#51: Kien Nguyen

“As humans, we’re all prone to making mistakes - myself included. However, I recognize that continuously repeating the same mistakes is simply unacceptable.”

Kiên Nguyễn - Director of Engineering at Locofy.ai, ex-Head of Engineering at Tiki

It’s true that I come from a privileged background. Throughout my primary and high school years, I excelled in academics, participating in math competitions for young people’s magazines, provincial excellent student exams, and even made it to the national team. The idea of being number one was ingrained in my mind, and I constantly pushed myself to become the best version of myself. However, when I entered university and was suddenly in a more open environment without the pressure of competition, I felt completely lost and unsure of what direction to take in life.

When faced with a problem, there are two options: either complain or view it as an opportunity for growth. Personally, I choose the latter approach. During my third year of study, I worked part-time outside of school, which allowed me to experience and observe the competitive environment. It dawned on me that comparing myself to others was misguided. Instead, I began to recognize that my strength lies in positive thinking. Whenever I didn’t achieve what I wanted, I would take the time to reflect on my actions and motivations. I would continue to ponder until I found a natural solution. Looking back, I can’t recall ever feeling completely defeated. This is because I embrace challenges as a means to better myself, rather than allowing them to defeat me.

Leaving my hometown to attend high school in Hanoi, I was still convinced that I wanted to pursue a career that utilized my math skills. However, as a member of the 8x or early 9x generation, choosing a major sometimes feels like a gamble. After studying math for some time, I couldn’t see its direct application and decided to switch to IT with the hope of making a difference for future generations. Despite completing four years of university, I still didn’t have a clear path ahead.

After completing university, I was focused on finding high-paying jobs, and eventually, I found myself working as an outsourcer in Japan. Although it was my first time abroad, I soon realized that outsourcing wasn’t for me. In search of a better fit, I moved to Saigon to work as a backend developer for a startup during the time when the market was booming. I relished the challenge of solving difficult problems and was drawn to a company with frontend issues that no one else could solve. This experience solidified my identity as a product engineer, and I discovered a sense of flexibility and happiness that came from doing whatever needed to be done without complaining.

I understand the importance of knowing my limitations and seeking help from experts in fields in that I am not well-versed. Everyone has their own unique strengths and weaknesses, and it’s essential to recognize and embrace them. Looking back, I recall a challenging time at Tiki when several of my colleagues, who were trained by my team, left one after another to pursue new opportunities. This experience prompted me to reflect on my leadership skills and question whether I had done anything wrong. I believe that everyone makes mistakes, and I am committed to learning from them and not repeating them.

As our team at Tiki begins to rebuild, I am focused on providing my colleagues with challenging problems that will help them develop their skills, teamwork, and leadership abilities. I strive to train and mentor my colleagues, regardless of whether they choose to stay or leave. I have come to realize that a person’s work ethic and level of the initiative are more important than their years of experience or job title. As humans, we’re all prone to making mistakes - myself included. In fact, I’ll likely make more mistakes along the way - that’s just a natural part of growth and learning. However, I recognize that continuously repeating the same mistakes is simply unacceptable. That’s why I’m committed to learning from my mistakes and striving to do better every day.

Throughout my 13 years of working experience, I have spent nearly half of that time in small and medium-sized startup companies, where I have learned and grown with an entrepreneurial spirit, a willingness to work hard, and a strong sense of ownership. I push myself and others to do their best and take responsibility for their work. However, I have learned that this personality trait is not universal and may not work in larger corporate environments.

Reflecting on my experiences compared to those of the GenZ generation, I am impressed by their sharpness and adaptability to change. I understand that impatience can sometimes come with moving too fast, but I believe that reconciling these two things can lead to great advantages. When I was searching for a partner, I had to use Facebook’s API to find someone with specific characteristics. In contrast, GenZ has apps like Tinder that make the process much easier. Despite our differences, I believe that we can all learn from each other and work together to achieve our goals.

Techie Story is a digital magazine about inspiring tech people who have contributed continuously to Science, Technology, and Innovation. Please contact us at team@techiestory.net if you want to contribute your inspiring story.
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