Each month, we feature one member of our smart and scrappy startup family here at Covered. This month, we had the pleasure of interviewing Jason “JC” Collins, who is our VP of Engineering, or as he would say, “Nerd Whisperer”. JC joined our team in October 2017, and he has been kicking ass and taking names ever since, helping us release our first two MVP products. Bringing JC on board to our engineering team has inspired awesome collaboration between engineering and the rest of the business, and we are proud to have him with us as we all work together to build a strong future for Covered.
What is your favorite Covered Core Value (Accountability, Transparency, Collaboration, Excellence, and Generosity) and why?
I’d say it’s collaboration. I enjoy the dynamic tug and pull that a close team environment offers, so I’ve always been a big team player. Getting to know others and what drives and motivates them is something I really enjoy, and in a highly collaborative setting, you have so much opportunity to learn so much about people.
What aspect of your role at Covered do you enjoy the most?
In my role, I get to wear many hats, which is more a result of being at a startup than the role I am in. In a larger company, I would be limited in where and how I could contribute, but in a startup of 7 people I am able to be involved in engineering (my domain of responsibility), but also other areas like marketing and business development. The ability to help all over within the company gives so many perspectives on a problem, so coming up with solutions that take all those perspectives into account is something that happens often.
What do you enjoy about working at a startup?
So many things, dude! I love the camaraderie that comes with difficult challenges that you HAVE to rely on a team to help overcome. I love the fact that I’m learning something new almost every day, and challenging myself. I love wearing many hats! I love the fact that in startups, solutions often need to be unorthodox because the biggest priority is survival. Honestly, I love all the things.
What are you listening to/reading these days?
Actually, I’ve been reading a book of poetry by Pablo Neruda recently that a friend let me borrow, titled Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair. I spend a lot of time outside of work thinking about creative endeavors, whether it’s writing poetry of my own or doing photography or making music. I used to mostly just read tech and leadership/management books, but I’ve found that exercising my mind in other ways creates more harmony in my already overly active brain. From a music standpoint, I spend time getting lost in Spotify listening to and searching for new independent artists. It’s so easy to pull on a thread and wind up learning about 3 or 4 additional artists that I really dig.
What would you do (for a career) if you weren’t doing this?
I’d be a bartender, without a doubt. With a vest. A bartender, with a super fly vest. I love the creative endeavor of mixology, and helping people appreciate a well made cocktail that was created with love. There is also something very tactile and rewarding about the process of creating something with your hands.
What are three career/professional lessons you have learned so far?
Only three? Hmmmm, ok. First, never hire assholes. They can derail a team and crush morale faster than anything else. Second, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Everyone started somewhere and you and I are no different. We need to lean on people with more experience if we ever expect to accelerate our learning and get better at something quicker. Third, humor and humility are two of the most underrated characteristics of good leaders. And they are things worth investing in and improving.
What inspires you?
This may sound cheesy and cliche, but I don’t care. Humanity inspires me. I get a lot of inspiration through watching other people overcome obstacles and challenges they never thought possible. It’s incredibly motivating, and it’s how I try to inspire others.
What three traits define you?
My beard, my “JC” nickname, and my laugh. Oh, wait…you were looking for something else? Ok. I guess I would say an obvious one is collaboration, along with openness and extraversion. Those last two are things I’ve definitely embraced more as an individual the older I’ve grown.
What were you like in high school?
Oh, man! I was not like I am today. I was less outgoing than I am today, but that didn’t stop me from becoming friends with everyone. I would spend my lunch hour going from clique to clique, talking to all the people about all the things. I also loved to climb trees, until I hit puberty. Then everything got more complicated for me.
What is one thing about you that people would be surprised if they knew?
Probably that I’m more often stressed than I let on. I tend to keep it all inside, but my outward demeanor when things are on fire all around me is totally Mr. Cool. I’ve learned through my professional career that you just can’t let that stuff out, because it has a way of influencing the behavior of everyone around you. If you want the team to be calm and collected in the face of crisis, you need to lead by example and do that same thing x10.
If you had to teach someone a new skill in five minutes what would it be?
That’s easy. How to make a proper Old Fashioned cocktail. And if I still had time, I’d teach them how to make a proper Sazerac, too.
What’s the next thing on your bucket list?
Getting in the car and taking a road trip to a tattoo convention in another city to get some new ink. It just seems like it would be fun to do…grab a friend, visit a city you’ve maybe never been to, and show up at a tattoo convention to get some ink from a great artist you’ve never met.
What is the most recent app you downloaded?
The Google Arts & Culture app. It’s so cool!
You’re hosting a dinner party. Who are the 3 people, living or dead, who you would invite?
Robin Williams, Chris Farley, and Richard Pryor. There would be a lot of laughing!
If you could witness one historical event, what would it be, and why?
I would have to say the coming down of the Berlin wall. It was such a visible representation for so many years of things gone wrong in the world, and to have been there and experienced the energy of Germany’s youth when that happened would have been inspiring.
What is your favorite activity to do for fun?
I love to mix electronic music with other genres, and come up with something totally new and off-the-wall. It’s super relaxing, and gets the creative juices flowing in my noggin.
What’s the weirdest job you’ve ever had?
I don’t think I’ve actually had any jobs I would consider weird. Is that weird? But if I could pick a weird job to have, I would say probably Professional Cocktail Namer Guy (Person). I would just go around to all the best bars, try their brand new cocktails, and help them name them. And in Mexico, there are actually people who walk around with batteries giving people shocks, because it supposedly sobers them up. That sounds kinda entertaining, right?
What are your top two guilty pleasures?
Really good whiskey, and really good cigars. It’s not often I get to enjoy them both in the same sitting, so when I do, it’s something I truly relish.
Would you rather be a tiny elephant or a giant hamster?
How tiny of an elephant would I be? Would I fit in a purse? Hamsters are gross, so I would go with the tiny elephant. Mostly because I bet they make super cute noises, and can carry tiny things with their tiny trunks. Also, I could live in a dollhouse, which sounds like a lot of fun.
A penguin wearing a top hat and a monocle walks through the door right now. What does he say and why is he here?
He says “For my first drink, I’ll have all of your whiskey.” And he’s here because he’s a huge Ron Swanson fan. Clearly.