TIKTOK and Engineering

Over the last several months, social media has seen an increase in its number of users largely because it provides a safe source of entertainment during the pandemic. One of the platforms that has seen an increase in popularity is TikTok. TikTok is a social media platform that specializes in the creation of short videos with genres ranging from dance and comedy all the way to education. One of the many educational accounts on TikTok includes The Institute of Human Anatomy which shares educational videos featuring anatomical structures of the body. In addition, many celebrities use this platform to showcase their dance moves such as Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu-Smith Schuster.

However, a lot of work goes into designing this platform in order for it to be accessible to so many people across the world. One of our fellow students in the faculty, Simon Li, took up an internship opportunity as a programmer for TikTok. Simon is a student in the iBioMed program in his second year of the HESE stream. Simon emphasizes that engineering, mathematics, and programming are essential for developing the necessary algorithms to yield a functional product. In many of the programs, models are used in order to collect data based on the type of videos the user is liking and spending extensive time on in order to optimize the user experience. This results in the formation of a “for you” or “recommended” video section that functions to provide the user with videos that align with the genres and influencers they like. The programming software that Simon used to develop models like these was Python, however, softwares such as C++ and JavaScript are used on the front end, interacting with the customer directly.

When asked about the engineering skills that were utilized and improved upon throughout this process, Simon put great emphasis on teamwork. Explaining the manifestation of this skill, Simon states “Team Working is an essential and important skill as a programmer - although everyone is dedicated to a particular aspect of the code, you must also keep others’ code at the back of your own mind in order to ease the process of integrating them together and generating a final functional product”. Simon also brought attention to the importance of defining need statements and drawing physical diagrams in order to better visualize and efficiently plan out a design solution for his program. These skills are often highlighted in first-year engineering.

To conclude, Simon wanted to emphasize that although the fundamental programming skills learned in first-year are extremely important, there are millions of other things to learn about in a software-oriented field to further your knowledge. At times, programming can be tedious especially with pressing deadlines in an internship, however, with perseverance, a positive attitude, and a desire to learn, these tasks can yield significant results - like delivering one of the most popular platforms in the world.

Written by: Taylor Dalkan