Cars: I love working on car projects, friends cars, etc.
Cosplay: I enjoy making costumes and going to comic book conventions.
Cats: Although I don’t have a cat of my own since I moved to SF, I enjoy going to cat cafes in the city.
Where are you from?
I was born and raised in Los Angeles, California. I’m a first-generation American. Both my parents emigrated here. My mom is from Guatemala and my dad is from Bolivia.
What did you do before 42?
I went to school for graphic design but I never finished my degree. I was just applying to jobs, and while doing system administration for another company in Texas I developed a rapport with some people at a drone startup. They hired me directly and coached me for the job. So right before 42, I was working at a drone startup in Texas. I did basic IT stuff, my title was systems engineer. I designed systems for the drones to communicate.
It was more like product management, telling them to use certain technology and servers. They would develop the systems themselves. The reason it had the name engineer in it is because they asked me what title I wanted. I was trying to get into some sort of engineering role at the time. In the past, I had considered going to school for engineering but it was not within my scope of reach. I saw no way of going to school and supporting myself financially at the same time.
Did you have any programming experience before 42?
I had very basic knowledge. It never applied to my job as a systems engineer, my job was more high-level design and I never had to actually touch programming. When I came to 42 I realized I was missing a lot. Basically, there was a big gap in my knowledge that I was able to fill at 42. Coding makes you think critically about how you interact with a program. At 42 they make you start with the basics and there is no protection and checks, so it’s pretty cool. And you learn how to really analyze and critique and problem solve. You try different things and may at first struggle to figure it out, then suddenly you glance at it and figure it out.
How did you hear about 42?
I was actually living in Portland while I was still working for the drone startup in Texas. I was talking to a friend and telling him how I wanted to change my career. One of my friends worked directly with programmers at a video game company and they checked it out for me, vetted it and emailed me information. They told me I should check it out.
What did you like best about your 42 experience?
There was always a sense of camaraderie, everyone helping each other from different walks of life. For example, if I didn’t understand some subject or concept there was always someone who was able to explain it in a way that I could understand and make something click for me in my head. I liked all of the crazy, different perspectives I was able to interact with on a daily basis.
How did 42 prepare you for the workplace?
In a lot more ways then I realized. All of the interviews, being able to approach people I never encountered before. At my job, there are people across the world I need to communicate with, either through asking for help or asking for a code review. Being able to communicate with people and be critiqued, and specifically being able to take the critique. I know the constant critique you get at 42 prepares you, it isn’t a bad thing, it is supposed to help you and that is what you realize later. Once I started my job at Scality, I realized all of the things we were doing were really similar to what I did at 42.
How did you get your foot in the door where you work?
The company hosted a hackathon at 42 in June or August of last year. My team and I, all from 42, built a product based on their technologies and open source software. We got 2nd place and we all got interviewed as a result, and I was the only one on my team who got hired.
Describe what you do:
Scality delivers web-scale storage that powers digital businesses. I do a lot of things, Dev Ops is my title but what it means is I am able to do a wide range of tasks from making code changes all the way to deployment changes. Things like how other engineers interact with our software stack and test their code on a daily basis, as well as how it gets installed customer side. I don’t specifically work with customers but I help the people who do installs on-site with the customers.
What does your typical workday look like?
In the morning I get in around 9:30 or 10 am, and I usually have to deal with a lot of emails, specifically because our company is based both in the United States and in France so there is a time difference. I usually have meetings scattered throughout the day. After emails, I get notified of some changes that need to be made, and then I update the code and make an update in the email chain, we also use GitHub. At the San Francisco office, there are 40 people, and 20 of those people focus on engineering. There is a staff around 150 in Paris.
What have other interns/co-workers at your work or in your program found difficult that you found easy?
When I first started I noticed a few people who did not take critique well at all, they would become aggressive as a result. They have since left the company.
Would you recommend the 42 program and if so, why?
Yes, I would definitely recommend it to anyone who wants to learn programming or even low-level computer concepts. You learn low-level computer fundamentals, basically how a computer works. I have had people call me who I went to high school with because they know I went to 42. One of my friends graduated college and was thinking of programming and was thinking of trying a new direction. So I told him all about 42, he has a background in math and it seems like a perfect fit. Trying the piscine, that alone will give him enough information to know if he likes programming or not.
Do you have any advice for 42 students when it comes to securing an internship or job?
I know hackathons are a great way to do it, I know several other people who got job offers through hackathons. Along with applying to different companies, while at 42 I did several hackathons. It’s a good way to show bigger companies what your skill level is, and it bypasses some of the preliminary screenings that might get you dismissed. Not a lot of people knew about 42 when I was looking, so that is why I was doing hackathons to show that I do have the skill level.
Connect with Salim on LinkedIn
Photos by 42’s in-house photographer, Priscilla Vongdara