Maurice Sharpe

AGE: 28
INTERESTS: Video games, esports, and music.

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

I’m from Milwaukee, Wisconsin and my parents got me interested in the world around me from a young age. My mom took me to different places every Friday. Learning about my parents’ background, I wanted to discover more about the world and what could be done in it. I didn’t really know back then you could do the things I am doing now with computers. It wasn’t until high school when the movie Iron Man came out. It really inspired me and it got me into the tech part. Watching that movie and seeing the suit put together for the first time, I was like, “I want to do that.”

What did you do before 42?

I graduated with a chemistry degree from Marquette University. I worked at Sigma-Aldrich as a packaging supervisor for 3 years after I graduated. That was my first job out of college and it was a decent one. I had a lot of opportunities to practice chemistry and start some experiments that gave me useful information about material science and stuff of that nature. But I did recognize the fact that technology was something that was lacking in the industry. After a few months of trying to teach myself Java I was not getting anywhere with it. I wanted to try something different with what I was trying to learn.

Did you have any programming experience before 42?

Not really. I tried to teach myself Java and can easily tell you that I learned more in the piscine than I did in the 6 months I had tried to teach myself.  

How did you hear about 42?

I was talking to one of my friends and she brought up the school from an article in Forbes. When I first saw it I was a little confused. I applied during the time when they had the logic test, which was interesting to go through. I think I probably thanked her a few times within the past year for giving me information about the article.

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

Everyone was pretty supportive for the most part. They all did their own research about the program. My parents researched the school and knew it was a decent program to go into. My friends just went with it too. They knew I wanted to see the world and while there are a lot of opportunities in Milwaukee, there is always so much more going on in the world. I talked enough to them to know it was something I was going to do at one point. I did move across the country, so that may be more difficult for some people, but I was prepared for that.

What was the piscine like?

It wasn’t as bad as everyone makes it seem to be. If you are too focused on getting high grades and not understanding what you are doing to get high grades, it can be a massive mental attack.  There were boundaries I had to cross with myself. At a traditional school you go to your professor or TA to figure stuff out, but here it is a little bit different. You are expected to become your own professor. So it is like teaching all the skills you need to go after that PhD because you learn those skills when you go to grad school, not necessarily when you are getting your bachelor’s.

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

The first time was disappointing. I was back in Wisconsin and was trying to figure out what I was going to do for the first 3 months. When I got that denial letter I was like, “I need to find a job.” It wasn’t a good feeling but I knew I got a lot out of the piscine and could attempt to learn things by myself now. The second time, after attending another piscine, is when I got the approval. I had already been searching for jobs and I was staying at a friend’s place when I got the approval. I immediately stopped my job search and started working on my curriculum work and wanted to get a head start on that.

How does the cadet program differ from the piscine?

The cadet program is a little more relaxed in terms of turning projects in. You don’t do it every day but you should turn in 1-2 projects every month. And the projects feel much more significant as a cadet. During the piscine, you are trying to make functions and get them to work. As a cadet, the projects are easily something you could see yourself doing in a job. I know for me, when I did my systems projects, I could see the importance of learning architecture and learning how the computer worked.

You don’t get that perspective during the piscine. When you are working on the graphics branch and looking at a computer screen you aren’t thinking about everything you are doing on the background. But doing that project and making it happen is a different feeling. It is like you are really getting a strong grasp and going from “it always works like this” to “I know how it works.”

How do you find help with your projects?

I talk to a lot of people or learn how to get really good at Google. Getting really good at Google is probably super significant in terms of moving forward with whatever you want to do later on.

What do you like best about 42?

I probably have to say the people, just because you are going to meet a lot of different people with a lot of different backgrounds. Since I am still exploring what I am interested in, it gives me an opportunity to learn about new things. If it wasn’t for three other cadets working on different side projects,and me hearing about it, I wouldn’t be doing what I do now.

What is the most challenging aspect?

The fact that as much as I want to learn things as fast as possible and know everything, it will take time to get myself to feel comfortable enough to say I am a master at it. This past month I have been working on switches and internet protocol, the hardware for the school. I have been wanting to get it done so much faster than I have gotten it done but at the same time, I didn’t know what was going on. The first few times you do something, of course, it takes longer. But the more you do it, the faster it goes. The first part took me a month, and the next time may just be a few weeks. It is about keeping myself patient.

What do you like to do in the Bay Area?

For me, I like to go to the different esports stuff that is going on in this area.  I don’t get a chance to go often but when I get a chance to go I am always excited about the fact at least here that kind of thing is starting to take off.  

What is your dream job?

I’m still working on that. I am still learning all the things I like to do, and I am still learning all the things for the industry I am going into. I know that I would like to have a job where I get to travel.  Systems, Dev Ops, Arduinos, Raspberry Pis, and Cybersecurity are all things I am interested in.

What is your favorite quote?

“You never know what’s around the corner. It could be everything. Or it could be nothing. You keep putting one foot in front of the other, and then one day you look back and you’ve climbed a mountain.” -Tom Hiddleston

Because even if you don’t think you’re getting anywhere with your projects and you feel like you can’t get it, all it takes is one inspirational burst to make a failure turn into success.

Connect with Maurice on LinkedIn

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

Interview by: Stacey Faucett