It was at this point that he became enraptured with not with what computers could do, but how they did it.
Said Calles, who called recently from Chicago where he is attending a two-week training program for the consulting company he will be working for, said, "I've been into computers since I was in the seventh grade. Project Explore was my first experience with computers. I was intrigued by what the machine did."
Calles soon moved on to Emerson High School in Union City, and his interest in computers moved with him. Calles spent as much time in the computer lab as possible and took as many computer courses as he could.
The hard work paid off when Calles was offered a full scholarship to the New Jersey Institute of Technology in Newark. Said Calles, "I looked at other colleges but I was fortunate enough to receive a full scholarship from NJIT. They have great engineering programs, but especially computer engineering. And that's what I was interested in."
Evidently, over-achievement runs in the Calles family. Juan's older brother Danny also graduated from NJIT with a degree in Industrial Engineering.
Juan gives all the credit for his success to his parents, Luciano and Anna Calles. Said Juan Calles, "My parents have always encouraged me. They came from El Salvador and struggled with all the things immigrants struggle with. But the one thing they never lacked was to instill in us a feeling to never give up."
Calles' father Luciano was effusive about his son and his accomplishments.
"Well, what can I say?" Luciano said humbly. "We are very proud. Juan is a very special person. He has accomplished many things and overcome many obstacles."
Added Luciano, "It's funny, but when Juan was a young boy, he was just an average student. But somewhere, he just turned around 180 degrees. Something clicked. I am not sure if it was the computers but he suddenly became very proud of his school [Christopher Columbus]. He became a much better student."
Luciano was careful to give most of the credit for his sons' success to his wife Anna.
Said Luciano, "I work nights, and it was my wife that went to the most trouble to help the boys, sitting with them and doing homework."
Calles also had help from the Educational Opportunity Program, a state funded program that, according to NJIT's web site, "provides educationally related services to students whose educational and economic circumstances have limited their post-secondary educational opportunities."
Said Calles about the EOP, "Many people might see it as 'oh, poor him,' but I think it was an advantage. It was basically boot camp for college. It really prepared me to start off on the right foot."
Calles most definitely made the most of his time at NJIT becoming a member of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers. At one point, he became the state representative.
Founded in 1974, the SHPE was formed by a group of Latino engineers employed by the City of Los Angeles. The main objective of the group is networking with an aim for its members to serve as role models in the Hispanic community.
Calles became the group's secretary in his sophomore year, the local chapter president in his junior year and in his senior year, became the state representative for all of New Jersey. This post put him in charge of coordinating events for the SHPE between some of the most prestigious schools in the state, including Stevens Institute of Technology and the Rutgers College of Engineering.
Said Calles of the organization, "They taught me to recognize and use the professional side of being an engineer."
Calles has spent the last two summers working for IBM in North Carolina. This, he said, "really showed me how different things worked in the business."
Calles is currently training in Chicago with a computer consulting company called Accenture. Ever the over-achiever, Calles is also planning to get his Master's in Business Administration in the near future.