Direct messaging: Victor Sauceda
CEO, founder, justice reform advocate, community leader, change agent
- Victor Sauceda
- , Victory Code
August 18, 2022
Tell us about yourself. How did you get to where you are today?
My story started a long time ago. I was split from my mom at a young age to live with my dad in Washington. I didn’t take the move well and ended up making a series of bad decisions that caused me to go to juvenile detention for the first time at 14 and prison for the first time at 18.
By the time I turned 21, I was looking at a 36 year prison sentence. I knew something had to change.
I made a commitment to myself that I would come out of prison a better person than I went in and focused my time on higher education, coding, fitness, self help courses, job skills and much more to help better prepare me for release.
I was released in October 2019 and that is when things changed for the better.
I started out working at MOD pizza and attended a coding bootcamp. I landed my first role in the tech industry as an intern at a local tech consulting company.
Eventually, I made my way to Code for America which allowed me the opportunity to make a big impact for the justice impacted communities.
I was able to learn a ton from all of these experiences and this inspired me to continue to make an impact by starting Victory Code. I saw the benefit of lived experience and how that matters when helping other system-impacted individuals.
I know this is still the beginning and look forward to what’s to come.
For those not familiar with the term ‘system-impacted individual’, what does this mean?
I am a huge fan of being mindful of the labels that we place on people.
I prefer the term system-impacted when speaking about people who are or have experienced any of the following: incarceration, addiction, homelessness, foster care, etc. Terms like “inmate”, “ex-con”, “convict”, “at-risk youth” and many other terms have negative connotations.
I want to lift people up and not continue to push people away by the labels we place on them.
How did you teach yourself to code while you were incarcerated?
During my time in prison I was fortunate to be at a facility where they brought in laptops (without internet). I had no coding experience or digital literacy, but thought learning more about computers can be fun.
It gave me the opportunity to use a laptop and keep my mind off of prison.
I signed up for an advanced coding class that only had 15 seats (of 700 people in the prison). I thought my chances were slim, but I made the cut.
When I went into the first class, I had no idea what all of the writing on the wall from the projector was saying. That was the moment I realized I was in over my head. Thankfully, there were teacher-assistants (incarcerated-individuals) who encouraged me to stick with it.
I am thankful that I did.
I found something that I actually enjoy doing.
I spent my last three years of incarceration learning how to code. This wasn’t easy as we didn’t have Google or the internet. We were also limited on class time and the time we were able to spend on the laptops.
I remember having to write code on pencil and paper and take it into class to make the best use of class time and come as prepared as possible.
Looking back at that, it was all determination.
You were a Code for America Fellow. What did you work on, and what did you learn about the role lived experience plays in developing digital services?
If there was ever a perfect job description, Code for America’s fellowship role was it.
During the fellowship I was tasked with developing ThriveSBC, a resource application for system-impacted individuals to provide them with the resources in a centralized location when they need it most. The role not only allowed me the opportunity to continue developing my coding skills but also give back to the people that are coming behind me.
What I particularly admired about Code for America is they have what is called a human-centered design, meaning that the people stay at the center of the design and development of the application.
Who better to help be a part of this process than someone who has lived experience when it pertains to re-entry?
Someone who knows what it’s like to be incarcerated, someone who has experienced reentry, someone who has had to jump through a bunch of hurdles in their own transitions.
This I thought made the conversations more organic, it helps when you know the person sitting across from you has somewhat similar experiences to you.
This was a key component that I thought could help shift communities across the nation especially in terms of technology.
What is Victory Code, and why did you start it?
Victory Code started early 2022 after finishing up my Code for America fellowship.
I noticed a huge need for system-impacted people especially when it relates to tech. I wanted to leverage my lived experience and make a difference for people like me and help bridge that tech gap for system-impacted individuals in the tech industry.
Victory Code is a tech consulting organization for system-impacted individuals that offers services such as coding bootcamps, digital literacy courses, workshops, websites and more.
What support do you offer for system-impacted individuals?
Our coding bootcamp is six months, and we teach system-impacted individuals how to code without any prior coding experience.
Our Digital Literacy Course helps individuals thrive in their tech journeys. Some of our participants have not touched a computer or phone for many years. We want to be able to support them through this process. In this course we focus on email, calendar, documents, spreadsheets, social media, resumes and more.
How can others support your work?
If you would like to get involved or find out how you can support, reach me at the contact information below. We are currently looking for mentors, volunteers, and hiring partners and more.