The Stacked odds: How my friends encouraged me at every step of my journey -30-
Lindsey Parungo stands for a portrait. (Myka Fromm/Assistant Photo editor)
June 11, 2023 9:22 p.m.
My application to the Daily Bruin consisted of 10 questions to which I repeatedly answered that I don’t have any experience, so I can’t really answer this question, but I am so enthusiastic about the opportunity to write for The Stack.
Considering that a major issue for The Stack is that we employ such a broad range of skills that almost no one covers all of them, I think it’s a little bit of an accomplishment that I had basically none of them. I couldn’t code. I had no journalism experience. I’d never worked with datasets or taken a statistics class. All I had was that I was passionate about wanting to be involved in data journalism.
Somehow, I was hired. And that lack of skill definitely came back to bite me. I knew that I was going to have to learn so much, but I didn’t realize how much of that learning would be unexpected and maybe a little unwanted at the moment.
While working on my very first article with The Stack, I was so lost that when I Googled for answers, all I got were pages about snakes – the wrong kind of python. Eventually, I had to admit that everyone else’s advice of “Google it, we don’t know what we’re doing either,” was not working out for me.
I still remember one of the most embarrassing Zoom calls of my life where my teammates, Charlotte Huang and Mansa Krishna, taught me how to open a file and write a basic line of code. Despite the fact that I was mortified, they were patient and understanding, never making me feel like I should be doing better. I will forever be thankful for all the time Charlotte took to answer my unending questions and debug my code.
Later that year, with a single article under my belt and working on another, editor applications came out. I was sure I was unqualified and so initially didn’t plan to apply. Andrew Kan, my editor at the time, reached out to me and told me I should. He would tell me more than once in the remainder of that year that passion is the most important qualification and that I had it in spades. So despite the fact that I was yet again lacking most of the required skills, I submitted another application espousing my pure enthusiasm for data journalism and the Daily Bruin, this time for assistant Data editor.
And once again, I learned very quickly that not having the required skills can make life very difficult. As newly hired editors, our first project is Graduation Issue, which I learned is coded in ReactJS – a language that I had never heard of, let alone used. I spent hours working on my half of our trivia map, refusing to admit that I probably should have been studying for my finals instead. I know my code for that was less than elegant, and I want to thank my editor Laurel Woods for not only working around my less-than-optimal choices without complaint but for encouraging me to try new things, even though it probably made her life more difficult.
I wish I could say that this was the last time I ended up out of my depth, but that would be a total lie. Throughout my first two years at the Daily Bruin, I was lucky enough to always have someone around to encourage me to take on new challenges and help me out if I couldn’t find the answer on my own. To Mattie Sanseverino and Laurel, thank you for always making me feel comfortable and welcomed no matter how silly my question was or how confused I felt. You both played an instrumental role in my time at The Bruin.
I’ve always known that I learned a lot by being a part of this paper, but as my time here comes to a close, I’ve come to the realization that I was able to learn so much because the people around me always supported me. In fact, I was getting encouragement from the people in the Daily Bruin before I was even hired. I only applied because Justin Huwe, a friend from the pre-COVID-19 times of our freshman year and the then-PRIME content editor, told me that I should. I countered with the fact that I had none of the skills, and he said to apply anyway.
Even when I wasn’t interested in trying new things, I was lightly nudged out of my comfort zone into skills I didn’t think I wanted. From my very first article, I was encouraged to contribute to every part of The Stack – from coding to interviewing and reporting. To this day, interviewing is my least favorite part of writing an article, but I grew a lot by doing it, and I’m glad someone pushed me to try.
I won’t lie and say that it was easy. This paper has made me cry more times than I’d care to admit. As I started writing this column, I struggled a lot with what to say because this last year has been really tough. It’s the first time that I was the safety net instead of having one to fall back on since I was now the top editor for my section. I’m not sure if I was successful this year, but I hope all of our writers felt comfortable taking on new challenges. Because those chances to grow and learn are what made the Daily Bruin so special for me, even when the knowledge was not what I thought I was looking for.
So what did I learn by writing for The Stack? That anacondas are thicker than pythons.
Parungo was a Stack contributor 2020-2021, assistant Data editor 2021-2022 and Data editor 2022-2023.