#45 - Dat Do

“For the record, I failed more than won. But here’s the thing: When the time comes, it will hit you to realize how those lowest moments turned out to be the most precious things that occurred. Things will get worse before it gets better. You just need to believe that.”

Dat Do - Software Development Engineer at Amazon

“I was born with a silver spoon. It layered the solid growth foundation when my parents afforded to send me for study abroad since I was only 15. And guess what? We went bankrupt while I was in my senior year of high school. My sister and I were still in the US as my parent wanted us both to return to Vietnam. After full consideration, we concluded: It wouldn’t make any difference to head back.

It’s followed by a vast array of life-changing decisions: Sort out the most affordable university, which offers a wide range of scholarships. Buckle down for 4 part-time jobs at a time. All to pursue one risky leap: Figuring out how to extend the staying that promised land.

So I picked Wentworth Institute of Technology, majoring in Information Technology. I’ve always had a thing for technology. As a kid, I developed a curiosity about how light works. Gaming was my juvenile life when I was growing up, like most boys out there. I kept losing at Street Fighters, and, desperate enough to dig into the game folder, gave its data a tweak to modify the whole directory.

I beat it on the first try. The process of analyzing has formed my passion for side projects ever since. The IT class had also kicked off their first Pascal lesson by then. So I guess, the whole technology concept came to me naturally. For a business-centric family, the move to pursue technology was a reckless one. Until now, I still want to thank myself for making that move.

University was memorable. Every cloud out there carries itself silver lightning. The financial burden rewards me with a survivor starter pack: Going the extra mile to cover the daily expense and tuition fees. I have a history of convulsions. That requires a full 8-hour of sleep. Apart from that, the other 16 hours demonstrate me as an all-rounder: A fishmonger who spares his time for tutoring, knows how to fix printing machines, code some websites and make ends meet from all those works.

That, of course, affects my concentration in class. I resolved that by sorting out the priority ones: The subjects I must pay attention to, and those that demand the bare minimum to pass the final exam. It works, magically.

As international students, we’re restrained from student loans. I almost busted into tears asking them for an exception. It was a demo of every success I’ve made, from showing the transcript to the current side projects. Basically, anything that proves that I thrive to grow as a decent citizen here. The acceptance email afterward did lift a burden off my shoulder. It nearly confirms two facts: I can write my next chapter here; and when you’re closer to the limit, you have the guts to do whatever it takes.

To empower the portfolio, I aim to ensure the best output in every aspect: Grades, side projects, and even Hackathon. Rumour has it that international students must be more hustling to win an internship. After finishing my sophomore year, I sent out thousands of application letters, and I was interviewed by companies at all sizes. The result came out perfectly, but they all refused to move forward due to the complexity of the paperwork. It was 2016, when Trump signed an order to tighten the admission policy and deny asylum to migrants. It was a hopeless and furious moment, knowing you are deprived of the chance to put your ability to good use.

Then Shell contacted me for an internship. A hesitation arose: I was never a big fan of the petroleum industry. But the interview result led my decision the other way. I was intrigued by the prototype and excitedly sent out my recommendation. It won me an offer letter the day after. Unlike other companies, where interns can only involve in small-scope projects, Shell offered me an opportunity to take part in an impactful project which eventually, turned out to be a great success. It paved the link between the company and me, and significantly augmented my financial status.

That internship later then became my full-time job. The working culture at Shell makes me understand, and driven by the act of building things that brings impact to life. Shell maintains a fantastic teamwork spirit. A team of 4 to 6 people can handle many projects at one. Wearing multiple hats is somehow in our blood. In my case? It was a valuable learning path for acting as DevOps, Frontend, Backend, and IoT.

The journey with Shell ends after 2 years, and opens the door for my current stop at Amazon. While the projects at Shell were mainly for internal usage and stayed in the research stage, Amazon’s applications were built to empower millions of users around the globe. That motivates me to apply for a part of this giant firm. Besides, I was told to participate in a top-secret project - another reason to encourage my curiosity. But inevitably, bad things happen at big firms too. There are bottlenecks to block the process and dramas to make it an actual workplace.

My mindset doesn’t change much since university time. I’d instead focus on the final goal than the current obstacles. And if it gets tired along the way, just turn around, see how far you’ve gone and how many milestones you’ve reached.

For the record, I failed more than won. But here’s the thing: When the time comes, it will hit you to realize how those lowest moments turned out to be the most precious things that occurred. Things will get worse before it gets better. You just need to believe that.”

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