Archive for category Education

La Máquina de Tiempo

Short story I wrote for Spanish 3 class at UC Berkeley on April 4, 2002

La Máquina de Tiempo

Me dijeron que no era posible. Todas las leyes de ciencia dicen que no era posible. Pero yo, al fin lo hice. Yo construí una máquina de tiempo y viajé al pasado y al futuro. Esto es mi cuento.

Al principio lo quería hacer simplemente para demonstrar que sí, era posible. Pero entonces me arrepentí. Me preocupaba la posibilidad que alguien tratará de robar mi invención, o peor, que alguien con mal intentos usará la máquina para destruir el presente. Pues, por estas razones decidí a mantenerlo secreto.

En mis primeros viajes, lleno de curiosidad, visité a los lugares más famosos de la historia, específicamente las Sietes Maravillas del Mundo. Yo viaje 5,000 años al pasado para ver las esclavas de Egipto construyendo las pirámides de El Cairo. Vi los Jardines Colgado de Babilón, la Estatua de Zeus en Olimpia, el Templo de Artemio en Euphesus, el Mausoleo en Halicarnassus, el Coloso de Rhodes, y el Faro de Alejandría. Al presente, el único de estas Maravillas que ha sobrevivido el pasaje de tiempo es la gran pirámide en El Cairo. Nadie que vive hoy ha visto las otras…. nadie menos yo.

Después de estos primeros viajes, decidí a buscar las soluciones de los misterios que han confundido la humanidad por tantos años. ¿Quién levanto las grandes estatuas de la Isla de Pascua? ¿Quién construyo Stonehenge y para que se usaba? ¿Que causo la extinción de los dinosaurios? Los científicos y los filósofos han tratado de contestar estas preguntas por muchos años y han ofrecido muchas posibilidades y teorías, pero en realidad, no pueden estar seguros. Nadie sabe las soluciones de estos misterios… nadie menos yo.

Después de un rato, yo deje de viajar por tiempo para hacer descubrimientos y empecé a viajar para hacer dinero. Yo usé casi todos mis ahorros para la construcción de mi máquina y con todos mis viajes, no tenía tiempo (irónicamente) para trabajar. Pues, en unos viajes, fui al futuro para conseguir información. Noté los números ganadores de la lotería y también las mejores compañías en el mercado de valores. En poco tiempo, yo me hice millonario. Toda la gente pensaba que yo tenía mucha suerte. Yo tenía la posibilidad de convertirme en el hombre más rico del mundo, con un valor más que Bill Gates. Pero no lo hice. Yo no quería atraer tanta atención porque tenía miedo de que alguien descubriera el origen de mis financias.

En poco tiempo me llene de curiosidad de nuevo. Yo supe casi todo de la historia de humanidad, pues quería saber el futuro. Estos próximos viajes llenaron mi corazón con desesperación y cambiaron mi vida para siempre. La población del mundo siguió creciendo en paso tremendo. Se necesitaba madera y espacio para alojar y alimentar tantas personas. Esto resulto en la destrucción de todos los bosques del mundo. Ni uno sobrevivió. En poco tiempo, el mundo tenía tantas personas que no tenían espacio ni para haciendas. Aunque crearon comida artificial, sin haciendas, la humanidad no tenía suficiente comida para alimentar ni la mitad de las personas. Esto resulto en una gran hambruna. La gente empezaron a comer todo; perros, gatos, y algunos se convirtieron en canibalistas. Contemporáneamente, la polución y la falta de árboles causo las capas polares de hielo a derretirse. Todas las costas del mundo se sumergieron. Casi todos los cuerpos acuáticos estaban contaminados. Con la excepción de la humanidad e insectos, todos los animales del mundo estaban extinguidos. En poco tiempo, insectos serán la única excepción.

Yo volví al presente desesperado. ¿Qué clase de futuro era eso para la humanidad? No lo podía creer. Yo decidí que tenía que hacer algo. Tenía que usar mi dinero para cambiar el futuro. Quizás podría influir en las leyes o conseguir otras personas que me podían ayudar. De todas maneras tenía que hacer algo. Ahora que sé lo que pasará en el futuro, quizás hay tiempo para hacer algo. Nadie sabe si podremos salvar el mundo… nadie sabe, ni yo.

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2013 Summer Internship Opportunities on my team at PepsiCo

Last year I created a summer internship program for the Equipment Innovations team at PepsiCo.  The program was so successful that it’s back by popular demand for 2013.  The job description stays pretty much the same from last year (click the link below to see details).  Those interested can apply by emailing our talent acquisition manager.

https://richardvelazquez.wordpress.com/2012/04/19/summer-internship-opportunity-at-pepsico/ 

Most of the work will focus on the Pepsi Interactive Vending Machine (www.pepsiinteractivevending.com) which was launched into limited test markets earlier this year.  There is a great deal of flexibility for ideation and innovation, so I’m looking forward to interviewing some great college candidates in Computer Science for these positions.

Pictured below are the 2012 Summer Interns that made the program such a huge success with a much talked about final presentation to our Senior VP and VP of Innovations (along with a host of other cross-functional executive members at PepsiCo) based on outstanding work done throughout the summer.  Many thanks to these interns for the great job they did and for showcasing the value of this summer internship program.

Picture from left to right (I’m in the center), Fernanda and Claudia from Tec de Monterrey in Mexico, Igor from The Cooper Union in New York City, and Cory from Carnegie Mellon, at our final team event at The View in New York City.

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Recess from the Recession – Investing in Higher Education

image (An article I authored originally published January 16, 2009 in Tu Decides Newspaper, WA.  A Spanish language translation of this article can be found by clicking here.)

The national unemployment rate hit 7.2% in December (2009) – the highest rate in 15 years. Last year alone, 2.6 million jobs were lost. While much has been said about the challenging economy and unemployment, a topic frequently missing from the headlines is a potential reinvestment in higher education. Is it more worthwhile to reinvest in your own education than trying to find a new job in this economy?  Here are two things to consider:

1. Return On Investment

One of the greatest expenses of an advanced degree is the opportunity cost of lost wages during your time in school. From a financial perspective, there is no better time to invest in your education than during a period of reduced wages and employment opportunities. Analyzing data from the U.S. Census Bureau, a Master’s degree will help you accumulate roughly $4.9 million in lifetime earnings versus $3.8 million for bachelor’s degrees and less than $1.8 million for high school education only. Also, factor in the investment potential of these extra dollars and the payoff is evident. You can maximize your return on investment by leveraging opportunities to lower the costs of attending graduate school.

For Hispanics, there are two exceptional opportunities for financing a higher education in business. The Consortium for Graduate Study in Management (CGSM) provides a full two-year fellowship to diverse individuals seeking an MBA (http://www.cgsm.org). The National Society of Hispanic MBAs (NSHMBA) offers scholarships between $2,500 and $10,000 per year to Hispanics pursuing graduate management education. (http://www.nshmba.org). There were less than eight applicants for this scholarship from Washington last year, so odds of receiving a scholarship are good for those with demonstrable academic achievement.

2. More Opportunities

It may be difficult to consider making a career change when you are in a stable job. The jolt of unemployment or potential unemployment might be the wakeup call you need to evaluate whether your current career meets your ambitions. If it does not, consider expanding your education credentials at this juncture to help you achieve your ultimate career goals. Returning to school could help increase the range of positions for which you are eligible in your current company or industry, or even give you greater access to completely new industries and positions. Post-graduate degrees can also help widen your geographical reach. For example, for those in the auto industry, escaping Detroit might be a significant long-term career goal. I entered the MBA program at the University of California Berkeley in an attempt to switch from the automotive industry to the tech industry. After navigating through the dot com implosion, I renewed my career search at the NSHMBA National Career Conference in 2004. I received five job offers in five different industries, an impossible feat for me to accomplish without an advanced degree. Education can be used as a means to ride out the economic storm, reinvest in oneself, and create more opportunities long term. My story demonstrates that while recessions are temporary situations, higher education is a lifelong asset.

Richard Velazquez is the President of the National Society of Hispanic MBAs (NSHMBA) Seattle Chapter and a Sr. Product Planning Manager for the Xbox group at Microsoft. For more information about NSHMBA Seattle, visit http://www.nshmba.org/Seattle

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Receso de la Recesión

image (this is the Spanish Language Translation of my article “Recess from Recession”).

La tasa nacional de desempleo llegó a 7.2% en diciembre (2009) – la tasa más alta en 15 años. Sólo el año pasado, se perdieron 2.6 millones de empleos. Si bien se ha hablado mucho de la difícil situación económica y el desempleo, un tema que con frecuencia se omite en los titulares es una potencial reinversión en educación superior. ¿Es más útil reinvertir en su propia educación que tratar de encontrar un nuevo empleo en esta economía? Aquí hay dos cosas a considerar:

1. Retorno de la Inversión

Uno de los mayores gastos de un grado avanzado es el costo de oportunidad de las remuneraciones perdidas durante su tiempo en la escuela. Desde una perspectiva financiera, no hay mejor momento para invertir en su educación que durante un período de reducción de salarios y menores oportunidades de empleo. Analizando los datos de la Oficina del Censo de los EE.UU., un grado de Maestría le ayudará a acumular alrededor de $4.9 millones en ingresos en toda su vida frente a $3.8 millones para una persona con título de licenciatura y menos de $1.8 millones aquellos que únicamente terminaron la educación secundaria. Asimismo, el factor en el potencial de inversion de esos dólares extra y la rentabilidad es evidente.

Puede maximizar el retorno de su inversion al aprovechar las oportunidades para reducir el costo de asistir a una escuela de postgrado. Para los hispanos, hay dos oportunidades excepcionales para la financiación de una educación superior en negocios. El Consorcio para Estudios de Posgrado en Gestión (CGSM) ofrece una beca completa de dos años a diversas personas que buscan un MBA. (http://www.cgsm.org). La Sociedad Nacional de MBAs Hispanos (NSHMBA) ofrece becas entre $2,500 y $10,000 por año para hispanos que desean seguir estudios de postgrado en gestión. (http://www.nshmba.org). Se presentaron menos de ocho solicitantes del área de Washington para esta beca el año pasado, por lo que las probabilidades de recibir una beca son buenas para los que tienen logros académicos demostrables.

2. Más Oportunidades

Puede ser difícil considerar la posibilidad de un cambio de carrera cuando te encuentras en un empleo estable. El susto del desempleo o desempleo potencial podría ser la llamada que lo despierte de su aturdimiento que necesita para evaluar si su actual carrera se ajusta a sus ambiciones. Si no es así, considere la posibilidad de ampliar su educación en este momento para ayudarle a alcanzar sus objetivos de carrera decisivos. Regresar a la escuela podría ayudar a aumentar la gama de posiciones para las cuales usted es elegible en su actual empresa o industria, o incluso darle un mayor acceso a industrias y posiciones completamente nuevas. Los títulos de Post-grado también pueden

ayudarle a ampliar su alcance geográfico. Por ejemplo, para los que se encuentran en la industria automotriz, escapar de Detroit podría ser un importante objetivo de carrera a largo plazo. Entré en el programa de MBA en la Universidad de California, Berkeley, en un intento de pasar de la industria automotriz al sector de tecnología. Después de navegar a través de la explosión de los puntocom, renové mi búsqueda de carrera en la Conferencia Nacional de Carreras de la NSHMBA en 2004. Recibí cinco ofertas de trabajo en cinco industrias diferentes, una hazaña imposible para mí de lograr sin un grado avanzado. La educación puede utilizarse como un medio para capear el temporal económico, reinvertir en uno mismo, y crear más oportunidades a largo plazo. Mi historia muestra que mientras que las recesiones son situaciones temporales, la educación superior es un active para toda la vida.

Richard Velázquez es el Presidente de la Sociedad Nacional de MBAs Hispanos (NSHMBA) en la sede de Seattle y un Gerente de Planificación de Producto Senior del grupo Xbox de Microsoft. Para obtener más información acerca de la NSHMBA en Seattle, visite http://www.nshmba.org/Seattle

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Summer Internship Opportunity at PepsiCo

I’m creating two summer internship positions starting right after Memorial day 2012.

PepsiCo Equipment Innovation Summer Internship Positions
The Equipment Innovation team at PepsiCo is seeking two undergraduate internship positions for Summer 2012.
PepsiCo’s Foodservice Equipment Innovation group is dedicated to developing unique and transformational consumer experiences across all of PepsiCo’s marketing equipment, which includes fountains, coolers, and vending machines. For an example of the type of equipment being developed by our team, visit:
http://www.pepsico.com/PressRelease/PepsiCo-Introduces-Social-Vending-System-the-Next-Generation-in-Interactive-Vend04272011.html
We are seeking two summer interns to guide the development of unique digital experiences leveraging our new platforms on prototype marketing equipment. This summer, expect the following:

  • Understand the vision and strategy for new marketing equipment platforms that leverage emerging technologies to engage our consumers
  • Participate in and drive brainstorming sessions to identify and prioritize new experiences and applications
  • Storyboard and flowchart the user interaction process
  • Develop rapid prototypes for evaluation and user testing
  • Interact with a cross-functional group at PepsiCo to identify and understand limitations and constraints of developing applications and experiences
  • Manage and track multiple projects simultaneously
  • Participate in special projects
  • Lead meetings with contractors for final software development
  • Network within PepsiCo to understand the business and explore future career opportunities
  • Weekly meetings with manager for project updates and career development

Qualifications:
The ideal candidates should have experience or training in many of the following:

  • Software development, especially Adobe Flash, HTML5, and/or mobile app development
  • User interaction design and user interface development Cross-functional team experience
  • Leadership experience Microsoft Office experience (Excel, PowerPoint, Word, Project)
  • Self-starter comfortable in a loosely structured environment with little direct supervision
  • Multi-tasker with excellent organizational and communication skills

For those interested, contact me on twitter to get the conversation started: http://twitter.com/Rich_Velazquez

PepsiCo is an Equal Opportunity Employer M/F/D/V

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Video Games – A Child’s Friend or Foe?

Doom Having worked in the video game industry for many years, I’ve been exposed to a wide swath of individuals that brand video games as detrimental to children and claim these games promote violence.  I grew up with video games – from Pacman on the Atari 2600 through the PC revolution with Sierra games like King’s Quest and more hardcore fare such as Castle Wolfenstein and Doom – and shared these gaming experiences with my family and friends.  I generally tend to disregard the doomsday scenarios about video games and attribute them to the over-protective instincts of parents and orthodox religious groups.  After all, my brothers and friends and I all turned out to be relatively well-adjusted individuals with no criminal records, so obviously the fears are overblown.  A recent event in our apartment made me start questioning my beliefs and “I couldn’t help but wonder” (*wink to my wife), are video games a child’s friend or foe?

Sonic Free Rider My wife and I invited a friend and her two young boys over for breakfast (to protect the innocent, I’ll call her Ribbon and her two boys Abel and George).  With childhood exuberance, Abel discovered my stash of Xbox 360 games and naturally wanted to play.  We first started off playing Sonic Riders for Kinect, or, I should say, he started off by showing me how to play Sonic.  As a Kinect video game, there are no controllers required and the game involves the child pretending to skate through an imaginary world (harmless enough).

children-reading-books-ny10x9 During breakfast, we had a philosophical discussion about video games and books, and their respective merits and limitations.  What many people may not realize is that video games teach kids crucial skills and lessons that cannot be learned from a book.  Books are great to learn vocabulary and grammar and to spur the imagination.  However, their greatest limitation is that they are completely linear and the reader cannot affect the outcome of the book (with the exception of those Choose-your-own-Adventure books I grew up with).

Video games, on the other hand, are completely dependant on the user’s actions because it impacts the narrative and the outcome of the game.  Kids can learn some very useful skills, such as collaboration, strategy, improvisation, logic, and deduction (depending on the type of game, of course).  Additionally, I’ve read about some studies that show that surgeons with video game experience excel beyond surgeons without this experience because of the improved hand-eye coordination, fine motor skills and reflexes developed through video gaming (I really need to start documenting things I read so that I can reference them appropriately).

lego-star-wars-the-gameAfter breakfast, Abel continued his search and uncovered Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga.  Now Ribbon wanted to make sure that Abel wasn’t exposed to any violent or shooter type games
(such as Halo, Gears of War, Oblivion, and dozens of other games in my collection).  Lego Star Wars seemed harmless enough.  After all, it’s designed for this age group.  So I popped it into the Xbox and we got started.

halo_reach_controller_final Abel had never used a dual-analog game controller before (he’d only used the Wiimote and Kinect), so I was astounded at how quickly he learned to navigate his character on screen, jump, and wield his light saber with the Xbox 360 controller.  According to Ribbon, he thought the controller was only used for starting a movie as he hadn’t gamed with it before.  In any case, he got into the game with gusto.  He began to dispatch the enemies at a phenomenal rate, with just a swipe or two of his light saber.  This is where the transformation occurred that prompted me to write this blog post.  Once he was fresh out of enemies, and with no one left to dispatch, he turned on me and his other in-game companions, whacking away until we were nothing but little Lego bits.  And even though I spent years playing on a controller, in just the few minutes of playing the game, he was able to kill my character twice before I could get away.

At this point Ribbon intervened and told him that if he killed his friends, he couldn’t play anymore.  That was sufficient for him to hold his light saber at bay for the rest of the game, although I could still see how antsy he got when there was nothing left to dispatch on screen.  When we finished a level, he asked to make sure that the next level had as many enemies as possible.

This all prompted me to start questioning my long-held beliefs about video games. What had turned this mild-mannered, well behaved child into this feral, single-minded killing machine?  Did exposing him to Lego Star Wars the video game open the door to the Dark Side in this youngster?  Do video games really teach kids to be violent, no matter how innocuous the game may seem?

I pondered this for over a week before I decided to write this post.  After a lot of reflection, I began to surmise that it wasn’t the video game that caused this reaction, but some kind of baser instinct that emerged when he was given the power to be destructive.  After all, if you give most little boys a stick, they will wield it like a sword and hack away at anything in sight.  There’s nothing inherently wrong with a stick.  Similarly with Lego Star Wars, there’s no instruction nor incentive for anyone to attack their own teammate (aside from the cool animation of seeing the characters fall apart into little Lego pieces).  So does the act of turning on your friends with a sword reflect upon the game or the individual?  Do we keep the stick away from the child for fear of how they will put it to use, or teach them how to use that stick responsibly?

As a gross generalization, I’ll hypothesize that if I put a young girl in the place of Abel in this situation, the outcome would’ve been completely different.  She probably would have wanted to explore the world in a collaborative manner versus trying to destroy everything in sight.  If this is true, his reaction could be attributed to an inherent difference between the sexes that one can evidently see when little boys and girls play with the same physical toys, or their predisposition to select certain toys over others.

So, if the hypothesis holds and the video game is just a tool that can be used for good or ill depending on the individual, the next logical question is – is it a good thing or a bad thing to give children access to these tools?  Does a violent video game (or even a non-violent one) lead to violent behavior, or is it a useful outlet for these natural tendencies?  If not video games, do these behaviors come out in other ways, for example, schoolyard bullying, screaming sessions, animal abuse?  I don’t have the answers, but I would love to see a study of child bullies and how that correlates with exposure to video games.  If they let it out in a game, can we prevent it from coming out towards others at school or does it exacerbate the situation?  I know as an adult it’s a great outlet to kick back with Gears of War in Horde mode and slaughter wave after wave of enemy monsters.  How does that translate in a less-developed and more impressionable mind? 

Mazes and Monsters VHS CoverA lot of these issues and questions remind me about Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) in the early 1980s.  I would contend that the D&D role-playing game probably best captures the benefits of both books and video games (the strategic thinking and improvisation skills coupled with the tons or reading required to learn and master the system).  And yet, I still vividly remember the fear-mongering that occurred in that time period as parent groups and religious organizations decried D&D as a cult that had negative psychological consequences on players, especially children.  I played D&D and was even a Dungeon Master, and recall how my very religious half-sister tried to convince my mother that we shouldn’t play the game because it promoted Satanism.  This hysteria was best captured by a made-for-TV movie Community Dungeons and Dragons Episodewith a young Tom Hanks called “Mazes and Monsters”.  It seems after 30 years, the hoopla has died down, and D&D role-playing was fondly featured in VH1’s ‘I Love the 80’s’ (skip to 4:21 in the video) and more accurately portrayed in a recent episode of the TV series “Community” entitled “Advanced Dungeons and Dragons“. (Read a very good article on this great episode by clicking here).

I predict that in the next 10-20 years, the hoopla around the perils of video gaming will also simmer down as a new culprit for childhood depravation emerges (holographic immersion or direct synaptic connections anyone?).  There will still be parents that will judiciously decide if and what games their children can play, and I believe that it is a good thing.  Since I don’t have children, I would love to hear any stories from others about how video games have impacted their children, whether positively or negatively.  Ultimately, the answer to the titular question, like most things, is probably “it depends on the child and the game”.

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SHPE Region 1 Leadership Development Conference 2011

The Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) Region 1 Leadership Development Conference held in San Francisco, CA at Stanford University and Sheraton Palo Alto just ended a few hours ago.  I must say that I was very impressed with the entire event, which was the first SHPE conference I’ve attended in over a decade.  Attending the conference brought back a lot of fond memories of SHPE.

SHPE provided many first time experiences for me.  I was one of the original members of the SHPE Cooper Union Student Chapter in 1991, serving as the Student Treasurer in 1993.  That was the first professional organization I had ever joined and my first true leadership role.  SHPE was also responsible for kicking off my career upon graduation from the Mechanical Engineering program at the Cooper Union in New York City. I received three job offers from the SHPE National Technical Career Conference (NTCC) in 1995.  The offers were from the Naval Undersea Warfare Center in Rhode Island, Raytheon Missile Systems near Boston, and Honda R&D in Ohio.  When I chose Honda, that set the path for my career as an Automotive Design Engineer that would eventually lead to working in Germany for Porsche AG on the Carrera, Boxster, and Cayenne.  While at Honda, I served as a Vice-Chair of the SHPE National Student Affairs Committee (NSAC) and later founded the Columbus Ohio Chapter of SHPE (which unfortunately didn’t survive after I moved to Germany).  Finally, it was the SHPE parties that inspired me to want to learn Salsa dancing – which would eventually lead me to my future wife 🙂

Based on all of this, when I found out that there was a regional conference in San Francisco at the same time that I was going to be in the area for business, I made it a point to attend.  I reached out to the event organizers to see how I could participate, especially after reading that for the first time, there would be a Business Plan competition as part of the conference.  Fidel Hernandez and Edgar Roman were in need of a main prize sponsor for the competition, so I was able to sign up Microsoft as an event sponsor.

IMG_1319 I was impressed by so many things at this event.  First was the speed and flexibility in which the event organizers were able to add Microsoft as a sponsor and update the full program.  Additionally, having three separate tracks for Undergraduate Students, Graduate Students, and Professionals, along with all of the high caliber presenters for each of these workshops was nothing short of amazing. The keynote lunch speech by Raul Vazquez, Executive VP of Walmart was one of the best executive keynotes I’ve ever had the pleasure of attending.  Meeting and hearing from the first Latina in Space, Dr. Ellen Ochoa, Deputy Director of NASA Johnson Space Center was a special treat for me given my childhood dream of becoming an astronaut.  The Business Plan competitors certainly did a great job of bridging the engineering and business disciplines and I was honored to have been asked to serve as a judge for the competition.  And finally, the finalists for the Xbox prize at the Regional Breakout Meeting this morning (Sunday, 4/3/2011) shared some truly inspirational and moving stories of what this conference meant to them and how they are going to apply what they learned going forward.

I’m glad to see that SHPE has grown and flourished in the two decades since I originally joined the organization.  Thanks to everyone who takes the time to be leaders and to make events like this happen.  Until next time!

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