As a small boy growing up in Ho Chi Minh City, Huu Khang Nguyen was always impressed by the way his big brother made keyboard shortcuts on his computer. He says, “I remember thinking, ‘that’s so cool.’ After a while I saw him doing more technical work. I watched him doing those things and when I understood them, I’d try to replicate what he’d done.”
Those early experiences planted the seeds of a passion for Huu Khang, who recently won a UTS College Outstanding Graduate award (for the highest overall GPA in the Diploma of IT). “Eventually, I went on to explore things for myself,” he says. “I started learning coding on my own, mainly using online resources. I watched a lot of YouTube videos. I’m really into programming – I love the process of building software – but I just love IT in general.”
Huu Khang now lives in Sydney with the brother who first sparked his interest IT. “He’s not quite as much of a techie as me these days. He works as a credit analyst with a big bank – more on the business end of things,” he says.
Excited and proud
When Huu Khang learnt about his prize, his brother was the first to hear the news. “I saw the notification on my computer screen, and I stood up right away and told my brother, then I called my parents in Vietnam. I was so excited and proud. I was never expecting to win something like that,” he says. “I was excited for two reasons. First because, well, I was the winner – my hard work paid off and that’s something to be proud of. And the second reason is the cash prize. My family at home suffered a bit of a financial crisis during COVID-19 and it feels good to know I can now help them a little bit.”
Having now gained direct entry into second year of the Bachelor of Science in IT at UTS, Huu Khang has good memories of his time at UTS College. “I did my whole course online because of COVID, but I still made friends with my peers, and I had some wonderful subject coordinators. Our teacher for Web Systems was great and shared lots of industry knowledge. I really liked that aspect of the course – making real industry connections.” he says. “I think my best memory was an assignment where we had to propose an idea for a new business process for a company. After brainstorming some ideas, I made a web application. I coded it from scratch, applied a kind of image detection or machine learning and submitted the assignment. My teacher and subject coordinator both freaked out. They said it was a completely viable idea, and I got a High Distinction. I was so glad to know it would work in the real world. It felt great.”
Independent learning skills
The Live Online classes also worked well for Huu Khang. He liked having access to the recorded classes and being able to review lectures. “I could watch a lecture over and over if I wanted,” he says. “That’s one advantage over face-to-face.” He adds, “I think my independent learning skills were elevated during my time at UTS College, and that’s really valuable. I don’t have to rely on teachers all the time. But I learnt another skill that’s just as important, and that’s to ask for help when you need it. I used to waste a lot of time trying to grind out a problem for myself, but during my time at UTS College I learnt about deadlines and using time well. Sometimes the best thing you can do is ask for help. It was a valuable thing to learn. Nobody is going to judge you for just asking for help. It’s a communication skill.”
Huu Khang already works part-time as a software developer, and he’s keen to experience an internship as he moves closer to completing his degree. “An internship with a big tech company would be a great chance to learn more about the industry. Something like Google would be awesome.” He’s keeping his options open when it comes to pinpointing a future IT career. “I can see myself as a software developer, but I’m not sure whether to focus on being a software engineer or go more towards other fields in IT. I still need to explore,” he says.
Making progress, step by step
In Huu Khang’s opinion, the most important thing is to pursue something you love. “You’re not just studying for a diploma or a degree. You’re studying for your career. If you love something, you focus more on that. Just keep working hard,” he says, “and don’t panic if you face a challenging problem in your study. It happens all the time and not just in study – in life too. Just slow things down and make baby steps. That way you’re still making progress, step by step. I remember an episode of BoJack Horseman where he said, ‘Every day it gets a little easier. But you gotta do it every day. That’s the hard part.’ And to me, that’s how you get there, even if it takes a long time.”