On the Path: Interview with CodePath’s iOS Guru Guillermo Sanchez

Guillermo Sanchez is what one of his favorite essayists Malcolm Gladwell would call an outlier. He’s unique, and unlike others. 

While most people his age think about undertaking new hobbies or skills only to then get intimidated, sidetracked or, worse, lazy, Sanchez sees them as opportunities to meet new people. His enthusiasm is contagious and his determination is unwavering. For example, at thirteen-years-old, he figured out how to fix PlayStations and Xboxes. Then later on in life, he taught himself jazz guitar, and he’s currently training to run a marathon. On top of all this, he’s also an iOS guru for CodePath. 

But his ambitions don’t stop there–Sanchez is driven in becoming highly successful within the tech industry just so he can pay it forward with the youth of Mexico by bringing tech education to them. 

And chances are it’ll happen–after all, outliers rarely fail.

You’re an organized guy. You sent me a calendar invite and Zoom link which impressed me. Were you always like that? 

I think I started becoming responsible probably in high school with my brother when I used to work at his repair shop and he used to yell at me for not keeping stuff organized. I realized how important that quality was because it really did make a big difference.

So, you have your older brother–how much older is he than you? 

About 11 years old. I would go in during eighth grade all the way to high school to help them fix up PlayStations and Xboxes. Also laptops, computers and smartphones.

What a great skill to learn at such a young age.

Yeah, I loved doing this stuff. But then a little towards college, I started getting bored of hardware, and I started doing a little bit of computer science in high school. And then my last year of high school, my teacher gave me a link to apply to a summer boot camp at Google, and that’s when I got introduced to software. That’s when I realized that I didn’t want to do much hardware–I wanted to work on software. I still like to bring things to life, but I’d like to bring ideas to life more.

Let’s jump back a little bit first; when you were initially learning how to work on hardware, what was that like?

It’s like learning a new language. Some people in the beginning have a hard time with learning a new language but for some people, it just comes to them because they’re natural. 

I think it took me about a month until I finally started getting most of the devices. I would focus on one device, like a PlayStation 3, and then after a week, move on to another one. 

I saw Forrest Gump not long ago again and I read a review and it talks about how Forrest Gump was not actually dumb–he has this capability to remain singularly focused on one task, and I think that’s what my brother was helping me with back when I was learning all these things. He helped me focus on just one single item for a week. And I didn’t even notice or realize it until I saw a pattern whenever I learned something new, I always do it for like a whole week, or, or a month, depending on what it is. And I just focus on it and then move on. And that’s awesome.

You’re an eighth grader and your brother took you into this job and you’re learning how to do all this stuff–do you realize at the time that it’s a unique talent like it’s something special that you’d want to invest in later on in life and continue on with?

Not really. I didn’t really see it that much because I came to the US around that time. I didn’t really know culture yet, and it was during the summer so I hadn’t even started school yet and I didn’t know anyone. I didn’t know what the average normal teenager would do during those times besides playing video games. So having that skill set was like something I thought most teenagers developed. I see now that that isn’t the case. 

Where did you grow up? Where are you from initially? 

In a small state in Mexico called Jalisco. As a kid, you can just walk freely all around town. No cops stopping you. You know pretty much all the neighborhoods and there weren’t that many cars–if you wanted to go to school, you walked. If you wanted to go to a party, you walked. 

I really enjoyed my childhood. I lived near my grandparents. I lived near relatives. I think that’s what really got me into just being friendly and just talking to other people and getting to know them because you walked around and spoke to people. That was encouraged. 

I think that’s what really makes the huge difference in the teenagers that I see here. They’re really shy and really nervous. It’s really hard to get them talking to one another or even engaging the elderly. 

You moved here without your parents.

Yeah, not with my parents. Like for a couple months, I lived here without them. 

Tell me about what has happened as a result of all these experiences to you like what you’ve learned from them and how it’s changed you, your being, your personality.

I think because of my culture and upbringing, I try to make everyone that I meet as a friend and turn them into family. Whenever I meet someone new, I talk to people as if they were family. When you’ve moved around as much as I have, like we moved around a lot, even after we came here to the US, you learn to just make people wherever you go into family. 

Yeah, that’s a wonderful attitude. Man. I love that perspective. You also seem very passionate–I’m sure you have other interests. 

I’m training for a marathon. But I run with friends which makes it a social thing. Like I try to make everything I do something I can share with others. I also play guitar. 

Oh, what kind?

Jazz guitar. I like Latin more. Latin jazz. Playing music in general, it’s, I think, another way of connecting with people through nonverbal communication methods. 

Are you self taught?

Yeah. Mostly self taught.

Of course you are. Ha. 

I also know a little piano, a little bit of ukulele, and the bass and drums. But I like to teach myself everything. I’m also reading a lot of Malcolm Gladwell books. 

He’s a smart guy. What have you gained from him?

He has this article about plane crashes and compares how different cultures have more crashes. Like in more subordinate cultures, the pilots aren’t direct. They hint at the issues and so bad things happen because of a lack of communication. Anyway, it’s a good article. But what I learned from it is that I need to be more direct. You need to get to the main point and get the job done. 

Now, I’d like to pivot for a moment and discuss how you got to CodePath. 

I got involved in the beginning of my junior year. I was coming back from summer, and I learned iOS at a summer boot camp called Make School. And the reason why I took the boot camp was because I applied and I got a scholarship for it. Also because I wanted to learn a specific technology so that I can come back to my other organization that I was involved with at the time, which was SHIP, or the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers. It’s mostly for Latin Hispanic professionals. 

I wanted to come back to that organization and help out the tech community, which I helped co-establish at that time. I was going to come back with iOS and I was going to start teaching my own students. But then some of my friends that were already in SHIP–Brandon and Omar–also had learned iOS through CodePath. They recruited me to get involved. 

What was it like for you to take on more responsibility in becoming a guru, as far as the program was concerned? 

Well, it was really great teaching at first because there was a great lack of opportunities for certain demographics. I don’t like how the education system is set up. I mean, it’s pretty bad right now as it is, but at least we’re making some steps.

And in college, it’s still pretty much the same way. They just teach you the basics, but they don’t teach you how to use everything that you learn, and apply it to real world applications or train you how to utilize those tools they’re introducing you to. And I think that’s what CodePath did for me. It was the missing gap that I’d been looking for in the past three years of my college life. And I want to help out others looking for that opportunity. Give them the knowledge they need that isn’t instantly available. 

What does a man who has so many interests and so many talents see for himself in the future?

I want to work for a big corporate company for a bit just so I can see how their structure is established and how they’re organized. Then I’ll use all that knowledge to use in my own start-up which will probably be an app. After that, I want to start my own nonprofit in Mexico. I want to give people opportunities there that I, as a kid, couldn’t have imagined. I know what it was like to not even know about certain opportunities and I think the earlier kids know, the more they can take advantage of them. 

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