Spotlight: Víctor Rangel

Nov 8, 2023

Q: Tell us about yourself!
A: I was born in San Luis Potosí, capital city of the state of the same name, in central México, within a catholic family where most of its members are dedicated to public education and service. Mine is a hard-working family that comes from arid regions of the state, north and west, where life expectancy is low, and water is scarce. Living in SLP, an old colonial city founded four centuries ago, has given us the great opportunity of being immersed in History, both Spanish and Native, with plenty of traditions inherited from both worlds, and because of our city’s central location within the country, Industry, mainly manufacturing related, has flourished and, because of that, culture and higher education are very affordable for most people.
I like to think that because of my eclectic background I have not struggled while traveling and living abroad, far away from my roots.
That path took me to Arkansas, where I have been with Kitestring 8 years, working in Bentonville as a Software Engineer. My main job is to maintain and develop new modules for the Point of Sales System of Walmart and Sam’s Stores, mainly coding in C/C++.

Q: What do you enjoy doing outside of work?
A: I like to read, mainly science fiction, but any topic is interesting to me.
Since the autumn of 2022 I have been playing, more on the experimenting side, with Large Language Models.
I find that type of technology fascinating. There’s still a long way to go, though, but, in my opinion, this approach to General Artificial Intelligence is the closest that we have been to emulate human beings. And for that I don’t mean perfection, but an entity so complex that even its hallucinations look, and feel, very human.

Q: What led you to this career? Were you influenced by anyone or anything?
A: I have always liked to fully understand my surroundings, what I see, what I listen, what I feel.
While growing up I realized that that goal is almost impossible to achieve for most of things in life.
Nevertheless, curiosity is a great incentive to learn.
Regarding Computer Science, when I was a child, I used to hang out with some neighbors that had a Pong video game. The device needed to play it was one of those versions that had to be plugged to the TV. Very simple. A couple of bars and a small ball displaying in the screen. I was around 7 years old, but since then I fell in love with software and hardware.

Q: What are you most proud of accomplishing since joining Kitestring?
A: I could name any of the technical projects I’ve collaborated with, because even the simplest one is critical for the optimal performance of the very big chain of Retail Stores that uses our Point of Sales System.
But I would like to stress the importance of being part of a Team. That is not an easy thing to accomplish. This profession tends to reward the hyper achiever, speed, soundness, correctness, individuality.
All of that is fine, but if we let our ego to be more important than the Team then, sooner or later, the project will crash, vanishing in an endless loop of misery.
So, if I had to choose one, I would say that Kitestring has let me grow as a person, and it let me be part of a Team.

Q: What’s one thing – either industry-related or not – you learned in the last month?
A: Last month I started reading Walter Isaacson’s biography of Elon Musk. In several chapters there are references to Musk’s Algorithm for Productivity.
It is a little bit long, but I’m going to mention it here in full because, contrary to many people’s perception, Elon is a very knowledgeable Engineer, both in the technical detail of things as in company management matters.
Here it is:
(a) Question every requirement, (b) Delete any part or process you can, (c) Simplify and optimize, (d) Accelerate cycle time, (e) Automate (this must be the last step).
He even added some corollaries:
(i) All technical managers must have hands-on experience, (ii) Camaraderie is dangerous, (iii) It’s OK to be wrong. Just don’t be confident and wrong, (iv) Never ask your troops to do something you’re not willing to do, (v) Whenever there are problems to solve don’t just meet with your managers, (vi) When hiring, look for people with the right attitude. Skills can be taught. Attitude changes require a brain transplant, (vii) A maniacal sense of urgency is our operating principle, (viii) The only rules are the ones dictated by the laws of physics. Everything else is a recommendation.

Q: What keeps you motivated?
A: Learning is my main driver. It does not mean, necessarily, that I have to study a formal course or to take some training, it means just the opportunity to discover things, because I do not like repetitive tasks. But, if needed, I can go with repetitive, and then I can think of ways of doing them faster, better, sounder.

Q: Where is your favorite destination to travel to, and why?
A: I always like to travel back to my hometown, SLP. So many remembrances, so many diverse and spicy foods, so much noise.
If just for vacation I would like to try a Fjord, someday, somewhere north close to the Arctic. I would like to experience the silence, the cold, and the majesty of it. Seeing an Orca would be a big plus.

Q: When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A: A computer expert.

Q: What’s the best piece of professional advice you’ve ever received?
A: It is what it is.
That sentence could have a negative connotation, like indulging conformism, but I like to use it in a positive way, for instance, when we are searching for perfection (work, family, life), and then we get to a point where we didn’t find a precise answer, but we built a very good one, perhaps one of several options close to our objective.
At that point, and not before, we can evaluate if we can work with that solution, and proceed forward, instead of keep wandering forever.
On that matter I like to wonder how far we will be able to reach when we start leveraging more of our daily work to Large Language Models. But even then, there’s a limit on how much we can process. No matter how far we get there will always be something else, ad infinitum.

Q: What, if anything, are you currently binge-watching? Or reading?
A: I’m reading “Question everything”, a beautiful compendium of philosophical essays, edited by Peter Catapano and Simon Critchley, taken from the NYT section “The Stone Reader”.
I have always liked those topics, and with the advent of a new era where Artificial Intelligence is becoming a major player in our daily life, I think that Philosophy will be very relevant to understand where we are going, as a group, as Humanity.

Q: Can you describe our company culture in just one word?
A: Inclusive.