Pauli Peralta, a rising senior at Rutgers University, was first exposed to coding when his seventh grade math teacher pulled him aside and gave him an introductory computer science book. She said, “I think you may like this. Just read about it. Just do what you gotta do.’” While Pauli didn’t delve into the book immediately, this moment stayed with him well past the seventh grade. It put computer science on the map for him.
“When I went to college, I decided to give it a try,” he tells me. As he began taking introductory college courses in CS, he found himself drawn to coding because it allowed him to work through challenges in a systematic and creative fashion. “I fell in love with it because I discovered I like to solve problems,” says Pauli. “The way I see it, it’s just one big constant puzzle, and you’re always just trying to solve different puzzles. That’s an itch for me.”
Pauli can trace his passion for problem-solving to his childhood love of video games. “When I complete a task or mission that’s difficult, it’s an aha moment. It’s that rush of adrenaline that you accomplished something,” he says. “I found that computer science gave me that same feeling.” In pursuit of this passion, Pauli decided to major in Computer Science and began applying to internships last fall.
Amid the recruiting grind, Pauli learned about ColorStack’s Stacked Up summit from a friend. “He sent me the link and he said, ‘hey, you’re Hispanic, this seems like something that aligns with what you’re doing, you should check them out,’ and I did.” The Stacked Up summit is an annual event hosted by ColorStack that consists of three days of networking, recruiting, and educational programming. At the Stacked Up summit, students interface directly with industry professionals and recruiters from top companies like Meta, Netflix, and LinkedIn ahead of the fall recruiting cycle. The virtual summit is returning this year on August 17th and is free for Black and Latinx computer science students (check out this link to sign up).
After attending the Stacked Up summit last year, Pauli received multiple offers from companies that had partnered with ColorStack for the event. When I ask about his experience, Pauli tells me there was a direct correlation with attending the Stacked Up summit, getting to know recruiters, and ultimately securing job offers. He also points to the fact that the summit allowed him to explore opportunities at companies he wouldn’t have otherwise known about or applied to.
For Pauli, the Stacked Up summit also served as an entrypoint into ColorStack, a community that has given him a strong sense of belonging. As someone who spent his early childhood between his hometown in New Jersey and the Dominican Republic, Pauli points to ColorStack’s large contingent of first-generation college students in particular. “Having that sense of community that I know that I can go and ask, whether it’s for a class or a resume or just to talk to somebody, and I know that they’re able to relate as a first generation student or a minority in tech–it’s really reassuring because you know that you have a crowd. You know that you’re not alone.” Whether it be through in-person meet ups or via Slack channels where students help answer questions about problem sets, ColorStack has become a foundation and a comfort that Pauli can rely on.
Today, Pauli is a software engineering intern at Salesforce in San Francisco. When he arrived, he was able to connect with another ColorStack member who is also interning there, bringing the virtual community that ColorStack had established to life. When I ask Pauli about his experience so far at Salesforce, he replies with a smile, “I’m high key loving it.” He says that he’s particularly drawn to parts of the job that require him to navigate through ambiguity. He likes to solve for scenarios where solutions may not be the most straightforward because they allow him to work creatively.
Hearing Pauli talk about his passion for CS is a joy, not only because his energy and enthusiasm for the subject matter are infectious, but also because the work that he does today answers the call of his childhood: his love of video games and the allure of a challenging puzzle. In so many ways, Pauli actualizes what his seventh grade math teacher told him all those years ago: “just do what you gotta do.”