Meet the team: Juan
by Sophie Heinz
Meet the team - Juan
Juan initially studied mechatronics in Mexico. For him, the field was a wild card for any engineering career, since it combined electronics, mechanics, and software. His plan was to learn about all three fields and specialize on the one field he liked most later. But as often in life, things turned out differently: By chance, Juan learned about 42 for the first time, and soon applied to 42 Silicon Valley. He used the skills he learned to start his own company which provides a payment system for local merchants. Recently though, he has been drawn back to 42: He is part of the core team that wants to establish 42 in Heilbronn. His hands-on experience did not only convince the team that he would be a valuable addition - it also convinced the authorities in Germany and paved the way for him to come to Heilbronn.
Juan, what exactly do you do at 42 Heilbronn?
Currently, I oversee the students' learning process and make sure everyone is progressing well in 42's curriculum. I also guide them through the projects which help them gain valuable hands-on experience working with AI or web development, for example. From personal experience, I encourage them to always think as entrepreneurs as well, and not just finish projects for their own sake. Maybe they develop a good business idea along the way. Either way they expand their portfolio and can later offer this knowledge to others.
How does your own experience as a 42 student help you in your new role?
It is important to me to provide a good atmosphere. How people interact with each other is essential to the way they learn here. I want to make sure that everyone feels comfortable at 42 Heilbronn. It is also important to me that students have enough time to come up with their own ideas. They need to have space and time for free thought. It's important to allow new input and other perspectives. That's why I always try to encourage them: pursue your hobbies, combine them with coding. Maybe something great and new will come out of it! The learning experience at 42 is very unique. I want to show students ways to go above and beyond in this environment.
How did you come to 42 yourself?
At an event for entrepreneurs, someone told me about this new coding school: no teachers, no classes, and most importantly, thousands of computers! I got the opportunity to visit the campus in Silicon Valley and it was surreal. A huge open space, and actually thousands of computers. It looked like a spaceship. That alone was impressive. I applied the very next day and took part in the piscine. It was a month of complete focus, one of the best experiences of my life. I could literally watch myself get better every day. In the end, I was accepted. Now all I had to do was make my parents understand that I was going to drop out of college to study with all these crazy people at this crazy school. I was there for a year doing nothing but coding, eating, and sleeping. But that got me going fast. I dove deep into AI, web development, algorithms. Until I felt experienced enough to go back to Mexico and start my own startup.
How did you end up in Heilbronn?
42 called and offered me a position to help set up a new campus in Germany. It was not a question for me at all. 42 had given me so much and opened so many doors. Now I could give something back. I’m so grateful that I’m able to do something that is aligned with my beliefs and values. At 42, there is a unique community of many great talents. I am convinced that great things will happen in Heilbronn. Being able to witness and shape how other people learn and grow is an incredible inspiration. Being able to contribute to that is what drives me.
How do you envision the future of 42 Heilbronn?
Looking back to it, I think one of the main things I love about 42 is the flexibility that the program gives you. During the piscine, you can try and see if you like it, but even later you are free to try out different branches of software engineering or dive deep into one of them. My hope is to create a place where a bunch of hackers work to make the world a better place. Locally or nationwide. Maybe even globally, who knows! We live in a time when coding can change the whole world. 42 can be a starting point for that.
You don't have a formal degree, was it difficult to get a visa for Germany?
It helped that I already had a lot of practical experience and could present lots of projects. That also convinced the authorities in Germany that I had something useful to contribute. I think that attitudes have already changed a lot in this regard. It's not just the official bodies that now make it easier for talented people from abroad to come here for projects or jobs if the expertise is right. Also, many companies now look much more at your portfolio, rather than just what degree you have, because it allows them to reach exciting new talent from abroad. That's what 42 is all about: working on real projects on real problems and learning from them. And I'm very grateful that I can now be part of that in Heilbronn!