Michael J. Murray
Computer Science and Mathematics
Java Developer, IBM Global Services
My career in mathematics has definitely taken me to new heights that I never dreamed were possible when I started my degree at Marist College back in 1991. My major at the start was computer science and I realized I was just as good a math student as I was a Comp Sci student, so I decided to pick up both as a dual major. Well, four years later I graduated with honors and had earned my way to a free scholarship and Teaching Assistantship at Syracuse University in the Department of Mathematics. After two very challenging, and at times difficult years there, I completed my Masters of Science in Numerical Analysis in the summer of 1997. Later that summer I started working for IBM in Fishkill, NY as an assistant Webmaster. I'll admit it helped having a degree in computer science as well as math, but IBM hires a lot of pure math majors, in fact a couple of my coworkers on my current project were also math majors in school.
After a year in Fishkill, I found an opening on the Olympic Internet Team as a Java developer for the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games website (www.sydney.olympic.org) in Hawthorne, NY. Using an analytical mind, I have to come up with ways to query databases full of statistics from different sports and present them on a web page in a clear and concise way, keeping in mind that not all my end users are going to be experts in the sports I am coding. The work is hard, and at times frustrating, but when you finally see your code generating web pages and you see people respond to all the thought you put in, it's worth it. I owe my abilities to my roots in math more than computer science, simply because Java and Web technologies were something I didn't have a chance to learn in school. They were new technologies and I only got a brief sampling of it by the time I finished my undergraduate studies. I deal more with complex problems of data mining, table spacing, and looping constraints more than anything, and without a solid mathematical base, the most talented of programmers can easily get lost when all these numbers start flying around.
Okay, enough about the hard stuff, let's get down to the reason you're reading this article, the perks !! Well, last week I returned from a trip that took me around the world. Working in Sydney, Australia for 2 weeks, and having the means and the ways to stop in Munich for Oktoberfest on the way home !! That coupled with frequent trips to Madrid, Spain to work with our database team there, I'm seeing parts of the world that I would never get a chance to see otherwise. I work with a great bunch of talented people on this job, who not only have become my teammates, but also my friends. I really feel a sense of self worth when I hop in my car and drive home at the end of the day or, in some cases, fly home from the far reaches of the earth. I owe all of this to getting my degree in math and all the hard work I put in through 6 years of school. I'm a little busy on this project I'm on now, but I also have a solid base in teaching math, something I might want to take on as a side job when I have more time, as two years of teaching at Syracuse has really been one of the most rewarding experiences in my life. Nothing beats the feeling you get when students from all different fields of study come to you and tell you math has never seemed more understandable or in some cases even fun with the right teacher. I miss that feeling and hope someday I'll have the time to do it again. As for now, I have more code to write, and plane reservations to make. Good luck and keep working towards your goals, and, if you're lucky, you might find a job that brings you more satisfaction than I get, which is quite immense!!