#DefineExperience is our new bimonthly campaign where we interview interesting and successful people about their experience. We ask them not only about their professional experience, but also about the more personal side of things.
It’s a pleasure to introduce to you our fifth interviewee – Long Tran, who has worked at Microsoft, NASA and Amazon and is currently a part of Apple’s Wireless Design Special Project Group as a software engineer.
1. Hey Long, what’s your story?
I was born and raised in South Vietnam. In 2008, I moved to Los Angeles for high school, where I learned English pretty much from scratch. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my future, but I did know I would want to become some sort of engineer or problem-solver. When applying for college, I literally wrote a bunch of engineering majors on pieces of paper, threw them into a hat, and picked one from random. I got admitted to UC San Diego as a Computer Engineering major and developed a passion for technology ever since. Half way through my college career, I discovered that I also really liked finance, so I threw in a Business minor. I graduated half a year early in 2016 and started working for a little technology company in Cupertino right after as a Software Engineer.
2. Long, please define experience.
Experience is knowledge gained from trials and errors. It comprises of not just your talents and abilities, but also the lens through which you view your surroundings.
3. What do you consider as your most significant accomplishment in your career so far? What about outside of your career?
To be a part of a company that makes innovative products people love. Often times when stuck in morning traffic, I remind myself that I am a part of an organisation that brings delightful products to millions of people around the world. I get to constantly learn new things and be around extremely talented people on a daily basis.
Outside my career, I take pride in my financial discipline. With very strategic planning and investment, I was able to purchase my first real estate investment shortly after turning 21. My goal is to pay it off before I hit 30.
4. Do you think failure is part of experience? What was your biggest failure?
Failure is a whole category of experience. They are the best ones to learn from. I’d say my biggest failure was my close-mindedness in high school, when I would only want to learn for the grade. This resulted in my lack of curiosity and consequently my limited knowledge base. When I got to college and started coding, I discovered that I really liked to learn. I started learning lot of things, even if they had nothing to do with my career.
5. What life-hack tips would you give to your 18-year-old self?
I generally don’t believe in life-hacks because they are short-term, quick fixes rather than actual good habits that should be developed. I would, however, instill in my 18-year-old self the desire to learn. “Be a sponge”, I’d say, “Learn as much as you can. It doesn’t matter what the subject matter is. Just keep learning something new every day because that’s what works your curiosity and consequently, your abilities.” A few of my favorite ways to learn are reading and watching (educational) YouTube videos.
I’d also introduce my younger self to the concept of “minimalism”. I started practicing minimalism since 2015 and it has made a ton of positive impacts on my personal and financial life.
6. Would you do something differently if you had the chance?
Definitely. I would start reading earlier, learn how to play an instrument, and invest more aggressively. This is not to be confused with regrets, of course. Instead of worrying about things that I can’t change, I make it a habit to read at least a book every month, be it a technical or self- development one. Feel free to check out my reading list here. I pick up music sheets from time to time to learn how to read music notes. And you might have guessed it, I’m investing more aggressively now.
7. This is not from the questions list, but can you tell us a bit more about your passion for minimalism, how you found it and what part does it play in your everyday life?
I can’t remember how or where I first heard of “minimalism”, but it has been making me enjoy life a lot more. I have less errands to attend to, less things to take care of, and consequently less problems to solve. Once I eliminate the distractions, I feel more focused on my job and my relationships with everyone. This train of thought also carries very well over to how I approach designing UI or solving an abstract problem. If I just start taking away all the unnecessary moving parts until my solution breaks, I know I have achieved the highest form of minimalism. The next time you debate whether to buy an extra pair of shoes or whether to add an extra button to your web app, I’d challenge you to stop for a minute and think: “what’s going to happen if I decide otherwise?”. Less is more, my friend.
We want to thank Long for sharing with us his story. It’s always very inspiring to learn about someone’s lessons and achievements. And it was very interesting to visualise Long’s career path as at first he wasn’t exactly sure what direction to head in, so his move to pick a random major was quite adventurous, but in the end of the day, a person who does what they love and is curious to learn new things is always a person that’s doing good.
If you enjoyed reading our fifth #DefineExperience interview, then stay tuned, because we’re just getting started. Moreover, if you’d like to be part of our #DefineExperience project by doing an interview yourself or recommending someone to get interviewed, then write to us.