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Building a problem-solving mindset

Audrey Lovan ’18 applies lessons learned at Simpson in career at Google


Audrey LoVan ’18 started her professional career at Google just a few months after graduating from Simpson College in 2018. In her role as a customer solutions engineer, LoVan works with advertisers to build prototypes to implement within their campaigns and accounts. 

In a nutshell, LoVan spends her time solving problems.

“A lot of times, my clients don’t really know what they want,” she said. “They have problems and I have to figure out what to build.”

The job comes naturally for LoVan, who developed a problem-solving mindset as a mathematics and computer science student at Simpson. For her senior capstone project, LoVan wanted to find a faster way to render computer-animated hair – a process that could take as long as 30 minutes for just four seconds of video. 

“I worked on an algorithm that would take plane-like hair that used four points to control [instead of millions],” LoVan said. “The algorithm used linear algebra matrix manipulation to move those points in space for rendering. Since there were fewer, it was ultimately faster than vector points.”

Despite the complexity of the project itself, the most difficult aspect for LoVan was choosing a topic to research. Rather than being forced to work on a particular project – the more traditional approach in academia – LoVan had endless options. The task was intimidating at first, but she found a project that best fit her passions. 

She applies that same principle at Google. If a client goes to her because their campaign is disapproved, she isn’t slowed down by the blank canvas. Instead, she immediately goes through the variety of solutions she has at her disposal. 

“Research helped in situations like that because it was the first time I had to figure something out for myself,” she said.

Not surprisingly, LoVan works with many individuals who attended large research institutions. While those individuals are incredibly talented and incredibly valuable to the company, so is LoVan. Her liberal arts background – specifically as it applies to research – gives her a broad perspective when she tackles problems. 

“You develop a wider scope of view when you research at a liberal arts institution,” LoVan said. “I got a little taste of everything. When it comes to research, it gives you a broader picture of what you’re able to do.”

LoVan also developed invaluable soft skills as an undergraduate. Defined as the skills and abilities that relate to how individuals work and interact with others, LoVan honed her soft skills because of the people she interacted with. Because she roomed with a theatre major, a communications major and a biology major, she was exposed to a variety of backgrounds and viewpoints. 

“One of the biggest features of my job is working with the sales team,” LoVan said. “I have to explain the prototypes I build. People who have a more specialized, bachelor of science background tend to struggle in those situations. I have the background and education to better connect, explain, present and work with others.”

This story first appeared in the fall 2021 edition of The Simpson Magazine.