Meet the Team: Micah Saugen

Our vision for Sivana evolves over time, but one aspect that has stayed consistent is our goal to build and foster a warm and safe community for learners. In the spirit of this resolve, over the course of the next few weeks we will be spotlighting our interns and their work on upcoming improvements to our blog, website, and social media. We look forward to all of you meeting the individuals building our learning community at www.sivana.live!

Today we are joined by Micah:

(Three fun facts: favorite cartoon is Steven Universe, favorite bug is the Pink Haired Tarantula, and favorite screamo band is A Day to Remember)

Bryant:

I know you’re from Chaska, Minnesota. What was it like growing up there near the Twin Cities?

Micah:

I was adopted from Korea when I was three, so that’s how I got there. Chaska is somewhere between farms and suburbs. So, I liked going outside and playing with the salamanders and bugs or hanging out with the neighbors. I only really went to Minneapolis for cello lessons every now and then since I had five other siblings.

Bryant:

Where do you fall age wise with your siblings?

Micah:

I’m the fifth out of six. So, I have one younger brother and 4 older sisters.

Bryant:

Oof, so you were a middle child?

Micah:

Yeah, but we were sort of in pairs.

Bryant:

So a team effort to steal the attention?

Micah:

(laughs) A little. I actually hung out with my older sister a lot, because our interests aligned more. We would go out and catch things together when my brother was too young. I liked going out a lot like whenever there was snow, I’d get excited.

Bryant:

It makes sense that you would go to Chicago, an even colder city, for college then (laughs). Did you ever see the giant mustache that’s in Chaska?

Diego:

That’s a blast from the past (laughs). I think I drove by it. I’m not sure if it’s still there. Chaska’s developing a lot, so there are always new things whenever I go home.

Bryant:

Do you like seeing the changes or do you miss when Chaska was just salamanders and dirt?

Micah:

It’s fine. I’m really just going home to see my mom and my family, so I don’t mind too much.

Bryant:

You’ve worked a lot of jobs, but one of the first things you did was work as a marketing intern, which is what you are now. Can you compare those two experiences working the same job?

Micah:

That experience was at Loyola. I only worked with marketing mail, be it email or actual snail mail. I would write copy, do proofreading, and a lot of the analytics of tracking. I also did a little bit of website work. Compared to what I’m doing now with Sivana, I’d say it’s very different. With Sivana I’m much more on the design side of things, but that marketing background was cool to have, even though I don’t think we’d ever actually send out letters. My work with Sivana is actually more geared towards this new class that I’m taking and I’m glad it’s more modern, especially concerning the environment and all.

Bryant:

Speaking of the environment, you were an environmental intern. Can you describe that experience?

Micah:

That was a really cool opportunity. It was my first environmental internship, which is what I went to school for. I was a clean energy intern focusing on solar energy. The first thing I would do is call companies in the clean energy sector asking for excerpts for our annual report based on metrics defined by the ELPC. Secondly, I would use Google Earth to find under-utilized land and calculate the value of turning them into solar fields. Overall, it was really fun (minus the boring intern work), and I think it showed me what it would be like to work in clean energy. And the problem-solving, and design skills have carried over into my work with Sivana.

Bryant:

Having the ability to drive by any empty lot and notice its potential must be cool.

Micah:

(laughs) It is. I had to do a whole writeup because I coupled the internship with a for-credit course and the benefits almost always outweighed the negatives, but as is true with a lot of environmental work, the start-up cost gets in the way.

Bryant:

You’ve mentioned it a little bit, but how did you get from small-town Minnesota to Loyola University?

Micah:

Well… oh fun fact, when I was in high school I was in a hard-core screamo band.

Bryant:

What was your role?

Micah:

I was the guitarist. I self-taught myself guitar really fast because I wanted to join. And then I was pushed to vocals after our vocalist left, but I couldn’t do that much screaming.

I wasn’t into school when I was in middle school and the beginning of upper school—I skipped a lot, flunked out of Spanish, and was failing a lot of my classes—but I remember my dad took me to a college fair once and told me all about how Loyola was a really good school and I just got this flame in me to go there. After that, I turned my act around and got in. I also wanted to go to a bigger city after growing up in a small town.

Bryant:

Can you describe that process? I feel like a lot of people have had moments when they want to change but ultimately don’t. How did you follow through?

Micah:

I was having issues at home with my mom and ended up living with my best friend and his family the last two years of high school. Once I was in that new warm-loving environment, it fostered a lot of good things in me. I’m not completely sure if that was it. Maybe I wanted to prove to my dad that I could get in or maybe it was the prospect of going to a big city. I just got really obsessed with it and wanted to see if I could do it.

Bryant:

Going back to some of your work-experience, you went from playing with salamanders in the dirt to working with bugs at the museum later in your life. Which seems like things came full circle. Can you share about that experience?

Micah:

I’ve always really liked bugs since I was a kid. I would catch them, keep them in different containers, and try to take care of them through trial and error (I accidentally drowned some bees in honey). That was probably the most exciting internship I had while I was in college because I was so passionate about it. I got to see so many different insects that I never thought I’d see in my life. The only annoying part was assembling them. The bugs were collected from the 1800s and early 1900s so sometimes when you breathe on them, they just turn to dust. To this day I’m so thankful for that opportunity. One of my life goals is to work with bugs again.

Bryant:

Instead of a mustache on your lawn, you can have a little bug museum for people driving by. (laughs) How did science end up coming to the forefront? I know it was your major.

Micah:

In high school my favorite subjects were biology, chemistry, and environmental science. I started in school for molecular biology but switched to business after some family pressure, but I hated it, so I went over to environmental science. I’ve just always loved how small things make big things, and questioning, and testing hypotheses. I think that work has transferred really well into the work I’m doing with Sivana in user experience, since you have to do research and find evidence that supports your design decisions.

Bryant:

I know some of your extracurriculars in college include things like ultimate Frisbee but were you also playing in rock bands?

Micah:

No, I can still play some hard-core music, but I was doing cello lessons for credit at Loyola. I was also the treasurer of one club and made a project of an entrepreneurship club (got quarterfinalist which is better than no finalist!). I did a lot of extracurriculars though because I thought I had to. I enjoyed them and wouldn’t change anything, but I enjoyed just hanging out with my friends more. My friends and I were equally good at academics and drinking on a Tuesday (laughs). Oh, and I was a sustainability intern.

Bryant:

What was that like?

Micah:

It was a work study internship with ten people, so there wasn’t a ton of work and I didn’t feel like I was doing much. Some of the projects were cool though, like I got to use heat-gun to track heat loss at all the dorms. It was mostly in support of Loyola new environmental school (which I went to). It wasn’t the best job but it was low-key and I got my work study money (laughs).

Bryant:

Did you try to bring the spirit of being part of a new section of Loyola into your teaching job with Teach for America?

Micah:

A little. That job was something that I really wanted but was not prepared for. I landed on the opportunity because I wanted something service-based but I didn’t know what I was getting into. I went from a big city to a tiny little town with a residential school. I had to live in a house with all the other fellows, and I had no idea how to teach. The learning curve was insane. I would wake up some days and just think I can’t do this. It was really hard, but I learned and gained a lot of transferable skills and being a teacher is definitely something you can get stronger at.

Bryant:

Do you have any favorite classroom moments?

Micah:

Since it was a residential school, everyone was really close and hugging was a normal thing there. I generally don’t like hugging, but over time I started hugging people and became a part of that culture a bit. It was definitely a work hard, cry, and then play hard atmosphere because all the fellows were always stressed out. Also, one of my favorite parts was getting to teach a dragonfly citizen class where my class, co-teacher, and I got to go to the Rocky Mountain state park twice a week and collect dragonfly larvae. One of my students was terrified by dragonflies but at the end of the class she held one (with a glove) which was a nice moment. It’s hard to remember anything because it was so fast paced… I also liked that I could teach anything because it was a private school. So, I taught a math coding course and a chemistry cooking class. I just had a lot of budget room and freedom to do anything.

Bryant:

Do you value getting to put your mind and input into things?

Micah:

I think that’s always a goal, but I like to start by being reserved and just observing, figuring out how I can fit in. After that though, I do like to make an impact and get really passionate about what I’m working on. I don’t believe you can be too committed to one thing.

Bryant:

How did you end up with Sivana?

Micah:

I moved back to Chicago and was struggling for a job, so I went back to one of my old jobs at a restaurant and started bartending. Diego (our co-worker) joined the restaurant team and we started studying together at a coffeehouse and he would tell me about the work he’s doing with Sivana redesigning their homepage and since I was taking courses in something similar, I asked him if they needed any more help.

Bryant:

What job are you applying to now?

Micah:

I’m taking a user experience bootcamp and I’m learning about user experience and research to figure out what users want. I like it because I get to be empathetic and think about people as more than just data points. The course goes all the way from re-branding a company to designing all the details.

Bryant:

What’s been your favorite part of working for Sivana?

Micah:

Not the 9:30AM meetings (laughs). My favorite thing has been working on group classes. Coming up with new ideas for how to combine design and coding to create. Also I’ve liked learning how to work remotely.

Bryant:

I have to ask you. What’s your best bartending story?

Micah:

Well, as a bartender you eventually start to dislike everyone and ignore people. I don’t know the craziest things that have ever happened was just people falling asleep at the bar or being rowdy.

Bryant:

Where do you see yourself in five years?

Micah:

I want to be on the West Coast, and I think I’ll be working with all the UX stuff I’m learning now. I also hope that I’m working with a mentorship program or something where I can pass what I’m learning forward because I’m a big believer in that. Lastly, I hope I have at least a shelf with bugs on it.

Bryant:

Seeing how your determination got you into Loyola I have little doubt you’ll accomplish your goals. Thank you so much for taking the time for this interview!

Micah:

Thank you!

This interview has been edited for clarity.

Sivana offers online learning, coaching and mentoring opportunities from Homework Help to Health and Wellness, to topics of all kinds using our browser-based video classroom for one-on-one and small group sessions.

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