Sergio Balcorta

AGE: 27
INTERESTS: Working on cars, fixing mechanical/electrical items, recumbent biking and learning new languages.

Where are you from?

spent the first half of my life in Davis, CA, the youngest of 5 from an immigrant family. I was one of a dozen non-white people in my school. I had access to a good educational system in Davis. Later we moved to Winters, CA which is near Davis. I have ADHD and in high school, there wasn’t a lot of support for students with disabilities. The school did the best that they thought they could do, but it felt more like a band-aid. There was a point where I fell behind and didn’t find the resources in time, so for the rest of the course I was at a disadvantage. In high school, I  started to work on an alpaca farm. In the Spring, I still go out and shear on weekends. I am scheduled all of May to go shearing in Austria and Germany in 2018.

What did you do before 42?

A few things: I was living in Portland Oregon, I was there going to community college, attempting to make prerequisites for transfer to an engineering program. I chose the community college in Portland because it was on a quarterly system and gave me an opportunity to go shear alpacas. I was in community college before that for 6-7 years and used up my financial aid. After that, I broke my ankle in a motorcycle accident and wasn’t able to work.

Did you have any programming experience before 42?

I took only one C++ course in Portland and failed it. I was always so packed full of prerequisite classes for transfer.

How did you hear about 42?

My brother told me to try a coding boot camp: he learned about it from a friend on Facebook who went through a boot camp. He saw an article about 42 in Fremont and shared it with me. Eventually, I drove down 10 hours from Portland and got there just in time. I had to see it for myself and see what it was like in person.

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

My brother recommended it to me first, and the rest of my family thought, “well you are getting older” and you need to figure it out and do something.

What was the piscine like?

It was really hard to adjust from a traditional setting because at 42, they give you a new thing and tell you to figure it out. At first, it was hard for me to figure out what to do, and that’s why I ended up coming back for a second piscine (I passed!).

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

The first time I didn’t get in, but I knew it was a really solid program and it takes me a little extra time to catch up on things. When I came back for the second piscine things fell together for me easily.

How does the 42 Cadet Program differ from the piscine?

The pressures are no longer external, they need to be internal. It’s hard to shift from being given exercises daily to completely managing yourself in every aspect. When you have no obligations to do anything at all, you fall into a bad schedule with work and sleep, and overall it’s hard to structure yourself really well. There is still the monthly academic requirement, but it’s hard to not put off work until tomorrow.

How do you find help with your projects?

Before I start a project, I consult a lot of people who have done it before, and I will ask them to walk me through what they have done so I have a better idea. Once you have done a project, you have foresight into how it works. Getting that scoop upfront helps to get you in the running. It’s also hard to find someone that is good at explaining things to you. Learning to communicate with those who communicate differently is important.

What do you like best about 42?

I am free to do what I want when I want. Especially on the computers, for example, I started playing around with photogrammetry software (making 3D models from pictures) because I want to 3D print a cargo back for my bike. I also started to learn Norwegian because, why not?!

What is the most challenging aspect?

I had already been to 42 for a year before I joined Starfleet Academy: the nonstop projects and short deadlines is hard but very motivating. Usually, you don’t have deadlines in the normal 42 program, however, with Starfleet Academy, there is more pressure. I am here on average 8-12 hours per day, 7 days per week.

What do you like to do in the Bay Area?

I really like to recumbent bike or run, and I like to go to Coyote Hills Regional Park, it’s beautiful there. Or the pier by Dumbarton Bridge.

What is your dream job?

To work at a place where I feel highly valued.

What is your favorite quote?

I have more of a story than a quote. After high school, I went to live with my grandparents in Mexico. I didn’t speak very much Spanish, but I helped my grandfather on his ranch. One day we skipped breakfast, our day started at 5 am and around 3 pm I asked, “When can we go back to eat?” and my grandfather said, “When we are hungry.” I told him, “I am hungry now” and he said, “I am not.” It taught me it isn’t about how you feel, you need to keep going and you need to make it happen and enforce your own deadlines.

Connect with Sergio on LinkedIn

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

Interview by: Stacey Faucett