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News > Alumni Spotlight > Tinker to success: Juan Banchs '17

Tinker to success: Juan Banchs '17

The path to innovation is not always a straight line. Exploring a myriad of opportunities, former scholar Juan tinkers his way to success in the field of engineering.

SJII helped to build a strong foundation in being comfortable with the uncomfortable, be it a speech in Monday assembly, Bollywood dance, or all the way to challenge week. At the same time, the professors here truly challenged, encouraged, and motivated me in ways open to no other profession. Similarly, I was exposed to many cultures and experienced first-hand the synergy, beauty and importance of diversity and inclusion. SJII was a transformative experience in my journey, and, of it, I am very proud to be an alumnus.

Studying at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), I’ve had and explored a myriad of opportunities that have changed me in many ways. While I used to play a lot of soccer and do cross country back then, now I’ve gotten into spikeball, bouldering, and callisthenics. Loving hands-on experiences, I have joined clubs like Super Mileage Vehicle (SMV) where we create electric and gas hyper-efficient one-person vehicles, and Creative Labs where we created a virtual piano web app and an IoT flowrate sensor. I also had the opportunity to participate in hackathon, start-up, and the Disney Imaginations competitions. The world really is your oyster. All of this I say in the hopes of motivating you to pursue your dreams and always dream bigger. Of course, I’ve also developed academically – especially growing from being a perfectionist to being highly efficient. My one tip for the graduating class would be to never forget the 80-20 rule (the Pareto Principle): put in just enough effort to succeed in what matters and spend the rest on enjoying yourself. 

I am the stereotypical kid who loved Legos and origami, but it was not until I joined Physics Club in SJII that I put a label on it. I clearly remember having just spent the past few hours sawing, drilling, and assembling a wooden structure for a robot’s obstacle course arena, when Dr Del Linz said: “Juan, this is exactly the work that a mechanical engineer does,” which really stuck with me. Fortunately, that made picking a major a whole lot easier. After all, I had always enjoyed physics, math, and chemistry, so engineering seemed like a natural path to take. Knowing this decision is often difficult, I believe my story speaks to listening to your inner passions and trusting those. Sometimes it just takes the words of a caring individual to make it click. 

While I always knew Facebook was criticized for its controversial decisions, I was not disappointed with what I saw inside as a mechanical engineer intern. The community, teamwork, and caring culture in my team were absolutely amazing, and they were working towards a more socially responsible company. Even though I struggled with much of the work, my manager and peers never turned me down, and instead wanted me to ask for help more often. It was a pleasure to work on some revolutionary projects and grow immensely as an engineer, developing servers that run twice the amount of data, while running 100% renewable energy and net-zero emissions. Finally, the perks of being an intern at Facebook are certainly the best you’ll ever find: all meals at the office covered (still looking forward to in-person); health insurance and a wellness reimbursement (I basically got an Apple watch for a third of the price); discounts at almost anything you want; and a relocation stipend to basically cover all housing costs.

Looking forward, I want to continue to develop my engineering skills, but unsure of which area. Perhaps I will be creating rollercoasters at Disney, working at Apple on the next iPhone, or maybe I will continue with the start-up I’ve been working at part-time. Regardless, I look forward to developing and becoming a manager, which means you may catch me doing a Master’s in Business Administration (MBA) in the future. Once again, the world really is your oyster, and I’m going to keep exploring it while enjoying myself as I have encouraged you all to do.

As for our IB grads, remember, that communication is key, and feedback is a gift. Throughout my internship, I was encouraged to constantly ask for and provide feedback. No one is ready from the start and acknowledging this and acting on it shows proactivity and a drive to succeed – something that will get you very far. Asking lots of questions is a similar story: attractive of a strong candidate, and helps you learn faster. Finally, with these strong communication skills, you can put that 80-20 rule to play and spend your efficient efforts on what really matters, without a need to work overtime!

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