His childhood poker game led him to Facebook and blockchain
By Kylee McIntyre23-Oct-2018Views 1478

michael ran blockchain facebook

Photo taken at CoQoons.

Something we've found out putting together all of these [de]coded developer stories is that there are many paths that bring a person to software engineering. For Michael Ran, the skill ran in the family.

“I always wanted to be a software engineer. My father is a software engineer. He was one of the first generation of software engineers in China," he says. “He wrote in BASIC programming language." BASIC is a 54-year-old coding language that, at the time, helped developers program without having to create their own custom software.

My father is a software engineer. He belongs to the first generation of software engineers in China back in the 1990s.

Michael got his first computer at the age of 11 and took to coding himself. Around the next year, Microsoft Visual Basic, a form of coding which was derived from BASIC, became available. Visual Basic included a toolkit to help users create applications, but they could also add in their own code to customize their products.

“I wrote two games using that," remembers Michael. The first one was a poker game that let the player click on cards on the screen, which would flip over and offset when 2 duplicate cards are found. The second game was a space invasion shooting game, where the spaceships were shaped like squares and shot little “blips."

It made sense, then, that his childhood fun turned into a career.

Poker face to Facebook

After graduating from Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, Michael got his start as a java developer at Works Applications in 2013. Works Applications offers services that include software sales and consulting, enterprise resource planning, natural language processing, and artificial intelligence.

Two years later, when an opportunity opened up at Facebook in California, he jumped at the chance, and ended up spending three years there as a software engineer. He eventually moved back to Singapore and worked on growing the Facebook developer ecosystem as well as providing engineering help for the Facebook product in the Asia-Pacific region.

Facebook has the best engineering culture in the world. All business and product decisions rely on data, and all the development and productivity tools are made in house

One of his first projects there was helping develop the Facebook birthday videos as part of a team of only six engineers. The video, which posts 24 hours after a user's birthday, aggregates your friend photos and birthday wishes. “I made the video backend services and push notification scheduler, data infrastructure services for that video," he recalls.

michael ran blockchain facebook 2

Photo taken at CoQoons.

For Michael, Facebook was a dream job. He likes that the company builds almost everything in-house or initiates many open-source projects. Engineers coming in can build on a solid foundation. “If I'm going to start a company, I want an engineering structure like that," he says. “This is the best engineering structure I have seen in the world."

And yet, he moved again.

Blockchain calling

“I was introduced to the whole idea of blockchain and Bitcoin by ex-Facebook employees working in blockchain startups," he explains. Michael got his first bitcoin through a friend who built a mining machine on a gaming desktop. After that, he has been fascinated by the sophistication of the Bitcoin and blockchain.

After 3 years with Facebook, Michael left to work with a blockchain startup Stellar. Stellar uses blockchain technology to power a decentralized platform that facilitates payments and remittance across borders.

“The aim is to help the underbanked people to have the financial infrastructure using blockchain solutions - it's cheaper, faster, more secure than traditional banks," says Michael.

He sets a comparison: the internet was invented way before Facebook, Google, and Uber existed. Those applications of the internet took several years to come about. The application of blockchain is still three or five years away, he thinks, so right now, building a secure and low-cost payment protocol is the key for better financial applications in the future.

“I can see the value that technology brings to people, to the world. I can see the future of it," he says. He can't wait for more engineers across the globe to join in.


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Kylee McIntyre
American tech, science, health, and environmental writer. Lover of scifi, fantasy, travel, and coffee. Find her on Twitter @ejkyleem.
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