Today we turn the spotlight on one of the key members of our Vietnam office – our CTO Khang Nguyen. As CTO, he leads Parcel Perform’s Tech Team to drive the innovation and development of Parcel Perform’s platform.
Did you know Khang is also passionate about inspiring young developers and contributing his expertise to the IT, coding and development community? He is one of the organizers of the upcoming Barcamp Saigon on 6th October where they welcome over 1000 participants and 100+ speakers around Vietnam.
We sit down with Khang as he shares his thoughts on joining Parcel Perform, how his day to day as CTO looks like and what giving back to the developer community looks like.
Tell us, who is Khang?
I am a software engineer with over 10 years of experience in the industry. I am specialized in web systems and software architecture. In layman terms, I am pretty good at drawing boxes and arrows on a board. I also love building new things and startups from scratch – I got my first experience of this while running an IT Club and was hooked – the freedom and energy building something from scratch drew me to continue working in startups after graduation
How did you get involved with Parcel Perform?
I got to know Parcel Perform through a friend during the time I was in Singapore. I roughly knew that it had something to do with logistics, an industry which, at that point, I had no particular interest in.
But things changed quickly after my first meeting with the founders Arne and Dana. It was less of an introduction and more of a live software architecting session where Arne, Dana, and I threw ideas on a board to see if they stick. Did I say I like drawing boxes and arrows?
The challenges Parcel Perform chose to tackle were inherently interesting to me because it boiled down to making sense of massive amounts of unstructured data, which is pretty neat if you are into that stuff. But what struck me more was how adept Arne and Dana were at traversing between the business and technical sides. I didn’t have to defend any of my technical solutions when I presented it, they understood it quickly. I was sold and joined Parcel Perform as their lead software architect. In fact, I was their first hire.
Tell us about a day in the life of Parcel Perform’s CTO
A big portion of my time is spent on designing architecture for new features as well as refactoring plans for existing ones. The world of logistics is vast, and as far as I have seen, everybody is doing it their own way. Parcel Perform specializes in consolidating these different facets into a single interface. Per Conway’s law “organizations which design systems are constrained to produce designs which are copies of the communication structures of these organizations.”, the natural tendency of such a system is to become a mess over time. So my main objective is ensuring that whatever Parcel Perform does as a software business, it does that exactly once, and be reusable for other features in the pipeline.
The next item on the dish is the engineering culture. Parcel Perform builds its engineering culture around 3 main ideas.
First, onboarding a new user should be painless, the codebase should be as intuitive as possible, where this level of simplicity is not possible, thorough documentation needs to be ready.
Second, there should be a process for everything, and these processes should be automated so people can focus on actual issues and not spend time on things that can be automated.
Finally, a rigorous post-mortem culture is very important, both to understand why things happened the way they did and a method of managing knowledge.
Last but not least, I always keep an eye on up and coming technologies. We want to keep the Parcel Perform tech stack relevant for at least the next five years. A modern and unified tech stack means we can go at a greater speed, without worrying about redundancies or things becoming obsolete.
I am blessed that I don’t have to do any of these activities alone. I am proud of the team we have put together at Parcel Perform and we all help each other as thought partners.
How is this different from your previous experiences?
In a couple of ways.
All my previous teams either focus on only software development or are smaller in size. In comparison, the Parcel Perform team is relatively bigger, and more importantly, consists of more stakeholders. Besides us developers, there are other teams: product, customer success, sales, and marketing with whom we need to coordinate development effort with.
Parcel Perform deals with big data, where every action affects the database. At the same time, the system to manipulate such data is far more sophisticated than my previous work. So this is both exciting and scary. I’ve invested considerably more into internal tooling and monitoring at Parcel Perform than my previous roles.
You are passionate about giving back to the developer community and coaching younger developers. Can you share more about this?
My first gig at community work actually had nothing to do with young developers. I started volunteering at a school for the deaf in my hometown when I was in high school. Admittingly, my original motivation wasn’t noble I needed to find a science project, and making a dictionary software for sign language sounded like a cool idea. But it was definitely a start.
I then moved on to start an IT Club at university, organized and taught at MultiUni – a non-profit organization providing open technical education to the community, that was before the age of MOOC. And I have been leading the team behind Barcamp Saigon since 2014.
During my coming-of-age years, I have received a lot of help from all sorts of people: friends, classmates, lecturers, or just total random strangers. Being involved in community work, especially within the developer community is simply my way of returning the favor forward.
If you had a single piece of advice for an aspiring developer, what would it be?
You don’t need to know what to do with your career. We are at a point in software development where nobody really knows what will happen in the next 10 years. It could be blockchain, it could be general A.I. or even practical quantum computing. Binding yourself to a single goal would be premature optimization, which in the world of developers is synonymous with disaster. Instead, look at the options available now, and choose those that will give you the most promising range of options afterward. Suppose you are deciding between application and game programming. Application programming gives you more options, game programming is a specific branch of application programming with lots of graphics.
What are you most looking forward to in the upcoming Barcamp Saigon 2019?
Barcamp Saigon has its roots deep in the tech sector. And while Barcamp would continue fulfilling its role as a platform to provide anybody with an idea to share an audience, the concept of Barcamp does not necessarily limit to the tech industry, or even Barcamp itself. I hope after Barcamp Saigon 2019, I’ll see more communities/industries picking up the open space format of Barcamp and use it as a tool to build communities. Perhaps when that happens, we can retire Barcamp as a concept as it has accomplished its objectives 🙂
Khang will be one of the upcoming speakers and plays a key role in organizing the upcoming Barcamp Saigon in Vietnam on 6th October 2019! If you’re a developer in Vietnam and curious to learn more about this field, grab your tickets today!
Joshua is the Marketing Manager at Parcel Perform. He loves technology and a good book. Outside of e-commerce and Parcel Perform, you can find him in the kitchen, gym or yoga studio.