During every semester of college, Jazmin Gonzalez-Rivero, a Senior Software Engineer at Indigo, had to take part in a university-wide event titled, simply, Expo. Every student was required to present on a topic of interest, which could have a direct or tangential relationship to his or her major (And there were only three majors at Jazmin’s alma mater: electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, and engineering with a concentration.) Jazmin focused one of her presentations on signal analysis, another on beekeeping principles.
Expo was open to – and encouraged attendance from – residents of all ages and backgrounds, from wide-eyed preschoolers to accomplished academics. Grades were assigned on not only the presentation’s quality, but the student’s delivery: Could you get in-depth with an expert while still being able to teach a novice?
The impact on Jazmin was fundamental. “It doesn’t matter if you’re an engineer that can make something useful,” Jazmin said, “if you can’t communicate clearly how or why you made it.”
A career of making useful things started with a childhood exploring them. As Jazmin puts it, everything was hands on in her house. “When our printer broke down,” she said, “the first thing my dad asked was: Do you want to take it apart?”
Jazmin and her two brothers would go to her father’s lab (he was an organic chemist) to dissolve pennies in basic solutions and examine dry ice. Theoretical questions were posed at the dinner table, and the kids worked together to find a logical answer. When it came time for Jazmin to decide on an area of study, the decision was simple. Science and technology was in her blood. She went to Olin College of Engineering, to learn how to create software.
In the south side of Indigo’s global headquarters in Boston, where many of the company’s engineers, architects, and designers work, you’ll find Jazmin’s desk near the back. On it, there’s a laptop covered in stickers. Grey Bose noise cancelling headphones with scratches all over its housing. Pictures of Jazmin’s mother and father, boyfriend, and dog in different frames. Dual computer monitors – one with code, the other with Slack. There’s Jazmin, standing, typing fast, filling checkboxes on a notepad in red ink every so often. The dry cackle of mechanical keyboards can be heard echoing around the room, sounding like hail on a tin roof.
Jazmin works on Marketplace, the grain trading platform that directly connects growers and buyers for more optimal transactions. A majority of her days are – naturally – spent coding. It’s part of what Jazmin showed up in Boston to do, furthering her technical skills while working for a mission-focused company.
Previously, working at a large financial software organization in Silicon Valley, Jazmin had found several opportunities to lead her own projects with teams of engineers. But, she said, “I wanted to manage less and get my hands dirty more.”
When it comes down to it, Jazmin has noticed two major differences between west coast and east coast tech culture. The first has to do with collaboration. “Everyone [at Indigo] works together to seize the opportunity,” she said. “You can focus on the development of your own technical skills, but still get to be a team player in building other people's skills, putting processes in place, and helping to decide how the product functions.”
The second: broad interests. “There are still super smart people who care a lot about engineering,” Jazmin said. “But there is more to their life than just their job. And when you come in to start the week, I think people here always look to questions about your weekend that have nothing to do with work. After coming from a place where all everyone wanted to talk about was a new line of code they came up with, I can appreciate that.”
The question, given Jazmin’s background, was a given. Why was she helping to build Marketplace?
“You can make a marketplace for any product, alcohol, carpets, cars – whatever. But you don’t always get an opportunity to build a marketplace for something that actually matters. Giving farmers new ways to transact on their grain can make the difference for their business, their families, and even their communities. The feeling for me of, ‘Hey, I am going to help farmers make more on every bushel,’ there’s nothing else like that. It’s why I come into work every day.”
Interested in building the next revolution in agriculture? Look into positions on our technology team here.