Previously, I worked for the Scottish Government on a team building mygov.scot which is a single point of entry to answer citizen questions. I also worked on a redesign of Scottish Government’s website: gov.scot. Before that, I worked in the Digital communications team at the University of St Andrews in Scotland. At St Andrews, I created and maintained a digital pattern library; it was a vital element of an initiative to achieve a consistent look and feel across the University’s sites and applications. I was actively involved in both the design and strategy for our digital products.
I published my first website in 2001 before going to university. It was for an online distance learning program that my Dad was involved in. I set up a web server running linux and ran the website from an internet connection with a static IP address. From that little office, people round the world downloaded my website. And so began my story with the web.
After finishing school, I went on to Bemidji State University and studied design for a year and a half and then switched major to mathematics with a minor in computer science. I was attracted to mathematics by it’s requirement for rigorous and logical thinking. However, in choosing math, I didn’t leave design behind; the connection between the pursuit of beauty and function in design and mathematics is much stronger than it may seem on the surface.
As a part of my undergraduate experience, I wrote a 20 page thesis on Reed-Solomon error codes. The field of coding theory goes all the way back to a computer scientist named Claude Shannon. Error codes are now ubiquitous; we use error codes every day to help ensure the integrity of information transmitted over noisy channels. A common example are CD’s which are encoded using Reed-Solomon codes so that even if they get a small scratch they can still be read by a CD player. The raw data the player reads may be wrong in parts, but there’s a little extra data added to help the player still get the original message.
I went on to study advanced mathematics in Budapest as a part of the Budapest Semesters in Mathematics program which was originally setup by a famous mathematician named Paul Erdös. Although I love abstract thought, I found that I am most energised when I can combine deep conceptual thinking with pragmatic problem-solving. This led me back to considering more applied areas of mathematics.
During my time at the University I also had several opportunities to teach Introduction to Web Programming and Advanced Web Programming in the Computer Science program – 3rd year, 3000-level classes.