Alumni Story: Please do not listen to haters

Here I am, 32 years old, father of two gorgeous girls, well invested in what most people would call a successful career in chemistry, founder and owner of an innovative, moderately profitable molecular recycling business — and thrilled to be looking for a probably somewhat underpaid and overworked job in tech. Yep! You read that correctly, I’m very thrilled to be looking for THAT job and, no, my friends and family don’t understand why either.

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This whole mess started a long time ago. I was only 12 years old and my father, a quite successful computer science engineer, was making a superhuman effort to try to answer my question: why did a single 3.5-inch floppy disk (known back then as a “micro-disk”) could hold as much information as 18 of the larger, decade older, 8-inch predecessors? (A reasonable question that every 12-year-old kid needs have answered to go on about life.) It did not make sense to me how something a quarter as small in size could be in fact be several times larger in data storage capacity.

Needless to say, I’ve had a profound love for technology since I was very young. As my current Ironhack teacher and mentor Hector Bliss puts it, “If you have not accidentally deleted your operating system, you really have not lived”. Oh boy, have I lived! Especially when I couldn’t get the household PC to turn on after installing that upgrade everyone said was not needed; I still couldn’t resist trying it out the new graphics and finding out if it made it faster. I’m quite certain that my brother has not forgiven me yet for deleting that school project he had worked on for weeks and was due the following day or my mother’s accounting books that were lost forever. In all fairness, who could have possibly anticipated that a harmless operating system upgrade could go sour? Backups are for losers! Or so I used to believe.

On my mother’s side, it had always been about the family’s chemical business; growing up we were expected to lend a hand to my grandfather, one of the founders. Against all odds, I decided to take the advice and go into chemistry instead of tech and coding in college. I was also very lucky to attend what is arguably the best chemistry program in Mexico. The resulting degree was a shiny diploma but, to my astonishment, no job for me at the family business due to internal grudges amongst partners at the time.

There I was, unemployed, without a buck in my pocket and, most importantly, unhappy. After holding a couple of jobs elsewhere, my older brother who was a chemical salesman and I decided to start a company in material science based on recycled goods. It started as a way to make a bit more money to cover for rising school tuitions for both his children and my daughter. Noble as the idea of recycling waste is, I admit we both desperately needed the extra income. We identified an opportunity to use recycled plastics and other wastes to create first grade materials for new plastic products that could compete at a lower price compared to the regular rate. Profitable and awesome as it turned out to be, the process of stabilizing the product quality and with it the overall business took a long time, came at high cost, and met inhumane resistance from both competitors and collaborators alike. But we survived, and that resulted in a change in the way these specific materials are manufactured for good — a small but meaningful improvement to the world, which is more than many start-ups can say.

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