Techie Story

The latest stories from “Techie Story: The Untold”, featuring interviews with thousands of people in Tech industry, around the globe.

Techie Story

Latest Stories

#35 - Bao Ngo

The age of 18 is an important milestone for us. A lot of exams, memories, and changes all came up that year. When I’m looking back to our high school years, the moments of 12th grade are permanently imprinted clearly. That’s when I had to answer the question, “Who will I become in the future?”. I had big and small dreams in my pocket, full of sizes, for example, being a Nasa engineer, studying abroad, or speaking English like native people just for show-off purposes. To be honest, these were too far from reality. I always have fallback options if the main one is impossible. Remembering the coding lessons in secondary school, they are the most exciting knowledge for me to master. I love to solve the problem by logics, not learning by heart.

I’m proud it was my decision because it was the result of my experiences. My choices always have reasons and never go for just trending. Most importantly, when I make a decision, I have to take serious responsibility for it. It might be hard to choose again or start over. In the university period, I understood that this field was as challenging as rumours. I also lowered my high score standards. Score 8/10 was kind of fancy. To be honest, it was sometimes extremely tiring due to my habit of putting all exercise close to the exam day. Don’t be like me at this point. Whether you are a man or a woman, you will certainly not feel tired as long as you know the right way to study. There were times when I wanted to give up because there was too much pressure, but then I reassured myself by reminding that this was my choice. After all, I feel so grateful for these periods in my life. It’s how the steel was tempered. If there were no pressure and failure, I certainly wouldn’t be this version of me today.

There is a stereotype that I think is entirely wrong that women should not study IT. “Women” default to be unsuitable for hard work. However, I feel so happy to work as a software engineer. To work with passion, be free to give ideas, be heard, and be helped in a great working environment. Although my physical strength is not as good as male friends, it is completely okay; daily IT works do not require muscles. Many highly stressful industries out there involve lots of female workers, such as doctors, construction engineers, farmers, etc. Honestly, I really appreciate and respect their hard works.

Each person has their own advantages. Comparing our weaknesses to others is just making us feel negative. When I was in school, I felt unhappy because I didn’t study well and got attention. But later, I understood that, even though I was not too good at academic theory, I could still express my thoughts and creativity by programming, which has never been easier. Besides, I am active, cheerful and I’d be glad to make people enjoy working with me. The older I am, the more I know about my strengths. The answer will not be correct if we don’t take action. The result have to reveal from journeys. If you want to do something, do it right away, don’t think or plan too much.

#34 - Khang Pham

Meet Khang Pham - Machine Learning Engineer at Snapchat and author of the popular ML System Design Course on Educative.io

To describe the process of interviewing a Machine Learning Engineer, it was “relatively” hard work, a lot of practice, and a little luck.

I got Master degree from a US university in 2010, majoring in Computer Science. Everywhere, people always desire to work in a good company. For example, the position of Machine Learning Engineer at LinkedIn has 500 to 1000 applicants. Huge competition! If people have interviewed at a famous company, they are more or less well prepared, so we must do better than others.

During my pre-interview practice, I found that the Machine Learning industry is still new, making it difficult to know what Interviewers will ask, and even companies don’t know what to ask. As a result, we easily spread out what we need to learn. But you see, this industry is extensive. The mistake that first-time Interviewees make the most is not deep dice to basic knowledge. There are a lot of online documents, research papers are also published continuously. However, if you follow the momentum, it is easy to get lost in the maze of sublime knowledge. But lack of foundation is hazardous. Interviewers can ask a couple of basic questions and if you don’t know, you are nearly to fail the interview.

In a big company, there are usually 4-5 interview rounds. These include algorithms and Machine Learning. The second mistake that makes us easy to get rejected is the terrible programming skills for algorithmic questions. The third one is the Machine Learning System Design section. When I went to the interview, I couldn’t find any documentation on this. What I learned at previous small companies also did not apply. Experience with small systems has not much to do with massive systems. After those interviews, I am very curious about the system design of big companies. So I scoured the blogs of Netflix, LinkedIn, Google, Pinterest, etc. Then I spent 6 months designing a course called Machine Learning System Design myself. This course also helped me get offers from big companies like Google, LinkedIn, Coupang & Snapchat. Then I tried to post it online, and soon realized it helps a lot of people. I’ve faced many difficulties and disadvantages, so I don’t want others to suffer the same. Many people support the things I concluded. When I hear someone get their dream job partly because of my resources, it makes me so happy! It is also the premise for what I do in the future.

There is one thing that reminds me of this. At that time, a person took my course via his friend’s introduction. After looking at the author’s name is Khang Pham, he guessed it’s Vietnamese. He searched all over Google and found my LinkedIn profile. So he went to thank you and told me that 5-6 companies had offered him. There are such casual relationships there!

Speaking of personal work, I have been working at Snapchat for about half a year now. The company has approximately 5000 people; it can be said to be small compared to FAANG. Here people are very liberal, only stick to final results. They hire good people, and after training, they believe that these people will “do the right things”, no need to control anything: what time do you go to work, what time come back, how to write code, what they will do tomorrow, … no one cares. So the interview process is also a bit different. Firstly, the programming skills interview is really challenging, much more complicated than other companies. Second, they are very concerned about the candidate’s personality. The working culture here is kind. Therefore, thousands of people still work comfortably, without competition, selfishness, and individualism.

The 6 months period of doing the course above was probably my timing challenge. I usually work in the evening, after 9 o’clock when my child falls asleep. Or between 6:00 and 7:00 a.m., when my child hasn’t woken up yet. The work schedule is really stressful. By the time the course was 90%, but honestly, I couldn’t handle it anymore. So I encapsulated that part. Fortunately, Educative staff gave enthusiastic and positive comments, so it was still enough to go on air. To overcome such exhaustion, I try to sleep for 8 hours a day; I am no longer an adolescent :))) After the course, many people keep email me, and most of the problems are the same. So I’ve come up with the Medium blog a few months ago, and have been writing a book! One tip is when you think of something, write it down right away, every day, bit by bit. Setting goals for writing is hard, so just be comfortable with yourself.

I put in a lot of effort, but how do I know if what I am doing brings value to others? There was a moment when I tried and realized. At that time, I was doing questionnaires for people who were going to interview Machine Learning Engineer position. I advertised for those who are in need, just email me and I would give advice. However, you have to pay whatever you want to a charity of my choice. I found this trial was very interesting because it turned out a lot of people paid. I have to bring benefits to them before they are willing to pay, right. Okay, so I can safely continue to work until now.

Read more about the Machine Learning, as well as interview experiences in this industry at:

Blog: https://mlengineer.io/

Github: https://github.com/khangich/machine-learning-interview

Course: https://www.educative.io/courses/machine-learning-system-design

#33 - Hanh Tran

This story was originally published by our partner Women Techmakers Hanoi

When I went to the university, I was determined to enter the ICT class despite no background in information technology except a strong passion for mathematics. My parents were so worried as most of the industry was male-dominated at that time, and they supposed that my life would be much easier if I chose to follow pedagogical jobs. However, I believed that my life would only be at ease if I could pursue what I cherish and enjoy the journey.

During my undergraduate studies, I realized the power of data in combination with technology. I relished the process of diving into gigantic data from diverse sources and deriving valuable insights to make meaningful data-driven decisions that impact the business and society. Therefore, I chose Data Science as my career path.

It has been four years since I started my career as a Data Scientist. I worked from startups to big corporations in various domains such as commercial, law, and fintech. I have drawn a myriad of valuable lessons throughout my journey. It is important to set career goals, identify your strengths and weaknesses, and ask for opportunities. The more senior levels in the industry you are, the more challenges you may encounter. What we can do is to raise visibility, work through them, and prove our values. In addition, graduation is not the end of learning. It is necessary to update knowledge and skills regularly to be a better version of yourself. Having regular conversations with your colleagues would be a superb way to share knowledge and update new technologies. Besides, you can improve yourself by self-learning necessary techniques with online courses and guided projects from leading platforms such as Coursera, Edx, and many other prestigious ones. Understanding that knowledge is power, I decided to take a gap in the industry and continue my Ph.D. studies this October.

My advice for women pursuing this field is to be intensive in a particular area in this vast industry. There are numerous options, such as full-stack, AI, IoT, cybersecurity, and other potential choices awaiting you. Do your research, find out what piques your interest, and concentrate on this. Furthermore, it is critical to actively seek out opportunities rather than expecting them to fall into your lap. Lastly, do not underestimate your capabilities. You might be doubting yourself at the career crossroads. However, if you do not dare to try, you will never know if it fits you or not. Don’t hesitate to ask for new opportunities, accept the tasks, get the experience and demonstrate your worth.

#32 - Quynh Mai

This story was originally published by our partner Women Techmakers Hanoi

I am writing for myself and everyone who have been tried step by step to explore one of the hottest jobs recently. I cannot remember how many interviews I had to get a first step in data analytics area from Germany to Vietnam, from an internship to a full-time job. But all these experiences made me of today, a passionate Data Analyst.

Honestly, the most difficult part to enter this career is undoubtedly the beginning. In some interviews in Vietnam, I usually get the feedbacks like that you are not familiar with a data analytics position or you should try another position or you cannot compete with others with technical or IT/engineering background. So, if you are one of the fortunate few that have the first move, oh Congratulation! - if not, no worry, we can choose another way that can be farther or can be harder but never forget our target.

After many interviews, I realized that the domain knowledge plays a key role on the road to succeed, even more essential than technical skills. I started off my career as Market Research Consultant with little tech skills. It is an interesting job to understand customer insight as well as market trends. With gained knowledge and experiences, I can connect business performance to the data, understand and contribute immediate value to the company. In the face of rapidly changing technology, the hands-on industrial experience will be valuable. Hence, just try any job that can support you about it. Now, if you cannot move to another job as you want, just enrich your knowledge in your major.

Besides, the logical thinking and problem-solving skill are also important. Because data analytic is not only a process but also a mindset. You cannot be well equipped with a statistical background but you should know some basic terms and train yourself to have analytical thinking from solving simple problems. Sometimes the boss’s requirement is not too complicated as you think.

In order to become competitive in the market, I have been acquainted with the coding languages. The reason led me to a data career is a quantitative course using R at university. It was much challenging but enjoyable periods. And ‘the joy of always learning, which springs from the nonrepeating nature of the task’ (Henrik Warne). Currently, SQL, R and Python are more popular then we can choose a suitable one. Just google! There are a lot of free courses to study. Last but not least, any language is a tool to bring you to a large data analytics community.

Finally, whether you have been into this field or just entering, you will need motivation to push yourself because no one else is going to do it for you. But you can follow some successful leaders in this area as a role model to learn and to be shared about anything. It is a way to update and feel I am not alone in a data community and know what are happening in the world.

This is a path I stick to start my journey. I have not yet had any significant achievement and still have a long road to learn and meet my target. But I want to share my first chapter of my career after 3 years to motivate all of you who are scare or not to dare to change. Hey girls, let’s be a better version of ourselves then we can get a ‘gold medal’ in someday for all our efforts.

#31 - Thuy Phan

This story was originally published by our partner Women Techmakers Hanoi

HÃY MIÊU TẢ CÂY XOÀI NHÀ EM - an essay.

Before I learnt how to write, I was already strutting away in styles in computer skribbles. I received my “Bachelor’s Degree” in Dressing GirlsGoGame and already mastered every skill sets there is for the Multiplayer Game - “BOMB IT!”. I was ravaging my brother in these battles left and right and claim my championship with pride. Needless to say, I was the original “IT kid” before it was cool.

But then came the time when I HAD indeed learn how to write.

As the teacher firmly hand the Literature neat sheet graph paper - ready to be adorned with meticulously sculpted third-grader’s cursives, my hand reached for the worn-and-torn pink ink pen, in preparation for a prose that could tug at every reader’s heartstring. Until my eyes encountered the đề bài that read as such: “Hãy miêu tả cây xoài trong vườn nhà em” - I have never seen one, or perhaps, a tree of such kind never truly caught the eyes of an inquisitive child of eight. Flustered and scared at the prospect of not turning in the perfect literary paper as usual, I embarked on a journey - to CREATE my own cây xoài.

A splatter here and there, embellished by a few many brushes of leaves enhances the youthful greenery oceans of the mango tree in my imaginary. Dangling freely are its offsprings - the mouth-watering “trái xoài”. The artist me would then proudly proclaim the painting “the most cutting-edge” - with all its part done in MICROSOFT PAINT! And it was there and then that my eternal love for Computer Science has sprouted.

If the writer’s most powerful weapon is her pencil and empty sheets, then my ride-or-die is my worn-and-torn keyboard, imprinted with many a code hurried in attempt of solving an intriguing riddle.

Sheltering far away from the madding crowd, I was as merry jolly as a deer with my Coding. A love that still ripples in my daily life today, a companionship that never failed to support and encourage me to reach out and create. Amongst the parlieu of Internetland, my aspirations and knowledge widen to places I never knew I could. I have worked on a Website Project with an all-girl team to make learning Sign Language for the Hearing-impaired and have embarked with young ladies of my school on an expedition to help children at need through our Baking Project, with all of the preparation production done on the screen-borne archives. Upon these little achievements we, together as women, supported each other and uplifted one another in times of hindrances and several many mental breakdowns along the way. It is the “Sisterhood of the Traveling Computers” that has lit a fire under me to keep striving forward with pride.

I coded my starlit airglow with CSS and rediscovered a deep-hidden love for learning Mathematics and Physics once again with its community wide-spread upon the Coding Community, equipping me with the growth mindset and the PERSEVERANCE needed to uphold, whether time of struggles or just a incredibly mind-boggling Physics homework. I found their encouragement resonating in times of sheer pressure of the exam week, I encountered their profound wisdom within times when all seem lost and gone - as it always creep up at the challenging essence of Trigonometry or Mechanical Physics.

But far from a rosy portrait, my journey to Coding and Physics has not been the path of least resistance. Distorted verdicts were made within classes and discouraging remarks dampened my naivety with their ill-intentions. I crawled into a shell that took me a staggeringly long time to get out and reclaim myself, having to shy away from opportunities to make mistakes and learn how to overcome them in these crucially transformative early years of my life. The chances to raise my hands and proudly claiming the chalk to expand my take on the Physics problem was relinquished - the very prospect of humiliation and embarrassment were sheer enough to declare defeat, and so I lowered my hand and heightened my defeat.

The lethargy and cowardice within me feared the prospect of failure and pitfall marked on these perfect streaks. I let my fear guide my path on learning and rob me of my ability to map out a problem and strive through the challenges it posed, and instead deliberately neglect and overlook them. In pursuing the effervescing heights of perfection, I neglected my small achievement along the way, the small yet rewarding “Hooray!” after solving a Geometry problem or the mistakes learnt on a Electrical Circuit homework.

Coding have helped me see my inner bravery and make mistakes while many teacher didn’t. Coding and Physics combined have steered me to a viewpoint I’ve never reached before - the Patience and Endurance to keep coming back to a troubling riddle and get a better view of it each and every time, may it be a week, a month or perhaps a year. They keep me on my toes and sustain my inherent love for learning with an everlasting and resourceful expanse of knowledge.

My third-grade “cây xoài” essay returned with flying colors, but as I progress upward to higher grades, the strange and absurdity now become far more complex: a never-seen-before 3D graphs of an Ellipsoid or an interaction between two negative-charged atoms in a Uniform Electric Field. But what has never changed is my approach: I now work and learn relentlessly to one day be able to fathom and grasp their unique characters within my lines of code and bring an intuitive description of these abstract definition to life with Python.

Today, as I take a breather under the perfumed air of the honeysuckle, as glimpses were caught of the soaring aeroplanes under my humbling balcony, I find the stamina to keep striving forward as an aspiring Computer Scientist and remain foreverly grateful for the Sisterhood made along the way and the everlasting longings for knowledge. And as a token of my gratitude, I will foreverly apt to encourage and uplift women and young girls with all of my humbling experience and efforts through handing them the toolkits through my Baking Project and teaching Physics to young girls.

#30: Tony Dinh (chap 2)

Chap 2: Indie Hacker - The story from passion

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To be honest, most indie hackers’ dream is to make a living out of side projects and get to work on them full time, unless they buy in their employing company’s direction or participate as shareholders. In that case, the company becomes their product, a product they have great care for. Personally, I’ve come to realize that I do have a threshold to how much I can learn in terms of tech expertise. Like, no matter how much I put effort into it, it’s still not much compared to some others. It’s only natural; everyone has their own limits. Realizing our limits and deciding what actions to take are so important. I think if I start my own thing and focus on it, there are more opportunities and space for me to thrive.

Apart from coding, designing, and product shipment, an indie hacker has countless other things to learn if he wants his products to take off. Marketing, customer service, law, finance, payment, business partners… you name it. It requires an open mindset and the will to sweat to pursue them. There’s that one time a user asked me to export an invoice. I had no clue what the heck that was. Lol, I can’t even distinguish between an invoice and a receipt. So really, you gotta learn to cover all those areas.

Personal branding is a significant skill to take into account. It’s not a must, but it’s great to have. Invest in your branding is a long-term strategy. I can build 10 apps, yet none of them come out as a success. But what I have left is the audience that was a part of my journey building those 10 apps. They are going to be there when I build my 11th. People follow me for who I am, not just for the products that I put out. That “me” over time becomes my branding. For any indie hacker who has just started their game, building personal branding is highly recommended.

I don’t get too strict and disciplined with myself. When I get bored, I take a break for a while. There was a time when I loved games, and I spent a whole month playing. After I got bored with games, I get back to working on my products. Part of it is because I do it cuz I enjoy it. I don’t stress too much about how successful or how much money the product has to make. The great thing is, when users send me emails saying how they love what I built, or request new features, I have the motivation and inspiration to continue working again.

But sometimes, people don’t have that enjoyment with side projects; they have given up full-time jobs to go all in the “indie hacker” lifestyle. So they have to stay disciplined, set goals, and do everything. While that could be stressful, it could also be a force to keep them moving. A formula high risk - high return 🦸🏼

Peer pressure happens all the time. Especially when you’re on Twitter a lot and hearing from your friends. But that’s life. There are always better people out there. I usually tell myself this: Look back if you feel inferior, but look forward when you feel invincible. Look back to see how far you’ve gone. Look forward to know there’s more greatness to achieve up next.

I keep rotating the perspectives like that. It gives me a sense of much-needed balance. Like some people tell me, they feel frustrated because traders make far more than their 9-5 jobs. I say, it’s that’s stressing them that much, maybe quit their 9 to 5 and start trading if they want to also make as traders. We can’t just look on the surface and compare, while we don’t have any idea of the underlying risks. We can’t just do what we do and wish to have someone else’s achievement. That’s not a fair game. That’s really unhealthy.

For software beginners, I think it’d be great if they can work where they can improve their tech expertise as much as they can. After that, it depends on what you want. Want to build something on your own? Start thinking of your side projects soon. It will give you the time to research, experiment, maintain and gain a relevant grasp needed to build something bigger in the future. Want to stay growth along with a company? That works too. But staying too long in a place might put you in a comfort zone that might be hard to get out. Just be ready for the first steps.

#29 - Tony Dinh (chap 1)

How to stop pasting JSON strings, JWT tokens, or sensitive data to random websites online? Since the start of Covid-19, Tony Dinh has turned DevUtils.app from a passion project to solve his own problems to a revenue-generating side gig with a massive opportunity for further development. Today, his story shared with Techie will walk you through his notable yet humble journey as a software engineer, with a huge scope into his personal experience.

Chap 1: Software engineer, what else besides the 9 to 5 work?

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I gotta say, ‘Indie Hacker” could be such a buzzword. Anyone who builds their own products is an indie hacker. Back in university, I started playing around, crafting my apps, and almost always had some side project going on. Two years ago, I wasn’t completely committed or thought of making income from those products. They were built partly for my interest or to make a good impression with potential employers. You know, something with my personal remark in it. Though these days, I have less time to invest in side projects because of my full-time job, I still keep going at it as much as I can manage. Unlike the day-to-day familiarity of the full-time job, these side projects allow me to experience more and learn more new things. Instead of throwing ourselves into random things, we can focus and build a product with enthusiasm. So far, these side projects have led me to learn UI/UX Design, app/web development, testing, DevOps, etc. It’s pretty amazing. The satisfaction of knowing and doing new things sometimes means more than making money.

I barely build what’s already on the market. Most of what I build comes from solving my personal problems. That makes them unique. But there’s also a downside to building products for your own needs. I mean, just because it solves my issue doesn’t mean it’s valuable to others. The market only grows if people have the same pain point. If it only serves a small segment, that means the problem is not big enough. When that’s the case, the product becomes a piece in my “personal collection”.

The “right fit” is the most important: I myself fit the product, and the product fits people’s needs. That’s my approach to choosing ideas for my products.

A second approach is analyzing bottlenecks of other people or companies, then building a solution for them. But it takes great time and effort to understand and walk in their shoes, which is something I’m still incapable of. So that’s something for the future.

Every wall starts from placing the first brick, right? I gave my family, acquaintances, friends, and colleagues a free trial and then asked for their feedback. If you don’t yet have an audience, share it on any forums or channels where potential users might be. I no longer use Facebook these past few years. Product Hunt, Indie Hacker, Hacker News… are a few of my go-to platforms to share my products. I once tried with Vietnamese audiences, but the conversion of license purchases is relatively tiny. That’s why I switch to Twitter to reach a larger audience. Remote working has been rising since Covid; putting everything online is the only way to spread awareness. You don’t need to write long paragraphs or fancy marketing words. You just literally need to show what’s new or what you’ve done for the product. That’s how you catch their genuine attention.

I usually define the Pricing model from the beginning. What’s free remains free. What’s for sale comes with a Business Model. It’s hard to evaluate the product value if you make it free then charge when the market gets bigger. DevUtils.app is currently the one I find the most potential to grow and invest in. There are mini products I build out of curiosity, like https://blackmagic.so/. Little did I know that it created hype around Twitter and actually made a profit. Can you imagine if the customer base grows 10 folds from now? Splendid.

#28 - Thanh Nguyen

Back in 2014-2015, most of my classmates followed the Mobile career path as Android Developer. You know, Mac devices were unaffordable 💸

Let see, the most changes after six working years must be less chubby (I lost nearly 30 kilograms 😌) and “less stupid.” If working in the backend development, I probably wouldn’t stand up to now. I like the beauty, and Android gives me that thing. It’s not wrong to say that because of the lousy career counseling from scratch. Anyway, thanks to Android Development, I can see the UI and the interface users experience. My most exciting part of working might be reporting UI bugs. A good product is firstly a beautiful product that makes users comfortable, isn’t it? Apart from Android, Frontend Development or Design also allow us to match logic and “art blood”. How cool…

It’s said that Developers can’t code for their whole life. They should find the other track after a while. PM or Team Lead, for example. I think it may bring a promotion or a high salary. But it won’t be easy, definitely! Every role requires knowledge updated frequently. Finally, for me, am I happy working this job?

Regarding this topic, I think learning what we like is much easier. Reading a little day by day, week by week, then linking them to the big picture. I am sure this progress will have some lazy points. Try to think about the final results we can achieve. It may help us overcome the sluggish periods.

There are two questions that the young generation should answer: Who am I? and then What do I do?

“Hello guys, I am Thanh. I am an Android Developer.”

#27: Giang Tran

My colleague or even my family haven’t known I am LGBT yet. I was “straight”, but fall in love with “him” at the university. I don’t intentionally hide them, and I just keep it a secret. Some tacitly know, so I don’t have to embarrass anymore. I nearly decided to take a police examination, but you know an LGBT police is a little bit weird! My family has stayed in the Central, so almost them prefer their children to work as doctors, officers, or teachers. I didn’t like them, so I even try to fail the exam. It’s funny, isn’t it? I started university one year behind my friends. When applying to FPT software university, my parents said:

“Get the scholarship, then study!”

Fortunately, I passed, so I finally became an engineer now. After working for a few years, my parents still text me from time to time, let take a break and retake the exam. I have no word to say!

I am artistically inclined, so it is difficult to talk to colleagues in the tech industry. It’s okay to talk about work, but it’s not okay on the sidelines. You know, it’s not easy to find people with similar interests. Sometimes the manager feedback for me is not good, but I also speak directly. People must “match” each other to talk or play outside of work. Sometimes I find myself being too sensitive. I am not pressured because of hard work or many workloads, but too much emotional pressure. I am very guilty when I affect anyone; it is better if I am wrong then I accept all the consequences. I think so much about what people say that I can’t fall asleep. People like me have to release a little bit of stress every time to balance it out. Usually, I will take a short break to exercise or sing and dance, all sorts of games 💃.

I always try to do the best job I can, but I know it’s not my favorite. Working in IT, somewhere for me is a bit of hobby + practice. Having to live a little realistically, not every passion can turn into a career. Sometimes I lost my way, but I just keep good at what I did. Sometimes it opens up other opportunities for me. So if I sit idle and think, I lose.

#26: Duc Nghiem - TaaF part 2

Part 2: When a boy became a Dad

Take a look at part 1: https://techiestory.net/post/25-duc-nghiem

I saw my father’s images inside me when I became a Dad. I just lived with my Dad for three years, but it was my treasure time. My Dad is very talented; he could do everything. He played with me and allowed me to try whatever he did. However, like other traditional fathers, he didn’t show his feeling and emotion. So did my mom. Maybe because of her nature. This is the one I am really want to change when raising Mam Tom. You know, only when growing up, I realize it was a pain. For example, Dad usually blamed me like:

You couldn’t do anything!

You should join the army!

As a child, I didn’t feel anything about these judgments. Time flies, when attending a meditation course, I recalled the above memories. I accidentally realized that my attempt, motivation from high school, university to startup were all about proving to my Dad. It unintentionally made me working crazy and even forgot my mental health. So I soon burn out and got exhausted. I didn’t see the destination. It was because the motivation came from outside, not from the inner me. Indeed, I can learn or do everything at the moment, but after being under lots of stress, I have to rethink my motivation and destination.

For that reason, I don’t put any expectation on Mam Tom. I hope she tries to do things because she desires it, and the goals start from herself.

#25: Duc Nghiem - TaaF part 1

Part 1: Dad wasn’t born to be a father. This is also the first time Dad has been a father.

Back to the time, I was focusing on my startup project, then my wife told me she was pregnant for 2 months already. That was a shock! I wasn’t ready to have a kid anymore. So it took me a month to keep calm, arrange works and celebrated my wedding when Mam tom was “4 months”. Months later, I moved to salaried employment, read dad’s books, and started to learn how to be a dad. Yeah, it exactly learned to be a dad.

Frankly speaking, it is a negotiation. I used to build the network by taking part in lots of events and conferences. It was said that the startup community when mentioning me. When they remember us by our specialty (personal branding), they soon forget us when we don’t do that thing anymore or with fewer frequencies. We will be forgotten! This is the most affected in my career since I’ve had Mam Tom. However, I decided to take the first 3 years with my daughter seriously, so working wasn’t my first priority. I put my whole focusing on Tom and my wife. I didn’t suppose that I even learn from my daughter, a lot.

Mam Tom looks like my first-time startup. We were ready to take risks since we were an “empty paper” or had nothing to lose. I had my daughter check the DNA to get the health status, personality, characters, etc. It reveals quite a lot of things. For example, Tom’s DNA shows that she can be very good at math, logic, so I realize she can spend an hour playing lego without being bored. As a toddler, she was so shy in front of the crowd, so I pushed her to the opposite side. I don’t want her always stay in her comfort zone. Integrated time can be longer, but it’s worth trying. I took her to an international school with a bunch of outdoor activities, but still have some private corner for her. You know, it took Mam Tom six months to observe the new environment. When she felt safe, she has entered the activities. Of course, the amount of integrated time has gradually dropped.

I also took her to swim, drawing, and music classes. She hates swimming the most cause she is forced to the framework. I tried many ways to let her not give up. She can hate it, but she has to complete the course. In contrast, she prefers music lessons. The exciting thing is that she loves the class not because of itself. There is a giant lego play yard in front of the class! Cool. To be motivated, let mix with your favorite activity.

It’s tough to raise a kid whatever we learn. But it’s fun anyway!

#24: Hoai Pham

Getting the first step to university, I just knew how to code “Hello world” while my friends from gifted school have done lots of things. They look talented comparing to us! So I had to put great effort to catch up with the pace. However, I got the General Chemistry subject three times. Luckily, for the third time, she was so bored with me that she closed her eyes and let me pass.

I have focused on Data engineering for two years. Since then, I still struggle to level up in my career, but the crazy level is constantly increasing! From the company to the house, I just stay in front of the laptop screen. Just a little bit of communication while supporting others. The number of talks must be counted on the fingers.

  • What’s wrong with this?
  • Could you wait a minute? I’ll watch it again
  • Okay, that’s it

Over.

Being not conduct a long conversation for so long makes people misunderstanding me. To make my words easy to understanding, I have to point at the screen and use body language. Sometimes my boss even sits down and translates for me. It’s weird, isn’t it?

I have worked almost in big tech. They have a fixed system. Everything is temporarily called stable, so just follow it. Occasionally, there will be maintenance issues. With the standardized process, I work more scientifically. For some reason, a multi-user system is very different from a few users. For example, that night when a promotional voucher was launched, 10 million people jumped in to grab it once, the design of the system must be met. But the user side is very speechless in many cases. It’s obviously logical, but no, it’s not happening as I thought 😭. So it takes a lot of work to gain experience. That said, now I’m also going to try working in the startup: little data, few users, but a lot of hands-on approaches.

The previous system I worked on was about finance and money. It’s scary to touch money, even though the whole process with the QC team is enormous and standardized. Once the boss said, “Hoai, would you like to code voucher?”, bonus a small talk if I have mistaken the voucher value, I have to compensate for that damage. So I run immediately!

#23: Huy Tieu

Don’t worry! People sometimes feel lost, too. When our works fall into a saturation state, we see nothing’s too interesting to learn and try. Then we can’t level up ourselves. That’s the point of working on different or new things. In my opinion, we find it easy to get lost after getting married and in that Covid pandemic 😷.

I also have a breakthrough; jump from Business Analyst of Tech company to Product Manager of Non-Profit Organisation. Earn money while doing something good; that’s awesome! Parallelly, lots of changes happen. There are different missions, different workflow, different views, etc. I would like to do many things then find what’s most fitting for me or what I good at. I am easily adaptable. However, deciding to learn a new field, accepting a new challenge are simple. The essential thought is, “can we commit it for the long term?”. We all have a unique nature, so if we don’t like what we do, it can’t be run permanently unless we did it for too long that it changed our nature.

Naturally, I am one of the oldest guys in the previous companies, but I am the youngest here; wow. I almost work with 7x, 8x generation with the Ph.D. degree, covering most of the Earth’s time zones. So, when setting meeting times, we have to work hard to rotate and take turns at bad times. My scope of work is likely Operations. I am responsible for all internal systems, software, digital products, etc. It’s also fun to do them. The growth rate is not as fast as For-Profit companies, but daily tasks are still a lot. The environment here is multi-national; people work in the “work hard, play hard” style. They start working at 8:30 AM, sometimes even earlier. At 4 PM, everyone begins wrapping up and backing home to avoid traffic jams. In general, we work and have meetings continuously. There is no chance of playing and joking around during working hours.

There are dramas everywhere in the working environment. Small companies have less drama; big companies have more. That’s it! The main thing is that we’re kind to each other so that we can talk and make friends later. In general, every problem has a solution. Put your heart into each decision because sometimes we can’t define who’s right or wrong.

#21: Huyen My

It may be hard to believe, but it was until I got a degree in economics and got a first position related to making products for a tech company, that I knew what IT was like. At that stage, I was always overwhelmed, full of confusing terms about Big Data, NLP, Chatbot, Speech Processing technology,… running around in my head. To understand the product, I had to sit around with the devs, try to listen to everyone, and then translate into my own business language in the most “real” way 🤣🤣

As a female in a company where more than 95% are male, I am fortunate to have enthusiastic support from my friends, so I don’t think much about it. It was until I moved to the human resources segment, although it didn’t happen at my company, but when I had the opportunity to interact with many candidates, some hiring managers or C-levels at companies in the market, I am able to get the job: listen to many stories, prejudices and difficulties that girls have had to go through and will still face if there are no more positive changes. That has motivated me to stick more with the tech industry.

I really want female to be given more opportunities to express themselves and be more confident in the IT industry. According to what I observed and shared by my friends, there are two aspects that “barrier” women from entering the industry:

  1. People often hesitate to hire a female software engineer. Sometimes, they will tend to think that women don’t spend much time on coding, work, or don’t OT much. Then there comes a time when the female get married, become mothers, take care of their families, etc., causing them to neglect their work and affect the company’s projects. Even if they are recruited, they also think that female software engineers will probably be for a while, then switch to BA or QA. See, there are too many prejudices in the working environment that get in the way.
  2. Traditional education style of Vietnam, I mean. I don’t know about the others, but where I grew up, I see that girls are very limited in what career orientation is good, leisurely and stable. Like me, when I was a child, my parents drew a picture. Go to this school then do this job. But in the end, I still didn’t follow the family’s path. hat makes me not have opportunities to interact, try to see what I like, what I am good at. Oh dear, at that time I thought computers were for playing games, programming was for installing Win.

So, in summary, I hope female are not too negatively affected by the surrounding environment. Just focus on your goal, on your direction. Changing people’s perspectives and prejudices is a very long story, don’t let it affect your future. We should learn how to manage my emotions so that we are not afraid of anything, in any profession. So be confident guys 🦸

Fun fact: Ms. Huyen My is the Cofounder of Shecodes - connecting and supporting IT enthusiasts, not just for women. When it was founded, there were people who were skeptical about SheCodes that no one would join, because there are no female Coders! Guess what, in the 36-hour programming competition Shecodes held, more than 200 girls participated!

#20: Lam Do

Lam Do - software engineer @Facebook

I started to learn code from grade 9. Wow, it has been eight years so far. It was just my hobby to discover Computer and Computer Science from day one, rather than pursuing a tech career. A significant milestone might be the high school entrance examination, in which I chose Computer as my major. Lots of memos since I joined the tech industry. Back in high school for the gifted, my family always supported me; but my teachers didn’t. They were like, “Girl should not pursue this career! There will be no time to take care of your family” or “ You should choose an easier field. Generally, female logic is not as good as male!”. At that time in Vietnam, people even thought that students would pass the Computer’s entrance exam effortlessly because there were not many students applying. I tried my best to pursue what I desire, so a little bit upset when hearing that.

Being the only girl in class had some advantages, I have to say that. I was pampered with others and not to get my hand dirty in manual works. I saw that IT men are cute, truthful, and enthusiastic. When I entered grade 10, the seniors gave me lots of valuable documents and invited me to the team. Another great thing about being a female in tech is that there’s no need to care about your appearance. I don’t have to wear pounds of makeup or choose what to wear in the morning. In tech companies, being beautiful or ugly is not affect your salary/ benefit package. People don’t care about your clothes until they actively seek a girlfriend in the company (maybe!).

However, a tech career is not easy for girls, seriously! I used to face several negative experiences. Their talk hurts me sincerely that somehow they didn’t notice.

  • Seeing Lam’s code will know how bad abcxyz students are
  • Oh, that’s woman logic!
  • Girls usually code bug
  • Your work (boy) is not good as a girl’s!

Maybe I need more time to learn and experience. However, aforesaid is so mean! The judgment assumed that all girls have these “genes”, which made me so injured. Of course, I left the company despite the internship duration. Even when I got the Facebook offer, people still asked, “Does Facebook have any strategy when hiring Lam?”. Nowadays, society seems to have lots of prejudice. For me, entering the tech industry for eight years is not long, but it’s enough time for me to realize gender discrimination. I gradually control my emotion and ignore these harmful kinds of stuff. However, I know some girls are too depressed that they give up or change their career path to BA/ QC that doesn’t require more coding. They’re not confident with code anymore.

Just a few disadvantages, but nothing is impossible. The more important thing is following your dream to the end. It always lies in your attempt. In conclusion, I hope society looks at science in general, and computer science, in particular, is for everyone and every gender.

#19: Tham Le

Tham Le - my journey to becoming a female software engineer

It was the story of 18 years ago. My whole life was in the suburb. By the first time I got to know how people type on the computer with their ten fingers, I was in the 9th grade. “How cool,” I thought. It struck me that I must pursue this badass career, whatever it takes. I signed up for any class that related to computers. After the senior graduation, my parents forced me to stay home because they assume “Girls shouldn’t spend too much effort studying.” But heck, I bypassed it. Reaching sophomore year, I started to pay my own tuition fee.

My career path has roadblocks—a lot. My first interview was with a CEO, but my direct leader was another guy. The leader was cranky, and I had no idea about it. A week later, he called me in.

“Woman is unable to work in programming. I suggest you choose another job. Or come back to your hometown and find some work in agriculture.”

I was stunned. The ego told me that I must remove myself from this environment. I handed in the resignation offer the day after. But it’s weird. That small talk didn’t prevent me from keep going. In fact, it pushed me harder on the path of becoming a developer. I signed up for College class and stepped into the 2nd company as a data entry staff. The HR Head offered me to become the Lead, but I turned him down. “I can’t. What I want is to keep learning and working in programming”, I explained.

“Where would you think that can lead you to? That industry isn’t made for women”, he replied.

It pissed me off. “Tell me that I can’t, I’ll show you I can” was the only thing in my mind back then. The next company wasn’t better as well. They framed me in copy-paste scope, which was boring. These years taught me a lot through the sufferings and overcoming my own ego. I didn’t receive respect until I came to the 4th company. This leader dropped me a website. My main work was to make it alive. I finished it in a week. It was a bomb to him. “How come you did it so fast without any previous experience?” he surprised. And if you ask how I felt back then? It felt like I was capable of saving the world. That’s when I know it’s possible to pick up and succeed, as long as you have the necessary support.

Personally, I’m not sure it was because my ability wasn’t good enough, or people actually looked down on females that much. I just wished those first 3 companies rashly jumped to the conclusion without giving me the time to prove my competency. But that also proves a point: Consistency stays as the critical key, no matter what we do.

Females in tech face many prejudices and disadvantages. Besides the class combo of “Have you married yet” and “When will you have kids,” the income range is also lower than male colleagues. We must train our mindset and keep it stable as much as we could. Find your will to keep living with the dream and fight for it.

Female coders deserve more open doors to unlock their potential. After all these years working in tech, I’ve realized that patience helps keep me on the right track. And put what you learn into practice as much as you can. We’re surrounded by many opportunities to upgrade and improve ourselves. Most companies now have prioritized the training session for freshmen and juniors. But to grow up, there are some aspects we must dive into and work it out. Anything to the guys? Well, I just hope male programmers can look for the bigger picture and spend more time listening to our perspectives. I’ve gone through a rough patch to get where I am now, and I hope things can be better for anyone in the next generation.

#17: Minh Tran

My life is weird. Never have I ever got the chance to do things straightforward. It took many turns before leading me to become a lecturer.

I take academic study very seriously. I crave for the next new things; that’s why I signed up for the Master program of Nano Technology. My thesis was the combination of Nano, Electrical and Information Technology for Computer Science. I even planned for the Ph.D., but things didn’t work. Some issues forced me to relocate back to Da Nang. Things never work out the way we plan, they say. I dropped the studying path since then. I picked the current grasp and started to apply for work. It was 2017, as I remember, I received a project on Artificial Intelligence. A big surprise and challenge as well.

In Computational, there’s an algorithm called Optimization. Everything in Deep Learning falls back to a linear point. Researching skill isn’t a new thing to me, so it wasn’t hard for me to dive in and learn on the job. But at that time, Artificial Intelligence was still not able to commercialize. We had no choice but to hit a pause of the work. It went through many stages until I teach in Information Technology. Looking back at the path I’ve walked past, things grew and branched. It’s like when you’re traveling; you get tired of the fixed direction, and just simply take a turn whenever you feel to. Not all who wander are lost. We never know what fits us until it happens, and we feel happy doing it. For me, it all started since I knew of computer science.

Fun quiz: Is the milk-white or black?

#16: Loc Nguyen

“”Straightforward” is how I describe the life here. They’ll come at you with no sugarcoating.”

I’ve worked in System Architecture in Vietnam for nearly 10 years, from enterprises to banking and startups. I moved to Germany in the middle of 2019 and embarked on a new chapter. It was a culture shock for working style, I have to admit. Back in Vietnam, pings and small talks during work is normalized. We think those are real-time updates or feedback on the work, which doesn’t interrupt much on people’s working zone.

So I did the same thing in Germany. In the performance review, they told me that was very annoying. “We somehow feel disrespected,” said them.

“Oh jeez, thank you for letting me know that,” I answered. “That’s what we do in Vietnam, to keep the team posted”

Privacy on working time is considered as the top priority here. Everyone has their daily plans. It’s our job to take that seriously. If we have something in need, they’d prefer a booking in advance. That also prevents us from interrupting their working pace. People don’t talk about work after 4 PM. They’ll be likely to arrange the workload, planning for tomorrow, and enjoy the rest of the day in sunlight. They crave that yellow heat. They value individual points of view in the workplace. Retrospective meetings are meant to locate the issue and seek resolution. The fact that you have nothing to contribute in terms of enhancement is also something to concern. We don’t make the decision just because a lot of people vote for it. It takes consensus and convincement.

German does everything with conscientiousness. Once something is released, it must reach the top-notch level. It’s a critical mindset which I believe we all need to adopt. People tend to do many things at once, yet none of them actually come out perfectly. They’re very thoughtful when it comes to leadership. Leaders do care about employee’s life outside of work. They pay real attention to work-life balance.

The labor cost in Germany is pretty high, so I basically do everything myself. Engineer, electrical mechanic, pipe mechanic, chef, car-washer, and hairdresser as well. See this haircut? Been mastering this since 2019.

#15: Phat Nguyen

“It was the 2nd year of college, then I decided to drop Medical school to pursue IT.”

You see, I was a blank canvas. That’s the common issue of all freshmen. At the age of 17s, all we knew were Math, Physics, Chemistry, and examinations. Everything was a blur. We had no idea about occupation, skillset, or even our own interest. Standing in front of one of the most important life choices - University, Medical School came to my decision as a strike. The moment I started to know of evisceration and other medical work, got swamped into the books full of terminology, I knew one thing for sure: This is not where I belong. Spending the next 10 years on this? Nope! A doctor can never get his job done without the passion for what he does.

Finished the second term of sophomore, I knew my parent would have never given me the approval for major-switching. Giving them the heads up wouldn’t do them or me any favor. It could even create invisible pressure, which I don’t think I need. Let’s be this straight. No one wants their kid to drop Medical School just to sit with a computer day in day out. So I did everything in the dark. I still went to school and trained myself again for the exam. I didn’t even ask to maintain the academic record because I knew I wouldn’t go back. I knew it was the right move to choose IT. And thank God that’s still valid until now.

Starting a bit late is okay, as long as you have the will to keep it happen. However, seeing those young classmates sometimes feels a bit odd. In an era where you can find everything you need on the Internet, nurturing your passion and finding your inner strength is the only thing that matters. It’s been my 3rd year as a Backend Engineer, yet I’ve never stopped exploring the new. I’m still thankful for not giving up on what I believe.

#14: Duc Nghiem

“It began with the love for photography. I used to do hip-hop dancing and dived in that kind of art playground. Photography later then came inevitably. My sister also happened to have a studio. I was clearly supported and inspired by it. But when I started making a decision for career orientation, photography seems not to have many opened doors. So I picked another related field, graphic design. I was a bit greedy when I believed I could handle two majors at once. It’s a risky move, but I glad I did it. After graduation, I got to know many friends from business, enlightening me on business and economy insights. It developed my interest in this field. That was 2012 or 2013, as I remembered, the time when Uber had just set their foot in the market. I received an offer to develop a startup community in Vietnam when I was still in the US. I figured it’s best to do something to learn more about it. The more you scare something, the more it can teach you. That mindset led me back to Vietnam and started my ride with startup. I was hoping to utilize the product development skills and technology to uplift startup projects within the first two years and going divestment for the next investor.

At first, I had no idea what I was supposed to do. So I started looking for like-minded people. There were 6 of them, including Eddie Thai from 500Startups & Hai Ho of Triip.vn. I spent over a month catching up with them, and fortunately, they were all thrilled by the idea of scaling up the startup community using their resources. They need someone to effectuate it. Feeling that enthusiasm, I moved back to Vietnam to lead the project. It took me nearly 3 months to connect and conversate with as many people as possible to know what step to follow next. I was completely blank, and people were welcomed to brush me with anything from their expertise. Conversate, collect, understand. I eventually got closer to the big picture, the struggle of stakeholders. I finally came to understand what a startup community is a lack. The first one I started was SHIELD. It stands for Startup Hub for Investment, Education, and Leadership Development. After nearly 3 years, SHIELD held up to 4 startup events per week, with the participation ranges from 10 to 200 people. I did everything that comes from the thirst for startup knowledge and the desire to contribute back to the community. I always feel if I help people with anything, I’ll gain back a lot more. The second thing is, I realize I’m not the only one who’s struggling with finding a place for a startup knowledge hub.

Evaluating a startup’s potential is a long process. You think you have it under control, but in the next second, it’s like there’s nothing clear. I think it’s a combination of sentimental and rational opinion. I might first look at the founder’s lifestyle and the way they run their startup. I even take a closer look at their personal value, particularly on the eagerness to learn and their strive for success. It’s the balance between the two virtues. The next thing would be a discussion on the current market, team resources, and financial status. I must answer 2 questions: “What is their story?” & “What kind of value can I bring?” Asking those questions prevents me from stressing myself out. I used to be an introvert. Meeting new people costs many of my energy. After a long time expanding my connection, I learned that the best thing to work for conversation is sharing your thought sincerely. Let them access our point of view on their business problem, and offer them the suitable solution. I tend to build trust rather than monetize from them. Develop an interest constructs the foundation for any long-term partnership. If you can’t going through a casual talk, a higher level of engagement is impossible.

People seek investors with a purpose. As a partner and an investor, my scope is to manage their expectation on the investment, how the resource should be spent, and everything in between. I support them with a framework and vision to verify their business model. Founders can build startups and still know nothing about what they should do. Support them with the right framework and method to evaluate the business growth helps them identify the underlying red flags and come up with the right solution. Founders will likely believe what they do is right, so it’s our job to help them see another side of the story. In a world where the chance of risk is beyond 90%, the ability to find the answer for “Am I going the right way” is vital.”

#13: Sony Huynh

“SRE can be considered as an implementation of DevOps, but the concept will be a bit different. We maintain and develop the infrastructure to involve every team to work base on a mutual mechanism. It’s about setting up the working culture, internal tools, and environments so developers can operate the job themselves. For example, if the work happens in Flutter, we’ll take care of the CI/CD, pipeline, or infrastructure preparation.

I’ve had more than 4 years working in software engineering, though I did come from another major - Computer engineering, embedded system. I spent the first two years in Telecom system at Ericsson, followed by almost one year as a DevOps engineer for a startup. Until I moved to Teko, where I helped set up the foundation for mutual tech stacks and operation processes. We currently bridge the gap between development and operations using GitOps - which supports a complete history of how our environment is changing over time. We manage almost everything under GitOps concept, from cloudflare, data migration, ACL, Gateway configuration, Kubernetes cluster and the workload in between.

From what I believe, if we collect a level of knowledge and experience, role switching isn’t a big deal. People can still spend 3-5 years in a role, yet they never really understand its nature. You must genuinely work at every level it takes; otherwise, it’s impossible to resolve the issue regarding infrastructure and scaling. This marks the linear line between DevOps/ SRE to other developers. It’s not always about running code.

The process of releasing a product or moving it from development to production environment faces many difficulties. Your app can run perfectly on a local test and can still crash at the moment it reaches the production environment. The second obstacle is scaling. Scaling in an application describes its ability to handle a volume of traffic simultaneously, not how many features or code you’re implying in an app. It requires a solid base in infrastructure and software design, which can be “scaled” through time and still perform at its best.

When it comes to startup, it’s another direction. Startups will expect to launch their product in a short amount of time to pitch their idea for investment. To get that done, startups must ensure a fixed set of features to make sure their app runs flawlessly and meets the problem-solution fit. From the founder’s perspective, development timing is the key. But for us developers, it’s the risk of technical debt and the chance of rebuilding everything from scratch. But rebuilding a system in startups is inevitable; still, I think the solution for that underlying issue is still unanswered.

For me, adapting the team culture is the first action to be done before it comes to the company since most of the time is spent on teamwork & communication. But don’t get me wrong, we still need to stay up-to-date on what other teams are planning on. It keeps everyone synced and make sure we run toward the same goal, and easier when the situation calls for resource reallocation. So yes, culture fit in a small team is essential, but only when that team spirit goes along with the company’s vision in the long run.”

#12: Thanh Tran

“I first realized my interest in computing since high school. We were learning Pascal at the time. Next thing I know, I was chosen to compete in an IT contest and for my very first prize in life. Da Nang University of Science and Technology was my choice to pursue further in this field. But the truth? I didn’t have much chance for hands-on experience in the first two years of uni. I was eager to seek more real things, such as Robocon, with the whole competition and teamwork collaboration. My university specifically asked for both graduation thesis and internship certification, so I started to go for an internship from my 3rd year. Diving in a working environment when you’re still a student brings many advantages if you’re proactive enough. Because you’re allowed to make mistake. Ask, learn, practice, and repeat. Usually, once our probation performance is outstanding, people are likely to offer a full-time position because they take you as a good asset for the team. That opportunity happened to me. However, the study schedule was quite overloaded. I must postpone the internship to finish the schoolwork. 2 years later, I stepped out of university and got my first job as a fresher developer based in Da Nang.

My first project was a drag & drop application to resolve a problem in file transfer. I do realize it was my first official year of working, so I did my best to collect every piece of knowledge. From backend, frontend to foundation knowledge and soft skills. Each of them is still used until now. Then I got a project which required a relocation to Saigon, where I spent the next few months living as a local. There were too many open doors gradually showed up, enough for me to consider moving to SG to settle. I mean, if we don’t try and challenge ourselves when we’re still young, how can we surpass our limit and grow beyond it. Those first days in Saigon was really struggling. I just started to rearrange my whole life from step one. It’s a process of growing up from real experience, and worth all the way.

Somehow, I believe programming engineers should challenge themselves and deal with more than one programming language. It generates an overall view of how its advantages can be utilized on a certain problem. Hence, it helps us to come up with a solution more flexible and meticulously. Still, switching from one language to a new one means you have to accept an adjustment in income since you’ve started from a beginner level. That’s what happened when I switched from NodeJS and React to Golang. But it’s a good move, in fact, an opportunity cost to invest in what we truly want to master.”

#11: Dieu Vien

“Let’s just say my major and what I do has nothing in common. I graduated as an import-export bachelor, spent the next 6 months in an international school as an Academic Assistant, then nailed at Coinhako as a Customer Service. Weird, I know. I wondered what it would like to experience a startup model, and I found Coinhako amongst the zone. Coinhako was a whole different industry, a tech company for bitcoin and cryptocurrency. Coinhako was a small team by the time I came, which allowed me to touch my hands on many roles and define what I do best. I developed a strong passion for IT because I admire how software engineers can turn any idea into tech products. It’s what truly amazed me. I used to try getting on the IT major when I was in university, but I couldn’t. And Coinhako was a chance for me to step in this field as another role.

Customer service (CS) supports and handles the user’s problem. There are two types of issues. One that can be resolved by CS staff and one that needs to be redirected for developers to work on. In the past 2 years, besides working as a CS, I’ve immersed myself in other scopes such as tester, PO assistant, and even Business Analyst. For someone who doesn’t have IT as a background, I found it pretty tricky communicating with developers when it comes to programming languages. For instance, describe an issue that users are facing or comment on the development process.

As time goes by, things got better. I feel lucky to be mentored and partnered with people who are always down to help. Still, working in too many roles can sometimes leave you with confusion since you can’t determine a straightforward career path. At first, I thought it felt great enough to participate as a tester, you know, to walk in the customer’s shoes and to give feedback to improve the product. But now I’ve realized I want more than that. It will feel way better to actually learn a programming language and code a product yourself.”

#10: Quynh Le

“I never thought I would have immersed myself in IT. I was more tempted by mechanical engineering. But the two were my consideration because I wanted to prove that girls can be bold and work as hard as guys. It didn’t happen easily. My mom refused to let me go for it. She even locked me up in the house just because I insisted on apply for Bach Khoa. We were having a bad time back then. Things only improved when I managed to succeed in the entrance test with the highest score in the scholarship application list.

I always have a thing for logical thinking subjects like AI or Machine Learning. My biggest hurdle was that there weren’t many AI companies at the time, not even product companies. They were mostly outsourced firms for foreign companies. So either I spend time on science research and a master degree, or I stick my neck out the working world and start exploring.

I worked in my first company as a Java Developer for three or four months, after that I realized I couldn’t fit in a place where people keep burying their heads in computers like robots. I need something more dynamic. And I decided to move forward, as a tester. Though I aimed for automation, this new role limited me at manual and shaped my workflow as a steady tester, writing test cases and report bug day in & day out, which is, again, rolled me with a question: “Should I change my job?”

My next place was a product company, where they do the work on all platforms. Win, macOS, Android & iOS. From web test to mobile test. I know. A whole new environment. But they have the downside, too. Not only tester wasn’t taken seriously - as they tend to value developers more; they also fall for a prejudice: Girls can’t take care of the work solid enough like guys do. It was a barrier, and I must put more effort into proving them wrong.

Working as a tester means you face the risk against developers almost every day. Sometimes, it takes arguments to debate on whether or not a bug is valid or invalid. I learned many lessons about teamwork and negotiation through this. It tells a lot about how you can explain and protect your point of view without getting offended and still make things work.

A question that many people will bump into is why automation tester makes more than manual tester. I believe it’s due to the lack of automation tester comparing to manual ones. Frankly, a manual tester can come from other fields than just IT only. That triggers an increase in the number of manual testers because the path is more accessible to embark on. I’ve met many manual testers whose background was economics, medical, or even gamers. But they can’t switch into automation since they can’t code. Automation testers, on the other hand, start their job as developers. And they only turn their role into tester if they want to spend time learning something new, or improve other skills.

Still, in Vietnam, there is an underlying notion that testers are for those who can’t nail the job as a developer. Or worse, they assume it’s a women’s role because there’s no challenge or stressful moment. That somehow refrains students from pursuing tester as a career. They’re afraid it will be an affirmation of: “I can’t code.” But that doesn’t true. Testers are way more than just test cases and bug reports. What you want to do as a career should be based on your interest, not what others think.”

#9: Viet Nguyen

“When I was in high school, information technology has already been famous. Surrounded by too many alumni that chose to go for IT and me myself had developed a passion toward the field. Hence, it was a great motivation to pursue IT.

My starting point bumped into many obstacles. First, the accent. Growing up in the middle of Vietnam makes it hard to pronounce words accurately. That weighed me down. I found it hesitate to communicate. Second, I wasn’t much of a social butterfly. I refused to raise questions about the knowledge gap, and school just went by as I didn’t pay much attention to the foundation knowledge. In fact, I got lacked.

I did try to work with PHP, Java and .NET. But none of them triggered my curiosity as React Native did. I approached and learnt to code it at a beginner level with some basic apps. Then I met Luan, my first mentor, who managed to fill up my knowledge gap and pushed me to go further, literally in anything. Short courses. Theory. Pair practice. I even dived in React JS, Redux, UI & UX to support the work because we didn’t have tester back then. Three months of internship and two more for probation weren’t enough as I insisted on learning more from him. And it was worthy. I was so grateful to follow his lead.

We all know that COVID affected a lot, including the tech industry. My company was one of those to receive the hit. Investors figured that it was too risky for an F&B startup during this pandemic as they decided to withdraw their investment fund. We had no choice but to be insolvent. It was a hard time, indeed. We only had a one day notice. Beside the living cost, I also had to take care of my daughter’s tuition fee. Working in programming means the laptop is an irreplaceable device. My current laptop was provided by the company. I had to buy myself a new one, or I’ll have nothing to work on. And since I worked in React Native, a Macbook is a must. Can you imagine the frustration?

After many ups & downs, and many help from the former co-workers, I got a new job, which is also my current place. By this milestone, I got to learn so much on APIs and other related tasks. It’s a small team, and my workload gets swamped sometimes. But I’m happy because that means my quality is valued. Thought I understand that people get better if they’re willing to learn, but I know the training I got from my previous mentor plays the most significant part. If there’s a note for those fresher, I believe it’s vital to choose your first mentor than your first paycheck. Trust me. It’s their guidance that worths all the way.”

#8: Victoria Trinh

“I soon realize that English is only a tool to succeed, so I took a 6-month certificate in administration then heading straight to companies for internships, without the help from my university. I got accepted into an export-import agent of Germany - where I learnt how to set up the paperwork, meeting booking & other administrative tasks. I spent the next five years working for a startup in online marketing until I fully got the hang of how to operate that field. Then I switched to an event startup and started to build up things as a supervisor. After many ups and downs, I moved to a Singapore Tech company as an HRM.

It irritates me to recall the first day at work. I got bullied and disrespected just because I was a fresher. My first impression of my boss wasn’t that good. The more I got to work with her, the more I realized it wasn’t that simple. I suffered a lot from the errands because I felt like that wasn’t my responsibility. I didn’t apply to do those kinds of stuff. Then my boss spent a few times talk me through it. She showed me the experience I was lacked and why I should stand behind the scene until my knowledge and expertise got leveled up. I learnt at her the work ethic, and I understand the reason that she put me up with those errands because the work was too overloaded back then. I remember one thing she said: “Try your best to organize your priority”. That comes with me until now.

My ambition was to work at a non-tech firm in the first 10 years and move to the tech world 10 years later. I got a chance to talk with an IT help desk. It’s a shame, to be honest, because I couldn’t be able to distinguish IT help desk and programmer. Moving from a non-tech place to become an HR manager in a tech company takes time to earn trust. Most of the employees didn’t believe I could get the work done. Because my background in technology was zero. I heard many rumours behind my back. That somehow hurt my ego. So I strived to let my power be the noise. I set up the essential foundation to meet the need of employees. Setting a cool office. Making sure the payday is stable. Annual health check-up. Building the performance review. Insurance package. Gradually they notice the things I brought to the table and take my value seriously.

Being an HR means to deal with people problems. All-day long. Usually, I will get to know their personality at first and develop a method to soften their mood when a crisis happens. Once you get to know them well enough, it’s easier to resolve the conflict or performance review. Plus, knowing your employee means you get a higher chance to have them engaged in the long run. The startup environment did give me many precious lessons. It allows me to perfect things and widen the grasp all at once. For me, working at a startup means to take one step backwards, then take three steps forward. The resilient spirit is fantastic.”

#7: Chien Mai

“I chose programming because I didn’t want my life to be programmed.

People always think that programming is a piece of cake. Eight hours in the office and making big bucks. But that doesn’t apply to my case. It took me nearly six months to postpone my schoolwork and throw myself into companies for internship and better my grasp for programming. It was a big call to abandon things and start from all over again because my former major was posts & telecommunications. It’s like running to a big wall during your marathon. Either I pass it and unlock a new path, or I accept being left out.

I was lucky at the next starting point. One of my first projects was IoT Platform, where I got to work on many roles at once. Design, coding and other small parts. After that, VNPT started to expand on mobile, and I was assigned to take care of that also - particularly in React Native. It’s a challenge; I have to admit. But it also a change to define my position at the company. At first, it may seem like an obstacle, but then it’ll become a milestone on my way to self-growth. I was so enthusiastic to handle such a big part of technology that I didn’t notice it nearly eating me up. But though times, I also learn how to keep things organized, spend more effort for self-care and adapt the ‘work-life balance’ code. I used to manage a 30-ish team, and I was a hot-tempered cranky leader. I was struggling at first to find out the inner strength and core value of each member. So how to fix it? Create mini-projects, show them what self-discipline is, and let them surprise you. Gradually I understand how to keep things sane between the quality - the work progress and the connection amongst the teammate. It then came to my mind that a leader is someone who knows when to motivate and listen, someone who learns to explain and forgive.

In the first two months working with the client, the system was still having problems from its legacy code. It kept shutting down and we had no choice but to spend more time to fix the bugs. Many developers would have asked for an allowance or OT bonus, but I somehow didn’t. I felt that it was my responsibility to make the thing work again. To build a solid trust with clients, first, you must let them know all of your capability. We have skills to offer and the will to back them up. To proactively react and treat the product as a real product owner also proves that we have the same vision with them. I figure it’s likely to create better output and raise more useful ideas once you feel a connection between you and the product you’re working on. “

#6: Thanh Nguyen

“Moving the title from Back-end to Front-end was pretty a struggle. I started my career at the point where those frameworks like Angular or React JS were still under the radar. Heuristic approach is challenging. Everything is new and you don’t know where to take the first step. Plus, the trade-off. I’ve decided to reduce the income in exchange for training. Besides a whole new surrounding, embarking on the Front-end journey faces some specific hurdles. UI Style is one of them. I didn’t have a sense of art back then. So whenever I finished making one, I gave it to the seniors and asked for their comment. I did it repeatedly until things got better. Another point which I found very lucky is even I was working with many youngsters, never have I seen there was a single conflict between us. They were supportive and opened to back up, which is why I’ve been so grateful.

Outsource companies usually have many projects at once. Though the knowledge might be wide and in-depth; but it’ll be gone after 3-6 months when the project comes to an end. We don’t have enough time to master it. Meanwhile, product companies tend to aim for one project consistently. It’s a chance to dive more on the domain knowledge, maintain the code, fix & hone them to an upper level. Given that, I personally prefer to work in a product company. So depends on the current need, developers can choose which type of company suits them more. Before stepping in a place, try to research more about their current tech stacks, and see if their core values match the vision you’re pursuing. Freshers and juniors can hardly bring experience to the table, so the best they can use is the attitude they have for the work. And don’t ever forget to communicate. Communicate makes the job better. I did have times when I took the wrong message due to a lack of communication, and that led to fault in the process just because I managed to discuss them personally. Bring the talk external makes people feel more obligated to participate, follow up and confirm the issue. It reduces the ratio of misunderstanding while opening a better chance for help & advice”

#5: Luan Pham

“By the time I got out of university, all of my peers decide to step into the big playgrounds, such as FPT software or other big firms based in Quang Trung Software City. After I contacted to a senior for advice, he suggested me to re-consider my competence and to assure whether or not should I join a big company. It could be a vast ocean where I find it hard to find a stable orientation. I could be struggling there. Working for a small team can be a better idea. Although the income and benefit might not be appealing as first; I might get to work in different fields. So I decided to drop myself in a Vietnam-based company which their main focus in React Native. React Native was only opened-source from Facebook about a year at the time. And it was a real breaking change for me.

I got no one to mentor. I studied and formed up everything from scratch. New environment, new technology. I got nothing but a piece of Android grasp, zero experience in Javascript or iOS. And ‘MacBook’ was never on my to-buy list. The real struggle started with the technical setup. It’s ironic to call yourself a React Native developer, yet my laptop only supported for Android. That means whenever the client requires an iOS-support, I got no choice but to borrow a MacBook from my CEO. Every time bug happened on the production, it was a nightmare. So I managed to enhance the foundation of Javascript, through books & researches. I even saved up to purchase myself a 2015 version Macbook, and that was one of the decisions I never regret.

Motivation is the first reason once I embark on something new. Like “What do I need that for?”. Then I break down the thing into 2 aspects: Why and How. Why was that created? Does it mean to solve a problem? How it manages to do that? How can it turn those theories into practice? Given that method, I realize we people can truly grab the first notion of everything. It’s not detailed and specific, but it’s a foundation to start.

Then I switched to a Singapore company. It faced many obstacles, but technology was no longer one of them. It’s communication and teamwork. It took me nearly 6 months to get things on track. But on top of that, what distresses me the most is I can’t be able to use my product as a real user since it was made for Singaporean only. There is a massive disconnection between the programmer and the actual end-user. I didn’t have the chance to fully understand the demand from an end-user’s point of view. It’s a sad thing, somehow. You know what they say about seeing people using your product.

Having 4 years of seniority doesn’t make it easier when it comes to decision making. Everything must be going through the client’s approval. And it’s quite hard sometimes. We can consult them on the technical aspect, but the execution is totally based on their call to make. So the top tip is to build the trust is to follow the team process. You know, the workflow. Which stages and whose decision. You get the hang of that, you know precisely what time to bring up an idea that can raise as many eyebrows as you want. Take a closer look at the workflow and the communication channels. Comment on the task, be professional and detail in every document/message. Communicate about your activity, your performance, or the value you create. Anything that helps people can remotely understand your trait. Once others see your insight, that’s when they begin to notice. So make a good one.

But make sure everything that is said and shown is reasonable and informative. Self-promote can be a double-edged sword. People are willing to receive anything you bring to the table once there is something to benefit from. Otherwise it’s just a waste of their time and yours.”

#4: Khai Le

“I started differently from others. More like reversing to what people are doing. I pick up and master the skillset first, then I turn back to figure what it really was. It’s like starting things from the instinct, then validate it later. But thanks to that, I got to master things that other designers find it hard to. It’s the mindset and the sense of what’s right and wrong.

Designers tend to conduct stunning design, but it wasn’t able to run. A product, at first, has to be a runnable one. It’s called a business-oriented. It must serve and solve a specific phase or problem that benefit the business. Designing is about two main things: make it right and make it good.

A lifecycle of software begins from an idea to the market where it fits. A Product Designer will start from a more in-depth level from Business Owner to understand the business idea, using design techniques to define what action needs to be taken at every phase. Next, it’s a process of setting a solution that matches the product idea and map along with the revenue stream. That’s the definition of work - Monetize from the very first business idea. The biggest goal for designers is to draw users into the end of this funnel: Revenue Stream & Business Model. It’s what called design things right. Before diving into the sketching part, designers will need to understand the requirement thoroughly. After that, it’s time for making good design.

Most designers don’t have a chance to get their hands on all the phases. They can only step in when all the information has been structured and defined. It’s a big loss. In fact, even some Business Analysts can’t do that. But to work as a product designer decently, it’s vital to understand the product since it was only an incubated idea, follow it through the milestones and wrap it up once the product completes all the premised defined scope.

Tips to nail the job as a Product Designer? Read, observe, research & practice. Train yourself to proactively react to things. Stay abreast of the latest trend. The grasp you collect from the outside world is much more helpful than those you get from the theories. And most importantly, don’t ever let yourself become low-tech. Software changes every day, and so should design.”

#3: Dung Nguyen

“My first job landed in a Vietnam company, of which the client was from Australia. My PM was an Indian, and he led me through the Mobile platform. After that, I stepped in FPT Software as a Java Web Developer. Due to the market demand, FPT decided to launch their Mobile team in Da Nang. They sought for the key members with a solid foundation in Mobile, and I was one of the lucky selectees. That’s how my path with Mobile began. Software changes fast, really. But I specifically don’t care much on which technology is “better”. I approach things with an opened mind, which means to research the news and update on the current one constantly. That’s also the motto I prefer my team to follow.”

“When I choose a teammate for a project, I tend to select those who have worked with me before. If their attitude and experience match my expectation, and their commitment is solid, it’s safe to move forward. In case there are many projects at once, I’ll arrange for them to start with the small one first. Once they have created a good outcome, they’ll be ready to handle the bigger responsibility One specific trait of communication is how people get along and understand the mutual goal. Although we launched it as a freelance team, it has been 3 years already. I love to create opportunities for the team, let them focus on their core strength. It doesn’t matter if they used to be a manager or a freshman; I’m more interested in their competency. Flexibility is also a key. I can still interfere and support them by all means, but it feels great to empower them to be autonomous, as long as they keep up the good pace and strive toward the company mission.

I think the biggest problem that fresher & junior are facing these days is their ability of self-learning, and the urge to build up a network. I can help add up the knowledge, but attitude is an attribute that needs self-development. The seniors are willing to orientate and guide them on the right path. All you have to do is ask.”

#1: Huy Nguyen

“Back in college, I had 2 options. One was to follow Chemistry, and the other was IT. But after full consideration, IT seemed to bring more chances to earn a better living. But there’s one thing I always tell the juniors, chasing after money is not a wrong choice. It’s a solid motivation. But other than that, I hope they can find other targets to make the job more meaningful. It doesn’t have to be a huge one, but it should be inspiring enough to push them to grow. At this moment, I’m happy with what I do. Build useful tools that bring impact to others. Of course, I still make money out of it, but it’ll be more fun once you know your work matters to people.

For me, Software Engineer means more than just a mundane programming service. Once you develop a product, it should come with long-term value. It’s our job to advise the best solution and must be customer-oriented, rather than being a short-term service provider.”

“I’ll be lying if I say there is no pressure working with people who are older than me. There is. Sometimes it’s hard to give feedback and judgment. But people are very open to receiving feedback since they know that it makes things better. I value their ideas and vice versa. All decisions will be made out of data and working processes with no bias of external factors. I find it lucky that every team in this company lives by that code.

We do have conflicts, but we try our best not to make it a problem. Conflicts of ideas happen all the time, we don’t keep score or let it bother us much. Even after a harsh meeting, we can still sit back, have lunch, and shoot the breeze like usual.”