We had the good fortune of connecting with Daniel Rodriguez and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Daniel, what role has risk played in your life or career?
From dropping out as a third-year accounting student to taking out personal loans to join the second cohort ever at a design bootcamp I’d never heard of, my early twenties were defined by the risks I took from 2016 until now. These risks may appear reckless, and in some ways they were, but like Henry Thoreau puts it, “We must walk conciously only part way to our goal…and then leap into the dark to our sucess.”
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I am currently working as a Product Designer on the AR/VR team at Facebook, but before that I was a college student by day and part-time delivery driver by night. I got to where I am today by leaving traditional schooling behind in pursuit of a career in design via boot camp. It was easy at first the way college was easy. You attend a lecture, you take notes, you learn. But the difference between this and college was me actually giving a shit. The teaching style helps too, don’t get me wrong, but theres something special about having your back against the wall- that and a few thousand dollars in family debt at stake. College was a bust and the manner in which I dropped out would rule me ineligible to re-enroll for another year so I had to make it happen. Art and design was always my first passion but as the son of two Cuban-born immigrants, that quickly left the picture by my 18th birthday. This was my chance to do what I really wanted to do. Only once I truly embraced the opportunity, did success begin to find me. It was like the universe flipped a switch. I was doing what I was meant to do and it was working. I put in the extra hours and devoted myself entirely to my craft throughout my run at the boot camp. Lectures by day, youtube by night. On weekends I’d attend the meet-ups, the firesides, the cocktail hours. All of it. By the time It was over I had interviews lined up and a job by my second week out. An actual real job; benefits, health insurance, PTO, everything with just a 9-week certificate and no degree. I probably spent that final month before finishing ironhack working 13 hours a day on my portfolio, harrassing my placements manager Daniel Brito for interviews or connections, and obsessing over every single detail in my résumé. We’ll call that first role lucky though since it was my first shot after school. Then came what I consider the actually ‘bust my ass even more and seize every single opportunity regardless of the outcome’ part of my life. Within a year, and under the proper leadership and design team, I snowballed my Junior role at MDLIVE into a six figure contract with HCA redesigning their healthcare facility platforms. 5 months after that I’m flown out to interview at Google in California for what would turn into a 3 month interview process that would literally push me to levels I didn’t think I could reach. And once Google became a part of my life, the opportunities just exploded. Facebook, Amazon, Linked-In, you name it. I learned alot along the way. For starters, taking the time to actually meet someone organically without motives will always pay dividends at some point. Next, the harder I worked the luckier I became. And finally, nobody cares how well you can animate micro transitions for dribbble posts if you can’t actually write and execute an end to end design sprint for an experience that actually solves or adds value for your users.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I would never invite someone to hangout for more than 3 days. It just gets weird after that because you end up wanting space or disagreeing on too much stuff so I like the 3 day honeymoon rule for any and all friendly visitors, with day 3 being reserved for decompression or the beach. So day 1 we’re getting breakfast at Palacio de los Jugos on 8th street and then going to the Perez art musuem. After checking out the gallery, it’s off to Wynwood for lunch at Coyo Taco and a walking tour of some of my favorite street art. We may stop at a shop or two to pick up some souvenirs. When the sun goes down we’ll make our way to Brickell for dinner at KOMODO. If they are down to go out after that then sugar is my bar of choice. It’s roof-top and provides the best views of the city. Day 2 begins with a more standard morning, perhaps Starbucks coffee (yes I like starbucks so what) or maybe a cafecito at the publix takeout window in Brickell. Then it’s on to Key Biscayne (via bicycle if possible) to check out Crandon park and continue on through Robin’s birding trail until we reach the lighthouse. This will take a while so I’d expect most of the morning and afternoon to be taken up. Once we get back to Brickell we’d shower and freshen up for dinner at my favorite ramen spot in Miami, Momi. David from Momi always hooks it up with massive portions and maybe some Sake on the house if you catch him in good spirits. We’d finish the night with a riverwalk trail and hit up something like American social for drinks. Day 3 is then reserved for a lazy beach day and or split up and do our own thing.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
As I read this question, many faces flood my mind. My uncle, Jorge, who noticed I was unhappy as an accounting student and supplied me with an interest free loan for design school so I didn’t have to go through a bank as a broke college student. I paid him back with my first couple of real job checks. My bootcamp, Ironhack, for introducing me to a community I never thought I’d be apart of. It was only through the connections I made at ironhack that opportunities like Google in California were possible. Daniel Brito, my first placements advisor that gave me more attention in 9 weeks than my college advisor had in 3 years. Chris Halavacs, my first ever design manager, for being the coolest manager ever. Honestly man, If I didn’t have the space to grow under your leadership I wouldn’t be where I am today. Joel Mena, my UX instructor at Ironhack. Thank you for humbling me early on when I thought UI was everything. My parents, Jorge and Lilly, you put up with soo much shit through college, my major swaps, the moving, the housing, dropping out. You stuck by me through it all. My girlfriend, Nicolette, for supporting me in moving 3,000 miles away (without you) to chase a silicon valley dream and curating my design challenge responses. Angela Guzman for inventing emojis and literally vouching for me at Google when you didn’t even know me. You made me snowball soo hard after that you have no idea.