WE live in a world where technology surrounds us.
The biggest piece of technology we use is possibly the smartphone. It’s like a computer in your hand and it’s handy for communication. The smartphone engine, which most people take for granted, is the operating system (OS). A local Android OS developer, Yap Wen Jiun, shares his thoughts on his field of choice.
THE EARLY DAYS
Yap was born and raised in Kuala Lumpur. Growing up, he enjoyed reading as well as solving mathematical problems. “I didn’t feel like I was a genius but I felt glad that it was enough to take me past tertiary education. I also developed an interest in IT from reading it in newspapers.”
In the early 1990s, he managed to get himself a PC. At this point, he started tinkering with PC hardware and learnt from books. His interest skyrocketed from there. He knew he wanted to do engineering but he wasn’t sure which specifically. Thanks to his interest in astrology and astronomy, he decided on aerospace engineering at Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM), graduating with a Master’s.
Today, Yap is a lecturer at Multimedia University (MMU) in Cyberjaya. Since the curriculum doesn’t include aerospace engineering, he ended up teaching one of his favourite subjects, mathematics.
INTO APP DEVELOPMENT
Apart from lecturing, Yap is also a developer and trainer for CodeAndroid Malaysia.
He moved to app development for two reasons: one, for the fact that he could create something out of nothing, and two, he’s a big fan of Google.
“I started reading up on a mobile OS that was in beta phase and that made me more curious. Ideas started to pop into my head on creating new phones based on that OS.”
That mobile OS is known as Android OS today.
He can code anything from the back-end to front-end, so much so that he believes that if except for lack of time, he can create any app on Android OS. He has been doing this on nine years. “If clients wanted to develop something simple like a calculator app, software development houses will be able to do it better than I do. However, if it is something that is completely new, with uncertainty on whether it could be created or not, that’s where I come in. For example, ambitious projects such as augmented reality for apps or cloud-based apps, developmental work that has to be created from scratch.”
Yap’s preferred programming language is Java as Android utilises it. If you need to create something for Android, you need to learn Java because you’ll have trouble when it comes to fixing issues if you can’t master it, he stressed.
“If Android ever changes to a different programming language like Python or Golang, I’ll learn that as well. It doesn’t have anything to do with what Java has over other languages.”
EVER CHANGING LANDSCAPE
According to Yap, working with Android has always been a big challenge for him.
“The Android ecosystem changes drastically and it can happen often. What works last year may not work this year and you have to adapt to meet that change. For example, two years ago I could include list-building in Android smartphone as part of the syllabus, but today, that would make my training course outdated.”
Such rapid change is Google’s way of improving Android OS, he said.
As much as it’s a challenge for him, Yap feels that it keeps him on his feet and it doesn’t make his line of work ever feel boring. When he started doing this, his goal was to expose the world to Android OS, so much so that he joined many interest groups. Now that Android OS’ use is widespread, he has achieved his goal and he remains in this field because he loves it.
Yap believes the country has world-class talent for programming, either for apps or gaming. However, multinational companies here tend to avoid local talents for international developers.
His proudest achievement so far is having trained hundreds of skilled developers, though some may end up being his competitors.
Yap will soon introduce a new subject in MMU called mobile app development for engineers.
Upclose with Yap Wen Jiun
WHAT IS YOUR WORK PHILOSOPHY?
No matter what you do try your best. If it fails, don’t beat yourself over it. At least you tried.
WHO IS YOUR ROLE MODEL AND WHY?
I have many for very different reasons. If I had to pick someone, it has to be Google’s founders. They started doing things in a garage and look at where they are now. Almost everyone has heard of Google and most use it today.
WHAT DO YOU DO IN YOUR FREE TIME?
I play PC games. Not as often as I did during my younger days but I still do it whenever I’m free. I play a lot of Hearthstone now and will join a Hearthstone competition soon.
WHAT WOULD YOU DO IF IT’S NOT SOFTWARE DEVELOPMENT?
I want to say Astrology or Astronomy but I definitely don’t want to be an astronaut or anything like that. If it’s not what I’m doing now, I want to be the person behind the machinery used in Astrology or Astronomy because I love tinkering with things and seeing what makes them tick.
DO YOU HAVE A DREAM JOB OR ARE YOU LIVING YOUR DREAM?
Honestly, my dream job is to build space shuttles or rockets in space agencies. We do have a space agency here but I doubt that they’re building anything.
WHAT IS YOUR ADVICE FOR THOSE WHO ASPIRE TO PURSUE APP OR SOFTWARE DEVELOPMENT?
If you’re planning to develop for Android, don’t stop following the Android blog, as there will be new things that will pop up regarding the OS that can change how everything works and you need to be up-to-date. The other thing which works for everyone is to exchange information actively.
Whether it’s Facebook groups or forums, as long as you can share information it’s a place that you can get information from people as well. It’s important to have up-to-date knowledge.
HOW WOULD YOU LIKE TO BE REMEMBERED?
Well, people call me the Android Scientist, the person who goes to the Android OS root to see what can be done or changed. I mean, after all, the title doesn’t only imply that the person knows about Android; it also implies someone who wants to know more about it. So yeah, as Android Scientist.