10 Questions with Alexis Perez

Infrastructure Strategy Analyst at Facebook

Alexis Perez works as an Infrastructure Strategy Analyst at Facebook. She taught herself to code a year after college while working at UC Berkeley. She is passionate about growing her knowledge in computer networks and understanding and working with the underlying technologies that make Big Data possible. She has been active at Python conferences, instructed coding classes, and mentored students interested in tech.

Growing up in a low-income Hispanic community in the Silicon Valley gave Alexis a unique perspective. Her background inspires her to continue advancing in tech and help Latinos in her community. Alexis is proud to be involved in TechPrep, CODE2040, as well as several professional events that bring Latinos and tech together.

  1. When did you know you wanted to be in tech?

I went through all of college and a year post-college with no idea that I’d end up in tech. I majored in both Mathematics and Economics, and I was gearing myself towards Finance. I didn’t have much professional guidance or any mentors until I started a job as a Financial Analyst at UC Berkeley a year after graduation. My manager encouraged me to learn to code in order to improve my data analysis skills. His passion for data science inspired me. By working at UC Berkeley, I was able to take advantage of the resources they had on campus. I went to Python events, attended talks at AmpLab, and met some really cool people who were all passionate about Big Data. After learning to code and receiving the guidance from my manager, I knew I wanted to work in tech.

2. Who’s been a role model you look up to?

I don’t necessarily have one single role model. There are certainly traits and qualities in several admirable people that have influenced me. However, if I’m thinking about someone I look up to, it’s a better version of myself in the future. I look at where I am now, and I know my middle school self would be happy, maybe even in slight disbelief. That’s how I want to feel in the future. I want to learn more, help others, and work to improve my community in a way I will be proud of in the future.

3. What gets you out of bed in the morning?

Currently I work in Infrastructure, which is completely new terrain for me. I’ve always enjoyed expanding my knowledge, and now being able to learn about servers, networks and capacity planning is really cool. There are a lot of different areas to learn about in Infra, and the underlying technologies are always changing.

I’m equally passionate about helping other Latinos in my community. Since I grew up in a low-income Hispanic community, I experienced how much impact the aid of others can have. Now being in a position to inspire and help other Latinos, I always take advantage of the opportunities to do so. Helping other Latinos who experience the same disadvantages I once faced motivates me every day.

4. What’s a challenge you’ve faced in your career journey?

It’s actually been challenging working in tech, especially in Infrastructure, and not having a background in computer science. I was fortunate to have my manager at Berkeley mentor me in the beginning, then later make friends from whom I could learn. I’m very grateful for the smart network I’ve been able to surround myself with and grow from. Even though I didn’t formally study computer science, I worked through algorithm books, wrote programs, and learned data structures with the help of my friend, Ahmed. It’s definitely a challenge to start fresh in a new industry while working with some of the smartest people. But I continue to ask questions, learn from my colleagues, and always work towards improving my skillset. Learning to code post-college and challenging myself technically has actually boosted my confidence in my ability to tackle hard problems. I never underestimate the impact of help from a smart friend or colleague.

“Learning to code post-college and challenging myself technically has actually boosted my confidence in my ability to tackle hard problems.”

5. Describe a time you were proud of yourself.

I had just learned Python and written a script that analyzed UC Berkeley’s supplier and purchasing data. The results had a positive impact on my department, and I saw an opportunity to present my work at a Python conference. I didn’t seriously think my proposal would get accepted; I was more looking for a way to receive financial aid to fly out to the conference. To my surprise, it was accepted, and I gave a talk on my code at the Scientific Computing in Python 2014 conference. It was definitely nerve-wracking to present my work at a conference when I’d just learned the language a couple months before, but I was very proud of myself.

6. What’s something you want to get better at?

There are 3 things I’d like to get better at: ballet, skateboarding, and my engineering skillset.

7. Comfort food of choice?

Definitely burritos and tacos. Los Gallos off Marsh Road in Redwood City is the local taqueria I grew up next to, and I continue to eat there all the time. When I was in college in San Diego I always compared each burrito and taco to those from Los Gallos. Very few have been able to compare.

8. Favorite book?

My favorite book is Men of Mathematics by E.T. Bell. It’s a classic. Each chapter is about a mathematician from Archimedes to Riemann. Most of us are familiar with names like Gauss, Cauchy, or Jacobi, but we don’t know much else about the person behind the theorem. In this book, each chapter delves into the details of who the mathematician was: his education, family background, personality traits and mathematical accomplishments. We learn the quirks and behaviors of the top men in mathematics, as well as the logical concepts behind some of the most important fundamentals of this subject.

9. If you could try another job for a day, what would it be?

I’ve always wanted to be a professional ballerina. I’d love to be onstage performing in the Nutcracker or Swan Lake. I have such respect for the pain ballerinas have to overcome in order to achieve grace and beauty.

10. If you could give your 18-year-old self a piece of advice, what would it be?

At 18, I had actually just been diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis, and it was really hard. I would tell myself to be more open about it and prioritize my health.

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