From Applied Mathematician to Senior Software Engineer 

A person with short brown hair and brown eyes, wearing a jacket and tie, smiles for the camera.

Andres Gonzalez was interested in science and math from a young age in his native Cuba. Early on, he knew he would need assistive technology for any career, but he didn’t necessarily imagine becoming the computer scientist and software engineer he is today. 

Blind since the age of seven due to glaucoma, which is uncommon in children, Andres attended Cuba’s only school for the blind starting in kindergarten. He developed an interest in math and science in junior high school, and attended another one-of-a-kind school in Cuba that emphasizes classes in science and math, along with subjects typical in any high school. 

“It was quite a transition for me going from a school for the blind to a school where I was the only blind student,” says Andres, who then went to the University of Havana for his undergraduate degree. 

Getting a little help from his family and friends 

Andres clearly has a talent for math and science. After earning a bachelor’s degree in Mathematics he earned a master’s degree in Applied Mathematics. However, there were very few resources in Cuba at the time for people who are blind. Braille books were scarce, as was any kind of assistive technology, such as screen readers.  

Andres says he didn’t have any braille books in high school. But, what he did have was plenty of support. 

“My entire family and even some friends of the family started helping me by reading the books, recording them on cassette tapes so I could listen to them,” he says. “At university, you start establishing relationships with friends and peers, and you collaborate to help each other.” 

Andres took advantage of any resources he could find in Cuba, learning what he describes as “primitive” computer programming starting in high school.  

In college, he took his first computer programming class – where a little help from a friend made a big difference.  

“He didn’t care for programming at all, so we partnered,” Andres explains. “He read the computer screen to me, and I did the coding, so he was like a human screen reader, if you will.” 

Pursuing programming at every turn 

After earning his master’s degree, Andres began his professional career as an applied mathematician in neuroscience research. He said the need to learn programming became even more important, so he continued studying everything he could about writing computer code.  

When he was given the chance to move to the United States, he says he didn’t think twice about it. He thought computer programming might be a good profession to pursue. 

It turns out he was right: In 1997, Andres was the third engineer hired to work on the first version of JAWS, which today remains one of the most popular screen readers for Windows.  

“For me, programming has been a constant learning experience,” Andres says. “Even after doing it for 25 years, I never stop learning every day because it’s a constantly evolving field.” 

In 2004 he began working as a Senior Computer Scientist for Adobe – where he worked for 15 years – and in 2019 he was hired by a large tech company as a Senior Software Engineer. 

Staying the course  

In his current job, Andres is part of the company’s accessibility team, which creates accessible technology for people with a wide range of disabilities. His role is in web accessibility, with an emphasis on WebKit. He describes WebKit as the “engine” behind applications, including the Safari web browser– every application that uses web technologies on the company’s platform. Andres also works on VoiceOver screen reader development. 

“[The company] has been leading this field for many years now, and I’m very proud to be part of the organization,” he says. “Something that motivates engineers and scientists like me in general is that you know you’re working on something interesting and always evolving. But at the same time, I work in a field that’s very close to my heart.” 

Andres can say from his own experience that it’s worth sticking with whatever field someone may pursue and asking for help when necessary. 

“Don’t give up,” he says. “You will find challenges along the way, but overcoming obstacles is the way of forging the future. And reach out to your friends, teachers or colleagues. Nobody can do everything alone.” 

Learn more: 

Andres has even more to share about his career experiences. Watch Andres on this episode of Career Conversations.’