10 Nov UnCubicle Entrepreneur Spotlight: Mario Vallejo
Today, I’m excited to share with you Mario’s story. One of the things that makes Mario unique (and awesome) is that unlike many coders who just freelance or consult, he’s actually built and scaled a successful business and team around programming.
Besides being fantastic at what he does, he truly embodies the entrepreneurial spirit. He left his job in corporate America, taught himself to code, worked smart and built a business around doing what he loves (and is really good at)!
Where are you in your UnCubicle Journey?
I’ve escaped and have my own business.
When did you start your UnCubicle journey and why?
I started my business in November 2012. I always dreamed about venturing out on my own and was always trying to come up with the right idea to do it.
I started to learn programming as a hobby thinking one day I could build an app and venture on my own that way.
To practice my “programming skills” at the time, I would offer people to build their websites for dirt cheap. One day, I realized how much I enjoyed writing code and how much I hated my job so I decided to chase happiness over paycheck, benefits, and stress.
What’s a typical day in your world look like?
I wake up around 6am, make myself coffee and eat breakfast. I sit down with my coffee and do some work until around 8:30-9am. I shower and get ready and am usually at my shared space office around 10am.
I snack when I get to the office and work until 2-3pm when I leave for lunch. I do take one hour for lunch; I walk around, try to think about non-work stuff, maybe call a friend or family member and chat for a bit. By 4pm, right after lunch, I go to a coffee shop where I have a cup of coffee and usually something sweet :). I stay and work until 6pm. At 6pm, I try to figure out dinner (what I am going to cook) and relax ?
What was the biggest challenge you encountered?
Learning how to focus on doing one thing well and saying no to some projects. It is so hard to say no to people willing to pay you money.
But, trying to take on too much work has come back to bite me a couple of times in the past. It is always better to say no, I don’t have the bandwidth or no, that is not my area of expertise, than to produce poor quality work.
If you could do one thing differently when you started your business what would it be?
Focus more. When I stated my business, it was a digital agency; everything from social media to marketing strategy to writing code. Now, we only write code. This has made me a better programmer and has enabled me to maintain a higher rate than some of my competitors.
If you could give one piece of advice to someone considering escaping the cubicle what would it be?
If you have a plan, do it! Most people wait because it’s scary to lose a paycheck and benefits. If you really want to venture on your own, don’t look at how much money you have to save but what expenses you need to cut to make it happen.
If you can’t afford to lose a paycheck figure out which job you can do while working on your dream. Can you be a bar tender or Uber driver? The point is, the sooner you do it the sooner you will be in control of your own future.
What’s in your digital arsenal?
MacBook Air, iMac 27″
Five Favorite Apps?
Sublime Text, iTerm, Slack, Trello and Spotify.
Do you have a morning routine? If so, tell us about it.
Yup. I wake up at 6am, breakfast and coffee. Work until 8:30-9am, shower, get ready and then leave for the office.
Describe your workspace.
At home, I have a 27″ iMac with a second 27″ Monitor. At the office, I have another iMac 27″ with a 24″ vertical monitor. And then, my MacBook Air. ?
Best stress reliever?
As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
The very first job was an attorney. I think I love arguing. :$
What was your first business idea and what did you do with it?
I sold merengue with strawberry in my building when I was around 10 years old. They used to sell these delicious merengue with strawberry on the way to our farm in Colombia. I would stop on our way back with my family and buy a lot of them for dirt cheap, and sell them Sunday night around the building.
Do you have a productivity secret? If so, share!
What’s your everyday ‘work uniform?
Shorts or jeans, t-shirt and a hoodie.
How do you make time for family/friends/self?
If I have a lot of work and need more than a night, I try to plan ahead and stay ahead of projects to allow myself to relax. Otherwise, I am usually free after 6pm.
Where can people learn more about you and what you do?