What brought you to Baskin School of Engineering?
I really liked how close UC Santa Cruz was to home. I was interested in computer science and knew this area is a really good tech hub, but it’s not as close to the tech hub as schools in San Jose and I like that because I think that area is too fast-paced. The nature here is really wonderful and there are high-powered tech companies, but also people will go surf, mountain bike, or hike after work. Once I discovered this special culture in Santa Cruz, I knew I wanted to be a part of it. Also, the campus is wonderful. You can study at the library and then stare at the redwoods. That’s pretty cool. I like that I can keep up an active lifestyle while I’m studying something that requires me to be in front of a screen.
What are you studying?
I study Technology and Information Management. I’m really interested in pursuing project management in the future. I found that passion through Engineers Without Borders because as the vice president, I kind of act as a project manager for our planned trip to Cameroon. I found that I really like working on both the business and grant writing process and also the engineering side.
Tell us about Engineers Without Borders
We’re working on a project to bring clean energy and water to homes in Cameroon. That project started about six months ago and this summer we were supposed to have some people travel to Cameroon and install prototypes but there have been some issues with traveling there right now, so that’s being postponed. But it’s been a very interesting project. We also do a lot of campus-wide things in addition to projects abroad. We’re putting solar panels on a greenhouse in the arboretum to practice and do solar work before we go to Cameroon.
Do you enjoy helping others through engineering?
Yes. My mom is from Slovakia and my dad is from Colombia. Growing up, after my brother was born and we were living in the U.S., every summer we would travel to South America or Europe. Duing our trips to South America in particular, we’d volunteer in rural villages and teach. I’d usually teach kindergarten starting from when I was about 10. We’d also build things or help the community in any way we could and that’s kind of instilled in me a desire to give back. These are places where I had family members living and where I could have been living if my parents hadn’t had the opportunity to come here. I wouldn’t have had the resources like my education to help these children learn, especially in Cameroon. Currently their water problem involves mostly girls, but also young boys, having to walk for miles every day with gasoline tanks to polluted rivers and bring water back home. There are a few pumps that were installed by nonprofits but they’ve failed and nobody has come back to repair them. I care especially about the young women who are missing out on their education because they spend all day, every day just walking back and forth for miles to get water. They could instead be learning or making music, or anything else. When we got the opportunity to actually start Engineers Without Borders, it really touched my heart that we could help this community and especially help with young people’s education. That’s something really important.
What are your plans for the rest of your time at UC Santa Cruz?
I’m working at ProdcutOps, a tech consulting company in downtown Santa Cruz. I’m a DevOps software engineer, so I work in automating different software in the cloud. We use a lot of Amazon web services cloud tools. I plan to continue to work here throughout the school year and full time during summer. I’ll probably continue working here as long as I’m in Santa Cruz. I’ve met a lot of people from other companies, but I think out of them all I prefer ProductOps because it’s a wonderful environment and I love the way people teach me at this company. I’ll be at my desk working on something and someone will come by and look at it and say, “Oh, I’m an expert in that, let me walk you through this for a couple hours.” It’s a nice supplemental learning experience.