My name is John Wu, Miso’s newest addition to the engineering (specifically iphone) team. For my first blog post, I want to start with something light and talk briefly about who I am and how I came to work at Miso.
I majored in Mathematics as an undergraduate. I chose math for a couple reasons. First, I thought it was easy. Like many of you, math was the one class I never had to prepare for in high school. Math period became synonymous to nap time. I was the kid the teacher never wanted to call on because I’ll deprive others of their opportunity to learn. Second, I was “good” at it, and by that I mean I felt comfortable manipulating formulas and performing complicated computations, it made “sense”, and I understood the logic. Finally, I believed Math would open the doors to just about anything one could aspire to do — my reasoning was simple: math exists in almost everything, even haikus.
Looking back, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I was lost during day one of Calculus I. Cryptic concepts such as epsilon-delta, proof by contradiction, theorems, corollaries, and “if and only if” had me dropping classes faster than I could sell my useless TI-89 (did not use this a single time in college). At first, I hated it. I learned proof after proof of theorems that seemed useless. I worked out examples that were so contrived I had a hard time seeing how any of it modeled real life. By the time I graduated with a B.S., I was only comparable in knowledge to mathematicians 200 years ago. My degree felt useless.
But math isn’t pure evil. While extremely difficult to appreciate, crafting proofs, often compared to poetry and painting, is a true art form in and of itself. I distinctively remember showing my professor my one page proof on a fundamental vector space theorem, to which he responded with his version that was exactly 5 lines. This experience led me to my first realization about math beyond calculus: finding the simplest version of a proof for any given theorem, only then will you have understood the theorem in its rawest form. Want some perspective? The popular Pythagorean theorem (a^2+b^2=c^2) has been proven (through distinctive ways) well over 300+ times. My second realization came to me after taking a course in number theory, a sub-discipline studying the positive integers (0,1,2,3,…): not all math is meant to be applicable or even useful, there are numerous theorems out there that well documented and proven, but lack any real world application, they are, in essence, math purely for math’s sake. The mathematicians who engage in this are the picassos and michelangelos of the math world, and who says they won’t offer unexpected insight in the (far) future?
The remainder of my mathematical journey came to an end in graduate school after a tragic realization of myself: that I simply wasn’t bright enough for math, not even to contribute on a microscopic level. I knew this to be true as I found myself begging child prodigies in my classes to help me with my homework. I gave up on a PhD. Rejection was difficult, but not without its lessons. I swallowed my pride, and began searching for something that would allow me to cause a dent. Trusting in my haiku-logic, I eventually found my place in application development.
I found many analogous counterparts of math in development work. Code design is similar to crafting proofs, except I now had the help of my coworkers, and the end goal of creating the simplest version is still sought after. Reading code is like trying to understand proofs, though in a different context, navigating logic turns out to be one and the same. Moreover, my degree accelerated my learning process, my background allowed me look beyond the complexities of the underlying math, such as floating point arithmetic, and focus on creating reusable and scalable code. The differences? Even an average Joe such as myself can contribute, even my code will manage to see the light of day, and be ran thousands of times a day. All along, this is where I belonged.
So I am glad to say, while my choices earlier on in life were based on erroneous assumptions, I do not regret it one bit! And as I continue to work at Miso, I’ll be sure to offer my experiences and help you, the reader, to leverage what we do at Miso to help make your app better. So please look forward to my next post, which will be on styling UINavigationBars in your iphone app. Thanks for reading!