Benjamin Barlow

My day job is business intelligence consultant at SVA Consulting. I help clients use data to better interpret how their business is doing and changes they could make to function more effectively. I’m involved in gathering, storing, analyzing and presenting data. I’ve always enjoyed math and statistics and am fascinated by the changes being driven by artificial intelligence (AI). People always want to know if they should be worried about AI and my feeling is that if Elon Musk (the founder of Tesla and SpaceX) thinks there’s some reason to be concerned, we should probably be listening!

During my free time I enjoy being involved in local theater. This love of theater goes back to my high school days—when I was in school plays and also played every sport. Although I was very active in theater during my college years, I realized that it wasn’t going to be my career.

When I moved to Madison, I started volunteering at The Bartell Theatre Foundation, which supports a number of local arts groups. I updated their website and also started acting at Stroller’s Theatre and was elected to their board in 2016. I’m currently overseeing their publicity efforts, will be acting in an upcoming production (Arborphilia) and have also been a producer.

My most memorable caffeine was the first cup of coffee I had after cutting caffeine out of my life following a stroke. My doctor had told me to stay very well hydrated so I stopped drinking coffee. Now, I’m someone who loves coffee—I love it so much that I even love bad coffee!—so this was pretty tough.

When I got the go-ahead to reintroduce coffee into my life, it was a big moment. That first cup of post-stroke coffee was very good.

My current caffeine of choice is typically just a drip coffee with some cream. On the weekend I might have a French press if I want something full-bodied or I’ll use an old-fashioned percolator for a lighter brew.

My favorite place for caffeine would either be Fair Trade Coffee House or Michelangelo’s—which are both on State Street and might even be owned by the same person. It’s hard to say exactly why I like them so much—I just do.

The people I’d love to share a cup of caffeine with are pretty diverse. I’d choose Albert Einstein, Barack Obama and The Beatles. Then I’d add Leonard Euler, a famous Swiss mathematician—I’d need a translator for him, or he would have to magically be able to speak English! Euler had one of those brains that just clicked in terms of creative problem solving.

On the theater side, of course I’d have Stephen Sondheim and then I’d add Jane Pfitsch. Jane went to my high school—I’m from a very small town in southwestern Wisconsin—and was in my sister’s grade. She was in the 2014 revival of my favorite musical, Cabaret. I love knowing that a woman from my hometown had the talent and drive to make it to Broadway.

 World problem that could be solved with the right amount of caffeine:  people having respect for one another. We’ve all grown so cynical. What if we could think in terms of love, logic and compassion—if we could be willing to hear each other out, even if we had to be a little uncomfortable. What Lin-Manuel Miranda captured in his “Love is love is love…” speech.