Just A Little Bit Of Slope: How Focusing On Growth, Not Location Led One Brown U. Student To Success
Most of us simply use Snapchat. Valentin Perez? He’s spending his summer as a Snap, Inc. intern working on building it.
Valentin Perez is an iOS app developer and entrepreneur. He’s created several apps in the App Store and worked in the offices of Uber, Matchbook, and Snapchat – all while working his way through undergrad at Brown.
Valentin’s entrepreneurial side has been a part of him for as long as he can remember. As a child, selling brownies with friends was a common occurrence. Once paired with the tech skills necessary to give him an edge, his success comes as no surprise.
Just a few years back, Perez was like any other high school student in Cancun, Mexico. It wasn’t until his sophomore year that a path started to become clear.
“In Mexico, I didn’t know I could learn to program,” Valentin says.
“I’ve always liked math. That sophomore year… I decided, ‘Okay, I want to be really good at something’… I found a math camp that was in California so I went there for the summer in LA… My eyes were opened because competition math was a completely new world.”
It was there at math camp that a passion for computer science began to emerge.
“There was a workshop we could take about CS. I thought, ‘Wow, this is crazy,’ and I was really eager to learn. I saw this as a great way to create things really fast and share them with everyone in the world… I saw that computer science was a great way to create value and I thought, ‘Wow, I’m gonna do this.’”
From there, Perez forged his own path by getting his hands on any CS material from which he could learn. There was a hunger inside of him that not even AP classes could fulfill, so he sought out additional classes online through Coursera. He even went to summer school at Harvard where he learned how to build iOS apps. Through this constant pursuit of knowledge, Valentin gained the tools that launched him on to his current path.
Perez is now a senior at Brown University studying Computer Science and Applied Math. To anyone who even glimpses at his resume, it’s obvious he has made the most of his years on campus.
For starters, Valentin has been the co-president of the Brown Entrepreneurship Program. He’s also the founder of a 300-student conference and recruitment program called Startup@Brown. This event welcomes start-ups from across the country to come on campus and make connections with Brown students.
Valentin has also invested in projects of his own, which shows recruiters the depth of his interest. He gained experience in building iOS apps and launched a few of his own in the app store. With this came the formation of his brand Valpe Technologies, LLC.
Through Valpe, Perez has developed apps and websites for other start-up companies. Additionally, some of his personal projects include apps like Gravity Monkey, AskGuru, and Join Profile, as well as being a co-founder and CTO of the site Daycation.
In addition, Perez has spent several summers interning with major start-ups. While working with Uber, he spent time helping develop a major upgrade for their iOS app. With Matchbook, he worked on their iOS app and updating their homepage.
On finding internships like the ones he’s scored, Valentin remarked that there is no secret formula. For every opportunity he earned, there were several more behind him from which he was rejected.
“It’s basically just a bunch of practice,” Perez says. “Make a good resume so you can get the interview, and then just apply to a bunch of a different places because it is still hard to get a job. No worries if you get rejected from a bunch. I basically almost always got rejected from all, it’s just the very few that I got that I went to.”
This summer, his internship opportunity came about in a unique way.
“I was reached out through LinkedIn by a Snapchat recruiter,” he recounts. “They told me that they were having an event in Boston and they were doing interviews. So I did two interviews in person and I got the offer.”
For students seeking tips on how to pursue opportunities similar to his, Valentin offers three pieces of advice.
1) “Focus on learning. Because your curiosity and your love of learning, you’re going to end up doing a bunch of really cool things. Learning is where you need to optimize. Don’t think, ‘Oh, this company is more prestigious or is going to pay more.’ I think it’s better to go where you’re going to learn more.”
2) “Don’t be afraid to do things. Basically, just do them. When I started coding, I didn’t know how things worked and I just started pressing buttons and playing around. From doing that, you discover and learn things you couldn’t have done if you didn’t venture into the wild.”
3) “Enjoy the process… The end is just a moment… If you focus on being good at the process and its something you enjoy, then that’s all you need.”
There’s also a quote that Valentin continually recalls as motivation.
A little bit of slope makes up for a lot of y-intercept.
“You have an x-axis and a y-axis and there’s a line that’s pretty high up on the y-axis… And there’s another line that starts lower on the y-axis, but has a little more slope that the other one. That line will soon cross the other line and keep going upwards.”
“What matters most isn’t where you stand but how much you’re growing. I feel like I’ve seen that a lot in my life. In Mexico, I didn’t know I could learn how to program and knew very little math. I didn’t know how to find the slope of a line until right before boarding school, and then within two years I had learned multivariable calculus, I had six apps in the app store, and had taken a bunch of courses online…”
“I was very lucky and received a lot of support, but I also focused on my growth instead of where I stood. I think that’s really important, not to be discouraged due to lacking knowledge or experience in a field. If you focus on growth, you can end up at your definition of somewhere good, regardless of where you currently stand.”
To Valentin, it’s all about learning, understanding, and creating. He has a desire to generate value in people’s lives through his work. With this mission as the driving force behind Valpe Technologies, one can be sure to see his name on many more projects in the future.