ALUMNI PROFILE: SEAN JONES, OPERATIONS ENGINEER @ HIGH FIDELITY

Sean Jones

AGE: 27
INTERESTS: Occult business, robotics, and virtual reality. I do a lot of dancing as well and I am a well-trained dancer. I was classically trained in ballet and hip-hop and do a lot of ballroom dance and now I enjoy fusion.

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

I spent my first 14 years of life north of Dallas in Fairview, Texas. During my freshman year of high school, I studied theater abroad in Hungary. After that, I moved to Beaverton, Oregon with my family and did some interning at Intel. It was validation engineering, I didn’t know about software so it was just surface level stuff. I put together servers and validated alpha baseboards. For several years I went to school for mechanical engineering, but college wasn’t my jam. I am glad I found 42. Instead of being forced to study random information, I was able to allow myself to set my own pace and be passionate again. I am a fly by the seat of your pants kind of guy.

What did you do before 42?

I was living in Portland proper and I was working as a receptionist at a vet clinic, with an obscene amount of fluids and death. My sister was working as a veterinarian in the same clinic. So I did that for a year and a half, enough to know I wanted to escape.  I was motivated to leave, and when I left it motivated my sister to find a better place to work as well. Eventually, I found 42 and she went off to Utah. Overall, I was really happy to get out of there.

I was sitting around the house, and I saw the online logic game/test for 42. So I did them and saw I got accepted, and thought this still wasn’t real. I did the online orientation and learned more about the one month piscine. It was free, so my dad was like, “you should do that” and gave me a plane ticket. It was magical, it reinforced my existence. I was always interested in tech, but never thought I could do it on my own. 42 helped me realize that I could do it and be self-motivated.

Did you have any programming experience before 42?

A couple weeks beforehand I thought I should learn about Python. I tried to learn it briefly but it was 2 weeks of failing. I did some Matlab in college, but that is not really programming. So zero to no programming experience. But I took a lot of higher level math. That did come in handy because it is logical, but it was a whole new approach to the logic flow.

What did you like best about your 42 experience?

I really liked the empowerment it gave me. I have a very bad work ethic but 42 taught me how to learn. C was a byproduct of that, it wasn’t the goal. I tell people it is a magic school teaching you how to learn. If you can learn C you can learn anything. That is what humanity is capable of and I think that is beautiful.

The peer to peer learning at 42 helps with communication. When people perceive power structures they clam up. A good frame of mind is we are all humans and we have a lot of basic humanity we can all talk about. Rely on basic humanity, it can go a long way.

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

You do a lot of group projects. So you need to know how to communicate abstract and archaic aspects in a clear way and enlighten others to this information. Being able to communicate complicated stuff in a concise way is extremely helpful.

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

I am very comfortable talking to other humans, so I did a lot of networking and that is key to getting any kind of job in this industry. I was actually applying for a position at Intel, I was going through the paces of getting a job in the AI products division. It would have been lucrative, working with neural networks and high-level instruments. I knew someone at 42 and their mom came by. She seemed like a cool person, and she told me I should come by and interview at High Fidelity. So it was a random opportunity.

I went to the interview and they offered me 10% to 15% more pay than Intel right out the gate, and it is a startup where I would have a higher position. And it was really funny, I went to an interview for a line engineer position, working on C++, and the hiring manager was like, “The COO wants to talk to you.” I spoke to the COO and they said, “I want to give you bad news, the position you were going for was filled. But everyone who interviewed you demanded I give you a job.” So a job was created for me.  

Describe what you do:

I’m an Operations Engineer at High Fidelity, which is a San Francisco based startup that focuses on building a free solution for virtual reality. I evaluate other people’s code and help them make better products. I am closer to the bare metal of the business than working low-level code as a line engineer. That is a skill set I wanted to work on, and it seemed fun, and so far it has been a really fun and exciting ride. I take care of the marketplace. We have a support team but they are not tech inclined so anything they don’t understand they pass it up to me and I take care of it.

What does your typical workday look like?

I am still expected to work a 40 hour week. It is flexible but I have unlimited time off and unlimited sick time. I was sick for a week and a half and was able to rest and work from home when I could. I live 2 blocks away from where I work, I get up at 8 am and get to work by 9 am or 9:30 am. They have a fully stocked kitchen and fridge, so I get something to eat and it starts my morning off right. I check emails and check slack to make sure I didn’t miss anything. Then I look at the marketplace where people submit items. It could be an avatar or an entire world that I need to explore and make sure it is right. It could be a scripted thing or a variety of things. So that takes up my morning.

At lunchtime, I eat with other people at work. There are around 50 of us in the office and we like to play Beat Saber, it is a VR game where you have two lightsabers in your hands. In the afternoon, we could be anywhere from creating a new policy about the marketplace, to creating new documentation, or discussing what direction it is heading in. I fit in time for creating new content for the marketplace like creating a wand that explodes into fireworks, or reviewing how to learn 3D modeling through Blender. I go home around 5:30 pm or 6ish. As long as I get in 40 hours it doesn’t matter what time I get in or go.

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

I do, for certain people. I wouldn’t say it is for everyone, but it is a great opportunity for those who have a loss of direction or passion, yet, know they can acquire new skill sets. My whole generation was filled with a lot of people burned out at a young age, this is a way to be excited to learn and consume new information again. Traditional school is good at dousing your passion for creativity that brings you to a place where you are like, “I don’t want to do that work.” Now I want to pursue programming as a passion and not just a job. It is really good for proving yourself to yourself.

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

Network, go talk to humans, that is the goal. No matter how smart and amazing and brilliant you are, if nobody knows nobody knows. Seriously, almost cold call people who are in an exciting industry for you. Message them in LinkedIn, create random connections and one will bite and will have coffee with you. Be open to new experiences.

Connect with Sean on LinkedIn

Interview by: Stacey Faucett
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