Where They’re Headed: Fangyu Xiong ’15

Fangyu (Panda) Xiong ’15 is starting work at Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif. in August as a software development engineer.

While you may use Facebook to connect with your fellow Fords, know that there is also at least one alum working behind the scenes to make your experience on the site better. Fangyu (Panda) Xiong ’15 is starting work at the social media site’s Menlo Park, Calif., headquarters in August as a software development engineer. But his time at Haverford wasn’t just spent working on computers.

“Haverford has a well-rounded education, rather than [just] being career oriented,” he says. “I actually think that I [spent] more time playing music than coding!”

Xiong, who played piano in chamber music ensembles and the Bi-Co Orchestra, sang in the Bi-Co Chorale, and organized student recitals at Haverford, credits Associate Professor of Music Heidi Jacob and University of Pennsylvania Professor Eric Eaton, for whom Xiong worked as a research assistant, with helping him to balance his interests in music and computer science.

“The real benefit of years spent playing music is ineffable,” he explains. “I gained a lot of confidence performing on stage, dealing with nervousness and learning how to focus, putting myself in a world where there is only me and music, no stage, no audiences.”

Xiong credits his liberal arts education with not only teaching him how to code but how to strive to use that skill to help people. At Facebook, Xiong is hoping to put those skills to work. He will work on projects related to “machine learning,” the focus of his senior thesis. Machine learning is the science of making computers act without explicitly programming them, for instance creating speech- and facial-recognition processes.

“I’m awed by the power of internet,” he says. “[But] technology is not powerful until it is well guided.”

—Hina Fathima ’15

“Where They’re Headed” is a blog series reporting on the post-collegiate plans of recent Haverford graduates.