With over 13 years of experience in community development, education, and institutional advancement, 42 Silicon Valley is excited to welcome our new Executive Director: Ulises Zatarain. We sat down with him to talk about his background and vision for 42:
Where are you from and what did you do before 42?
I’m originally from Chicago and moved to the Bay area in 2017. Prior to joining 42, I was the Director of Program Operations for Saint Vincent De Paul Society of San Francisco where I oversaw all of the organization’s programs, as well as contract negotiations, facilities, and strategic planning implementation among other matters. I have spent most of my career working for non-profit organizations leading programmatic efforts in education, community/economic development, and workforce development as well as community engagement and outreach. I have been fortunate enough to have worked alongside some great people to execute strategic plans to help organizations grow and maximize their impact. Community-level impact is something I have been passionate about for a long time. Non-profit organizations and educational institutions like 42 do a great deal to improve the quality of life of the population they serve; however, at times it can be difficult to capture the true impact an organization has. This requires intentionality and a dedicated focus to planning and following a plan fully through its course.
What is your background in the tech/tech community?
I have been involved in founding and directing a couple of online news publications in my previous roles. In those capacities, I primarily oversaw digital content creation, marketing, and community engagement. In my work around education in Chicago, I worked with data scientists to determine metrics to gauge the impact educational programs were having in underserved schools. I continued to work with this team to create a custom database to track these outcomes over time. In addition, I have overseen a number of network administration projects and website remodels and renovations. I also oversaw a number of tech education projects in Chicago, which involved the setup and installation of technology labs and the roll-out of training curricula for various locations throughout the Chicago area.
What is something or someone that has personally inspired you on your own path?
I have been very fortunate and blessed to have a number of great mentors and colleagues who have guided me throughout my career. My first boss at The Resurrection Project, Saul Guzman, has been an ongoing influence in my career. He was instrumental in teaching me confidence in myself, my vision, and maintaining a grit and hard work mentality at all times. He has constantly advised and more importantly cautioned or even criticized me when I was making mistakes [which is more often than I like to admit]. One of my colleagues in Chicago also taught me the value of collaboration, and relationships as a key to professional success: Edgar Ramirez, the CEO of Chicago Commons, and I worked together for over 3 years on improving educational outcomes in Chicago’s underserved communities. During our time working together, I learned a great deal about leadership from him, and about the importance of empowering those around you to succeed. Even if those people you empower around you make mistakes, or fail at something, as a leader it is your responsibility to empower them to grow and succeed, and also to continuously encourage them and motivate them to not give up when challenges and difficulties arise. Last, but definitely not least, my mother is a constant inspiration in my life. She more than anyone, has taught me the value of hard work, perseverance, and constantly maintaining a positive attitude against all adversity; and always no matter what, treating everyone with dignity and respect.
What is your vision for 42 and what are your top priorities as Executive Director?
My vision is something I think I will continue to shape as I get to know the school better, the staff, the volunteers, and of course the students. Setting a vision for an institution should be an inclusive and collaborative process. This is why I think 42 is such a special place because it embraces these philosophies at its very core. My vision for the school will be influenced by the feedback I get from staff, partners, volunteers, and students.
That being said, there are things I would like to see happen in the short to mid-term. I think more people in the Bay area and throughout the US need to know about our school and our innovative approach to education. Similarly not enough underserved communities, lacking in educational resources are taking advantage of the opportunities we offer, or at least learning about them as an option to improve their quality of life. I would like to see more of our students secure good jobs in the tech industry, and continue to engage with the school as Alumni, and ideally help guide new students to also have that same level success as they follow their path here at 42. I see infinite potential for where 42 Silicon Valley can grow, and the impact it can have for our society moving forward.