This is a part of a series of posts introducing team Iggy. Meet Ben de Jesus, web designer and front end engineer!
Talk to me about your background – how did you get here?
I started with a design degree from SF State, doing graphic and web design for a small agency, doing a bit of print work as well as creating different kinds of collateral marketing and conferences. Early on, I got to work on a lot of different types of projects, but was really drawn to designing and building functional things like dashboards and webapps. I eventually found myself in engineering teams as a frontend engineer, designing and building UIs and other user-facing interfaces. I like building things that are usable and accessible.
When I met Lindsay, through a mutual colleague, I was intrigued by the prospect of making geospatial data easier to work with. I got to work on some geospatial data at a previous company, and Iggy seemed like a great opportunity to continue to learn more and expand my knowledge and experience.
Without using complete sentences, can you describe what’s going on in your life at the moment?
House-hunting in the Bay Area. Looking forward to the NBA playoffs. Planning a trip to Norway.
If you could choose a career besides the one you have now, what would it be?
A video game streaming celebrity.
Where’s your favorite place in San Francisco?
I really like this bakery called B Patisserie. It's about a 15 minute walk from where I live, so it's close enough to walk to. They make really good kouign amanns and croissants, and it never gets overly crowded.
Another one of my favorite places in the Bay Area is this hike in the Headlands called the Matt Davis loop. It’s really cool because you start off along the coast with a view of the Pacific Ocean, and then you go down into Redwoods along a river and then eventually through hillsides before looping back towards the beach.
What quality do you most admire in someone else?
I admire how some people can be really outgoing and be able to strike up a conversation with random people.
If you could eat only three dishes/meals for the rest of your life, what would they be?
I think I’d have to go with Pilipino food. There's this dish called Kare Kare – it's basically oxtail in peanut sauce stew. After that would be Pho and Japanese Tonkatsu Curry-Rice.
What’s your favorite clothing item you own?
I really liked the Iggy hoodie that we got to pick for ourselves. It’s from this brand called Nau from Portland. I like the styles of the clothing that they make and all the materials that they use are 100% recycled. And then once you're done with that piece of clothing, like if you want to throw it away, you could just send them back and they'll take care of reusing and recycling it.
What’s the first app or website you open when you wake up, and the last one you close before you go to sleep?
In the morning, I usually catch up on the news through SFGate, which is a local news outlet, and npr.org. My partner and I have been watching a lot of anime lately so we would binge some shows on CrunchyRoll before going to bed in the evenings.
In one or two lines, how would you want to be remembered?
I guess I want to be remembered through the photos that I've taken over my life. I’m not sure if I would have words to describe my life, but I like the idea of being remembered for my art.
What’s your worst habit at home?
Probably leaving dirty dishes in the sink for too long until they pile up, and then someone has to do them.
What was a formative turning point in your life?
Immigrating to the US was a big one. That was when I was 11 years old.
What is a current podcast that you’re listening to/book you’re reading that you are enjoying or ones that you connected with recently?
I really like the 99% Invisible podcast. It really speaks to my love for design and the little details that we don’t think about on a day-to-day basis.
Singing or dancing?
Beach or mountains?
Tattoos or piercings?
Movies or Theater?
Weightlifting or cardio?
Hot tub or hot spring?
Sunrise or sunset?
Fiction or nonfiction?
Horror or comedy?
Mos Def or A Tribe Called Quest?
I thought I wanted to be an engineer for a Formula One team (kind of ridiculous in retrospect), so at the time I majored in mechanical engineering. Long story short, I was programming every night instead of doing my mechanical engineering homework, so I eventually decided to leave to find a job building software.
My background is mixed. I was an English major originally, and pivoted to environmental science and biology later in college. In graduate school, I got interested in quantitative / computational ecology and testing ecological theory using historical observational data, experiments, and computer simulations. I worked as an applied ecologist at Northern Arizona University for a couple of years, before co-founding a company called Conservation Science Partners in 2012. We had a tremendous amount of success over the last 10 years, but I was feeling ready for a change in focus.
As I was finishing my PhD, I did Insight Data Science and got hired at Airbnb where I hoped to use geospatial data to work on host growth or something. I was working on the host team as a Data Scientist and I realized that we didn't have any concept of the “context” of our listings… we knew a lot about the listing and its specific characteristics but we didn't really have a way to understand what was nearby. That matters because if you know what’s nearby you can market listings differently (which is sort of what Airbnb is (finally) doing w Categories), you can price more accurately, and you can drastically improve search. That became really compelling to me. I tried to work on an internal project there, but it didn't get a lot of support. So eventually, I decided to leave Airbnb and start Iggy to solve this challenge.