Ingrid Brown, CEO of Codigo, LLC, recently sat down with the Juncture to discuss the tech company, Ingrid’s experience in the field of technology, her entrepreneurial family roots, and more. Codigo is a Nashville based company, but Ingrid has aspirations of technologically advancing the whole south. Between her jet-setting schedule and providing love and life skills to her young daughter, Ingrid penciled us in for an interview while also coordinating with her email provider to work out service issues.
Juncture Magazine: Thank you for taking the time to speak with The Juncture Mag! How are you today?
Ingrid: “It’s going pretty good. I have a lot on my plate, but I can’t complain.”
JM: What do you prefer to be called and what are your preferred pronouns?
I: “I prefer to be called Ingrid, and my preferred pronoun would be ‘we’. The we is because it’s been ‘I’ for so long. And the I changed to we when I had my daughter. And the I completely went away. My personal life went away. That changed my trajectory from just what I want to do.
“In my professional life, I’ve been an IT consultant for 15 years, and I’ve been traveling around the country doing work. I would be on a project for months. And I would see the same people, and they eventually asked, ‘what do you do?’ Then the interest became, ‘how do I get into that?’ People would ask me to do trainings, and I didn’t want to. [I thought], ‘I’m happy with what I’m doing.’ So, it changed to we, because I thought, ‘wow Ingrid, your skills aren’t about you. It’s about giving back and elevating other people.’
I clarified that I was referring to gender pronouns and Ingrid expressed elated surprise.
I: “I’ve never been asked that! You’re totally teaching me. That’s relevant, that’s an important question. You can’t make assumptions about things. The attempted comfortability…you can’t settle [for it] anymore. You have to be flexible. Whether it’s gender, political views, religious views. Wow, this is so huge for me. I’m gonna tell everyone I know. I need to interview you! I have so many questions.” *laughs*
JM: *laughs* Ask away! I saw on your Instagram you went to the Marathon Store. How was that?
I: “It was a surreal experience. I’m also a cofounder of my family’s film festival, so we’re always out there. I was always a fan, and it meant a lot for me to see that. It was a very emotional experience to be standing at the spot where he was shot. The store is closed, but people were coming from all over the world. Black, white, Hispanic, people from the UK, people coming in tour buses, politicians, record label execs. It was overwhelming. To see all the murals and everyone who signed—they need to capture a portion of that and put it in the Smithsonian.”
JM: That sounds really powerful. We have to start a campaign to get Nipsey in the Smithsonian.
I: “Yeah, we do. I mean, honestly, I don’t know who drew those murals, but it was like [Nipsey] was standing there. He’s been gone for a couple months now, and still so many people show up. To have that level of impact, that needs to be preserved in a special way.”
JM: Do you identify as LGBT+ or an ally? (No pressure to answer this or any other questions.)
I: “An ally.”
JM: I’m pretty stoked about Codigo LLC, and I think you are doing big things. Can you tell everyone a little bit about Codigo, LLC?
I: “I’ve been doing IT consulting for 15 years and leading implementations for major Fortune 50 Fortune, 500 companies, such as Verizon, Canon, and Pacific Life. I’ve been blessed enough to be in a lot of spaces as an independent IT consultant. I’ve been working for myself for a long time. I wanted to mix my passion and philanthropy in there a bit. The word Codigo means code in Spanish. I’ve been fluent in Spanish since I was very young. I don’t know why, I don’t have Latin American parents.” *laughs*
“The focus is exposing everyone to opportunities in tech. With a special focus on people of color. I’ve talked to so many people who don’t think technology is relevant to them. One of my main messages is, ‘there’s a technical and non-technical side of technology.’ If you wanna code, there’s plenty of opportunity. Then there’s another side that’s not necessarily coding but providing project management and guidance for projects that creates the picture coders need for their projects.
“I want to draw people in. I want a full-service company where you’re engaging in everything. So that we become a voice and a force in this space. The plan is to bring as many people along. With a specific focus on my community. [I want people] to know the trajectory of their life is going to change, because technology is going to change. My goal is that we are not left behind. I want us to be on the cusp, or to be the pioneers.
“I’ve been following Robert Smith for a number of years. He paid off all of Morehouse’s graduates’ student loans. They call him the quiet billionaire. He made a statement that getting into technology is the greatest wealth opportunity we have, greater than owning property. There’s a window to get in it. It’ll pass by eventually. Those who are able to get on the train will benefit. There’s also Andrew Yang, who was talking about by the year 2053 African-Americans will have zero wealth. [I want to] really educate people around the idea that in 2020 there’ll be over a million tech jobs.”
JM: I like what you said about technology not being all about coding. From an outsider’s perspective, tech and coding are so intertwined that it seems you can’t enter the field of tech without coding knowledge and experience.
I: “Most advertisements that display technology only focus on coding. I work with coders and developers to say this is how we’re going to configure this particular system. I do testing—before anything even gets to coders, I deal with it. [People] don’t realize, ‘hey, to be in this space, I can code if I want to, but I don’t have to.’ You can get top jobs at Google and Apple without having a [computer science] degree. My thing is to educate and invest my time in doing implementations. There aren’t many of us [African-Americans] out there. A lot of times it’s just me in a room.”
JM: I frequently find myself the only black person in a room. It’s so uncomfortable.
I: “It is. I’m from North Carolina so I understand. It’s an elitist space. Ain’t a whole bunch of us up in here doing this.”
JM: Do you think many high school graduates enter college with the intent to major in tech, computer science, IT?
I: “No. And you know, I had a friend in college majoring in computer science, and I thought, ‘why would you want to do that?’ I think there needs to be more exposure [to] that information.”
JM: I’ve recently gotten into coding, and sometimes wish I had picked it up in college. I think the tech world can seem shrouded in mystery sometimes. There could be an assumption it’s so far off the beaten path.
I: “I went to a friend who said—I’ll never forget—I told her I’d be launching Codigo soon. And she was astonished that I would be starting a tech company. She said, ‘I’ll never be able to do that.’ Because everyone assumes tech is only about coding. People do not believe that they can be a player here.”
JM: I spoke with Mo, founder and CEO of Culture Energized. And she said something I’ll never forget, “I have to tell myself what I have to offer has value.”
I: “You know, that’s very true. Sometimes I have to resist the urge to stay in bed with the blanket over my head.” *laughs* “[I tell myself], ‘Yeah, Ingrid you’re real. You’re not an imposter. You have real expertise in this area.’ I had an international client who wanted to work with me, before I even launched. I was scared. I was terrified. I thought, ‘I’m not really who I say I am.’ But I am and I did it.
“I don’t have a whole lot of followers on my [Instagram] page. But I was named by Twitter as an influencer. You don’t have to have a lot of followers. You just have to carry the conversation. And so, they gave me a badge, Facebook too. You don’t have to have a lot of followers to impact what’s going on around you. We have to be confident in who we are and not allow the numbers to scare us away.”
JM: What are some of the services/programs you offer?
I: “Education—there’s huge initiative around learning. I offer webinars and master classes such as, ‘I want in: Jumpstarting my tech career.’ And then the next course I’ll be doing is about how to be a consultant. I won’t even get into being an IT consultant yet.
“Codigo is also about software implementation and help with business strategies and development around technology. How tech impacts your organization. It’s amazing what organizations go through when they’re adapting to change. It’s important to build positive relationships with people included in the project.
“Also, engaging in new tech products sales and services. I want to get into developing new apps, artificial intelligence and block chains, and robotics. Sometimes I’ll create a think tank where we discuss what we’re doing and where we’re going. I may even outsource someone who doesn’t work with us to give ideas. We’ll also attend tech conferences and talks with tech leaders. We want to be influencers in this space. We want to be feeders in this space. I want to also create a platform for job placements.”
JM: I love the ambition! Where do you work?
I: “Right now I’m based in Nashville, Tennessee. My goal is to open offices in Charlotte, North Carolina, Atlanta, and expand from there. But I am a nomad. I have projects all over the country. And I spend very little time at home.”
JM: When you travel, does your daughter come?
I: “For the first five years of her life, I would bring her and put her in Montessori schools. And she loved it, with her little suitcase going through TSA. When she turned five, she had to be in a stable school, so we’re trying to figure out what education she’s going to have that’s flexible. She’s too social to be homeschooled. So, we’re trying to find the right situation for her to keep her happy.”
JM: Do you have specific hopes for her career path yet?
I: “I want her to have a solid foundation. And not just because she’s my daughter, but she’s so multi-faceted. She excels in sports, academically, and creatively. When I meet people [while working] in India, many have a base in technology. It’s a part of the education [system] from age 4 on up. I would like for her to of course create her own path, but I’ve given her a foundation. I put her in robotics courses to make sure the foundation is there. I engage her in every interest she has.” In faux-exasperation, Ingrid declares, “If I write another book, build another car, or have another bake sale…” *laughs* “That’s my life. She’s fast, athletic, she can climb.”
JM: She can do it all! She sounds so admirable. What does diversity and inclusion look like to you? How do you strive toward more inclusion and diversity?
I: “Well, that’s been very relevant for me in the film festival and in what I’m doing today. My diversity and inclusion quote on my website says, ‘we live in a diverse world.’ Because we’re not represented in this space, my goal is making sure we have great [African-American] talent, but also good people of any race and ethnicity as well. So, one is filling a much-needed space of bringing us in. But then there’s the side of the company where we want talented people of any race that want to contribute and execute the mission of the company.”
JM: You mentioned your family founded a film festival. Can you talk a bit more about that?
I: “It’s called the International Black Film Festival. My mother founded it. My mother, myself, and my sister run it now. We put on 60-70 events over the course of 3 days. We are 14 years old this year. It’s interesting because today everyone’s focus, even in film, is centered around technology. A huge part of the film festival is supporting the independent filmmaker and providing education and access for independent filmmakers. We have a program for children called the Imagine Me children’s program. [With the festival] I get to engage my creative side and my technical side. And the two worlds crossover and marry in a lot of ways. We invite everyone to come out.”
JM: This may be redundant, but do you think the work you do is important, and why?
I: “I absolutely believe that it’s important. I think the picture’s bigger than just the job for us. In 2053 we [African-Americans] will have 0% wealth. I want to disprove it. Attack it and tear it apart. I want to provide a way for us to be healthy and enjoy wealth and opportunity. I think the technology space is a place where we can do that. I want to educate people and bring them in. And bringing people into the fold is not only educating them but giving them access to the actual work being done. And encouraging them to develop and create their own ideas.”
JM: I worked with a woman back in Virginia once, and after a particularly hard day she said to me, ‘don’t you get tired of working for someone else? Don’t you want to have something to call your own?’
I: “I grew up and went to school dreaming for the big corner office, VP or CEO level, work my way through the ranks. And that’s what my friends did—it was all about working for someone else. My daughter’s bake sales are more than selling goods. It’s entrepreneurial. These are the things entrepreneurs do. She’s very aware of the platform of owning your own business. So, I educate her on that. My grandfather, an original Buffalo Soldier, received a purple heart, bronze metal, several high accolades.
“When GW Bush was in office, they wanted to honor him long after the war. He wouldn’t go. I think that spirit of entrepreneurship and hard work came from him, who owned one of the largest farms in North Carolina. He employed so many people within the city. I have so much respect from what I learned from working hard. Every day of his life he had that farm produce and work. As an adult I go, ‘wow, he had an enterprise for 40-50 years on almost 200 acres he owned by himself.’ I didn’t recognize at the time. So, I think it’s in our bones. I think the spirit of entrepreneurship was planted in me and I’m paying it forward with my daughter, and nieces and nephews.”
JM: I admire that not only do you know your stuff, but you aren’t afraid to own that you know it.
I: “Thank you. I appreciate that. I watched a project manager when I worked at Pacific Life. An Indian woman who also knew her stuff. She didn’t care what the CEO had to say, she knew what she knew. And that really encouraged me.
“At a major brand I worked for, I worked with a group of people who had been doing a project. When they brought me on, none of the work they said they had done had been done. I knew they wanted me to take the project live, and I refused. I said, ‘You’re not ready. I don’t know what you’ve been doing, but you have to tell the company that it hasn’t been done.’ They hated me. But by the time it was over, the president personally came and thanked me for standing my ground. I wanted to leave so bad. I cried, I wanted to quit. But at the end of the it all, they did a celebration for me. I didn’t give in for the two men who tried to push me to cover it up. They tried to fire me and find someone else, but the company supported me. I documented that I spoke to staff over and over again. To your point about being confident in what you know—I had to remind myself, ‘Ingrid, you’re not playing at this. You’re not a faker. You’ve done this. Just move forward.’
JM: Did you celebrate the 4th of July?
I: “Oh, my gosh. You don’t wanna know what I did. I upset a bunch of white people.” *laughs*
Off the record, Ingrid explained a story in which she rightfully called out people invoking racist imagery on the 4th of July.
JM: Thank you for speaking with us. Is there one last message you want to send out before the interview closes?
I: “Just that I’m excited to be in this space. I’m excited to be a voice in this space. I know that it’s been confirmed that I belong here. I want to share my knowledge and bring others along for the journey.”
The Juncture Mag staff