Neighborhood: Prospect Heights
Most Likely To: Fall asleep at 10pm, at a party at my own house
Favorite Quote: “I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy.” – Rabindranath Tagore
It’s not exactly news to the journalism industry that web traffic and clicks are paramount to a company’s success. At the New York Times, Samarth Bhaskar analyzes the print data to determine how best to promote and present stories online. Samarth was previously a data analyst on the Obama campaign and has a sharp eye for economic inequity worldwide as well as within Brooklyn. In everything he does, Samarth wants to make a positive social impact on the world.
What is your earliest memory associated with what you do now?
In high school, I fell in love with learning about the world. I spent hours at the local Borders, reading Foreign Policy magazine and the New Yorker. I read the 9/11 Commission Report cover-to- cover. Being an engaged, critical, member of society became very important to me. Today, I’m committed to helping journalism survive a difficult digital transition, which plays a critical role in democracy.
When did your occupation become real to you?
I was born in New Delhi, India. I moved to the US when I was 10. I grew up in a town called Normal, Illinois. I graduated from a big, public, land-grant university. There aren’t a lot of people like me who end up working for a presidential campaign or at the New York Times. Little about my life and career feels real to me. It is rewarding to consider the idea that more people like me might end up outpacing their own dreams someday. I’m happy I get to do what I do.
How does Brooklyn/your neighborhood particularly inform your work?
Brooklyn has a great mix of the kind of day-to-day community I love being a part of. The ambitious, adventurous spirit that keeps me inspired and striving to make the world a better place. Seeing the Nigerian families attending services at the mosque on my block, or going to the neighborhood YMCA every day, or shopping at my local grocer—living in Brooklyn inspires me to create more diverse, interesting, communities like the one I live in.
I also love going to talks, seeing films, and meeting artists and creators who are making the best art and journalism of my generation. They stir in me a sense of ambition and adventure to keep working and make our world better.
What do you feel is most challenging about being where you are now?
Both professionally and personally, I love the kinds of opportunities Brooklyn and NYC have afforded me. But I constantly think about how unevenly spread these kinds of opportunities are. Even within Brooklyn there are huge gaps in access between a neighborhood like Prospect Heights and Sheepshead Bay. Not to mention the gaps that exist throughout this country and the world. It takes constant vigilance and thoughtfulness to not become comfortable with the way things are.
What’s most rewarding?
Finding an occupation that fulfills my need to make a positive social impact on the world was critical from an early age. Whether working on a presidential campaign, helping small business owners sell their crafts online, or helping the New York Times through a complicated digital transition, I’ve always prioritized work that aligns with my values. I’m lucky that I find my work rewarding and haven’t had to compromise my values in my career so far.
5 spots in Brooklyn people should know about?
- BAM is a world-class institution. I’m in awe of their programming and amazed that it’s right down the street from me. On multiple occasions, I’ve gone to see a movie or show and the director or performer is in attendance for a Q&A. That sort of thing doesn’t happen at a regular old cinema.
- Your neighborhood YMCA. I go to the one in Bed-Stuy and I love it there. It’s a great way to connect with the community and families in the neighborhood.
- Greenlight Bookstore. Your BAM membership gets you a discount, they have great programming and talks, and their space is perfectly sized to get lost in but not feel overwhelmed.
- The running trails inside Prospect Park. It’s nice to get lost in there sometimes.
- Peaches Hot House. Their hot fried chicken has my number and it won’t stop calling (to paraphrase a great joke I heard from a high schooler the other day).
What’s your most significant accomplishment to date?
Helping to get Barack Obama re-elected in 2012. But I also feel good about the times I’ve helped people carry strollers up the stairs on the subway. And managing depression and anxiety every day, more successfully some days than others.
Who/what inspires you?
My parents. I can’t imagine being in my mid-30s, with a 5- and 10-year-old, packing up everything I own and moving across the world to a place I’ve never even imagined living, where I know no one. Immigrating to the U.S. was one of the best things that has happened to my family and me. As I grow, I become more and more inspired by the courage and commitment my parents had to have to make this work.
Thinking about the future, where do you see yourself in the next 30 years?
As a data scientist, I’m trained to use the past to predict the future. To take the past as inspiration, 20 years ago I had no idea I would be an American one day. 10 years ago I had no idea I would live in Brooklyn. 5 years ago I had no idea I would be an editor at the New York Times. So in some ways, I’ve kind of given up on the idea of planning more than a year or two in the future. But to try to the answer the question nonetheless: In 30 years, I hope I can look back on the ways in which I worked to make others’ lives better. My friends and family, of course, but also people I’ve never met, from all walks of life, in ways big and small.
What’s next for you?
Continuing to help the New York Times achieve its mission in a digital age.