Livie la vida loca
Before we bid a fond farewell to our intern Livie Jacks, we took some time to sit down and chat about her experience working with us here in the studio this summer. A rising senior at Harvard University focusing her studies on statistics and data science, Livie has been a wonderful addition to the Fathom team over the last few months!

This summer we had the pleasure of having Livie join us in our Boston office. From unpacking complex codebases to having some fun experimenting with our office tools, Livie spent her weeks with us contributing to several projects and participating in the Fathom design and development process firsthand. We loved having the opportunity to get to know Livie and we’re sure you will too:

We’ll miss you, Livie!

What’s your major?

I’m a rising senior studying statistics and data science with a secondary in psychology. I first got interested in statistics my junior year of high school - I had always liked math, and after taking my first stats class, I finally felt like I could apply math to anything I wanted. It wasn’t until my freshman year of college that I discovered data science through taking Raj Chetty's “Using Big Data to Solve Economic and Social Problems”. I decided then that this is what I wanted to major in, because it felt like I could make such powerful statistical conclusions and predictions with data applied to sociology and psychology. I had never touched code before that class, so it was a really interesting experience to be picking up that skillset later than some of my other peers.

How did you get interested in data visualization and what we do here at Fathom?

I was officially introduced to data visualization when I took a class with Professor Hans Pfister last fall, but my first experience with it was when a data journalist at the New York Times presented some of his dynamic mapping work at my high school. I had never realized what the “data process” was or what any steps were in making a visualization, but that experience certainly sparked my curiosity. Through Professor Pfister’s class, I became particularly interested in creative and design-centric ways of visualizing data because of the real-world impact that comes from making data accessible to a larger population. Olivia and Mark came in as guest speakers for the class, and it was during their presentation on Fathom’s work that I realized what a big need there is for exactly what Fathom does; I wanted to help fill that need.

What was a highlight or challenge of your internship?

A challenge for me was making my way through the backend of one of our projects, trying to understand what parameters were involved in which components, what each of them manipulated, and how it affected the course and final outcome of the project.

Livie helping to test Operation Outbreak - one of the many projects she contributed to this summer.

It was incredibly rewarding to have this understanding by the end and be able to help in ways that were unique to the team. Seeing changes that I both created and helped implement appear in the final product after that challenge made it even better. I have felt this contribution for multiple projects throughout the summer, and I owe this to everyone at Fathom; it's really special for a place to cultivate that level of inclusion. Being in a role where I actually can add value and have an individualized experience has been really rewarding; I am so grateful to the Fathom team for helping me express that, and allowing room for me to contribute.

Another highlight was getting to work with the various tools in the studio, particularly the AxiDraw. It was one more way of expressing creativity and exploring new ideas that was a theme throughout my summer. I am really looking forward to bringing this bolstered passion for design to other projects and applications in my future.

Live firing up our drawing machine to write a heartfelt goodbye letter to the Fathom team.

What will you take forward from this experience into your senior year?

Taking more of a creative approach to problem solving and feeling able to experiment and try things out without the feeling like a first draft needs to be perfect. It is so much better to get a bunch of ideas out there somewhere - even just on a personal note page - rather than be held back by the fear of early concepts being too incomplete or far off to be worth writing down.

I also really appreciate the value of diverse skillsets and perspectives when approaching a problem. The whole of the Fathom team can produce such amazing tools because there are so many unique contributions from each team member. Regardless of how many people may be working on a specific project, each person here is involved in some way, as the work done is always shared and critiqued by everyone. The whole really is more than the sum of its parts here, and that has been something quite remarkable to see and take part in.

We’re always looking for curious and motivated interns from a wide range of disciplines and backgrounds to join our team! While most interns are here during the summer, we’re also open to students joining us during the fall or spring and accept applicants on a rolling basis. We wish Livie all the best as she heads into her senior year!

We’d love to hear what you’re working on, what you’re intrigued by, and what messy data problems we can help you solve. Find us on the web, drop us a line at hello@fathom.info, or subscribe to our newsletter.