Marc G Tan talks joy of contributing to a new way of learning


Home to the largest number of millionaires in the world, Silicon Valley is known for its ability to attract risk takers and investors with one thing in mind: creating exceptional software or services that will measurably improve a societal gap and ultimately, that will generate profit. Accordingly, it is comprised of some of the most successful companies across the globe, such as Google, Facebook, eBay, and even the world’s first ever trillion-dollar company, Apple Inc. With all of this in mind, it isn’t difficult to imagine that the competition for employment is high and that only the top brass of talent are fortunate enough to find work in such a prosperous, thriving region. In addition, the area is bursting with non-profit organizations and initiatives like 42 Silicon Valley, looking to give back to the community that gives so much to them. For highly sought-after engineer, Marc G Tan, becoming an ambassador for an organization like 42 Silicon Valley is not only humbling, but professionally rewarding and Tan considers himself fortunate to know that he has driven innovation into our society through the positively disrupting business model that the 42 Silicon Valley operates within.

42 Silicon Valley is an innovative engineering college in the San Francisco Bay area. As the leading college for software engineering, coding, and programming, they are disrupting engineering education and tech talent pipelines in the Bay. When Tan learned of the organization, he proactively registered himself for the selection test, comprising of a grueling month of coding challenges and projects. He was accepted to 42 Silicon Valley and eventually landed himself an ambassadorial title. Knowing that 42 represents the education model of the future, Tan was eager to get his foot in the door. He was intrigued by the way in which the highly esteemed NGO push their members to learn new technologies through self-directed, project-based learning in a rich and deeply connected community. His belief in their learning model compelled him to join their community. He then became a content creator for the HackHichSchool program that teaches fundamental programming concepts and the Python language to up-and-coming engineers. This required him to build a learning schema, source code, and documentation for two key projects. The first project, Hangman, teaches concepts of data structures, string manipulation, and basic game algorithm designs while the second, Summer Sports Coding Camp, teaches data science concepts of web scraping, data querying and visualization. For the latter, Tan was even responsible for developing an API tutorial to query and display NFL player statistics including team, position, and physical metrics.

One of the most enjoyable aspects of operating under 42 Silicon Valley, for Tan, was the collaborative nature of the system and the way in which it encourages individuals to work in different teams, constantly reviewing each other’s learning through group initiatives and peer evaluations.

“I love how self-definitive 42 is. It allows you to take charge of your own learning, doing projects that you feel are relevant to your goals. At the same time, the curriculum provides a backbone to ensure that members master the fundamentals before diving into higher level concepts. There is a good balance between studying what is necessary and learning what is desired, preparing members to be multifaceted problem solvers who are technically skilled and adaptable to change. Most of all, having a strong community creates an emotional safety net that allows us to feel confident in the face of difficult tasks and failures,” Tan said.

For 42 Silicon Valley, on the other hand, Tan proved himself to be an invaluable asset to their team. His experience building API applications and his personal interest in football allowed him to quickly navigate sports data servers and query for football statistics seamlessly. Particularly, Tan demonstrated his expertise as an engineer when sifting through large datasets for significant metrics in players and game information. He was even able to transpose curated data and to build insights that other team members could use for deeper analysis and visualization. It is not at all uncommon for Tan to take on projects of these nature and far exceed all expectations of him. He is a natural born problem-solver and someone who can creatively navigate through assigned tasks to not only complete them, but to do so in such a way that challenges the status quo and presents something new and exciting before the eyes of his clients.

Enabling individuals to take their education into their own hands and to create their own learning experience allows for a vital resilience in an ever-changing technological industry. Knowing that he is contributing to a community that generates competent engineers who are capable of producing work for multiple technologies and supplementing the demand for software engineers provides Tan with a sense of pride unlike any other. He enjoys being a driver of change and he hopes to inspire others to embrace the changes around us instead of fearing and pushing them away.

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