Tag Archives: new knerds

interns 06.19.2012 small

Introducing the Interns

Every summer, the seams of our office stretch a bit to accommodate a few good interns. This year is no exception. We’ve got a crop of impressive college students, recent graduates, and grad students here to prove — once again — that age is no measure of errand-running talent.

Just kidding. The only coffee these interns will be fetching is their own — and they’ll need it. All of them will be digging into some pretty complex projects while they’re here.

Here’s a bit of background on each of our seven new team members.

Andersen Chen (bottom center) is a rising junior at Brown University, majoring in Mathematics and Computer Science. Andersen is from Brookline, MA, and this is his first time living in NYC for an extended period of time. He’s looking forward to using his math skills to solve problems in adaptive learning — and eating plenty of Chobani yogurt from the Knewton kitchen. You can find Andersen on the web at andersenchen.com.

Matthew Suozzo (top right) grew up on the Upper West Side of NYC and just just completed his freshman year in his native ‘hood, at Columbia University’s School of Engineering. Matthew is a Computer Science major; he has big plans this summer to build a new desktop (computer, that is, not surface). Matthew is also on the Ultimate Frisbee team at Columbia and although it’s true that he’s been a great addition to our weekly games so far, we promise that’s not the (only) reason we hired him.

Zack Newman (bottom left) is also studying Computer Science at Columbia. He hails from Sterling, VA, right near D.C., and is glad to be in New York this summer where he can obtain food after the late hour of 8 p.m. Zack enjoys reading, going to concerts, and sleeping. As for secret talents, he can touch his nose with his bottom lip — although he warns that you’ll probably regret asking him to demonstrate that one.

Kevin Mullin (bottom right) just completed the first year of his two-year Masters program in Computer Science at NYU. Originally from Chicago, Kevin is looking forward to a (brief) break from studying this summer. Though Kevin says his favorite kitchen snack is water, we’re hopeful he’ll be tempted to expand his horizons by the end of the summer. (Yogurt-covered almonds? Popcorn? Chobani? The possibilities are endless.)

Joy Zheng (top left) is a rising sophomore at Harvard University, where she’s trying to decide whether to major in computer science, math, or combination of the two. Joy, who is from Seattle, is particularly excited about NYC’s food scene — she’s a self-described “huge foodie,” not to mention a turducken expert (she’s made one for the past two Thanksgivings). At Harvard, Joy is one of the head problem writers for the 2013 Harvard-MIT Math Tournament and also works on operations for the Harvard International Review.

Dylan Sherry (top center) is a fresh graduate of MIT, where he studied electrical engineering and computer science. Dylan was born in San Diego, CA and grew up on the other side of the country, in Portland, ME. He plays jazz saxophone, and is looking forward to checking out all the great music around the city. Dylan also loves trying new recipes (these almond and raspberry shortbread thumbprint cookies are a favorite), mountain biking, kayaking, hiking, camping, and most recently, knitting. Plus — Dylan once dissected a human arm. And that’s all we’ll say about that.

Tarik Tosun (unpictured) is originally from Wilmington, Delaware. He just graduated from Princeton University with a degree in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. Tarik is a guitarist, pianist, and vocalist, and like Dylan, he’s excited to explore the New York music scene this summer. Tarik is also really into Robotics; he’ll be a Ph.D. student in Robotics/Mechanical Engineering at the University of Pennsylvania in the fall. You can find him online at tariktosun.com.

Welcome Sarah

We’re excited to welcome Sarah Haskins to the Knewton team. Sarah previously worked for the City of New York creating online maps; now, she joins our Platform team as a Senior Software Engineer.

Originally from New Hope, PA, Sarah graduated from North Carolina State University. She’s an avid Crossfitter and runner who is currently training for the 2012 New York City Marathon. She also enjoys embroidery (she founded Brooklyn Embroidery back in 2010) and reading (her favorite book is “A Tale of Two Cities”).

Sarah can be found on Twitter @SarahHaskins. We’re glad to have her here!


Welcome Urjit

We’re psyched to introduce our newest Knerd, software engineer Urjit Bhatia. Originally from Baroda, India, Urjit received his MS in Computer Science from Georgia Tech. He’s excited about the “amazing energy levels” at Knewton and ready to help make a positive impact on education.

Urjit’s favorite book is “The Lord of the Rings” and his favorite music is Punjabi Sufi. In his free time, he enjoys photography, video games, and cooking. He can found on Twitter @urjitbhatia and on LinkedIn here.

Welcome to the team, Urjit!

Welcome Alex

Our latest hire is Alejandro (Alex) Companioni, who joins Knewton as a Jr. Software Engineer. Originally from Miami, Alex graduated from the University of Florida. Before joining Knewton, he was a student at NYU, studying for his Masters in Computer Science; prior to grad school, he worked as a research assistant at the Federal Reserve Board. Says Alex: “Using what I know about computer science and machine learning to change education is by far the coolest job I’ve ever had.”

Alex’s favorite books are Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace and pretty much anything ever written by Michael Lewis. While he says there’s too much good music out there to name his favorite band, the all-powerful iTunes tells him that he’s really digging My Bloody Valentine, Chromatics, and Sonic Youth these days. When coding his tastes skew more toward electronic stuff — Orbital, Booka Shade, and LTJ Bukem are favorites at the moment.

You can find Alex at the (infrequently updated) http://acompa.net or on Twitter @achompas. We’re excited to have him here!

Welcome Gavin, Nikos, and Sudhama

We welcomed three rookie Knerds in the past few weeks. We’re psyched to have them, and thought we’d share a few fun facts about each new member of our team.

Nikos Michalakis is the newest engineer on our Platform team. Originally from Athens, Greece, Nikos graduated from MIT and worked previously as a Senior Engineer at Adserving at Adconion Media Group. In his free time, Nikos writes and illustrates stories that teach kids about computer science and technology (check out facebook.com/DrTechniko for more). Nikos’ favorite books are Isaac Asimov’s Foundation Series. His proudest accomplishment is his 11-month old son.

Gavin Linkens joins Knewton as a Systems Administrator. A native of Lititz, PA and a graduate of York Technical Institute, Gavin previously worked as a User & Systems Support Associate at New Visions for Public Schools. His favorite book is The Hobbit and his favorite movie is Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy. When he’s not working you can find him playing fantasy sports and video games or cheering on his favorite sports teams (including the New York Mets, Buffalo Bills, and New Jersey Devils). Gavin also enjoys traveling: recently, he’s been to Japan, the Caribbean, and Africa.

Sudhama Bhatia joins our tech team as a Software Engineer. Originally from Mumbai, India, Sudhama graduated with an MS in Computer Science from NYU and previously worked as a software programmer at a financial firm. He loves music (his favorite band is U2), his iPhone, and playing sports regularly (squash in particular). In his free time, Sudhama also enjoys practicing the darbuka, a kind of Turkish drum. He says that his passion for education began even before coming to Knewton and considers organizing a book collection drive for over 2000 underprivileged kids one of his proudest accomplishments. Find him on Twitter @SudhamaBhatia.


Welcome Lauren, Solon, Sam, and Will

February may be the shortest month, but we’ve still managed to find time to welcome a whole bunch of new employees to Knewton. Here’s a bit of background on each new member of our team:

Lauren North joins Knewton as the HR and Operations Associate. Originally from Southhampton, England, Lauren received her BSc Psychology from Loughborough University and her MSc Organizational Psychology from Goldsmiths University, London. Before coming to Knewton, she worked for the electrical engineering company ABB, in a two-year HR rotational program that allowed her to live in amazing countries such as Switzerland, Malaysia, and India. That’s not the only traveling Lauren’s done, either: before going to university, she spent 8 months living with the Masai tribe in Tanzania.

Sam Thomson comes to Knewton as a Software Engineer on our Adaptive Learning Team. Previously, Sam worked as a Lead Software Developer at sulia.com, where he organized, ranked, and filtered Twitter by topic. Sam hails from Townshend, VT and graduated from Cornell University. His favorite musician is Ahmad Jamal, and he couldn’t live without the internet, good company, and VT cheddar. Other hobbies include playing jazz piano, robotics, and tennis. Find Sam on Twitter @sammthomson.

Will Cross joins the Adaptive Learning team as a Data Analyst. In the simplest possible terms, Will says, “I figure out when data is lying.” Before coming to Knewton, he taught physics to high school freshman in Newark. Prior to that, he spent most of his life in California, attending UC-San Diego for undergrad and UC-Irvine for grad school. Will’s proudest accomplishments are his two kids, who, he says, “my wife tells me are mine.” In his free time, he enjoys financial modeling, politics, economics, and video games. Will once caught a wild bat with his bare hands in a crowded airport terminal; we have no doubt that prowess will come in handy someday in the jungle that is Union Square!

Solon Gordon is the newest member of our Quality Assurance (QA) team. When asked how he would explain his job to his (or someone else’s) grandmother, Solon said, “I try to imagine anything that could go wrong with our products and find it before a customer does.” Originally from Wilbraham, MA, Solon graduated from Oberlin College and Conservatory of Music. He’s still putting that music education to good use by moonlighting as a collaborative pianist. Solon’s favorite movie is Annie Hall, and he couldn’t live without fresh bread, headphones, and public transit.

Welcome Yair and Franc

We welcomed two new team members in the first month of 2012 — Yair Tygiel and Franc Camps-Febrar. We’re psyched to have them here, and made sure to grill them with a few introductory questions before they got too settled. Here’s what we learned:

Yair joins Knewton as the Executive Assistant. When I asked him how he would describe his new role to his grandmother, Yair said, “I’m the right hand man to a few great minds and we’re trying to make education better for everyone (only it would be in Hebrew so you probably wouldn’t understand it.” Duly noted. Hebrew isn’t the only language Yair knows; he once hitchhiked from San Francisco to Honduras, picking up enough Spanish along the way to test out of the highest level of Spanish classes in college and freeing up enough space in his course schedule to graduate with a double major. Yair grew up in Palo Alto, studied at UC-Santa Cruz, and currently lives in Brooklyn. About the photo: Yair grows an annual mustache to raise money for ‘Movember’ prostate cancer research…. we’re waiting for November to see it for ourselves!

Franc comes to Knewton in the position of Master Data Storyteller. His grandmother-friendly description of his job? “I draw figures to explain whether the students that we work with are learning new things.” Originally from Barcelona, Franc studied at Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona and earned a master’s degree from the City University of New York. His master’s thesis in neuroaesthetics was done at NYU’s Center for Brain Imaging and combined with a documentary on creativity, which “really gave a different way of looking at things.” Franc’s favorite writer is Julio Cortazar, and he couldn’t live without music, the internet, and the sea.

Welcome Ashley and Hyunjin

We’ve had two awesome new team members join us in the past few weeks. We made sure to grill each of them with a few introductory questions before they got too settled in.


Ashley Olentine joins Knewton as a Financial Analyst. She’s from Sterling, Illinois, and has degrees from Colgate University and Harvard Graduate School of Education. Before coming to Knewton, she worked in corporate strategy and investor relations at Scholastic, and way before that, she got her feet wet in the real world with a gig at Dairy Queen. Her favorite book is Special Topics in Calamity Physics and in her spare time, you can find her on the tennis courts.


As associate product manager, Hyunjin Kim will be “coordinating (and hopefully improving) product planning across different teams in the company.” Hyunjin is quite the globetrotter; originally from Seoul, South Korea, she went to school at Harvard, and most recently completed a Masters in Environmental Management at Oxford. While there, she also ran the Emerge Venture Lab, a social venture accelerator that provides support to student entrepreneurs. Three things Hyunjin couldn’t live without? “Dreams, love, and inspiration (by which i mean books, apple pie, and the ocean).” Follow her on Twitter @emergelab and @_hyunjinkim.