When Saul Jaramillo moved from Colombia to Miami 15 years ago, he couldn’t communicate well in English and came off as arrogant. But he was just timid because he couldn’t speak English fluently.
“I have an accent, and I was embarrassed by it, so I wouldn’t talk to people in school. By the end of the semester, classmates told me they thought I was acting like I was better than them,” said Jaramillo, 30. “People were misinterpreting me.”
Jaramillo thought it would be nice to be able to permanently preserve the feedback from others and learn from it, so he created a platform to archive the information for people to see a glimpse of their character and personality.
In 2013, Jaramillo launched a free app called DescribeMe for Android and Blackberry. It now has more than 23,000 users and was just released for the iPhone.
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The app is a social platform that allows users to rate each other anonymously on a scale of 1 to 10 in six different categories: personality, looks, career, lifestyle, relationships and skills.
“The aim is to provide meaningful feedback by letting our imperfections inform us in what we can improve, personally and professionally,” said Jaramillo, adding that it serves as a medium to show people areas they can develop, making them aware of how they carry themselves, by raising their consciousness, and it keeps track of the changes. “As long as I know, DescribeMe is helping people, that is what gives me satisfaction.”
Jaramillo, who is a development analyst officer at a private bank, makes sure to keep the app up to date with algorithms, or mathematical codes, that detect irregularities in the software patterns.
“The algorithm I created allows me to detect defamation and bullying, so we can keep DescribeMe as accurate as possible at all times,” Jaramillo said. “If the system detects unusual patterns, it notifies me and blocks the behavior. It’s called a trust network, which basically means how trustworthy the system is.”
With the help of his girlfriend, Sindy Arenas, 25, the company’s executive secretary, and his business partner, Juan Pablo Hernandez, 28, chief operating officer, who heads the social media relations for the app, DescribeMe has gained popularity since it launched.
“We used Instagram to spread the word about DescribeMe, like the ice bucket challenge,” Hernandez said. “One person would explain how they were perceived by others and how they benefited from it and, then, they would tag their friends to create an account, like a domino effect.”
Lina Tejeiro, 23, an actress from Colombia, said that as a public figure, first impressions are important, so the idea behind DescribeMe immediately grabbed her attention.
“It matters to me how people describe me because if the ratings align with how I think I am that means I am presenting myself exactly as I am,” Tejeiro said. “And if I am not, I also want to correct the things I am doing wrong.”
She posted a video on Instagram challenging other peers to put their “ego on the line” and get criticized.
Jaramillo calls Tejeiro one of the pioneer users of DescribeMe.
“The worst thing that can happen to our ego is exposing it. People are afraid of judgment and that was a challenge in the beginning,” Jaramillo said. “The way I like to think about it is that we are giving people an opportunity to change perceptions about themselves that they were unaware of.”
“Some people are afraid to tell others how they really feel. On DescribeMe, they can say it without being offensive,” Hernandez said. “There will always be people who are good at things and others that aren’t, but people know there is always room for improvement.”
DescribeMe, currently available in English and Spanish, has the majority of users in Colombia, Mexico and the United States.
Andres Quiroz, a Miami resident and ground operations coordinator for Jet Blue Airways, has used it since it was launched.
“I get surprised how my friends and other people perceive or notice things about me. The app showed me I could improve at public speaking,” said Quiroz, 29. “DescribeMe helped me improve that skill at work. I began talking more to my colleagues and our teamwork began to prosper.”