Updated April 2024

Raquel Vélez

github: rockbot
twitter: @rockbot (RIP)
instagram: @_rockbot_


Raquel Vélez is the Founder and CEO of Alpine Parrot, an outdoor apparel company that caters specifically to people of size and people of color. She brings with her almost two decades of engineering experience, having received her degree in mechanical engineering from Caltech, worked and studied as a robotics engineer, and eventually shifting over to software engineering and engineering management. Now, as an apparel engineer, she's creatively tackling one of the oldest (and most polluting) industries by creating sustainable, inclusive clothing for a market of people who have so often been neglected in the outdoor space. As a plus sized Latina who discovered her love of the outdoors later in life, Raquel has put an incredible amount of careful consideration into the design of each product, focusing on great fit and quality construction. She was named one of Outside Magazine's Outsiders of the Year 2021 and one of Well+Good Magazine's Changemakers 2023. Raquel has lived in 4 countries, speaks 5 languages, and currently lives in San Francisco.


  • B.S., Mechanical Engineering, California Institute of Technology, 2003-2007. (Caltech President's Scholar, Winner of the Mabel Beckman Prize)
  • Graduate Studies, Robotics Engineering, Università degli Studi di Genova, 2009-2010. Courses in Control Theory, Computer Vision, Neural Networks, Modeling and Control of Robotic Manipulators, and Real Time Operating Systems. (Erasmus Mundus Scholarship Recipient)

Work Experience

Founder and CEO · Alpine Parrot, PBC · 2020 - Present

  • Serving sizes 14-30 and 1X-5X, Alpine Parrot creates technical outdoor apparel that celebrates and encourages people in bigger bodies to take up space outside.
  • Production Strategy
    • Designed and developed the first iteration of Alpine Parrot's inaugural product, the Ponderosa Pants. Created patterns by hand, sewed prototypes, ran fit testing events to develop accurate and innovative grade rules for a wholly misunderstood population of outdoor enthusiasts.
    • Grew a team of contractors and full-time employees to develop and launch the Bristlecone Flannel in the fall of 2021, and the Cypress Shorts and Arroyo Sun Hoodie in the spring of 2023.
  • Sales Strategy
    • Began as a direct-to-consumer brand, launching through a 600% successful Kickstarter campaign in April/May 2021.
    • Generated six-figures in annual recurring revenue within three years in spite of numerous global economic roadblocks.
    • Started Alpine Parrot in 13 independent retail stores for summer 2022 and the local REI program at Folsom and Roseville in fall 2023. Two of the independent retailers are international, in the UK and Australia/New Zealand.
    • Launched the spring 2023 collection on in the spring of 2024.
  • Marketing Strategy
    • Built a loyal community through newsletters, social media, influencers, and ambassadors.
    • Partnered with complementary brands in the outdoor industry to cross-promote products, including Smartwool, Granite Gear, and Nikwax.
    • Participated in giveaways with like-minded brands to grow newsletters and social media followers.
  • Operational Strategy
    • Developed complex financial modeling tools that incorporate the product development cycle, inventory management, and both current and future data.
    • Raised over $500k in pre-seed money from angel investors in the form of SAFE notes.
  • Awards
    • The Ponderosa Pants won multiple awards, including Outside Magazine and Backpacker Magazine's Editor's Choice Award for Summer 2022 and PopSci's Best of What's New 2021.
    • Winner of Outside Magazine's Outsiders of the Year 2021, and featured on multiple podcasts.
    • Inaugural cohort member of the REI Path Ahead Ventures Navigate Accelerator and Square's FORWARD Accelerator.

Engineering Manager, Platform Team · Slack Technologies, Inc. · 2017 - 2020

  • Worked closely with product manager partners and designers to guide a team of 8 hand-picked engineers (front-end and backend) to enhance the experience of finding and installing applications on Slack's platform.
  • Recruited, hired, coached, and promoted engineers to help them grow in their careers and build the best product they could.
  • Created a fun and supportive environment of rapid development and prototyping, despite an uncertain and constantly changing environment.
  • Mentored other engineering managers throughout the engineering organization.

Engineering Manager, Services Team · npm, Inc. · 2014 - 2017

As the first employee, I wore many hats at npm, including:

Member of the Executive Team 2016-2017

  • Sat in on the weekly planning meeting, contributing to company direction, policies, growth/hiring, cross-departmental communication, and more
  • Managed the development of an engineering career ladder (and subsequent career ladders for the whole company)
  • Improved company culture and inclusion through discussions, hiring, policy changes, and process improvements

Engineering Manager of the Services Team 2016-2017

  • Team oversaw the website, the registry, the enterprise product, and operations
  • Managed 8 individual contributors (25% local/85% remote), handling weekly 1:1s, quarterly reviews, mentoring, career growth, and high-level project management
  • Had weekly 1:1s with CEO, CTO, heads of other teams (sales/marketing, support) to ensure cross-team communication
  • Managed hiring and on-boarding of 4 new engineers to the team in Q2/Q3 2017

Engineering Manager of the Web Team 2016

  • Managed team in building out new features in the website
  • Managed 3 individual contributors, handling weekly 1:1s, quarterly reviews, mentoring, career growth, and high-level project management

Technical Lead of the Web Team 2016

  • Oversaw technical discussions while building out new features in the website

Senior Software Engineer, Web Team 2014-2016

  • Created the current-standing website for the company,, in Node.js using the hapi framework
  • Helped build the team from one engineer to four engineers and a designer over two years

Software Developer, Mobile R&D · Sauce Labs · 2013

  • Pushed the envelope in the mobile testing space
  • Contributed to the Appium open source project

Front-End Engineer · Storify · 2013

  • Integrated design and layout changes in HTML5 and CSS as created by Design and Project Teams
  • Developed, tested, and deployed Storify Business featureset in Node.js with Express and MongoDB backend, incorporating APIs from Twitter, Typekit, Stripe, and others for Storify features
  • Developed and resolved bug stories/feature fixes; refactored and pushed code to staging or production as needed; assisted in weekly DevOps rotation
  • Maintained and developed the Storify Chrome Extension and story templates
  • Quickly learned existing codebase, pushed code to production environment in first week

Web Developer · Skookum Digital Works · 2012 - 2013

Chief Technology Officer · Escúchame, Inc. · 2010 - 2012

  • Oversaw the development, performance, and upkeep of the Escúchame Community at
  • Managed a team of in-house and overseas software developers in building the site and adding features as necessary
  • Advocated the organization, promotion, and showcasing of Latina experts, through blog posts, speaking engagements, and networking

Robotics Intern · Applied Minds, Inc. · 2010

  • Refined a reactive planning algorithm for a robotic vehicle using Python
  • Developed and applied planning algorithms for simulated robotic vehicles in a video game environment using C++ and the Panda3D graphics engine
  • Transformed conceptual algorithms from research papers into an applied planning algorithm using OpenCV, Python, and C++

Founder & CEO · Lightbulb Robotics · 2009

  • Consulted for a variety of non- and for-profit organizations to create customized robotics programs appropriate for the institution’s funding, support staff, and student base
  • Motivated audiences through speaking engagements covering such topics as robotics, education, diversity, and leadership

Leader/Co-founder · Robotics Outreach at MIT Lincoln Laboratory (ROLL) · 2008 - 2009

  • Collaborated with other staff to establish the Lab’s first robotics outreach program, designed to stimulate youth interest in science and technology, while working as a full-time system analyst
  • Developed and coordinated an intense weekend workshop robotics series for early high school students, complete with introduction, mentoring with Lincoln Laboratory engineers, and final competition
  • Assisted in the creation of other programs, geared to students ranging from 7 to 17 years of age

System Analyst · MIT Lincoln Laboratory · 2007 - 2009

  • Created models and simulations of advanced technological systems aimed at solving problems of national security; was granted a Secret level security clearance by the Department of Defense
  • Developed an organized sequence of programs to analyze raw data collected in the field for sponsors including the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security (MATLAB)

Project Manager · Caltech RoboRescue Team · 2006 - 2007

  • Initiated and led a new robotics team comprised of fifteen undergraduate students to compete against 30 other teams at the 2007 RoboCup Rescue International Open
  • Raised $30,000 for the team, recruited new members, held weekly meetings with sub-team leaders, and organized design and implementation reviews

Intern in the Chair of Mechanics and Mechatronics · University of Duisburg-Essen · 2006

  • Programmed KUKA industrial robots to assist in biomechanical research related to determining stresses in the human arm
  • Developed algorithms for taking measurements using both C++ and the KUKA Control Panel and for analyzing the data using MATLAB’s optimization toolbox

Summer Underground Research Fellow · NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory Machine Vision Group · 2004

  • Simulated and implemented a person-follower robotic behavior, which enabled the robot to continuously follow and maintain view of its target (MATLAB, C)
  • Wrote a proposal, several progress reports, and presented a final technical paper as part of the fellowship

Technology Expertise

  • Languages: JavaScript, HTML5, CSS3, C, C++, Python, MATLAB
  • Platforms: Node.js, Wordpress
  • Databases: MongoDB, MySQL, Redis, CouchDB

Personal Technology Projects

While I don’t get very much time to code for fun anymore (I’ve got a slew of other things I like to do in my minimal spare time these days), here are some projects I’m known for:

Conference Speaking/Teaching

I have spoken at more than 30 conferences around the world, in both English and Spanish (so far). I have spoken about robotics, web development, and personal development. Please refer to the full list of conference talks, complete with links to the videos (if available).

Some of my personal favorite talks:


  • World Economic Forum Global Shapers Charlotte Hub, Vice Chair (2011 – 2013)
  • Latin American Coalition, Board Member (2011 – 2012)
  • Hackerspace Charlotte, Board Member and Press Liaison (2011 – 2012)

Honors and Awards

  • Special Recognition for Community Outreach by the Laboratory Director, MIT Lincoln Laboratory (2009)
  • Minority Student Education Outstanding Service Award, California Institute of Technology (2007)
  • Caltech President’s Scholar, California Institute of Technology (2003 – 2007)
  • Research In Science and Engineering Award Winner, German Academic Exchange Service (2006)