Giacomo Guiulfo

AGE: 20
INTERESTS: I love computers and music. I play guitar, the drums, and I am learning to sing. Besides that, I enjoy playing soccer, going to church, and hanging out with friends and family.

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

I’m originally from Lima, Peru. I have always been into music, but never really went into learning an instrument deeply until I was 14 and actually started taking classes. As long as I can remember I was interested in computers. As a kid, I was very into video games. I created my own video games and showed them to my middle school IT class. I was also passionate about video production and run multiple profitable YouTube channels that had several million views.

What did you do before 42?

After I finished high school in 2015, I started studying computer science at a well-known university in Peru. On the side, I was also a youth group leader and an electrical lighting technician at my local church. Nonetheless, I wasn’t satisfied with college and I wanted to move to the US to seek new challenges. In September 2016 there was a tech conference at my college in Peru where I met a Peruvian software engineer who worked at IBM in Silicon Valley. He gave a talk about his work and life there. I reached out to him after the presentation and we established a good relationship.

Over the next few weeks, we shared multiple conversations in which he gave me valuable advice about studying abroad. It was in one of those chats when he told me about 42, a French coding school that had just opened a new campus in the US. That same night I went on the 42 website and applied. 2 weeks later I had already decided to move to the US and a few months later I came to the Bay Area for the January 2017 Piscine.

Did you have any programming experience before 42?

I pretty much only had experience with an introductory programming course based on C++. This gave me a bit of a head start at 42 because it is a similar language to C. I had knowledge of computers in general because they are something I am passionate about, but it was self-taught.

What was the piscine like?

The first few days were hard and I was not really enjoying it. I thought about quitting, but I had traveled thousands of miles to get here so I decided to stay whether I liked it or not. The third day was when programming things started and that made me feel more comfortable because I had a little bit of coding experience. As days passed by, I started doing better and learning many new things. I enjoyed the piscine a lot, I’ve never felt so energized in my life before. When the piscine ended, I had a strong feeling that I will be accepted so I stayed around instead of going back to Peru. Shortly after, I got the acceptance email and started as a cadet 3 weeks after the piscine finished along with many of my friends.

What did you like best about your 42 experience?

What I like best about 42 was definitely the friends I made. I was lucky to make a lot of friends during the piscine and develop strong relationships with them. They pushed me forward with projects and motivated me throughout the curriculum. Because 42 is a peer-to-peer learning program, having friends who want to work with you helps you grow and makes you want to get the most out of the program. It is the community and the environment at 42 that makes you want to code all day long. That and the fact that the curriculum is designed so you can go at your own pace.

Is there anything that you do now at work that you don’t think would come as easily if you hadn’t attended 42?

I started at 42 as a cadet in February 2017 and four months into the program I joined the Bocal. The program and the school’s environment helped a lot. 42 prepared me to have the capacity to learn whenever I am struggling and to figure out things as I go. When I first joined Scality, I didn’t know a lot of things. Both professionally and technically, I didn’t know how to contribute, but I figured it out as I went. I wasn’t afraid of failure and asked my peers whenever I could.

How did you get your foot in the door where you work?

In the first week of February 2018, I started to prepare for job interviews. That same week, a company called Scality came to 42’s campus to interview a few students, and fortunately, I was among them. This first interview went fairly well, so they sent me a coding challenge the following week. This was probably the hardest part, but I managed to pass it and was invited for an onsite interview. This last interview was pretty short and that same day they told me they would give me an offer. The whole process was pretty fast and unexpected, but it was a good opportunity and I accepted the offer to join Scality.

Describe what you do:

My official title is software developer, but I don’t do too much software development, instead, it is a mix between DevOps and software development. A big part of my work revolves around a technology called Kubernetes. Basically, that means that I work on the infrastructure and deployment part of our software. But most recently, I’ve had the chance to develop programs in Golang and Node.js. Also, the product I work on is open source, so a part of the job consists of building an open source community around it. Many of the technologies we use, like the databases and monitoring systems, are open source, so we work a lot with the open source community and contribute back to it.

What does your typical workday look like?

It varies a lot but usually, I get into work around 9:30 am and within the first hour I check emails and notifications. Since we work with open source software, I constantly check up on it to see if there are new releases, bugs, or exploits and analyze if there are new features or tools that we can utilize within our product. After that, it pretty much depends on what my current task is. Since we are a small team, tasks vary a lot. I may be asked to test a new feature someone else built and test for server resiliency, set up new dashboards to monitor performance, write tests or develop an entirely new component. I usually leave work around 6 pm, but sometimes I stay very late.

Would you recommend the 42 program and if so, why?

Yes, I would definitely recommend the 42 program, but not to everyone. You have to have self-discipline and have a lot of motivation towards self-learning. In contrast to a traditional school, you can move as fast as you want or take it slowly if you need more time to learn something specific. Personally, I find the projects and curriculum at 42 very enjoyable. Also, if you are coming from outside the Bay Area, coming to 42  is a great opportunity to grow your network since tech is huge here.

I couldn’t have that back in Peru since there aren’t as many tech companies over there. 42 itself is a great community and you meet a lot of great people. Because it is free you cannot lose at 42, a free education is the best thing ever. At 42 I learned in a way that I never experienced before. I was able to retain the information better, I was able to understand everything faster. It was the best learning experience I have ever had.

Do you have any advice for 42 students when it comes to securing an internship or job?

You need to be on your best game and prepare well, but having a strong network and close relationships with people in the industry is a big plus. There was a 42 career fair event in June 2017 where I played guitar with the CTO from Scality. In other words, I met my future CTO 8 months before I actually joined the company. I also had close friends who worked at Scality and that helped me during the interview process. When you don’t have work experience it is very difficult to even get an interview, but having a solid network helps you get to that step more easily.

Connect with Giacomo on LinkedIn

Photos provided by Giacomo Guiulfo

Interview by: Stacey Faucett