Gerardo Malpartida

AGE: 21
INTERESTS: Music, video games, designing, architecture, and coding.

Tell us more about where you are from and what shaped you:

I am from Lima Peru. Since I was very young I was interested in computer courses. When I was 12 years old I started designing with Illustrator and the following year I took a course on how to build websites. With previous knowledge on how to do design, you can make content for your website. When I was 14 years old I learned javascript. I never thought about coding as an option for a career because I didn’t like the idea of being in a cubicle working on a computer. I tried to match my interests which were basically creating, and I had a passion for buildings/interior spaces. So that is why I decided to study architecture.

After graduating high school I applied to the University of Lima and got into architecture school. I was taking basic coding courses as a hobby. Before leaving for architecture school I built a website for my dad’s company. The website that they had at the time was managed through WordPress and I taught myself some PHP.  Then there was the first time I connected with a hosting system and set up everything. 1.5 to 2 months later I presented the new website to my dad’s company and they liked it.

What did you do before 42?

I was a student in my second year of architecture school. I was just building models and drawing plans of houses and building. That was my whole life for two years. I took the piscine during my spring break of architecture school. After the piscine, I understood 42’s pedagogy and fell in love with the school. After a couple of weeks, I saw the letter about being accepted and that is when I decided I had to try this fun opportunity. So I didn’t go back to architecture school.

Did you have any programming experience before 42?

Only a little bit of javascript and PHP which was all self-taught.

How did you hear about 42?

I heard about 42 twice in my life. Once in high school about the Paris campus in 2013 when I was 16 years old. Then I read about the plans for 42 to come to Silicon Valley and thought that was cool. My second year of university, during spring break, I saw another ad for 42 silicon valley. So I signed up for the piscine in July 2017.

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

I would say they were kind of surprised, especially my family. The idea of not getting a degree was super new for my family. My mother and father liked the idea and were curious about why I chose to come here and try it. After I explained they basically understood my point and they supported me. When I told friends they first thought it was crazy. But then they understood I was choosing the skills over the degree.

What was the piscine like?

It was tough. I would say I didn’t have the proper coding background skills. The piscine is about learning the fundamentals. Since the very first day of the piscine I was learning stuff I hadn’t done my entire life. It would have been much harder if I wasn’t a social person. The skill that helped me at the piscine was communication. It was about asking the right question to a person and asking the right question to myself to get the right information. I was really lucky to have really good friends who were smart and had the patience to help me.

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

I remember it well. I was with my brother at the swimming pool, I signed into my computer at the park and got the email. As soon as I got it I was really happy. After that, I needed to make a decision about whether I should take this opportunity or go back to architecture school.

How does the cadet program differ from the piscine?

The piscine is set at a fast pace. The cadet program may not seem as hard as the piscine at first, but it gets harder exponentially. With the cadet program, you manage your own time. Because of that, you need to learn time management skills so you don’t become as easily frustrated or waste time. I was in the cadet program for 3-4 months and after that, I joined Starfleet Academy. It was pretty hard from the first day but it taught me the importance of working in a group. Not depending on a group but how to find the balance between teamwork and working independently. After a couple of months in that program, I met people who were super motivated to work together.

How do you find help with your projects?

I do two things. I try to look for the project online and if I don’t find it useful I ask a person who did the project to ask for some words of advice. Then we look at the project as a group where we try to approach the problem as deep as we can so we can plan ahead on how to do it. You discover you have several steps before finishing a bigger problem.

What do you like best about 42?

I would say the peer-to-peer environment and community. Because it is totally different from any university. At a traditional university, you find people who may not focus on studying or are more concerned about their social life. Here at 42, you don’t see that as much. People who aren’t taking the 42 program seriously leave after a couple of months. At 42 you mostly see people who are motivated to study.

What is the most challenging aspect?

Frustration. If you aren’t used to that than you are going to fail. Someone asked me, “what do you think you bring to programming coming from architecture school?” The first thing I said was building with frustration. Everyone has heard about how rigorous architecture school is. If the professor doesn’t like your model you have to build it again from scratch. At first, you feel sad and devastated, and start doubting yourself. The same thing happens after you do code and it isn’t working. Basically, the most challenging part of 42 is getting over the frustration, and to keep on coding and keep on learning.

What do you like to do in the Bay Area?

Exploring San Francisco. It is a city frozen in time, it is one of my favorite cities besides NYC. San Francisco is a city where you can hike, it is a lovely city and timeless. It feels really different from other cities and is one of my favorite parts of the Bay Area.  My other favorite aspect is being close to all of the tech companies. Thanks to the ambassador program I got to volunteer at events and be able to connect with different people in the tech industry.

What is your dream job?

A dream job would be to manage a company someday.

What are your plans after 42?

My plans start by leaving 42 to join the Microsoft LEAP Engineering Acceleration Program. I feel excited and I consider it one of the best opportunities one can have. I am going to work in one of the top environments, and I can’t wait to learn as much as I can about how to work in a professional setting.

Connect with Gerardo on LinkedIn

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

Interview by: Stacey Faucett