Carbon Five Software Engineer - Rico Rodriquez Collins

Carbon Five Roll Call: Rico Rodriquez Collins, Software Engineer

Carbon Five ·

Carbon Five Roll Call is a blog series introducing you to our team of product managers, designers, and software engineers at Carbon Five. Learn more about us and how we can help support your next project. Meet Rico! 

Name: Rico Rodriquez Collins

Title: Software Engineer

Hometown: Jacksonville, Florida

Carbon Five office: Santa Monica

Emoji of choice:Heart face emoji wearing a mask

Tell us a little bit about your background and area of expertise.

I started my programming career doing Systems Admin stuff, which then evolved into DevOps, and eventually in Full-Stack Web & Mobile Development.

Currently, I spend about 75% of my time with React, 20% Python (Django, Flask), and 5% other JS frameworks and Swift.

I’m sort of Frontend-biased. I love working with Designers and I live by the motto that “more people will try your product if you make it pretty”. I like that at Carbon Five we try to find ways to add something special to leave “our mark” on each project.

I don’t see myself having any mastery over a particular domain. My strengths are merely being able to learn and adapt — nothing special.

Like many people, I grew up in a single-parent, combined household, where my mom and I lived with my uncle and grandmother, who was an elementary school teacher. My mom, who had schizophrenia, was on government assistance.

The school where my grandmother taught was in a relatively affluent part of town.  Because of the School Busing Program at the time, I was able to enroll in that school without actually taking the “bus”. I just “carpooled” with my grandmother. However, after about a year, I adjusted to the higher workload that I wasn’t normally used to, was later accepted into a special advanced program, and well, I guess that paved the way to many awkward years of nerd-dom.

A few clients you’ve worked with include: 

I really enjoyed working with all of them.

  • Hulu
  • Conan (Team Coco)
  • Slingshot Orbital Laboratory
  • Sisu Data
  • Fender
  • The Contemporary Jewish Museum
  • Sensei Lana’i
  • Swell Investing
  • Go Get Em Tiger
  • Rhythm Energy

What’s the coolest thing about Carbon Five? 

Well, I mean it (literally) is a really cool place to work. Visually, the headquarters is a comfortable open floor plan in a cool loft design, no cubicles. The team, across all five locations, are fantastic. But even more than that, if you like learning, you simply grow much faster here — I mean, with a lot of work. If you can hang, you’ll love it.

C5 is a company of learning…in both directions. The company, itself, is learning, changing, adapting, and evolving. We have a culture of open and honest communication, and I’ve noticed that the leaders are always asking us: “How can we improve life here?”

Throughout the month of February, we have been celebrating Black History Month at Carbon Five by sharing the personal journeys and professional achievements of Black leaders in tech from both past and present. 

In what way, if any, has being Black impacted your career in tech?

Ok. Well, this is probably where I need to get a little “real”.  Tech had (and still has) a real problem with one particular diversity demographic. As a Black engineer, you quickly get used to being a pepper flake in every photo. You also get used to unconscious bias before, and possibly during your tenure at a job.  

In short, while we are—by no means—the only underrepresented minority in tech, we definitely are the most underrepresented minority.

So, it’s natural to doubt yourself and your sense of belonging.

Imposter syndrome is very real.  It’s an emotion that runs very deep too; you can’t “logic” your mind out of it. It’s particularly bad for those of us who cross into these jobs in tech from other fields.

The second thing is something that most Black professionals face across all career sectors, called “The Black Tax”. To put it simply, because of the history of injustice in this country, you may find yourself being the most “successful” person in your family—even if you don’t see yourself being successful at all. Regardless, you will have to carry the burden of the family’s problems, which will chip away at you financially and emotionally. It is a huge distraction and de-motivator completely hidden from your employers and your peers. In my case, I think I just had to be “selfish for survival”, if just for a short term. The focus that’s needed for these jobs is not to be taken lightly.

On a different note, I feel guilty for not doing more in terms of mentoring youth (and adults).  Sometimes even your mere presence can make a difference in someone’s life, by being “a living validation” of something. I do speak at events from time to time, but with family and obligations, I haven’t been able to give back yet what I feel I should. 

Share one MUST DO recommendation: 

TV Game Show.  I know–you’re thinking: “what??? no.”  Of all of the things I’ve done in LA, by far the most fun was going with my team to be on a game show. The music, the lights, the silly people around you. You don’t even have to get picked as a contestant to have a memorable experience.



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