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  • Writer's pictureMargo Ellis

Omar’s Hope

Updated: Sep 2, 2019

Incoming Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI) Intern, Omar Valazques is an unlikely candidate. Even his college, University of California Irvine (UCI) would not initially accept him as a computer science (CS) major and repeatedly encouraged him to pursue non-stem fields. In all of this Omar had 2 strong advocates, his family and CodePath.

CodePath is changing the face of technology by providing CS mentorship to non-traditional students. Omar is the model candidate to exemplify the difference CodePath and organizations like it that provide under represented candidates with education and training.

Omar’s parents are Mexican immigrants. His mother worked her way up from a field worker picking vegetables to a cafeteria worker, but she never got the opportunity to attended high school herself because from the time that she was a teenager she had to work to help her family.

His father is a maintenance worker for the school district. When the school that he works at would throw away old computers, his dad would bring some of them home. From the time he was a child Omar had a natural curiosity, taking apart the computers and asking his dad how the computers worked. His dad who was not able to complete college himself told Omar that he would have to go to college to learn about computers.

Valasquez family

As one of the nations top athletes in track and field Omar was accepted to the University of California Irvine with an undeclared major to play track and field. As a first generation college student of immigrant parents he struggled to find his way academically and filled his schedule with Computer Science classes hoping to do well and get accepted to the CS Department.

The administration at UCI urge Omar to pick a non-stem major, suggesting that he may not have what it takes to be successful on the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) track.

CodePath which provides both open source training tools and the support of mentors is proving that with the right resources unlikely candidates like Omar can make it in CS. In the hopes of a senior internship Omar sent countless resumes out and was even brought in for an initial interview with a few companies, but was not passed on to the second round of interviews for any company prior to completing CodePath Technical Interview training.

The CodePath Technical Interview training taught Omar that the goal of the interview is not to solve the problem, it is to clearly articulate how you think about problems. The interviewers are less interested in your ability to get the right answer and more interested in your ability to articulate well how you are thinking about challenges, so that if accepted onto an engineering team that candidates can be effective members of problem solving teams.

Following the completion of CodePath, Omar received several follow on interviews and ultimately chose to accept a role as an engineer intern with the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI).

Omar and CEO of CodePath, Michael Ellison

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1 commentaire

Erdley Wright
Erdley Wright
24 avr. 2019

Thanks for writing this blog Margo. Omar's story reminds me of my own when I first immigrated from Jamaica to the USA. My mom bought me my first computer when I was 13 years old right after I got accepted into Brooklyn Technical High School, a specialized education institution in NYC. I recall being as curious as Omar was about my first computer to the point of disassembling and reassembling it. I'm so glad CodePath is doing such good work in providing technology access to under-served much like, where I server as an Advisor/Mentor, is also doing.

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