A Friend From Work: Anthony Torres (Staff Software Engineer)
I’m Janet and I lead recruiting at Beacons. Two questions that I get asked the most by candidates are: 1. “Why did you decide to make the jump to Beacons?” and 2. “What’s the diversity like on your team?” I’m hoping to answer both of these questions here.
Anthony Torres is Beacons’ first and at the moment, only Staff Software Engineer. When I got the chance to sit down with him, the first thing I asked was for him to tell me about the beginning. “You mean why I chose Beacons?” he asked. I said, “no, the very beginning.” And so it began.
The City of Kings
“I was born in Lima, Peru,” he said. “We lived in one little room with my uncles and grandparents,” he recalled, as his mother was overseas in the US. They had limited resources, but the memories he had were good. They lived in a small space with a lot of family, a lot of love - he described it as cozy.
He went to high school in Peru, but as he was getting older he knew that he wanted to grow and seek a better life. “I wasn’t too excited about leaving my friends in Peru,” he said. “It can be hard to make friends when you’re older,” he mentioned. “Like every immigrant, it was definitely a little hard to adjust, but I feel blessed that I had the opportunity to come to the US.”
“I remember when I came, I didn’t speak English,” he said. “I needed to learn English and pass my SAT.” He did both, and ended up graduating from Purdue University with a degree in Mechanical Engineering.
He’s a Friend From Work!
After graduation, Anthony, got his first job as maintenance manager at US Steel and quickly realized that he wanted more. “I wanted to do something bigger - I knew that me working 9-5 wasn’t going to do it.”
Now this next part is 100% true - one day, he got a chance to meet Chris Hemsworth. The Marvel actor came to learn about the life of steel mill workers, and Anthony was one of the chosen to be interviewed by him. “I got a chance to make him laugh (once), talk to him for about 30 minutes, and that was great and all,” Anthony mused, “but when I saw him leave in his Escalade, I understood I needed to do something else with my life.”
Soon after, his aunt sent him a podcast - How I Built This. After hearing from guests like the founder of Snapchat, he realized he needed to make a switch, and decided he wanted to learn programming. “I started teaching myself programming and got a job after 6 months of studying.”
Behind Every Man
To be honest, one of the coolest things I learned about Anthony the first time I met him was about his wife. She’s a Russian expat, also a software engineer, and Anthony is the one who taught her to code. They met when he was visiting his family in Miami. “I remember I saw her and we started chatting, It was very easy and very comfortable. However, I was a little scared of her, not gonna lie - because her personality can be very strong.”
He said they never knew if they would see each other again. “I think those were the main reasons why we got to know each other faster - because we were completely ourselves.” The vacation ended, and they parted ways - he went back to Chicago, where he lived at the time. Not long after, she came to visit him, one week turned into three and he asked her to move in. She was going through a difficult time because she had lost her job and wasn’t sure what the next move was.
“I said, you know, programming - you can do it yourself. You can do anything you put your mind to, so why not? I can teach you.” She discussed it with her father, who told her it was a great opportunity. The very next day, Anthony brought a laptop and said, “you’re starting.” They bought a few programming courses in Udemy, and she started studying every day. This went on for two years.
“They say the best way to learn is to teach somebody else,” Anthony said, and he did. “It was a pain in the butt,” he recalled. “There were times when she would get a little depressed because she didn’t want to be indoors studying when it was beautiful outside.” She was used to being outside and working with her hands - now, she would be home all day, sitting in front of a computer. “It wasn’t easy, not everyone was happy. Well, Juan was happy (their cat)” he added.
It wasn’t until she got her first full-time offer as a developer that it hit her. “She was like ‘Wow, all my hard work.” This was a surreal feeling for her.
When I asked why he chose Beacons, Anthony mentioned that he was actually pretty comfortable at his last job. “I wasn’t looking for a job. I was fine,” he said. “But I saw this email from David (our CTO), you know I’m used to getting a couple of emails every day, so I didn’t think much of it at the beginning.” However, something was different about this one. He had a gut feeling that he should learn more, so he responded and started the interview process.
For Anthony, it’s always been about the people at Beacons. “I told myself, I want to be with smart people - people that care and are super motivated. I started looking at the founders’ linked-ins and got the feeling they were hungry and wanted to grow.” He hasn’t looked back since. “I definitely feel more fulfilled - the things that we do - they do have a huge impact.”
Nowadays, I’ll introduce him to engineers who are in the final stages with us - not to convince them to join but to find the truth and tell the truth. 90% of talented engineers want to join something great that’s already been built. 10% of them want to be the ones who build it. Anthony is a natural filter for that 10% because he doesn’t try to sell the company.
“Being able to be one of the stakeholders on big features, drive traffic, support many users, it has been giving me life,” he said. But he admitted that it’s not always easy. “There are times when you disagree with people or are in charge of big projects that will have a huge impact - that’s how you know you’re growing. I value that a lot. I’m not in my comfort zone, I’m pushing boundaries and having this bigger impact”.
Our team comes from a variety of backgrounds and have had different experiences, but we can usually agree on a couple of things - we join for the team, and we have a similar mindset: that there’s always one more thing to learn.