Math Grad Pioneered Streaming Video Services

“I love the challenge when I hear a kid say they hate math.”

For Yvette Kanouff, ’88, ’93, who has built a C-Suite career at companies like Cisco and Time Warner Cable using math, those words represent the chance to astound a struggling student with math’s possibilities. Just like an 8th-grade teacher did for a young Kanouff.

“I thought I hated math, but it turns out I just wasn’t really paying attention,” Kanouff says. “My teacher helped me focus and see the fun in math, and that was the turning point for me.”

The influence of that “turning point” in Kanouff’s life extends far beyond her career. In fact, the next time you watch a cat video on YouTube or tune into Netflix, you can thank mathematicians like Kanouff.

Streaming video was under development in the mid-90s, but the obstacles were huge. A massive file like a digital video had to be compressed small enough to fit through a fiber optic cable in real-time without sacrificing quality. The algorithms developed by mathematicians like Kanouff also paved the way for DVDs. Kanouff won a technical Emmy for her work in the video-on-demand arena, along with several patents.

The practical value of math is what Kanouff preaches to anyone who will listen, but especially those who “don’t like” math. It’s why she pursued a Master’s degree in mathematics at UCF, and why she helped developed the industrial track for the department. The latter allows students to sample a wide variety of math applications, including pattern recognition, scientific computing and developing math models.

Kanouff graduated from UCF while working at Lockheed Martin in a role that relied on math to develop radar algorithms. Her professors encouraged and challenged her to step outside by-the-book problem solving, and pursue unconventional solutions. The warm relationships developed during that time continue to this day.

“My bond with my UCF professors began with math discussions,” Kanouff says. “But then we started talking about families and all of our other interests. Now we’ve kept in touch for years.”




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