Math Leads to Critical Thinking & Solutions
April 28, 2011:
Monday, December 13, 2010
Jack Warecki has established a long resume of accomplishments ranging from all levels of education to an impactful career in Silicon Valley's high tech industry. His enthusiasm and dedication to teaching prevailed and Menlo College is fortunate to have his expertise in the area of mathematics. Once he begins to discuss his philosophy of teaching math, his love of the discipline, as well as his desire to connect students to math and business, is compelling.
"Mathematics is not just about manipulating variables or performing calculations. It is also about, and maybe more importantly, learning to be a problem solver, a critical thinker. These are skills that are highly valued not only in the business community but practically in any endeavor.
It makes no difference whether we are in a recession or in boom times. Business never takes a back seat. You need to be competitive—offer what others don't or offer more value than your competitors. No easy task. Knowing all the algebra and calculus alone will not guarantee your success but the methods or processes you learn in mathematics can be instrumental in more general problem solving or even innovation." Jack converses with a smile on his face, as he is having fun breaking math down to simple logic and practical applications.
Jack Warecki's career experiences illustrate this completely. His first job was a programmer for satellite communication applications with TRW, an American corporation involved with aerospace, automotive and the credit reporting industry. He had a limited background in writing software and no knowledge of satellite communications but his employer at the time indicated that the math background he had was all that was needed to learn his new job. This proved to be quite true!
Measure Twice, Cost Once
"My next career opportunity at TRW emerged when I happened to discover that computer chip designers were having trouble verifying whether their chip designs were ‘correct' before being manufactured. You don't want a huge cost for a design that was not properly simulated. As it turns out the problem was an ‘isomorphic mapping' problem. Simply put, the designers were asking whether two different representations of a computer chip (think of all the different wiring connections) were the same. The designers were talking about millions and millions of connections. Again, I had a limited, and in fact, no background in electrical engineering at the time but I did recognize a problem that could be modeled mathematically."
Jack employed his expertise again as a senior executive with one of the top technology companies in the world (Synopsys). As a Senior Vice President managing over 800 employees worldwide, he employed strategies focusing on "competitive differentiation," and used statistical process control methods to efficiently and effectively measure how time is spent and in what activities customers were being supported. Knowing that labor costs are significant, the data collected helped define not only the type and quantity of labor required, but also provided quantifiable data to other groups in the company (e.g., marketing, R&D) on where improvements could be made.
"I did not have an MBA at the time but again relied on problem solving techniques to minimize costs. You don't find real-world problems, let alone their answers, in text books. But you do rely on some of your math experience to help define the problem and, hopefully, the solution. We live in a very competitive world, we need to be smart about what problems we solve and how we solve them."
Jack Warecki's background is not limited to the technology or business industries. He also has an academic thread that runs through his career experiences. He was "Graduate Teacher of the Year at Ohio State University" and has taught at colleges in Southern California and more recently at San Jose State University, including the position of Operations Manager for the College of Engineering.
Seeing Is Believing
As an instructor here at Menlo College, Mr. Warecki is well-aware of the challenges students face today in a very competitive world. "One of my goals is to introduce more technology in the classroom and that is one of the big reasons that I came to Menlo. For example, using math content on the web can be instrumental in helping students visualize what happens to a function when you change the variables in real-time. The animations can make a significant difference in learning about functions to more than a just few students. Also, having an online homework tool (MyMathLab) is fantastic! For a student to have the capability to do homework at 2 a.m. and not only have it checked but have the technology itself suggest where the student went wrong and provide similar exercises is a wonderful supplement to the course. I think students on the whole like the idea that they can do these exercises at their own pace."
Coming full circle as a math teacher venturing into business world solutions for high tech engineering, Jack Warecki has followed his passions throughout his career. No matter what the context, he has applied mathematical theory to promote critical thinking that results in innovative changes in business. That's why he's teaching at Menlo, one of the "Best in the West" institutions of higher learning.