One of the software engineers working on a brand-new merchant experience platform hadn’t encountered the Internet until college. But Titus Woo discovered a love for coding before he was a teenager and even before he had used a computer.
At age 11, he wrote his first program with QBasic. It tracked pretend credit cards in a world run by Beanie Babies that bought items like beads and origami cards. It’s no surprise that this first foray into programming shares shades of PayPal’s mission too.
Woo joined PayPal
straight out of Georgia Tech last fall and has already been recognized as one of the top innovators at PayPal, having 5 pending patents since August and winning a company-wide ChatBot Hackathon hosted by the Innovation lab.
Explain the importance of this new Merchant Experience Platform (MEP)?
It’s going to redefine how our customers and merchants use PayPal. We have a lot of apps in siloes here. To do different things you have to go to different apps that live in separate pages on our website, and they barely can talk to each other. But imagine if we were able to pull all of these existing, separate experiences into a unified ecosystem that adapts to our customer’s needs. Imagine if we could use our user’s habits to surface information they need, before they even know they need it. That's the power of what we’re building on the MEP team.
Tech seems to run in your veins, has that always been the case?
I was homeschooled until age 13 and had never seen a computer before until one day at a library I stumbled across this book about QBasic. It was kind of like math but you had to run it through this magical computer thing that could do stuff with it. I was obsessed and I copied most of the book by hand. My dad dug up an old computer and loaded a QBasic interpreter. It was right then that I found my love for computing. When I went to Georgia Tech I discovered the internet and web pages, which were the next thing that blew my mind. Fast forward to now -- I've become obsessed with the web and writing code for it.
It sounds like a healthy obsession though. How do you approach the work?
I do get excited, like a kid with Legos. I'll say, “Wow, how does this work?” Because if you ask that single question, you can usually find it can be done better. 10,000 people might have an aha moment but only one or two will actually do something about it, and that's when things change. In our day-to-day, so many little ideas, aha moments, are left uncaptured.
Who at PayPal has inspired you?
People who build our frameworks and libraries -- like Kent Dodds, who is not only an amazing developer but he also has a say in new standards of the language itself. And Douglas Crockford, who popularized JSON, which I use every day.
Titus’s photo that was created into a Slack emoji
One of the most popular emoji’s on Slack is a picture of you – what's that about?
My roommate created the Slack emoji from a photo taken by an employee at PayPal and it just took off. The emoji is kind of like a thinking face so it gets used when someone posts something thoughtful, or funny, or something that makes them go, “Hmm, what is this post really saying?” I don't use it, but it cracks me up every time I see my face on Slack.
That definitely classifies as a Fun Fact. Do you have any others?
I'm closer to getting my pilot's license than my driver's license. I can walk and take public transit to work so I'm content with that for now. And while I don't fly anymore because it's hard to find the time, I flew with the Missouri Civil Air Patrol from when I was 13 to 19. I was also very active in the Civil Air Patrol for most of my pre-college years.