ValiPeople | Antonio Pérez

Andy Richards


Andy & Toño on Gather

Welcome to ValiPeople, a series that explores the thoughts and views of Valispacers and takes a deeper look at the people behind the product. We’ll post regular conversations based around a standard set of questions that asks different team members about work life and about, well, life in general.

This month, Andy from the marketing team listened to the wonderful analogies of  Antonio (Toño) Pérez, Valispace’s programmer, problem solver and budding guitar maestro. 

Tell me a bit about yourself

I’m Antonio, I’m from Spain and I studied software engineering in Madrid. Specifically, I’m from Cáceres which is in the Mid West of Spain. It’s a really nice city and I would invite everybody to come!

I was in Madrid for four years to do my computer science degree and my final project was based around artificial intelligence. After, I did some work as an intern for an insurance company and started searching for a place that wasn’t Madrid and that’s where I came across Valispace, which has been super nice. 

Do you remember the first time you ever heard about programming?

“I remember that a lot of people I knew were afraid of touching or like breaking their computer. But for me, I thought well if this breaks then I’ll just find a way to make it work.”

I’ve always been interested in computers and I remember that I was probably 6 or 7 when my parents brought home their first one. At that time, I just wanted to play games so I remember learning how to download and play them. That was my first real interest in computers. 

After a few years I started tinkering around with the hardware of the computer but it wasn’t until I was around 13 or 14 that I did something fun with programming. I had just learnt about very basic HTML and stuff like editing websites and I remember being at a friend’s house looking at sports websites with him and he went to the bathroom. I quickly changed the headline on the page to say something dumb like “my friend is the worst person in the world’.

When he came back, I remember how amazed he was looking at the screen. It was like magic. That was pretty nice and afterwards I just did things like that a few more times and became more and more interested.

I think it helped that I was never afraid to break stuff. I think that’s what got me further in knowledge of programming because I remember that a lot of people I knew were afraid of touching or like breaking their computer. But for me, I thought well if this breaks then I’ll just find a way to make it work. 

Do you remember the first time you thought you could have a career in programming?

That’s a difficult question. To be honest, I’m not entirely sure if my whole career I would like to be writing code. What I want to do is not only coding, but it’s everything that’s related to technology. I think that coding was a way for me to get into technology and learn about technology from the inside out. 

I had gotten some good grades in school one year and so got the chance to do a summer camp that was basically a robotics course in a university. It was a week long, super intensive and because it was in a different city that I had to travel to, it felt really cool for me at that age.

There was something about the week that had me saying to myself “hmm, I’m not sure what this is but it’s got me tinkering with things enough to know that I would really like to do something related to this”.

I think I’ve always just been one of those guys that’s always testing the latest thing, tinkering around and being up to date with everything. Recently I’ve been playing around with a computer at my home that I’ve been using as a virtual server where I can watch movies from any TV in the house. 

How did you join Valispace?

Well, like everyone I’m here because I passed the interview! Hahaha! No, I do remember that actually the feeling that I had throughout the whole application process because it was really, really good.

From the very first moment it felt good. I remember in the job application it was that Valispace was looking for a ‘digital MacGyver’ and my friends at university and some colleagues would sometimes call me ‘Troubleshooter’ because I was always fixing stuff. So I just said to myself “this is it.” I knew instantly!

I remember the first time I had a conversation with Louise (CPO) and Nelson (CTO) and I was nervous AF! They gave me a challenge to complete and they were asking me to explain what I was doing. For me, the challenge seemed really easy but I realized afterwards that they were looking to check my thought process and logic around the task, which I thought was a good sign. 

They made me feel really, really comfortable in the interview and that was an indication that something good was going on. I just never saw a trace of arrogance or anything. They were super chill, super nice and seemed like people that you could go out for a beer with. In fact, that’s a constant with all the people that work at Valispace. 

After the interview, I was desperate to get this job. The thing is, even though there are a lot of possibilities and job opportunities for computer engineers and software engineers, it’s quite difficult to enter into a good place and I had another job offer in Madrid that I really didn’t want to take.

The potential job in Madrid kept pressuring me to accept their job offer (red flag 🚩!) whilst I was waiting for an answer from Valispace. I knew I didn’t want it but I also really needed any job at the time. I decided to reach out to Louise and send an email explaining the situation about the pressure from the other job and that I would need to give an answer by today.

Luckily, within 15 minutes she replied and offered me a contract. That was probably one of the biggest reliefs that I have ever felt. 

One week later, I was already starting.

Quickfire Quarantine Quiz

Do you wake up in plenty of time or just before work
Plenty of time. During quarantine I started doing yoga even before having a coffee. I’ve stopped doing that since I’ve started going to the gym in the mornings instead. 

Pyjamas all day or showered and dressed?
When I used to do yoga I always had a shower but now sometimes I stay cosy in pyjamas. It depends on the day, somedays I just want to wrap up. 

How many coffees a day?
Only two actually. One for breakfast and the other after lunch.

Do you cook more or get more takeaways?
I cooked more during lockdown and I found out that I really like zucchini.

Do you work with music or silence?
I have 3 modes for working: Music (not super common), videos, podcasts or something like that (this is what I prefer) When I need to focus, it’s always silence.

Has it been hard to connect with the team because of COVID?

I feel really connected to the team, to be honest. There’s not a day that passes that I wasn’t communicating with someone or without someone asking for help or even just a chat. 

Sometimes it’s difficult to have a relaxed conversation with someone because there’s not been that much to do in life [with the pandemic] but I do try to find the time to book a one-on-one with people just to chat or have some lunch with some of the team online. 

I really like Gather, [Valispace’s virtual office]. It was great when the lockdown was really strict and I remember that we had the 2020 Christmas party on it. Honestly, I had never heard of anyone having as much fun at a Christmas party that year.

Also, the retreat was a great way to connect too. I knew I had good relationships with a lot of people but it felt like the retreat was the spark that ignited them into great ones. We had grown a lot as a company since I’d joined and just meeting everyone for the first time was so nice. It felt great because it was a unique group of people where you could talk about anything to anyone. I got the feeling that I was surrounded by talented and super inspirational people. 

How do you fix hard problems?

Sometimes it’s difficult to be frustrated with a problem or task that you’re so close to finishing but you can’t see past this little step or solve a simple configuration or whatever it is. If it gets to a point where it’s getting too frustrating and trying to solve the problem doesn’t get fun any more, I stop.

I normally work with a guitar on my side. So picking it up for a moment can help. If it’s late in the day and getting close to finishing work, I know how my brain works and I know I won’t get it. I need to leave, walk away and sleep. Next morning, I’ll have breakfast and a coffee then I’ll take a look at the problem and I know that I’ll just get it.

In fact, I did that just today! I had something that I couldn’t fix on a Friday, and after coming back to it today, it was so much easier to solve than if I kept coming back to it on the same day. I think in some ways, you have to flush the mind to solve the problem. 

You need to empty yourself and think about other things, which also helps to relieve pressure you might feel. Pressure can be good, up to a point but often when I feel pressure too much I can get paralysis for analysis. It causes me to analyze too much in a way that can be completely unproductive. 

What does it feel like to be writing code that helps empower engineers to build the products that are actually going to propel humankind forward?

“It feels unreal to be building software that rocket scientists use and work on.  A little bit like a dream, to be honest. I would never have thought I would end up in the aerospace industry.”

I feel a lot of pride. It feels really, really awesome. It also feels like we have a big responsibility here. I mean, there are a lot of people whose work depends on our software so we do our best to make those people happy so that they can do the best work that they can. 

It’s a big responsibility but it’s good, right? Some responsibilities are super nice to have and I’m lucky because I get to talk to a lot of customers in my role and I’ve seen first hand the way they are reacting to what we are doing. 

Recently I was working quite closely with some customers who were having some problems on their servers. After identifying what the issue was and pumping some updates for them and the rest of our users, we were in a call a few weeks later and they said “this is awesome how much it’s changed in two weeks!” and it’s amazing to go on these little journey’s with customers that help make their life easier whilst improving the software for our other users too. 

It feels unreal to be building software that rocket scientists use and work on.  A little bit like a dream, to be honest. I would never have thought I would end up in the aerospace industry. 

But it’s not just rockets! I’ve seen people building coffee roasters with this software which is just so cool. 

Sometimes, I tell friends what I’m working on or who I’m working with or what some of our customers are building or whatever, and my friends always say something like “wow, that’s super cool”.

You know that feeling of when you’re living in a beautiful city and your friends from outside come to visit and they always tell you how amazing and nice your city is? And they remind you of how beautiful the city actually is? Well it feels like that every time I talk about my job to people. 

Any advice for programmers entering challenging industries?

Yes I do have one big recommendation and that is to start from the basics. 

Imagine that you’re a woodworker and you don’t know how to make a table. You’ve only ever made one once but that was long ago and you can’t remember the process. So you go and buy some tools, some expensive tools and try to start to piece it together. 

The thing is, if you don’t know which piece goes where, or where each nail goes, you’ll never build that table, no matter how good your tools are. 

So start from the basics and start learning from people that motivate you. Don’t underestimate yourself and don’t think that you need to take a job because it’s the only one available if there are lots of red flags. Good jobs will come and the improvements in yourself that you could make in a good place, rather than a bad one, are exponentially better. 

The path you follow along is important. Being disciplined with things like learning and finding things that you are interested in are the things which are going to make you progress better.

Finally, How do you switch off?

Normally, I like going out with people (I like talking, as you can see). But in a sense, If I’m honest, I still need to learn to switch off properly, and that’s not good. 

I’m not much of a movie person but lately reading and doing sports has been helping me unwind. If I’ve found myself frustrated at the end of the day, going to the gym really helps with flushing the mind! I come back like a new person. 

Did Toño’s account of life at Valispace give you an urge to work here too? Visit and send a spontaneous application today 

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