Yangyang (Xu) Herrera

AGE: 30
INTERESTS: Video Games, cycling, motorcycles, rock climbing, camping, and coding.

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

I grew up in China and moved to the U.S. for college to major in civil engineering. I went to UCLA but didn’t graduate from my program. I started working on bicycles, I became a race mechanic for USA Cycling.

What did you do before 42?

I owned my own bicycle business, I owned a bicycle shop for a little more than 3 years.  In 2016 I saw 42 on Facebook and decided to take the admissions test, and I got in. I think my mechanic background helped me because I am detailed oriented, and as a female mechanic, you ask a lot more of yourself.

Did you have any programming experience before 42?

In middle school I took one class in Adobe Dreamweaver, but otherwise I had no programming experience before attending 42.

What did you like best about your 42 experience?

I think the thing I got the most out of 42 is an ability to solve complex issues through problem-solving. It completely changed the way I think, it made me a better problem solver and made me realize that I don’t have a lot of self-discipline. Also, the peer component really helped me learn how to communicate better. As a mechanic, you work by yourself, and when you own your own business you tell other people what to do. The peer to peer learning that is central to 42 helps you learn how to communicate and learn from each other, it is really encouraging and an important skill to learn.

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

When I attended 42’s Intensive Basic Training, also known as the “piscine,”  I actually started at the bottom of the class, and at the end, I was in the top 5. Because I dropped out of college, I wasn’t very confident in myself or my abilities. Going into 42’s Intensive Basic Training/piscine and being independent helps you realize you are able to do something you didn’t know you were able to do, and the peer learning component of 42 was an important part of gaining more confidence.

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

After 42 I realized I didn’t have self-discipline, so I went to a coding bootcamp, Coding Dojo, and that is where I met an instructor who connected me with an opportunity at CreativEngine, so that is how I got my first job. I was at the top of my class at Coding Dojo, and for people that are that skilled, all the technical skills you can train, it is whether they have what it takes to build on other important skills. I wouldn’t have been at the top of the class without 42, knowing the basic programming language of C was a big help.

Describe what you do:

I’m a web developer at CreativEngine, a web design, and development agency that is based out of Los Angeles and powers more than 50 congressional websites.  I help with the front end applications and the QA (Quality Assurance) and any other code tasks. We have a lot of support tickets that come in, and I have been maintaining one of the code bases by myself.

What does your typical workday look like?

At CreativEngine we work with a lot of clients on the east coast, so my day starts super early around 5:30 am or 6 am. When you get in, you finish up what you promised to do the day before so during the morning meeting you can show the team what you accomplished. At the team meeting you can get input and ask general questions and you get more input that way. We use a task management tool, and we just work on our tasks for the rest of the day. We have a support role that we rotate, and that gives you a chance to communicate with clients and provide support while finishing tasks. If you get in at 6 am you can usually leave around 3 pm, if you get into work later, you stay later.

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

I would recommend everybody to go out and try  42’s Intensive Basic Training/piscine because that is awesome, you have a constraint of time, a sense of urgency so you push yourself to sort knowledge and push yourself out of your shell to learn. When I got in the program, I struggled with self-discipline, especially since you have nobody else to push you to do it…it all comes from within. I think only people who can be consistently self-motivated on a daily and hourly basis, and I wasn’t like that, can really succeed at 42. It is definitely a challenge.

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

I think honestly that the connections that you make are really important. You need to impress the right people. I  tried to impress my instructor at Coding Dojo, I think that trying to identify who has a wide network and show them that you have what it takes. Just network, you never know who will give you a job. To get your foot in the door, sometimes you need to undersell yourself but build off of it so you can prove yourself and your worth. For the first year just concentrate on building some professional experience in the field. If you don’t have experience, unless a company has an interest in growing the number of people who work for them, they won’t be paying a competitive salary.  So my main advice is to network and think of the first year as a time to gain experience and prove yourself.

Connect with Yangyang on LinkedIn

Interview by: Stacey Faucett