What I love the most about Chess is that I always feel at home when I play – the chessboard is a peaceful place that I belong to. It combines the challenge of an intellectual task with the fun of a simple game.

My name is Jonatan Mendoza and I develop software at a company called Wise, which allows 10 million customers to send money abroad in a cheap and fast fashion.

My father helped me become interested in a career in tech – he was always talking about the new technology he had heard about on the radio. Ironically, during my childhood, I only watched movies on the computer. In my first computing class, I felt the experience to be quite overwhelming (to the point of leaving the keyboard drenched in sweat). I fell in love with computers since that moment; I was always in the computing lab learning the topics of the course in advance – not in order to get a good grade, but in order to reach advanced topics as quickly as possible.

I’m originally from Guatemala, lived one year in Costa Rica, and I’m now living in Estonia. Estonia has been at the top of the PISA ranking in the last decade – Tallinn is a stress-less city, and Estonia is a thriving tech hub with mighty unicorns like Skype, Wise, Bolt, etc. Of course, Estonia is a great country not only for those reasons, but when taking the decision to move here, Estonia looked like the perfect place to live with my family and raise my son.

Outside of work, I love Chess. I first became interested in chess when I was a child. In my native town, Coatepeque, winters are marked by electric storms. Frequently, after a flash of lightning, followed by an astonishing thunder, the electricity service would be disabled in the whole neighbourhood. I loved when that happened, because my father stopped working, drew a checkerboard on a piece of paper, and added buttons of two different colours to play checkers with me and my siblings. Those moments were the best of my childhood.

Later on, a friend of mine bought a crystal chessboard with beautiful chess pieces. I connected the chessboard with the checkerboard my father drew years ago. My friend taught me the basics, and I’ve been playing chess since that moment.

I think every World Chess Champion from Steinitz to Carlsen has interesting stories from which I can get inspiration. All of them teach us that talent is nothing without discipline, effort, and practice. I think Bobby Fischer is maybe the most remarkable model in this aspect.

In the beginning, I was a fan of flashing explosive tactics consisting of sacrificing several pieces, including the queen, which ended in a fancy checkmate with a knight. Now, I know that these kinds of combinations are only possible if the difference between the levels of the contenders is huge. Usually, in a professional chess match, these tactics would be executed if one of the players would make a blunder, but that doesn’t happen when both players play well.

I like finding the proper movement according to the given position. If such movement is simplifying to a favourable ending, or an astonishing tactical combination, it depends on the position, regardless of my subjective preference. Even if the opponent gives you the opportunity to explore your creativity, a fancy tactical checkmate is always appropriate.

I have had some terrific experiences with my chess. I won a match against a Guatemalan National ex-Champion; I also had a match in San Francisco against a US player that included a sacrifice with the light squares bishop.

But what I enjoyed the most was winning the tournament in a company I was working at in Guatemala. There was a teammate who had defeated me in a previous match, and we disputed the final. I really wanted to defeat him and managed to play well enough with less than a minute on the clock. We’re still friends and play online from time to time.

My future goal with chess is to increase my international ELO to 2,000, which I’m working very hard on. I would like to travel across Europe, playing chess tournaments when they come back to their normal schedule. Finally, I would like to play chess tournaments in Russia, UK, and the Netherlands.

I see several similarities between chess and my job:

  • Both include intellectual challenges.
  • You can increase your level in both fields by training.
  • Both require you to focus and be disciplined.
  • In both fields, you perform better if you’re not a fan of any specific doctrine. In chess, as in tech, you need to look for the most efficient approach, regardless of your personal style.
  • Both fields can allow you to visit exciting cities around the world.
  • Chess is art, as is coding.

I absolutely think chess has been a benefit to my technological career. Chess is a gentleman’s game, and I have met people from different cultures. In IT, your technical skills are quite important, but even more important are your teamwork skills. I always try to make new friends through chess, or at least connect with interesting people. In my daily basis work, I try to have a friendly environment. From experience, I can say that engineers perform better when having fun. I honestly think that having fun while building awesome products is the ultimate level of professionalism.

There is always more than tech. It doesn’t matter how much you love and enjoy your job; there are always more ingredients that can make your life tasty. I like the OTIA initiative because it shares the fact that techies have a creative and artistic side. Also, it makes it evident that you don’t need to be a “no-feelings” machine to work in tech.

Jonatan’s Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/JonyIsInTheHouse/

Jonatan’s first YouTube Channel (English-speaking): Jony Is In The House

Jonatan’s second YouTube Channel (Spanish-speaking): Jonatan Mendoza

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