Hawaiʻi's Technology Community

I'm organizing a series of talks aimed toward undergraduate math majors to give them an idea of the kinds of careers available to them with a math degree.  The department is woefully uninformative when it comes to options outside of academia, so we want some real-world experiences from people working in tech.

If you are/were a math major and are working in the tech industry, what do you do? 

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I'm a software engineer with a dual bachelors degree in mathematics and computer science.

To me, being an undergraduate in just mathematics can be quite dry and limiting.

In today's market, it's difficult for someone with simply an undergraduate in mathematics to find a career.
This is also true for people in other fields of hard science, like biology, chemistry, physics, as well as soft science, psychology, art, philosophy.

Most entry level jobs would seek Master level or higher (since the market's simply saturated with them).
If you start to notice that everybody else has a college degree and you can find no way of differentiating yourself from them, you're in trouble.

With that said, traditional career paths for math majors has been the academics (research), actuaries (insurance/risk analyst), teachers (which the Hawaii education system desperately needs), or a path that simply has nothing to do with their math major (abandoning their math education).

The world's slowly changing though.

The undergraduates in math have to realize that they should not be solving the same problems that their professors gave them over and over again with no context or meaning in them.

They have to learn to ask themselves, why the heck am I learning this?

What is the usage of first order partial differential equations? How the heck did it become nonlinear?

Can I apply this at all? Well, people solve traffic flow problems with differential equations and PDEs.

Just do a google search on it.

Can I come up with an accurate model and predication with the number of cars on the H1 highway at 5 pm on a Thursday afternoon during summer time?

In the technical industry, math and numbers are primary tools for justification for things.

Most days, math such as statistics beat out math such as calculus and differential equations.

In engineering, it's necessary to always try to go for simplicity. Statistics offer ways to calculate for that and offer suggestions to ways to doing things.

As a software engineer (it's just a title, it doesn't mean much), I analyze things, I study things. I solve problems in my own unique way. I read about relatively new emerging technologies and study the math and software behind it.

Take Google Maps for example. It's been around for 7 years now.

How does it work? There's a gigantic map server out there serving requests any time you click on it.

How does it compute distance between two points? Can I do the same?

What is a Haversine formula? Given two sets of latitude, longitude, how do I compute distance between it?

What use is studying this?

Technologies move very rapidly, unlike the academic world.

Math is no longer computed by humans, but rather input as formulas into a computer and simply crunched out.

At some point in an undergraduate math major's life, they have got to realize that.They have to learn other industries (finance, business, economy, security, operational optimization, computer science) and combine it with math to make it useful.

Thanks for the thoughtful response, Boris.  The limitations of a solely math education has become very apparent to me in the last semester.  As a graduating senior, I've found that any job that requires a bachelors degree in math also requires an entirely different set of skills, often strong programming experience or a background in finance, etc.

This information would have been very useful to have when I was an underclassman, which is why I'm organizing the talks for the undergrads.  Hopefully the experience of others will help them make smarter decisions about how to proceed with their education.

A college degree is what you make of it. Modelling, operations research, and big data analytics is hot now. If you can't find a job with a math degree, it's not the degree. Frankly I hadn't realized how big its gotten until recently. Even companies like Deloitte that were traditionally straight up accounting are now doing this type of work.

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