“If you’re going to be in this field, you always need to want to make the world better.” — Hugo Romero
My earliest memory of using technology was when I was around 5 years old. I lived in Mexicali, Mexico, a border town. I was playing with the TV and accidentally picked up a station from Yuma, Arizona. I figured out that if I put the antenna in a certain position, I would get better reception. I started playing around with different channels and figured out that each channel was optimal in a different position. On Saturdays, I would move the antenna and watch certain cartoons.
I was always interested in how things worked and how I could make them better. I frequently would get a toy and there’d be something I didn’t like about it, so I’d change it. One of them was a toy car that could turn. I took it apart, broke a bunch of stuff, and made it turn faster.
When I was in the 4th grade, I had a teacher who had an Apple IIc computer. If you finished your math homework, you got to play on it. Math was always easy for me, so I’d finish early and work on the computer. There was a program on it called Apple Logo that allowed you to create pictures with a few kinds of commands — forward, reverse, right, left — and I would write little programs to draw things on the screen. I was always fascinated by that. I started with a rectangle, but eventually created flowers and things that looped around. That was my introduction to programming, at nine years old.
I was fortunate enough to go to a junior high school that had computer programming classes. From 7th to 9th grade, I took programming in BASIC, which was a little more sophisticated language. We wrote games and animations. By 9th grade, I had three years of programming experience in the BASIC language.
In 10th grade, I decided I wanted to do something different, so I took auto mechanics. In auto mechanics, you’re not only diagnosing mechanical problems, you’re also diagnosing electrical problems. I was getting excited about electronics, so I bought my own multimeter and soldering iron, and I’d fix my mom’s iron and other things around the house. I eventually started installing car stereos and other electronics.
I realized that I loved computer programming and electronics, so I chose to major in computer engineering, which combines the core coursework of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering. Now, I’m leading a team to research cybersecurity. In today’s day and age, privacy is super important. What we’re researching is how we can enhance security and privacy in our products through authentication for the end user.
My favorite part about working at Qualcomm is gaining expertise in so many different areas of technology. When I joined Qualcomm, I told myself that I’d only work here for five years. Twenty years later, I’m still here. I’ve been allowed to work on so many different projects, from satellite systems to modems to hardware design to software development. I’ve been doing so much stuff that I’m still excited to come to work every day.
If you’re going to be in this field, you always need to want to make the world better. You’re always thinking about what’s missing, knowing that nothing is perfect. And you’re always thinking about how you’re going to use technology to make it better.
Hugo Romero is a Senior Director of Technology in the Cyber Security group within Qualcomm Research, a division of Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. Hugo started as an intern at Qualcomm 20 years ago, and throughout his career he has worked on many different technology areas, leading cross-discipline teams through phases of research, business development, and product development. Most recently, he was the System Designer for multiple projects in the Qualcomm Cyber Security Solutions (QCSS) Division, the group that helps the government solve some of their most challenging technical issues in the wireless and mobile spaces. While there, he created a world class Cyber Security research team and led it for the past 6 years. He has recently transferred to Qualcomm Research to research innovative ways to make our products more secure.