Tell us about yourself.
My name is Raul Boquin and I was born in Miami to two Honduran parents. My parents did not attend college and did not have the opportunity to obtain an education. Therefore, this makes me a first-generation college student. When I was young, my parents pushed me to become an engineer and pressured me to make a change in the world. Back in high school, I really liked mathematics and doing community service. Because of these interests, it enabled me to look for places around the world where I can make an impact.
When I was applying to college, I wanted to stay close with my parents and stay in Miami. I was introduced to a program called QuestBridge. This program connected students with a low-income background and help me through the college process. I applied to Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) through QuestBridge and I was surprised that I got in. Even though MIT was about technology and math, I had to put my family first. I was miles away from home and I had to take a leap of faith. I love technology and have a passion for teaching. MIT had enabled me to pursue my passions. I had my first programming class Sophomore year at MIT and I soon realized “How can I use technology to make an impact on the world?”. I want to change the world by teaching individuals with these two concepts, computer programming, and technology.
What are you passionate about?
In high school, I loved mathematics and that got me really excited. I had individuals that believed in my skills. I felt validated in high school and teachers believe in me that I could go far in mathematics. My calculus teacher gave me a multi-variable calculus textbook because he knew I could do great things in mathematics. This is how my passion for mathematics began and this has changed my life.
When I was at MIT, I worked on Gameblox (Gameblox is a blocks-based programming tool designed specifically for making and playing games) and I was given ownership of the code. I would never forget the moment that a feature I built in Gameblox was used when I was teaching programming in South Korea. It was so cool that the code I built was tested and that was the best thing ever. This was the moment I realized that programming can change people’s lives.
How did you get into programming?
I got into programming when I had my first computer science class Sophomore year at MIT. For me, it was intimidating because there were a lot of students in the class that had more experience than me. This did not stop me from learning more about computer science and I was motivated to learn more. I realized that programming was important when I got the chance to work on projects. Python was the first programming language I learned and it was confusing at first. Now I am more comfortable and I teach computer science now to 10th graders. When you learn how to code, you can see the end result and this is the great thing about programming.
Tell us about your experience at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
Being a student at MIT was great, but to be transparent it was bad at times. My family was far away and I missed out on many events with family. In college, I learned how to focus on myself. I had a goal of bringing impact to myself and to the world. For a long time in college, I was sacrificing the relationship with my family. Right now, I am feeling more stable as an engineer in Boston. Looking back, I could have done things differently and focused more on my family. Being a student at MIT, I was able to teach science and engineering in South Korea. I was able to immerse myself into the South Korean culture and learn about the different learning styles there compared to the United States. The opportunities I had at MIT had motivated me to make a bigger impact on the world by teaching.
You are in the EF360 Tech program, tell us about it.
The EF360 Tech program is focused basically on experiential education and educational travel. There is a lot of operations behind making educational travel happen. From taking a group of students from Kansas to Shanghai, there is actually a lot done behind the scenes. As a EF360 Tech, I was given the opportunity to have a lot of freedom. From improving technology for students to improving business-based technology. I rotated around three different teams and I focused on text analytics and machine learning. I did not have a lot of experience prior to the EF360 Tech program, but I was able to learn from the experience here at EF. I was given the freedom to be competent in machine learning to do a regression on the number of travelers. Right now, I am working on projects that are actually affecting the business.
What advice would you give to students in the STEAM field?
The advice I would give to students is that failure is okay. I have three pieces of advice that I would give to students. The first advice is to continue to build on failure. There will be so many times that you will fail. We are conditioned to be feared of failing. Getting that F on a test feels horrible, but you are able to learn from that experience. Being able to fail gives you the opportunity to learn from failure. The second advice is to believe in your skills and believe in your passions. We as humans can do so many magnificent things and that is hard to imagine. This past year, I thought my software skills will not be useful to my team, but now I am building things that my team is using now. There is so much potential for impact for just learning a few tools. The third piece of advice is to be not afraid to ask for help. I have found help and opportunity in the strangest places. I had a mentor at MIT that was an activist. At first, as a software student, I would have never thought an activist will give helpful advice. My mentor has seen so much potential in me and has motivated me to learn machine learning. I was not afraid to use him as a resource and I am still to this day learning a lot from him. I had learned to ask for help a lot more and asking for help opens the door for more people who are struggling. To summarize, it is okay to fail and you have to realize you are going to make a bigger impact by learning from your failures.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
In the next 5 years, I feel determined to be a better software engineer. I still have a passion for education and I want to do research on different educational learning styles. I see myself being a scientist studying education and how I can impact the world by learning a different style of teaching to students. Honestly, in five years a lot can change and I don’t know where I’ll be at. At EF, there are technology education teams in London and Shanghai, so that would be an option for me to explore.
Where is your favorite spot in Boston?
When my parents, brother, and girlfriend are in Boston, I would take the train to Downtown Crossing and walk through the Boston Common. I would get breakfast at The Paramount restaurant. Breakfast at The Paramount and walking through the Boston Common are my two recommendations.