Employee Spotlight: Yang Yang on learning to knit and how soccer-playing robots shaped her career

// 07.17.2014 // Culture

Yang Yang has been an engineer on MediaMath’s Core team for a year and half. In this Q&A, she shares what delights her about working at MediaMath, what she does in her off hours, and why programming is like solving difficult puzzles.

First, what do you do here?

I’m a Core Engineer, and I work on our bidders – building the bidders and supporting them. Our bidder system is a huge, distributed system of servers that perform the real time auctions that buy ads for clients. I use C++ mainly, with some other tools like Python, Bash script, and Perl. We are able to achieve high speeds and low latency for the large-scale system.

What do you get excited about?

YangYang_KnittingProject_blog

If something is challenging, but I think I can solve it, I get excited. Sometimes my team handles support tickets, and often, I can write a small script that solves the issue. But I will have no idea how to write the script at first. I might have an idea of where to start, but I get to learn so many new things as I’m researching the details for the solution. It’s the most wonderful time – achieving while also learning new things!

What do you do for fun?

I recently learned how to stitch and knit. I use patterns that I find online, and use my Mr. Rabbit (as seen in the photo) as a model to measure the baby hat I’m making for my future child. This kind of thing reminds me of what my mom used to do for me when I was young.

Why did you become a programmer?

I like solving puzzles and problems. When I joined MediaMath, I got to jump into a big system (our bidders) within a big system, and it’s a lot like solving a puzzle. You have to look at everything inside the code. It’s quite interesting. 

When did you start programming? 

In undergrad, I studied AI. My first programming project was at the end of my third year in college. That summer I joined a team that was programming robots to play soccer. My supervisor showed me some pieces of the original code for the robots, and I needed to apply some new algorithms to make it better. It was the first time that I worked on programming outside of class. I had to read articles about algorithms, and read other people’s projects to learn how the libraries for the code worked. It was quite challenging, and quite interesting. 

It’s why my path has a little twist in it. In undergrad, I was working the software part. After the robot soccer project, I started thinking that I could work on the hardware part, too, and make that better. That’s why my grad study was in computer engineering; studying a little bit on the hardware side to mix with the software side. 

What do you like about programming?

Two things. 

One: Doing something where you know that once this code is released, something real will be changed. Maybe it’s a little thing, but I know something outside in the world is going to be changed as a result of my contribution. 

Two: Having a voice. On my team, our manager encourages us to not just follow the directions of product specs, but to talk about how it should be made, or to voice any concerns about the design proposed. It’s not just about building what we’re told to build, but thinking about improving the designs, and in a way, it’s about trying to improve yourself.

What do you like about MediaMath?

Oh, this is the best thing to talk about. First, of course, is that my job here is not trivial. It’s challenging. I can learn things. I can contribute and learn in the same place. 

Also, the environment here is so great. My husband works in finance, and he’s always jealous of my job. We have a very casual environment here. You can schedule your own time – it’s very flexible. On my team, if want to work 10-6, but other teams want to work 9-5, that’s ok. If we have some emergency, or need to do some personal errands, we can leave earlier. Just get your work done. It’s the best! 

I also love the t-shirts they give out. Every day, I don’t need to think about what to wear. I can wear a t-shirt or whatever I want. 

A Picture of Jessica Edwards

JESSICA EDWARDS

Technical Brand Manager Jessica is the Technical Brand Manager at MediaMath, where she is building MediaMath’s engineering messaging and sharing it with the world. She is obsessed with translating technical stories into accessible language, and has led a similar efforts at other tech companies. She earned a BA in Anthropology and a BS in Journalism from Boston University.
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