Being an ambassador has been great, getting the chance to talk to different people has been fantastic. 

What is the most challenging aspect?

So something that I have observed is that people sometimes get burned out. You have to pace yourself, make sure that you are doing consistent work, and that the work you are doing is what you enjoy. If it isn’t what you enjoy, finish it and move on to something else. The school has so many different resources and projects. I have seen people not do enough work, or they go through so much work in a short amount of time, and they get tired and don’t have the same drive. Keeping your drive steady and maintaining constant motivation is the hardest thing, but it is required.

What do you like to do in the Bay Area?

Something Dallas doesn’t have are mountains and hills, and it’s too hot in the summer so you’ll melt. So I enjoy hiking here, especially at Coyote Hills. Going out during a cool morning or evening, and just enjoying the serenity around me.  

What is your dream job?

After traveling around Europe I definitely want a remote position. I want to take my work with me wherever I am at. As long as I have internet a remote position would work best for me. I would like to still travel and work at the same time, so I can get multiple things done at once. 

Do you have a quote or saying that inspires you?

“Every accomplishment starts with the decision to try.” – John F. Kennedy

JFK died in Dallas so there has always been that connection, I always respected and admired him as a president so his words are something I always held close. Anytime I have motivation issues, I look to his quotes for guidance. Everything starts with wanting to try something new, that was my story, I took a risk to try and I have accomplished it so far. I will continue to do that until there is nothing left that I want to accomplish, which will be never.

Connect with Austin on LinkedIn

Photos by 42’s in-house photographer, Priscilla Vongdara

Interview by: Stacey Faucett