We are excited to start a series of blogs to profile our researchers and engineers at Megagon Labs.
Sara Evensen is a software engineer at Megagon Labs. Here is Sara.
What led you to your current position at Megagon?
Back when I was a sophomore in college, I stumbled upon a listing for an undergraduate research position studying mood diaries of individuals with mental illness. This was a topic that was important to me and a project where I would apply the things I was learning in class. There, in the MIT Media Lab, is where I first worked with Yoshihiko Suhara. It was thanks to Yoshi’s mentorship that I realized I wanted to work in research, and when he moved to Megagon Labs and encouraged me to apply for an internship, it was an easy decision.
Since I started in 2018 I’ve found a number of friends and mentors in my colleagues, and my dog, Teddy has even joined the team.
What’s the most interesting thing that happened with your work at Megagon recently?
In the past six months, I worked on both an interview study and a user study. It’s not something I would have predicted, and at the beginning, I felt out of my element— but, I appreciate the greater sense it’s given me about the impact of my work. Technology doesn’t exist in a vacuum, its value comes from the people who use it. Some people think of artificial intelligence/machine learning as a replacement for human problem-solving, but I think the real power comes from augmenting human intelligence by helping us see patterns or grasp information that wasn’t visible before. Why we develop new technology is more important than how we develop it.
What are you looking forward to with your recent work?
We see machine learning all around Silicon Valley growing easier, faster, more scalable— but not necessarily more accessible. We’re developing systems that allow us to feed labeled data to these data-hungry models more easily, by simply showing examples. I also look forward to expanding my math background more by studying high dimensional spaces, since this is what most of our language models give us in the way of embeddings.
What advice would you give to an aspiring software engineer?
Try to find a mentor interested in the same types of problems you are, recognize them, and nurture that relationship. And when you have the chance, turn around and return the favor: spend time teaching people who want to learn.
[To all my colleagues who have spent time teaching me, listening, or being a rubber duck— hi. I see you. I appreciate you. I’m a little worried about your coffee consumption.]
What’s the most underrated activity or place in the Bay Area?
Hard to pick just one.
- Castle rock state park. Beautiful views and excellent rock climbing. But don’t climb too soon after rainfall, it causes erosion. If you’re not sure, make sure the ground is dry.
- Before the shelter-in-place order, Eagle Park on weekday mornings. Some very polite and friendly dogs there. I like to bring Teddy there to keep him involved with the community. Also to remind him that having a job doesn’t make him better than anybody. At the end of the day, they’re all peeing on the same tree.
- Getting free donuts from the dumpster behind Krispy Kreme at closing time.