Employee Interview: Ariel Jackson

Today’s interview is with Ariel Jackson, an upcoming junior at The University of Chicago. Ariel is majoring in Math and Computer Science, and is a Software Engineering Summer Intern at Parallel Works.

Q: Where are you from and where are you based now?

A: I’m originally from Charleston, South Carolina. Now that I go to the University of Chicago, I live in Chicago (specifically, Hyde Park). I love Chicago, especially during the summer.

Q: What attracted you to Parallel Works initially?

A: I’m majoring in Computer Science and Mathematics, so I was interested in working for a company that dealt with scientific and mathematical problems. I was also interested in working with computer systems, so the chance to work on cloud computing excited me.

Q: What is your favourite aspect of working in PW currently?

A: I love that even though I’m an intern, I still feel like I’m such a part of the team. Everyone treats me like I’m a part of the company. Also, since we’re such a small start-up, the projects I work on and workflows I develop actually contribute to the company. It feels good to have my work impact Parallel Work’s future.

Q: What has been an area that you’ve had to work in that was unexpected?

A: I never realized how important it is to write good documentation. I’ve been documenting everything I work on, and also helping improve the Parallel Works platform documentation.  I didn’t know how challenging it can be to write concise, descriptive, and well-organized documentation, but it’s definitely an important skill to learn.

Q: What is the best thing about working in an incubator?

A: The best thing is the collaborative atmosphere. Even though it can be loud at times, I love that there’s lots of different companies and people working all around us. There’s so many companies working on really spectacular ideas, and it’s motivating to hear what the people around you are doing. It never gets boring. I also love the free food.

Q: What is your favorite programming language and why?

A: Probably Python. I didn’t really use Python that often until this summer, but I love how clean it can be. More than its usability, I like that the documentation is very clear and there are answers online about any question you might have.

Q: Where would you like to travel to next and why?

A: I want to travel to San Francisco. I have a lot of friends (and Michela, of course!) out there working at tech companies, and I’ve heard it’s an amazing city. I also want to visit because I’ve considered moving out there someday. My best friend lives there, so I’ll be going in September.

Q: What do you like to do in your free time?

A: One thing I’m really interested in is tech outreach. I’m the corporate director for FEMMES, which is an outreach organization designed to teach computer science and engineering fundamentals to middle school girls on the South Side. This summer, I’m also helping teach a class called “Sports and STEM” at Rainbow PUSH, a non-profit founded by the Reverend Jesse Jackson. During the school year, I’m also a part of TechTeam, which does technical consulting for civic organizations. Besides tech outreach, I also like working on my own projects, reading, and going to the lake.

Q: What’s your ideal lunch to get when you’re at the Polsky Exchange?

A: Recently I’ve been going to Native Foods a lot, since it’s like 5 minutes away. However, when we’re able to take a longer lunch break, I love getting Thai 55 or Snail Thai. Of course, my favorite food is the periodic free food in the Polsky Exchange kitchen.