NOTE FROM THE EDITOR: This story by David Mitchell was first published by the College of Computing on March 9, 2017.
For Jon Eisen, everything has always been about numbers.
The path that led him to speak on behalf of the prominent video game hub Activision, publishers of the popular Call of Duty franchise, at last week’s GVU Brown Bag event has been paved with them.
He majored in Applied Mathematics at the Georgia Institute of Technology, graduating with his degree in 2009 and carrying along a Computer Science minor for good measure. He spent time designing RADAR algorithms for Northrop Grumman Corporation in Baltimore, Md., and then worked as an application developer for a short period at Under Armour.
Even hobbies in his free time are unique because of specific numbers associated with them. Take the number 50, for example: The number of miles he plans to run in his first ultra-marathon, the Quad Rock 50, in May.
While his focus has always been on numbers and equations, though, Eisen said it has been his versatility – merging his background in math and computer science – that has helped him establish a career he’s excited to pursue on a daily basis.
He’s worked at Activision for just over a year, where he combines his fascination with raw numbers with a background in video games.
As a data analyst, he works to answer questions. For example, does the game play fast?
“Well, that’s a broad question,” he explained. “Answering that might involve asking more questions. It’s very research-oriented. You might look at map size or how players play the game or the way different elements are designed.”
It’s a familiar process for Eisen, who has been a sports fan for years. Growing up a fan of the Atlanta Braves and eventually delving deeper into the world of fantasy sports, Eisen learned unique ways to look at the long list of available statistics.
“I started getting into sabermetrics, advanced analytics in baseball,” he said. “I began to understand that there’s a better way to look at stats than just at the typical ones. They help provide answers to questions like whether you should always intentionally walk Barry Bonds. That’s an interesting question. The numbers help answer it. I got really into those question-answer analytics, and at Activision I had the opportunity to go deeper into this stuff.”
He looks at win probability, value metrics, and any number of additional stats that help answer the question: Are you good?
Eisen doesn’t work exclusively in programming, but his understanding of the development side has been a boon to his career, as well.
He earned a minor in computer science at Georgia Tech after realizing he was on track to graduate with his degree in Applied Mathematics too early. In his major, he needed only 120 credit hours, and he carried a fair portion with him from high school.
He had already pursued a working knowledge in computer science beginning in his freshman year of high school, working with Flash and building websites, including one for rush for his fraternity, Alpha Epsilon Pi, in college.
He didn’t pursue a major in the field because, he said, he wanted to learn it all on his own.
“I was a kid,” he said, laughing, by way of explanation.
With his extra time, though, he focused on computer science courses that filled gaps in his knowledge. He was glad that he did.
“Some of those classes helped me get my first job,” he said. “When I was working on the RADAR stuff, I had this unique ability to merge two key disciplines. They had a lot of math people, and they had a lot of CS people. They had to take these algorithms done by the math people and put them into systems. At some point, I found that I was good at that. That helped me take interesting math algorithms and put them into scalable code.”
It’s something he said he has gotten back to doing at Activision.
“Computing is taking over the world,” he said. “If you like your discipline, whatever that is, learning a bit about how to program with it is going to be very beneficial in creating your career.”
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