Meet Springboard mentor Kelvin Nguyen, former software engineer at LinkedIn and Intuit


A former software engineer at Intuit and LinkedIn and present Springboard mentor, Kelvin Nguyen jokingly payments himself a “basic millennial.”

Two years in the past, he give up his high-paying company job in Silicon Valley to journey and uncover his passions. Now, he’s engaged on a digital startup known as Unhavok aimed at serving to Millennial and Gen-Z vacationers plan customized holidays. 

It’s basically a machine studying-powered search engine for trip planning that infers consumer’s preferences and generates algorithmic suggestions, much like an Instagram feed or Spotify’s AI-generated playlists. 

“We want to be the end-to-end of travel, and one that’s specifically personalized and tailored for you,” Nguyen mentioned in a telephone interview. 

A niggling ache level for vacationers is sifting by way of an overabundance of knowledge — from journey blogs to guides to selecting between varied reserving platforms and on-line journey companies — however there’s no current platform for aggregating and organizing this data in a significant context.

The intersection between machine studying and software engineering

Nguyen isn’t alone in his considering. Many consumer-facing SaaS startups right this moment provide worth propositions primarily based not on a wholly new product, however a reimagined model of an outdated one, utilizing AI-powered algorithms to offer a customized expertise by way of a digital interface. 

Take Pandora, as an illustration, which made the radio obtainable by way of the Internet with a machine studying operate to personalize channels and playlists primarily based on consumer exercise. Fintech startups like Ally are one other instance, providing digital banking providers designed to get rid of the ache factors of conventional banks, akin to overdraft charges and minimal financial savings account balances. 

“Every company you see now needs to start making a transition into this,” mentioned Nguyen. “If they’re not already, they’re doing it soon, or they’ll be taken over by newer players in the market.” 

Nguyen, who holds a B.S. in Information and Computer Sciences from U.C. Irvine, says there’s a expertise hole the place ML-literate knowledge scientists don’t know find out how to write code, whereas most engineers possess inadequate information of information science to use their coding expertise in an precise modeled surroundings. 

“The rock star or the unicorn is the one that can do both — which is a super-impossible, difficult task to do, but they’ll be the ones that make the big bucks,” he mentioned. “So an engineer’s responsibility in the future will probably be geared more towards understanding the work of being a data scientist.”

Learning find out how to code is a steady course of, like enjoying a musical instrument

While Nguyen went the normal route of acquiring a four-year diploma, most employers don’t discriminate between college credentials, in-person or on-line coding bootcamps, and even engineers who declare to be self-taught. 

The most essential factor is to deal with coding as a steady studying course of as an alternative of frantically rote-memorizing all the things you research, says Nguyen. Treat it such as you would mastering a musical instrument or overseas language.

Use each useful resource you may: observe coding, watch tutorials on YouTube, comply with software engineers on Twitter, have interaction with friends on Reddit’s r/learnprogramming or contribute to open-source tasks on GitHub

Despite being considerably of a veteran engineer, Nguyen says he regularly contributes to open-source tasks to maintain his expertise contemporary. Initiating your first venture could be daunting; he recommends beginning with “low-hanging fruit.” Start by discovering bugs in libraries or tasks you already use and determining the basis trigger. 

“It’s more about getting into the habit,” he says. “Eventually, you’ll start building confidence and you’ll be able to contribute to even larger projects.” 

Skills you could land a job versus how to achieve the true world (no, they’re not the identical factor)

When it involves touchdown a software engineering job, nonetheless, the principles of the sport are a bit totally different from the “real world.” In an try at objectivity, most corporations rent primarily based on coding challenges and technical interviews that measure candidates’ test-taking and memorization talents extra so than their method to problem-solving.

It’s analogous to the distinction between succeeding in an educational surroundings (which is about passing checks and following directions) versus succeeding within the job market. 

“But when it comes to the actual real-world stuff, it’s about knowing how to apply everything you learned: do you know design patterns, do you know how to write code that works not just with you but a large-scale system with user-developer empathies. That’s what will help you keep a job,” mentioned Nguyen, who runs a coding weblog known as Caffeine Coding.  

As a Springboard mentor, he has mentor calls with every pupil as soon as every week. Asked concerning the number-one concern software engineering college students are inclined to have, Nguyen mentioned: “I think their biggest fear is: can I actually land a job after this and do I have the skills to pass an interview to get the job I want?”

The most typical expertise hole between a junior developer and a senior one is the expertise of writing production-ready code. Production includes a complete new set of parameters and limitations that don’t apply whenever you’re writing code for observe or at school, as a result of your work as a software engineer has what Nguyen calls “downstream effects” not solely on the supply code however options different groups could also be engaged on. 

“Having access to people that work in the industry can really be useful; it’s a very giving community,” says Nguyen.  “And just knowing that this is a resource, as long as you know how to navigate that, it doesn’t really matter where you learn from.” 



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