Finding the right beat: from Hip Hop Artist to New Collar Coder

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When in doubt, rap it out. Randy Tolentino, a new collar IBMer with a non-traditional background, has been composing his life for the last 13 years in unconventional ways – and he hasn’t skipped a beat.

From growing up in a military family to writing songs as an independent hip hop artist, Tolentino’s path to success has relied on three essential skills: resilience, dedication, and passion.

Resilience, dedication and passion have been the key to Randy Tolentino’s new collar career reinvention.

“You can accomplish the things that matter to you.  Sometimes that might mean sacrificing sleep or pouring all of your life’s savings into one effort,” said Tolentino now a front-end developer for the CIO organization at IBM. “It takes a lot of patience, dedication, and loving what you do, but it’s worth it.”

Although Tolentino hasn’t been actively busting out his lyrics in front of crowds within the last five years, his devotion to constantly evolving his skillset – to remain relevant and valuable across multiple industries – has been the heart and soul of his new collar career path.

Organizations need more unique employees with the right mix of skills, and “new collar” jobs in America are opening up non-traditional career paths that help companies and individuals thrive. By hiring individuals for skillsets and real-world experiences, rather than solely credentials, companies gain the flexibility to recruit and retain the best candidate for a specific position in emerging areas like design, cloud and augmented intelligence.

The skills Randy Tolentino acquired and enhanced along his journey have been anything but ordinary. When he graduated from high school in Japan, he was unsure about his future. So, he began working for the local Youth Services Program and took a few courses at an extension of the University of Maryland in Japan. But, he knew he wanted to make a bigger impact on youth.

Tolentino returned to the United States a year later to pursue a liberal studies degree, but quickly found himself investing more of his time on his passions – hip hop and rap. Rather than focusing on his education, he embarked on a 10-year journey as an independent West Coast hip hop artist and rapper.  He also worked a handful of side roles as a Montessori teacher assistant, transitional aid for students with Autism, youth leader, and program supervisor for a literacy program.

Meanwhile, he also met the love of his life and started a family.

In 2011, he left the music industry to provide a better life for his wife and newborn son, and began serving as a supervisor at the YMCA in San Diego. But his salary and situation weren’t leading down the road Randy envisioned for himself, or his growing family.

“I felt stuck, desperate, and a lot of this was on me,” said Tolentino. “As I was driving after work one morning, I turned down the radio and asked myself ‘Randy, what are you going to do to provide a nice life for your family?’ It took me five seconds to realize that I wanted to spend the rest of my life in technology.”

He immediately enrolled in online classes and graduated Magnum Cum Laude with an IT degree in two years. Unfortunately, having a piece of paper still didn’t make him the ideal job candidate.

Randy applied to over 60 jobs and encountered over 60 rejections. Then he was accepted into the MakerSquare software development camp in Austin, Texas (now Hack Reactor), and acquired the right set of coding and software skills to land his first role as an associate web developer. As time passed, he was ready for the next challenge: to work at an enterprise technology firm.

He got a chance to attend an IBM Friends and Family Day, and was so inspired by the designers’ creativity and compassion that he contacted IBM’s recruitment team.

In June 2015, he entered IBM through the IBM Design Boot Camp, and joined IBM’s Whitewater team within the Transformation and Operations business unit in September 2015. Randy’s role is one of a growing number of positions at IBM that do not require a four year college degree. Today, he works closely with a team of designers and engineers to produce user-centered, high quality software and transform the way IBMers work by introducing modern tools and agile practices to increase the efficiency of product teams worldwide.

“You have to take risks, pursue what is important to you, and give back to those who helped you along the way,” said Tolentino. “I used to write lyrics, and now I write code. Thanks to IBM, I have been able to draft the lines to my own story in ways I would have never imagined.”

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Media Contact:
Adam R. Pratt
Ph: (202) 551-9625
arpratt@us.ibm.com