Friday, 13 October 2023, 16:52
In 2015 when 15-year-old Enrique Martín went to a computer science event on a Friday afternoon with some classmates and a teacher from his Malaga school, he did not quite know what he was going to find.
As he liked computer science, he had been told to go and listen to a talk on cybersecurity. And there he met Bernardo Quintero, founder of Virustotal, telling his life story: how he learned to programme by himself at the age of 10, how he decided to become a hacker after watching WarGames, how he set up two companies and sold one to Google, and how he managed to continue managing his team, within Google, from Malaga. By the end of the talk, Quique, as Enrique is known, already had an idea of what he wanted to be in life.
Seven years later, on 28 September 2023, Quique was picking up his prize in the BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT-sponsored category at the Young Software Engineer of the Year award ceremony in Scotland where he had studied thanks to a grant. This is a major competition in which all the universities in Scotland compete (his is Strathclyde University in Glasgow).
His final year project ('The use of autoregressive language models in the classroom'), which won the prize for the best individual paper in the computer science department at his university, dazzled the judges. It is an artificial intelligence platform that is designed to make teaching in schools more fun and personalised. A 'chatbot', similar to ChatGPT, allows students to talk to Napoleon or receive mathematical problems tailored to their interests. Quique has also tested it in two Spanish schools, comparing the learning results between students who use this innovative tool and those who use traditional methods.
After receiving the prize of £2,000 and celebrating with his family, who travelled to Glasgow to support him, Quique Martín reflected on that afternoon in 2015. "I approached Bernardo to ask him a couple of questions: I don't even remember what they were; I was super nervous and I'm sure it was nonsense, but he listened to me patiently and advised me that, if I liked programming, I should go for it. He was the one who motivated me to study computer science; I wanted to be like him," he said.
The award has brought Quique another added joy, because Twitter has allowed the young engineer to connect with his idol. He expressed his gratitude to Bernardo Quintero on Twitter for "the time he dedicates to education". "It was very important to have someone to look up to from the age of 15. Today, with less hair but with a prize, I want to thank you for this," he said. And Quintero replied: "We'll have to meet after so many years, but this time you give me the talk."
Scotland's new 'young software engineer of the year' finished his degree earlier this year and started working for Santander Bank (with the added bonus of being back in Malaga), but two months later, he got an offer he couldn't refuse: Aston Martin wanted to sign him up for their Formula 1 team. Quique, who is passionate about the sport, moved back to the UK and now works at the team's factory at Silverstone.
"I work as a software engineer developing the car's analysis tools. When there is a race, my colleagues and I take it in turns to do the monitoring from the factory; I volunteer whenever I can. I hope that one day I will have the opportunity to be on the track," said the Spaniard, who explained that he is "learning a lot" from this opportunity.
Studying abroad is an experience that Martin "100%" recommends. "I am very grateful for all the people I have met and who have helped me here in Scotland," he said. In the medium term, however, his intention is clear: he will return to Malaga one day and start a business.
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