Carlos Muñoz and Yolanda Alonso are two young engineers part of the last edition of Jóvenes con Futuro that moved to San Francisco a few months ago to start their internships at Turo, a San Francisco-based startup that is said to enter the list of top unicorns this year 2017. It is the Airbnb for cars; a car rental marketplace where users can rent any car from the community of local owners.
Yolanda – second girl participating in Jóvenes con Futuro, 28 years old and originally from Burgos, and Carlos – from Madrid, 25 years old, Software Engineer from Carlos III will tell us about their experience in San Francisco and how working at a soon-to-be unicorn looks like.
First of all, we’d like to know a bit more about you guys. What were you doing back in Spain and what are you doing now at Turo? Could you tell us about the projects you are working on at the moment?
Yolanda: Back in Spain I was working at CEEI Burgos, a Business and Innovation Center that provides support to entrepreneurs. I worked there as IT Manager and I had a very active role in the software developers community in Burgos, organizing local events like Betabeers or worldwide hackathons like the NASA Space Apps Challenge and the Global Game Jam.
Six months ago, I joined Turo engineering team as a front-end developer and I have worked in a bunch of small projects as well as a couple of big projects focused on improving the checkout process and the search page. The goal of the project in which I am currently working is to change the search filters to provide better results to the users and increase the booking rate.
Carlos: During my years of college I was involved in projects related to different fields of study, and I felt particularly attracted by mobile technologies. Because of that, and right after finishing my degree, I joined the Android team of Minube, a startup based in Madrid. I worked with them for a year before moving to California and joining Turo.
During this first 6 months I’ve taken part in dozens of small projects, as well as a few big ones. Right now I’m part of the `Search project team`, on a complete redesign of the vehicle search process in order to make it easier for the users to find the perfect car to rent.
Carlos, you worked for a hot startup in Spain, Minube, with almost $3M in funding and the first Spanish App awarded with “Google’s Editor’s Choice” award. What could you tell us about the differences in terms of working culture you found in both startups or ecosystems?
First of all, something that fascinates me is that, despite both companies were founded almost a decade ago, they still keep what I consider the startup spirit. However, the Bay Area is the perfect breeding ground for startups and entrepreneurs, and things here go the American way: bigger, and faster. That’s something that all of us have heard in Spain many times, but you really realize when you are part of it.
In general, one of the things that is different in both cultures is how Americans tend to consider failure as a valuable learning that makes them grow. That’s a really prized lesson in my opinion.
Yolanda, you are the second girl participating in Jóvenes con Futuro. How do you feel about it? How do you see the role of women entrepreneurs and engineers is being seen in Silicon Valley? What would you tell other young girls engineers like you looking to come to this part of the world?
Being the second girl participating in Jóvenes con Futuro makes me feel both proud and worried at the same time. It may seem surprising that after several editions of the program there are only three girls participating. However, the truth is that this is just an accurate representation of the real world situation where the presence of women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) is quite low. This is sadly a worldwide reality and as far as I know it is the same here in Silicon Valley.
I have met amazing women engineers here, including the other two girls participating in the program and there is no need to say that we are as capable as any man to work in technical jobs. But still my impression from what I’ve seen so far is that the percentage of women in tech companies is very low and even lower if we talk about technical leading positions.
To other young girls engineers looking to come here I would tell them that they should definitely try to apply for a job here. Companies here need talented engineers no matter your genre. So try, never give up and you’ll find your opportunity.
Why did you guys wanted to come to Silicon Valley? What do you think about this experience that you are having so far (professionally and personally)? What would you highlight?
Yolanda: Professionally, as a software engineer coming to Silicon Valley is like a dream come true. The most famous tech companies in the world are located here and also the best software engineers. So the opportunity to learn from the best and start a successful career here are the most attractive facts to come. Personally, the adventure of coming here represents an opportunity to know the American way of life and be immersed in the Silicon Valley tech startup environment.
I’ve had a wonderful experience so far. I’ve been able to learn from the inside of a tech company in San Francisco, being part of an amazing team and improving my technical skills in a way I could have never imagined that I would. Not only that, I am also learning a lot about from a business perspective.
I’d like to stand out the relationship with other participants of previous editions of Jóvenes con Futuro. They’ve been a family to me, a great support throughout these months.
Carlos: Coming to Silicon Valley is almost every engineer’s dream, and has been also a dream for me since I was a child. I can’t be more grateful to Jóvenes con Futuro because of the opportunity they brought me. I couldn’t be happier about the experience I’m having.
Turo is delighted with the program, we’re five Spanish JcF engineers right now, and our colleagues friendly call us the “Spanish mafia”. You’re not treated as an intern. Since the first week, I’ve felt that I’ve been treated in the same way as full-time engineers. My opinion and feedback are always taken into account, and I feel I contribute my grain of salt everyday.
We work a lot, but we really have fun as well. One of the most relevant cultural events in Turo is the Turbo week, a semi-annual week-long event where Turo employees from across the world come together to the San Francisco HQ. Last one took place a month ago. We did all kind of activities, from coffee tasting to massages. Each night after work, we go out on the town and just hung out.
Tips for future JCF participants not only for the selection process but also while working at a startup.
Yolanda: If you are an engineer and want to work in a startup in the US, don’t hesitate and apply right now. Besides all your knowledge and experience I would also recommend that you prepare yourself for the interviews, the ones from Jóvenes con Futuro and also the interviews with the companies here. This is like applying for a job, so get ready accordingly. There are many resources and books that can help you at this point.
Once you are here, keep learning every single day. This is a great experience so get the most out of it. And of course, enjoy!
Carlos: First of all, be self confident and don’t be afraid to participate. If you are passionate about what you do, don’t think twice, apply! Don’t forget to point out the fields you’re more comfortable with, since there are a lot of required roles in the different startups throughout The Bay.
Once you get here (congrats!), my tip is: don’t feel intimidated by the environment you will find here. Always have in mind that companies choose JcF because they bring outstanding, hungry to learn engineers that will do their best to help them success. Don’t be afraid of speaking your mind and change things the way you consider the best.
Applications are open until April 30th and we are looking for engineers like you, passionate about technology and startups. For more information, visit stepone.com/jovenes or shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
See you in the selection process!