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Roman Jaquez is a software engineer at Philips Health Systems. He’s also a Snapchat Official Lens Creator. Originally from Dominican Republic, Jaquez moved to New York when he was 17 years old, and graduated from college in The Bronx with a BA in Computer Science. Now a Methuen, MA resident, Jaquez devotes his free time to helping children in the Merrimack Valley learn computer science through tools like Snapchat’s Lens Studio as a co-founder of the local organization Tech4Hood. He also provides consulting services through his own software consulting company called DRCoderz. Additionally, Jaquez is a 3D Modeler, AR/VR enthusiast, and a mobile game developer with several games on iOS and Android.
What do you miss most about the Dominican Republic? The weather (of course!) and the warmth of its people.
How would you sum up your childhood in DR? Very humble; my parents provided me with what I needed to the best of their abilities and under precarious conditions, but what they considered the best gift they could give me was to allow me to have an education, for which they fought for me to have, even at the cost of leaving their home behind.
What did you love most about living in New York? I loved how smooth it made my transition into living in the United States; living in the heart of Washington Heights, where most of the Dominican population is concentrated, but also how it shaped my character — as a young man living in a big city, walking up and down its streets; its bright lights not just opened up my eyes, but my mind as well.
What drove you to move to Boston? A change of scenery, expand my horizons and the longing for different kinds of challenges — and an excuse to move out of my parents’ house!
What’s the biggest difference between New York and Boston? To me, the “survival of the fittest” mentality of living in New York that I never experienced here is the biggest difference — how competitive the landscape is in every aspect of society. Oh, and the fact that Boston has better sports franchises!
What do you love most about living in Boston? The pride of its citizens, its richness in history and culture, and all the opportunities it’s given me to become the professional and individual I am today.
What most inspired your career in computer science? Computer Science was pretty much “love at first sight”; how I came to realize the potential it had to allow me to unleash my creativity and imagination in the shape of ones and zeroes, and the things that people who learned it were capable of achieving with it, it was mind-boggling. Up to this day I’m still in love — and it’s a kind of love and passion I want to share with the people around me.
What was the motivation to start Tech4Hood? The fact that the tech industry, although it’s made a lot of progress in bringing diversity to the industry, it’s got a long way to go. Our main goal is bringing the technology to the diversity, instead of the other way around, as well as engaging with people who have been mostly neglected by tech communities and instilling passion for computer science from a young age in our underrepresented communities to provide them better opportunities now and in the future.
What is one thing people should know about tech education? That you don’t have to be a “super genius” to get into tech, and that all it takes is dedication and hard work since the resources are out there, most of it completely free of charge.
Why use Snapchat’s Lens Studio as an educational tool? Because of its potential to reach people with different backgrounds and skill sets and the ability to allow people not only to express themselves through Augmented Reality, but to learn things like coding, graphic design, 3D Modeling, animation — you name it. Also the fact that today’s youth feel connected and identify with Snapchat, makes it much easier to pitch it to them.
What is one Snapchat Lens you’ve created that you enjoy the most? The Scuba Lens was quick and fun one; but I created one called “Violinist”, that uses lots of face gestures to play a violin, plus I did some cool 3D modeling and texturing work on it as well.
Who’s been the most inspiring figure in your life? My dad, who taught me that all the hard work pays off, as long as you put your heart and soul into it.
How does educating young people inform your consulting work for DRCoderz? Nurturing the next generation of software engineers and computer science professionals has taught me and made me realize all the untapped potential and talent we have in our young generation, which will be the engine that will drive the industry tomorrow, therefore I’d like to give them the opportunities I didn’t have while starting in the industry, as well as build the next leaders in our community.
What mobile game you’ve developed are you most proud of? I developed a “Connect the Dots” game for iOS and Windows Phone about 7–8 years ago, for which I created a rudimentary AI to allow users to play against the machine. Still today I look at the code and say: “that was some good coding I did back then!” — and wrote the code twice (for Objective-C and C#) due to the lack of good cross-platform SDKs at the time. Really proud of that achievement.
What is one piece of advice you have for young people wanting to start working with technology? Focus is the key. Pick a field in tech that you love and identity with, become a pro at it, then pick the next one. You can learn many things along the way, but focusing on one and mastering it is the key.
What is the biggest problem facing the world you’d like to see solved? Some of the most concerning problems that the world is facing at the moment will take generations to solve if we don’t act now — but the one I’m contributing to solve is the access to quality and affordable education. It may not sound that significant, but forging educated communities, and empowering people with the right tools provided by education can solve those pressing problems the world is facing, and the more we are educated, the better solutions we can come up with to overcome those problems — being part of the solution instead of contributing to the problem.