Jamie Westfall Answers the Great Question... Of Life, the Universe and Everything

24 Jun 2016

Jamie Westfall Answers the Great Question... Of Life, the Universe and Everything

Beth had the pleasure of meeting Jamie during a speaking engagement in Florida. She was immediately taken by this young woman’s brightly coloured outlook on life…and then discovered our favorite thing: a multi-hyphenate!  Read on to hear about how Jamie (LITERALLY) juggles her fascinating life. 

Tell us a little about you.

My name is Jamie Westfall and I just finished my first year at the University of Florida. I’m majoring in computer engineering so that once I graduate I can contribute toward the complete automation of human life- I want the next generation to live in a world in which life isn’t treated as a competition, and everyone can spend their time on earth comfortably. I have decided to dedicate my career to helping achieve this as quickly as possible while simultaneously working to correct the environmental destruction our species has caused (and continues to cause).

I’ve always been really interested in ancient history and learning about the experiences humans have lived through in different time periods. For this reason, I’ve loved reading since I was a kid. Whether a book is factual, loosely based on history, or is completely imaginary, I love the feeling of being transported into a different world that reading can create. I’m particularly a fan of science fiction and fantasy- some of the authors I admire most are Douglas Adams, Terry Pratchett, and Isaac Asimov. I’m currently reading Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series and loving it. Part of the reason why I’m entering the field of computer engineering is that machinery and programming allows us to control our surroundings. It essentially feels like we are creating our own magic; with the wave of a hand we can procure soap, water, and hot air in restrooms now, to prevent the invisible spread of sickness. It’s pretty amazing how far we’ve come as a species in the past few centuries, and I want to do everything I can to take the process further.

I generally spend my free time reading, making art, and seeing bands perform. I also love going hiking and being outdoors; it’s an interesting concept that nature has the ability to appear so beautiful to us, even after we spend our entire lives here. During the school year most of my time is occupied with assignments, studying, and club activities - next year I’ll be an officer of three clubs at my university: Humanists on Campus, Women in Electrical and Computer Engineering, and UF Objects in Motion (a group that practices and performs circus tricks).

I’m excited to return to school in the fall, but for now I’m really enjoying the summer - I’m in Indiana for an internship with Cummins doing 3D design and analysis for engine parts. The specific division of the company I work in identifies issues with old models of parts and designs ways to refurbish them when broken so that they can be salvaged instead of replaced with new parts. It’s been an amazing experience so far, and I’ve definitely been enjoying getting to explore a different part of the country.

Describe yourself in one word

“Average.” I mean, I have my own hobbies, personality traits, and style preferences, but then again, so does everyone else. My characteristics aren’t unique to me, I believe that we mostly become a reflection of the people and things around us. However, we do have the ability to filter through it all and attempt to make sense of it in our own ways.

I draw many aspects of my personal philosophy from absurdism. I try my best to enjoy life and make life enjoyable for others; I relish ridiculousness and have turned myself into a bit of a spectacle (over the past five years, my hair has been every color of the rainbow). I’m also a member of UF’s circus tricks club—this past semester I learned how to ride a five-foot-tall unicycle and how to juggle rings and clubs (you can buy holographic ones!), among various other juggling tricks. Making a fool out of myself can be a sort of catharsis for me, while also giving other people something to laugh at.

Tell us about what you’re wearing.

I like clothing that has character, which is why I enjoy customizing mine in my free time. Whenever something rips or gets worn out, I sew/glue it back together, add a patch, or make more rips so that the rest of the clothing item matches. In this manner, I have altered my black long sleeved shirt, pair of jeans, backpack, tights, creepers, red flannel shirt, and vans that I’m wearing in the photos.

First outfit: My style preferences through the years tend to be influenced by the music genres I primarily listen to at the time, yet as with my music taste, I incorporate the new into the old rather than replacing it. Recently I’ve been listening to ska music more than anything, but I still love the genres I primarily listened to in high school (mainly a variety of rock, punk, and metal), and my wardrobe reflects it. The shoes are Mondo Creepers, the backpack is by Earth Bound Trading,  jeans from American Eagle and the striped shirts are thrifted.

Second outfit: I got these pants at a small Himalayan shop in St. Petersburg, Florida. They’re insanely comfortable, it feels like wearing a cloud around your legs. The great thing about this outfit is that it can double as pajamas, which is pretty convenient for taking naps. My hat is practically a wearable pillow and has the added bonus of making me feel like some sort of elf. The shoes are Vans and the flannel and sunglasses are thrifted.

How did your style evolve to what it is now?

I love wearing bright colors and mixed patterns. To me, the goal of fashion should not be to turn ourselves into some untouchable image of perfection, but rather to give other people a reason to come up and talk to us. Projecting your personality onto your clothing makes it much easier for this to happen; complimenting or asking about someone’s outfit is an easy doorway to starting a conversation.

My current style is an accumulation of all of the different stylistic phases I’ve gone through. As my taste changes, rather than buying a new wardrobe and donating the old clothes, I prefer to rework clothing items and find new ways for them to be incorporated into my current style. I try to avoid buying a lot of new clothing. In America we collectively have this notion that clothing should stay in our lives for a couple of years and then be disposed of to make way for the new. This fast-paced system is wasteful, unnecessary, and it comes at the expense of the environment. And with cheap clothing comes the need for cheap labor— often in underdeveloped countries people in clothing factories work for cents per hour in inhumane conditions to create our seasonal trends which will be fashionably “out” after another few months. Instead of continuing this cycle, I think that if you still like an item of clothing, it’s worth trying to rework it into something new when it gets worn out instead of getting rid of it.

Any advice for a young person thinking about getting into a STEM field?

My advice is: don’t worry about it. You have plenty of time to figure out what you want to do in college. And don’t be afraid to change majors—if you realize you don’t enjoy STEM jobs, find something that you do enjoy. Let your interests come first and you’ll find a way to turn them into a career.

What would you say is the project you’ve done that you’re proudest of?

I haven’t done anything particularly remarkable with my life, especially compared to all of the incredible people featured in this blog. Nevertheless, I try to enact change on a small level through my everyday life. I’m a vegetarian because factory farming results in horrific conditions for both the animals and factory workers alike. In our current system, the quality of life of factory workers is exploited for the financial gain of the few and the collective satisfaction of our taste buds. It’s not something we like to think about, but there are people spending 10+ hours a day performing repetitive and often hazardous labor being denied bathroom breaks and yet are still struggling to financially support their families because having a menial job is better than having no job. Too often I’ve found that fortunate people seem to think that their “success” in life (i.e, money) is gained entirely due to their own hard work and wit, rather than primarily an incredibly lucky combination of being born with intelligence and having access to resources; only around 10% of the global population has graduated from or is currently attending a college. I believe that globalizing higher education and equalizing the quality of life for all people should be a priority. This is the main reason I feel drawn to a career in computer engineering; full automation of work is necessary in order to realize this goal. The substitution of human labor with machines has been and will continue to be a challenging transition. Instead of meeting it with opposition, we need to recognize that it signifies a momentous achievement of mankind as a whole, and embrace the changes that are about to take place, beginning with shorter working hours and a shift in types of available jobs.

While myself boycotting meat and buying eggs and cheese only from local free-range farms is obviously not going to singlehandedly affect the industry, vegetarianism as a worldwide movement will result in change- however, this alone is not enough to reverse the damage that humans have inflicted upon the earth. In addition to the human and animal costs, factory farming has had disastrous effects on on the environment- deforestation, the massive production of methane, and chemical runoff are not going to disappear unless we become proactive in repairing the climate and preventing further change. I had the incredible fortune of getting to attend a speech given by Jane Goodall this past year, and it’s truly inspiring to me how even at the age of 82 she continues to dedicate her entire life to enacting social and environmental change. In my own life so far, I feel as though I haven’t done anything significant enough to contribute, however, small changes in routine on a grand scale can have a tremendous impact. Using cloth bags, reusable water bottles, and reusable containers instead of disposable plastic are a few ways waste can be effortlessly be reduced. I also make sure to collect and recycle other materials like glass, metals, and paper. As my career develops, I hope to improve the lives of humans while simultaneously working to counteract the negative environmental impact we have on the planet.

And there you have it. We feel so blessed to be able to meet fascinating people like Jamie, who are actively trying to use tech to make the world a better place. That’s what we’re all about at Fibonacci Sequins and we hope to continue to meet more and more of you. If you are, or know, people who should be featured, please do get in touch!


Dona & Beth