By Stephanie McMillen
Alejandro “Alex” Larzabal, information technology director of enterprise application services, is a great example of someone who has achieved his career goals through hard work and education.
Skilled in many computer programming languages and databases, for the last seven years, Alex’s career at Valencia has transformed from being a work-study student, to a programmer, and then a manager, to his current position as director.
Before his career chapter at Valencia, Alex ’s story began on the small island of Cuba. Born to parents who taught medical English to doctors and pre-med students at a local college, Alex shared that his father still had to work additional jobs on the side to make a decent living – working in construction and selling homemade food on the streets.
“Showing great vision… my parents [ensured] I made it into the only elementary school in town that had, although very old, computers to teach programming to kids, using a language called Logo,” Alex said. His parents also took it upon themselves to teach him to read, write and speak English beginning at a young age.
When he did show an interest in computers, Alex’s parents and grandparents picked up more work to save enough money to purchase a 13-year-old computer for him. This allowed Alex to practice computer programming at home, learning an additional programming language by high school called Pascal.
“I was the only kid among my friends to own a computer, although half of the other kids’ parents made way more money than mine,” Alex pointed out.
In 2003, Alex’s mother won a Visa Lottery allowing him, his parents and sister to immigrate to the United States the following year. Sadly, this meant leaving almost everything and everyone he knew behind, including his grandparents.
Once they arrived in the United States, Alex said he wanted to work to help support his family. “But my parents pushed me to come to college instead, and were very happy to find out I could work as a student in the work-study program [at Valencia],” he said.
In 2005, Alex began his Valencia education and career simultaneously, as a full-time student with a work-study position. In the meantime, his parents worked cashier jobs at Wal-Mart, cleaned houses and did some construction work to keep up with the bills.
Since he was a young child, Alex has showed appreciation to his parents for their support and sacrifices by making sure he achieves his goals. He does this by dedicating himself to hard work – without exception.
“Alex’s personal and professional story is both remarkable and inspiring,” said Bill White, chief information officer. “At Valencia, I have had the great opportunity to watch Alex grow and develop into an exceptional leader in a very short period of time. I look forward to continuing to follow Alex on his journey at Valencia and beyond.”
Alex holds an associate’s degree from Valencia, a bachelor’s degree from Florida State University in computer science and is working towards a master’s degree in computer science from the University of Illinois Springfield.
Today, his parents are elementary school teachers and his grandmother is now here in the United States. In this free time, Alex enjoys drawing, specifically pencil sketching. Some of his drawings can be viewed here.
Know of someone doing great work at the college? Send their name to us at The_Grove@valenciacollege.edu so they can be one of our featured colleagues!