The following interview was originally published in the HackNY FieldGuide for the tenth hackNY hackathon where hackNY celebrated the graduation of its fifth class of hackNY Fellows. Kyle Ryan ’14, interviewed a selection of fellows during the summer to discuss what made them tick.

Want to become a hackNY fellow this summer? Checkout apply.hackny.org.

Walter

Walter Menendez goes to MIT and worked this summer as the hackNY fellow at MongoDB in Times Square

Where’d you grow up?

I was born in LA, but grew up in Maryland. My parents broke up when I was young and my mom remarried. Growing up, my mom was a housekeeper. She commuted back and forth to Washington DC working two jobs. I was the only one who learned English proficiently. When I went to school, I spoke English; Then, to communicate with my parents, I had to speak Spanish.

I remember when we got our first computer at the home when I was around 8 years old. My parents didn’t know anything about the internet. for school, all our assignments were posted on the internet. I think my curiosity pushed me a lot to just explore what the computer did. I would tinker around with different things. My parents realized they couldn’t help me as much as they wanted; When I would do homework, they would watch me do it even though they knew they couldn’t help me.

In high school, I went to a very academically challenging magnet school. When it came time to apply to college, I was a first generation college student. My parents knew they couldn’t help me but they promised to sign any forms and pay for tests. All of the colleges I got into promised to give me most of the cost off. They all saw my financial situation and were willing to help me. I chose MIT because I wanted to be at a place where I could just explore and absorb information. MIT was really the place for me to meet people and be free to explore things.

What’s your biggest struggle right now?

I want to take advantage of the time I have during my last year at MIT. The biggest thing that affected me growing up was my mom’s attitude towards me. She wanted me to have a better life, and she did everything she could for that. I feel an obligation to help her and give back in the work I do. Knowing everything will work out in the end is very important. Because no matter which way life turns, everything will be okay in the end.