Hey heyyy there, nice to e-meet you 😉 ! I am Juan Delgadillo, but my friends often call me "Juanito", "Juancho", "Juansito" and even "Jhuan" (pronounced like the Chinese currency) from my non-Spanish speaking friends HAHAHA.
Table of contents
- It all starts from believing in yourself, your motivations, and your values
- Daring to go after bigger goals and challenges
- Leveraging momentum and building on top of it
- Discovering new worlds beyond my fears and comfort zone
- Evaluating potential growth opportunities and deciding based on them
- Accepting the impermanence of life making the most of my time with loved ones
- Experiencing new exciting adventures and keep discovering unknown worlds
In this post, I am sharing with you a bit of the story of my professional life in a way that you, the reader, learn who I am and understand why I share the content I share in this blog, plus the interesting content about mentorship, artificial intelligence, software engineering and traveling that I'll be sharing in the coming weeks and months.
Ok, but even "a bit of the story of my professional life" might be and sound like a hell of a lot of things, so, where do we start...? I have decided to summarise it as much as I can and only focus on sharing the meaningful and exciting things that I consider have been a really important part that has made me who I am today.
So, let's get into it.
“Most of the time we leave footprints in people's life as well as the places we are and go to...”
That is what a really special friend of mine used to say. I think she was right.
It all starts from believing in yourself, your motivations, and your values
One of the places that left several footprints and meaningful memories in my professional life was the university where I got my software engineering degree: Maracaibo University Institute of Technology IUTM (by its Spanish acronym) in Maracaibo, Venezuela.
It was back there where my passion and curiosity around software engineering and technology took off and grew bigger and bigger over time... especially when I understood how much time I could save in people's life just by automating repetitive tasks in their daily routines.
Besides saving time in people's lives, something that also really excited me was imagining the ability to tell a machine what to do in a series of steps and that it was going to run these steps/tasks automatically as many times as I wished.
During the latest years of my software engineering studies at the IUTM, I got the opportunity to participate in the university's informatics olympiads in the web development area which I twice won along with two good friends and the support of several great teachers.
Having won the local university's informatics olympiads allowed me to participate in the Venezuelan Informatics Olympiads OVI (by its Spanish acronym) in the country's port city, Puerto La Cruz.
Daring to go after bigger goals and challenges
Going from the local university's olympiads to representing the IUTM university in the national informatics olympiads was a wonderful journey that had several preparation steps along the way, including:
- Using neat communication skills with my teammates.
- Creating a great strategy to come up with time (and memory) efficient algorithms/solutions for given problems and time constraints.
- And, keeping in mind that winning wasn't the only important goal but the enjoyment of the experience and growth opportunities throughout it.
By keeping in mind and applying those preparation steps, I was able to win the OVI which allowed me to represent Venezuela in an International Collegiate Programming Contest ICPC event at the University of Informatic Sciences UCI (by its Spanish acronym) in Habana, Cuba.
Apart from representing Venezuela in an international event like ICPC, I also got a chance to get a close look at UCI's software engineering best practices as well as how they are applied and executed through agile methodologies to create applications that are widely used across the whole Cuban country.
The ICPC competition was one of the main activities but not the only one while at UCI.
Other exciting activities that were also held that I gladly participated in were knowledge exchange and active technological debates among UCI's experienced and vibrant software engineering community.
“Web platform software development applying latest interoperability standards” was the title of the conference that I had the honor to give to the UCI community as part of the knowledge exchange sessions.
I am happy and thankful that I accepted representing Venezuela in an event like ICPC at UCI because besides the responsibilities and unknowns that come with such an opportunity, it was worth the shot which wonderfully translated to:
- Professional growth
- Excellent insights
- Knowledge expansion
- New friends
I joyfully remember coming back to IUTM after the ICPC event and excitedly sharing with friends, teachers, and the university's engineering community all the wonderful insights that I got at UCI.
Increasing popularity at IUTM was one of the side effects of winning the OVI and then, later on, representing Venezuela in Habana, Cuba.
Suddenly, teachers, directors, and students were all talking about that student that was revolutionizing the computer science department and leaving the name of the university high up.
Leveraging momentum and building on top of it
Another side effect and lovely footprint in my life of that increased popularity was an amazing opportunity that a teacher shared with me.
The opportunity was about developing my final thesis in the Information and Technology IT department at Petroleum of Venezuela PDVSA (by its Spanish acronym) in Maracaibo, Venezuela.
At that time, PDVSA was one of the companies I admired not only because of its importance in the Venezuelan economy but also for its relevance, scope, and its reputation as one of the largest and worldwide-known oil companies.
Because of the potential growth and all the learning opportunities I could have by developing my final thesis in such a company, I decided to accept the challenge and start preparing for it.
Weeks passed by while getting all the paperwork ready and the time of meeting up with my PDVSA's mentors and working mates arrived.
When I arrived at what was going to be my working headquarters, my mentors were happily waiting for me.
We started to talk about the challenging automation problems they were facing and how those problems were affecting the decision-making across the whole department.
Getting myself acquainted with the problem space was exciting for me because the more I learned about it, the more I could see the positive potential impact that a solution could have while also envisioning how much time such a solution was going to save them (solution space).
After getting a holistic understanding of what the problems were about, we started to design a system that was going to solve those problems.
The design, development, and deployment phases of such a system included the following steps:
- Importing common key data from existing databases to the new system so that stakeholders could quickly start taking advantage of the solution in a frictionless and straightforward manner.
- Making the system generate valuable data-driven reports for efficient decision-making.
- Making sure the solution was interoperable with existing protocols and standards within the organization.
- Setting up a solid and stable Red-Hat based Linux server.
After all those phases were completed and implemented, we were successfully able to internally deploy the solution for general use.
In summary, this was a really wonderful experience and a lovely footprint in my life because of all the learnings in terms of how software development and IT processes are managed in a large organization like PDVSA.
It's such a warm feeling to remember how many automation, organizational, and efficiency problems they were having when I arrived, but later on, how all this was solved and greatly improved by some button clicks when I left.
Besides all this learning that I gained during my time at PDVSA, I also made several wonderful friends.
After I finished my experience at PDVSA, I was also a couple of weeks away from graduating as a software engineer from IUTM.
This was the moment where I asked myself a question that several people can relate to, especially people finishing up their university studies:
“Ok, what am I gonna do next after graduating?”
At the time, I was receiving several amazing job opportunities across Venezuela given the precedence and variety of the experience that I had had.
While I was receiving all those exciting offers I was also thinking:
“Am I set up for local offers in my home country only... or can I go beyond my comfort zone, towards building an international career?”
This question was a game-changer because I profoundly felt that I was capable of doing and reaching soo much more than what I had locally available at the time in Venezuela.
It only required thought and a bit of mindset to go from local opportunities and comfort towards international exposure, growth explosion, and several wonderfully exciting adventures abroad outside my comfort zone.
Discovering new worlds beyond my fears and comfort zone
After deciding that developing an international career was something that I was really going for, I started to receive many job offers from several Latin American countries.
One of those job offers was from a startup called Trade Media which was developing an educational platform to improve kindergarten teachings through music in Santiago, Chile.
I got particularly excited about this educational project since I have always been interested in methodologies and applications that are involved in and improve the education area.
Because of this interest and the noble nature of the project, I decided to help them and accept the job opportunity.
Additionally, I think we have a big space for improvement when it comes to using/developing and applying effective educational methodologies in Latin America.
The job offer required me to move to the startup's headquarters located in Santiago, Chile.
In the beginning, thinking that I had to move out of the country where I was born was a bit scary and exciting at the same time.
Nevertheless, I started to plan and get ready for moving to a new country I had never been to before without mentioning that this was also the first time in my life that I was going to live in a different country.
Weeks passed by and everything was as planned, I arrived in Santiago, Chile which was going to be my new home for... who knows (some time 😉).
I excitedly met the team which warmly welcomed me.
We started to get hands-on and work on the missing functionalities in their educational platform.
I learned several things during my time in this startup, including how agile projects are managed with the Scrum framework and how it helps with feature specifications by having a sense of how much time each functionality will take.
Another set of things I learned is something that most people that have moved to a new country can relate to, which is the fact that there are so many changes happening at once:
- Most things are new.
- It takes courage to make the decision to start from scratch.
- You are leaving your comfort zone to go to a place with many unknowns.
You might also be afraid of the what-ifs:
- What if things don't go as planned?
- What if I make the move and then I don't like the place?
- What if I don't fit in the culture?
- What if I have communication difficulties (in case you are in the process of learning the local language or you are not a native speaker).
Above all those what-ifs, I think we need to remember that unknowns will be present in our lives most of the time to make things exciting.
But we do not have to let unknowns feed our fears, we have to comprehend that one of its purposes is to push us beyond our mental barriers and physical limitations.
By adopting a mindset of embracing challenges, we forge a path towards bigger achievements and bigger levels of wisdom, bigger than what we would have never thought we could achieve.
Above all those what-ifs, I really loved my time living in Santiago, Chile. I think it's a wonderful city full of innovation and kind people with a willingness to push the country forward.
Evaluating potential growth opportunities and deciding based on them
During the time that I was receiving several job offers from Latin America while still in Venezuela, I also got another really interesting offer from a country that now has a place in my heart…
Costa Rica (Pura vida mae!).
Two weeks before moving to Santiago, Chile, I got contacted by an exciting startup called Slidebean which was helping startup founders to create amazing pitch decks while they were in the stage of raising capital.
By that time I had already accepted the offer from Trade Media, but, besides this, I decided to keep in touch with Slidebean because I liked the mission of the startup and also the vibe of the team.
They were so interested to start working with me that we arranged to work together during my free time and later on decide if we both would like to take the work arrangement to the next step of formality, meaning on a full-time basis with exclusivity.
A fun fact that I got to know later on is that Trade Media's CTO was a friend of Slidebean's founders.
As time passed by in Santiago, Chile, I worked for both startups at the same time.
I know, this sounds insane, but it was greatly rewarding in the end.
I was able to efficiently and successfully work for both startups while being productive by sacrificing a bit of my free time.
Since Slidebean liked so much the result of my work, and how well I fit in their team culture, they decided to invite me to their headquarters in the country's capital, San Jose.
They told me:
“You can come to visit the team and our offices in San Jose, and if you like it here you could consider staying 😉”
I remember spending several days analyzing the cons/pros and unknowns of moving my home place again from Santiago, Chile, to San Jose, Costa Rica. Especially since I had recently moved in.
Several of the what-ifs mentioned before were also included in this cons/pros analysis.
Months passed by while I was still working for both companies.
We had implemented almost all before-launch necessary features in Trade Media's educational platform.
Additionally to the cons/pros analysis I did, I also evaluated the growth opportunities/paths on both companies and I saw greater potential growth in the Costa Rican startup.
Because of this greater potential growth, I decided to quit my job at the Chilean startup and make San Jose, my new home.
Great excitement and energy of adventure were all around me when I was about to board my flight towards San Jose, Costa Rica.
It was also the first time in my life that I was traveling to Costa Rica.
Slidebean's CEO was waiting for me once I arrived at Juan Santamaría International Airport on a Thursday night, after a comfortable and calm flight.
He kindly received me and drove me to the place that was going to be my new home for the first month, meanwhile, I got acquainted with the new everything.
The next day I joyfully visited Slidebean's offices and met the team which was excited to meet me. There were people from several countries on the team.
At Slidebean I got a chance to work on really innovative cutting-edge technologies and projects.
We used advanced engineering techniques to make the app work at a blazing fast speed while improving User Experience UX.
I experienced firsthand how important having a great synergy and collaboration between product, marketing, design, and engineering teams is and how it helped us all move forward in achieving the company's goals.
Additionally, I got a chance to polish and learn new tools to improve my business development agile mindset.
One of those tools was about how to strategically plan for testing given business' hypotheses with small experiments and a minimum amount of effort to quickly validate those hypotheses and iterate from experiment results.
Another meaningful aspect of my experience in Costa Rica was to learn and experiment with how warm, friendly, and welcoming Costa Rican people are.
To experience the "Pura Vida" feeling which is something that is difficult to explain with words.
Costa Rica is a very green country (in several senses), you can feel and smell the fresh nature around you everywhere you go.
I not only enjoyed my time in Costa Rica but I also made great friends, so I definitely recommend everyone to visit and live there.
Accepting the impermanence of life making the most of my time with loved ones
Almost two years later, while I was enjoying living in Costa Rica, I received a new job offer from a place I hadn't heard of before…
Tallinn, Estonia (Tere teree!).
“Tallinn, Estonia? Where in the world is Estonia located? Is it an island? Wait... where?”
Those were the questions I had when I received the job opportunity.
I started to google Estonia to get acquainted with it and it was surprising the things I found:
- It's one of the world's most digitally-advanced countries.
- It has lovely nature.
- It's a member of the European Union EU.
- It has the most startups per person in the world, including notable examples like Wise (formerly TransferWise), Veriff, Bolt, Starship, Skype, and others.
I got really excited after realizing all those facts about Estonia.
At the same time, I remember thinking:
“Why hadn't I heard of Estonia before?”
There is a need for more awareness about Estonia in Latin America, especially how such a great example Estonia is for several countries in the world.
The job offer came from a startup called Jobbatical, with headquarters in Estonia's capital city, Tallinn.
Jobbatical's mission was really inspiring to me, which was about helping people find their dream job anywhere in the world.
I think everyone should (at least once in their lifetime) move abroad to a place and a job they dream of, because:
- It's such a mind-growing experience.
- It makes you an open-minded and most likely a less biased person.
- It makes you go beyond your comfort zone towards achieving bigger life goals.
- It's such a great way to immerse and explore a place's culture, eventually becoming a local.
- Ultimately, it sensitizes you and makes you a better human being.
The previous reasons for moving abroad, the facts that I found about Estonia and Jobbatical's inspiring mission were more than enough for me to accept the exciting job opportunity.
This was also the first time that I was traveling to both the EU and Tallinn, Estonia.
This moment in my life was a bit emotionally bittersweet, not only because when deciding to accept Jobbatical's great job opportunity I had to go through the same what-ifs analysis and questions, but because…
Every time that you spend some time in a given place, that place becomes a part of you, you get used to it, to its culture, and its warm people.
The place saw you grow and nurture, it now has a space in your heart, it changed you for the better, and it will go with you wherever you go (Pura Vida mae!).
There is also another difficult aspect which is the feeling that you leave friends and perhaps family behind, not knowing when you'll be back.
You know that things keep moving forward, life keeps happening, and you also realize the impermanence of things.
Above all this emotional moment, I accepted the impermanence of life, I learned to be even more grateful for people and their time around me, enjoying the time with them while I can.
In parallel, I was getting ready for new adventures in a lovely place called Tallinn.
Several weeks later, everything went like a charm, I arrived at Tallinn's Lennart Meri international airport on a snowy Saturday night.
A person from the team was waiting for me at the airport, she kindly took me to the place that was going to be my new home for the first month while sharing with me helpful information about Tallinn.
Next Monday I excitedly went to Jobbatical's offices to meet the team.
I quickly realized an amazing thing… there were a lot of people from so many different countries on the team!
What makes it exciting is that having people from several countries in a team creates a very rich multi-cultural environment that fosters creativity and innovation.
You get to learn from and interact with people from different cultures, backgrounds, unique perspectives, and ways of thinking which leads to enriching your own mind while expanding your points of view.
At Jobbatical I got an opportunity to experience and learn several things which I can summarize in the following items:
- Sharpening my product strategizing, software engineering, and soft skills.
- Working on a startup whose main culture was based around great communication, accountability, commitment, and trusting each other.
- Working in a multi-cultural and creative environment.
- How to run A/B testing experiments to efficiently test and validate business' hypotheses.
- How to successfully pivot a startup's business model while saving the company from going out of business.
- How helpful Key Performance Indicators KPIs are to measure progress towards a given goal.
- How to have a deep and meaningful impact on people's lives with the result of my work.
There is a huge amount of additional information that I could share and further thoroughly develop each one of the previous items, while on one hand, I could do it, on the other hand, I don't want to make this professional biography longer than what it already is.
That's why I am sharing the things that I got to do and experience at Jobbatical, in a list kind of format while keeping what I said at the beginning: summarizing as much as I can and only focusing on sharing the meaningful things.
Later on, if you think that there could be additional value in sharing more info about specific points and parts of this professional biography, I encourage you to let me know through my Twitter (@delgadillojuanm) or any other of my points of contact.
I will be more than happy to share more details about it in separate articles.
Besides all those wonderful things I got to sharpen and learn in Jobbatical, I also experienced lovely aspects of living in Tallinn, Estonia.
If we think about it, going from a tropical country such as Costa Rica to Estonia requires a somewhat big change in terms of culture, weather, and language.
Among those lovely aspects and changes, there were:
- How culturally different Estonia is if we compare it with Latin America.
- Learning that Sauna and cold swimming are a big thing. In fact, I also got to try and enjoy them for the first time, it was really cool and refreshing!
- Enjoying Estonia's beautiful nature.
Additionally, I learned that Estonian people are like coconuts. Say what?!?
Yes, you know, if we analyze how coconuts are, they have a hard surface that is difficult to break, but once you break it, everything inside is soft and milky.
It takes time to really get to know Estonian people, but once you do, you realize how warm human beings they are. You gain friends for life.
Living in Estonia changes you, for good or bad, that depends on how you approach your experience and think about it. You might become a coconut too.
Personally, it didn't change me for good, but for amazing.
Experiencing new exciting adventures and keep discovering unknown worlds
As you might already know, I love traveling, discovering new places, experiencing different cultures, and meeting new people.
So while I was living in Tallinn, Estonia, I traveled a lot to several other beautiful places and countries that I might share more info about later on in separate articles, however, there is one of those places that is worth mentioning.
I remember having a particular positive feeling when visiting Barcelona, Spain, even though I had never been to Spain before.
The positive feelings might be because of the historical relation and background that Latin America has with Spain. It's as if I was meeting a part of my past.
The point is that when I visited Barcelona, I immediately fell in love with it, and also with…
- Its people
- Its culture
- Its landscapes
- Its weather
- Its food
- Its warmness
“Hey, I think this is a really cool place I'd live to live in!”
After I went back to Tallinn, I couldn't help but think about all the cool experiences I had had and the new friends that I had made in Barcelona.
Since it was soon going to be two years of living in Tallinn, and because of how much I liked Barcelona, I decided that it was time to move out of my comfort zone again and make Barcelona my new home.
Several weeks passed by and the time to move to Barcelona arrived. It all went like expected: exciting, smooth, and calm.
Jobbatical and I arranged to keep the work relation from my new home by working remotely.
The first 4 months living in Barcelona were amazing…
I was really enjoying how vibrant and multi-cultural the city was.
However, something very wrong was about to happen, and it changed everything how we used to interact with people and the world around us.
The Covid-19 global pandemy.
At the time Covid hit Spain, I was traveling around Asia.
Luckily enough, there weren't any restrictions nor a lot of Covid-19 cases when I was in India.
Nevertheless, several weeks later, Covid-19 cases started to grow and because of this, many restrictions and a full lockdown were implemented in India.
The initial plan was to be in India for a month but I ended up staying almost 4 months, because of India's lockdown.
Once I was able to get a flight back to Europe, I couldn't return to Barcelona because of the Spanish's strong Covid-19 restrictions, so I had to live in Amsterdam for some months before being able to return to my home place in Barcelona.
Some of the main reasons I traveled to India were to:
- Visit friends.
- Study Delhi's air pollution for a personal project.
- Experience for the first time the colorful Holi festival.
- Experience Indian culture, spirituality, and food.
- Visit the Taj Mahal.
I was able to do most of the previous items until restrictions were implemented in India.
I deeply enjoyed my time in India and made the most out of it, regardless of Covid-19's mobility limitations and constraints.
I have always been interested in applied Artificial Intelligence AI, and during the time that I lived in Chile, Costa Rica, and Estonia, I was reading amazing books and insightful resources to learn more about AI on my own.
Between my time in India and Amsterdam, I had a lot of free time that I leveraged by doing several mind-enriching activities.
One of those activities was taking my AI knowledge to the next level by starting a Deep Learning DL specialization that I initiated in India and I got to finish in Amsterdam.
With this DL specialization, I really took my AI knowledge to the next level with the huge amount of learnings that I got.
I'll be sharing a lot of this knowledge (from a perspective of conceptual compression and design) in separate articles later on in the coming months.
Feel free to subscribe and stay tuned if you'd like to know more about it.
After I was able to get back to Barcelona, I received a new job opportunity from a startup that is working in the education sector developing a platform and leveraging AI technologies.
Because of how much I like education and seeing how innovative the project was, I decided to accept the job opportunity.
At the moment of writing this, I am still working for this startup.
It's been a long ride to write a bit of the story of my life and I am thankful that you have come to read it till this point.
I'll be updating this professional biography with more meaningful insights and experiences as time passes by.
Thank you again for reading and see you around.
Written with joy and love by,
- ICPC is a worldwide known competitive programming competition principally sponsored by IBM and the Association for Computing Machinery ACM which is the world's largest scientific and educational computing society.
- UCI is a renowned computer science university in Latin America and is mainly known for its Information Sciences, Bioinformatic, and Cybersecurity degrees as well as for the high quality of its computer science education.
- PDVSA is the Venezuelan state-owned oil and natural gas company, and the world's fifth-largest oil exporter.
- A startup or start-up is a company or project undertaken by an entrepreneur to seek, develop, and validate a scalable business model.
- Scrum is a framework for developing, delivering, and sustaining products in a complex environment, with an initial emphasis on software development.
- User experience (UX) is how a user interacts with and experiences a product, system or, service. It includes a person's perceptions of utility, ease of use, and efficiency.
- A/B testing is a user experience research methodology that consists of a way to compare two versions of a single variable, typically by testing a subject's response to variant A against variant B, and determining which of the two variants is more effective.
- KPI is a quantifiable measure of performance over time for a specific objective that provides targets for teams to shoot for, milestones to gauge progress, and insights that help people across the organization make better decisions.
- Holi is a popular ancient Indian festival, also known as the "Festival of Love", the "Festival of Colours" and the "Festival of Spring". It celebrates the arrival of spring, the end of winter, the blossoming of love, and for many, it is a festive day to meet others, play and laugh, forget and forgive, and repair broken relationships.
- Deep learning is a type of machine learning and artificial intelligence that loosely imitates the way humans gain certain types of knowledge. Deep learning is an important element of data science, which includes statistics and predictive modeling.