Caleb Valdez-Copeland 

YVC did a very good job of setting my base and setting me up for future success. Students who strive to support themselves here are met with the support they need.


Degree/Certificate & Class Year 
Associate in Arts Transfer, 2018  
Yakima, Wash. 

Computer Science 
YVC Engineering Club, WSU Cyber Security Club

Job Title, Organization 
I just finished a product management cycle with Google in Mountain View, Calif. I’m working for a local company right now, Pacific Office Solutions, and in January I’ll begin working as a software engineer for an AI start-up founded by a former colleague at Tesla [that is] headquartered in New York. 

Do you plan to pursue further education? 
Right now I am undecided on whether or not I’ll pursue more education. I recently visited John Hopkins [University] through a program they have that brings prospective graduate students to campus. They are doing some research on brain-computer interfacing, which is a field I find very interesting.  

What made you want to come to Yakima Valley College? 
I did the Running Start program. I felt that the sooner I could be in a college environment and hopefully learn the things I need to learn for my career the better off I’d be. Considering all my options and talking to people that have previously attended YVC’s Running Start program was helpful to me. I thought there was value in participating in Running Start and it gave students a really good opportunity to meet with faculty and allowed them to sort of identify the fields that they were interested in absolutely easier and a little quicker than most. 

How did YVC prepare you for your job? 
YVC helped prepare me for my career by giving me a strong foundation. YVC did a very good job of setting my base and setting me up for future success. Students who strive to support themselves here are met with the support they need. For me, instructors Rajkumar Raj [engineering] and Greg Kent [mathematics] provided tremendous support — helping me with anything I needed and mentoring me. In my experience, if you commit the time at YVC you are met with individuals who are committed to helping you learn. 

One of the biggest things I learned at YVC was how to be adaptable and how to fail smart. Failure is only failure if you let that be the starting point and ending point. My first two calculus sequence classes at YVC were an absolute mess. I was so used to learning one way and when I tried making that formula work for calculus it didn’t do well. I found support for these courses with Greg Kent, who kept working with me until the information made sense. This experience helped show me that sometimes you need to find a different way.  

How do you stay connected to YVC as an alum? 
Unfortunately, I’m not as connected as I’d like to be. I do provide mentoring to students who reach out. With my experience from Goldman Sachs, Google and Tesla, students sometimes reach out from YVC or WSU and ask for feedback on how to get started trying to make connections with these companies. I’m always willing to invest my time in helping share my experiences and guide them. 

What was your favorite class? How did it expand your knowledge? 
My favorite class was the calculus sequence with Greg Kent. When I first started these courses my fear of failure outweighed my will to succeed. After struggling, I worked with instructors to turn something super complex into a new problem I was able to solve. It was very gratifying for me to be able to work through these problems and figure out the best way to tackle them.  

Who was your mentor on campus? Why do you consider this person your mentor? 
Both Rajkumar Raj and Greg Kent were great mentors to me. I went to Raj for general ideas and information about the engineering. Kent helped me tremendously with the calculus courses and helped me learn how to maneuver things and translate what I was learning in the classroom to the industry.  

How do you encourage other alumni to give back to the college? 
One of the greatest ways you can give back is with your time. The more we progress in our careers the less time we have that’s available to us. I feel the more time you can share with others, it helps foster relationships and helps support and create future alumni.  

Where there any barriers that you had to overcome to be success at YVC? 

YVC: I think it was about that adaptation and how I approach problems on my own, in my own way. Before attending YVC I dealt with problems by myself, but I learned that problems become a lot easier with others who are also motivated to help find solutions. In the Math Center I was able to form study groups to help tackle different problems and, ultimately, I and other members of the group ended up forming bonds and doing better on exams.  

WSU: I was in a severe car accident before attending WSU. I struggled with complex subjects like physics and found it harder to work towards completing my goals. During this time, I also considered and switched my major to finance, with the goal of becoming an investment banker, and then switched it back to computer science. Being able to break apart the problems into sequences and figure out how to attack them helped lead me back to engineering.  

What is the takeaway you want others to learn from this highlight? 
I want to encourage the idea of community at YVC. Through things like the engineering club or communities that you form with other students — making connections is helpful and keeps you motivated. It helps show that success is easier in numbers. It can be daunting to approach new people, but I really found a sense of community at YVC. This sense of community was very important to me. It helped me feel encouraged to ask questions and seek support.   

How did your experiences at YVC help motivate others? 
Both of my siblings currently attend YVC. My brother is pursuing an engineering degree and my sister is pursuing a transfer degree through Running Start. I think my positive experience helped motivate them to attend here and come to see if they could have similar experiences.

Interested in getting started at YVC? Visit our admissions page or request information.