The other day I was lucky and privileged enough to have Daesol take me out for food (again) and share some of his learnings in 2017 as well as ambitious goals for 2018.

That dinner and the beer after are not that worth mentioning (even though they were so good) if Daesol didn’t laugh at me when I told him I would do my year-end review by Lunar New Year. Feeling so compelled to prove that I’m not lazy or trying to cheat the time, I would definitely finish writing this post by 31 December 2017.

#1. Design (2nd Year)

“By working hard today, I will make sure the me in 2023 have something great to say”. This year is the 2nd year.

A Sketch Note

The design industry is competitive and dynamic. The good thing is that there’s no strict pathway to follow and the bad thing is that there’s no amount of study or training that guarantees a foot in the door.

What I did in my first year was to go for any challenge that may help to broaden the knowledge and to take every opportunity at hand to make acquaintances with others in the field. From joining a UX competition in which I got to develop high fidelity design and interactive prototype for the first time; getting on board with Hoozing team to make sure we got some results before the Echelon Asia Pitch to attending UXSG 2016 where I met inspiring people like Ruth Ho, Venerable Chuan Guan and Tong Yee. The most important thing I got out of these experiences, interestingly, was to find out where I stood competitively compared to other people and therefore had the full confidence to seek for an opportunity abroad. “Man proposes, but God disposes”, I dreamt of working in Europe but in the end landed a job in Australia.

Still, moving from Ho Chi Minh City where the design scene is still in its early stage to Sydney where the community has matured was a major career milestone. In the past 10 months, I’ve gained the exposure to various projects in a completely new industry, the hands-on experience in user research and finally the opportunity to develop further Interface Design skills, to build a design system from scratch, to experiment new design platforms and to brush up on my rusty coding skill.

I remember being asked in the interview “Where do you see yourself in 1-2 years and what are your expectations towards the role?” At this moment I believe I’ve got what I wanted “Jack of all trades, master of none”.

Nevertheless, the decision to stay in Sydney was a hard one. As I said earlier the design industry in Australia has matured and it seems to me that it lacks a culture of daring exciting innovation compared to countries like China, Japan, Singapore just to name a few. And because I had invested emotionally too much in South Korea, giving up the dream of studying there simply upset me a lot. I find myself stop attending Korean classes since November and completely avoid going anywhere near 255 Elizabeth Street. While it would take some time to move on I don’t really regret about the decision. Simply because opportunities are everywhere but great people are hard to come by.

Around June I had the chance to learn about The Future of Immersive Experience from Semi-Permanent 2017 and got quite interested in AR/ VR design but this new medium was not yet something of my priority. In the same month, I started “2017 Morning Paper” and it turned out to be quite a useful personal project, as I stayed more updated on the latest design trends (sound, security, privacy, AI…), got to know more inspiring companies (argodesign, nonobject…) as well as more influencing thought leaders (Cliff Kuang, Brian Bergstein, Khoi Vinh…)

Generally I believe I have worked hard this year and been able to accomplish a few things. With the plan of pursuing Master of Design and visiting some leading China’s tech firms in place, next year looks even more promising.

#2. Australia

I lost 5 kilos in the first two months in Sydney. It’s impossible to count how many times I dreamt of flying back to Ho Chi Minh city and how I resented waking up in the morning adding one more dish to my food-sick list. The alarming weight loss left me no choice but to start cooking using friends’ recipes, visiting the Vietnamese community in Cabramatta more frequently and at the same time, making an effort in exploring different food places in Sydney.

At this moment, I’m confident that I have left the craze for Vietnamese food far behind. My cooking is not bad and there is a growing number of restaurants in Sydney that keep me coming back all the time. I even start to prefer the Australian version of pork roll and Mi Quang more than the authentic one.

“There is no love sincerer than the love of food.”

The thing is, once you start to fall in love with the food, you start to fall in love with the country too.

From thinking that Australia’s culture and history are boring and lacking some serious depths, I start to recognise its uniqueness and stop comparing it to my favourite region East Asia. Then very soon I find myself raving about the weather, the year-round sunshine, the laid-back lifestyle and the fact that I can walk to work in the morning and live close to the nature. I also believe learning about Aboriginal history and try to understand Australian place names of Aboriginal origin would be interesting.

The other week when had the chance to chair AIESEC Australia national conference in Melbourne, that was the first time I travelled outside of Sydney even though I had stayed in Australia for quite some time. I also haven’t seen any kangaroo yet ( 〃..)

Well it’s now time do to something about this.

#3. The Other Side of Fear

It might sound like a cliche reflecting the conventional wisdom that “Everything you’ve ever wanted is on the other side of fear”, but as someone who’ve pushed my limits time and time again I couldn’t agree more with the statement. Fear is a good indication of whether an experience is worth having or not. When I find myself very much into a challenge and the fear starts crippling my excitement, I would know for sure that is an opportunity I couldn’t afford to have it slip away.

The insecure me likes to argue that failure might discourage future attempts and it’s hard to keep my confidence and self-esteem intact. However as long as I can define realistic expectations about what success means to me, I can never lose. Besides, this year I realise that fear can be harnessed and channeled into a kind of good pressure for concentrated and intense learning. During the preparation for Australian Go Congress and AIESEC Australia National Conference, I pulled quite many all-nighters and went extra lengths to learn from all available resources. The other day I did a computer clean-up and felt so proud to see the records of more than 30 practice games (compared to the humble number of 4 games in the previous 12 months).

Earning recognition from other people is great, but the greatest compliment I have ever received is from myself. “You didn’t give up and that’s great!”

#4. Sprints

It dawned on me recently that I tend to focus my development in sprints which are “time-boxed” and with clear desired outcome, for example 2-month sprint for TOPIK exam or 2-week sprint for Go Tournament.

As someone who like to handle one thing at a time and enjoy working with tight and stressful deadlines, sprint proves to be my suitable approach to learning. However it comes with such a serious drawback. When the sprint finishes and the deadline passes I would not have any further motivation to maintain any kind of “marathon” learning which obviously lead to low retention of knowledge. Another situation is that I finish one sprint and jump into a completely different sprint due to the sheer variety of my interests.

I seriously need some help here (っ- ‸ – ς)

#5. Appreciation

Daesol was my ex-colleague and Eve was one of a few friends I had back in university. Being able to meet both of them again in Sydney is a blessing in my life mainly because they are willing to hear me out with whatever sort of problems, sometimes laugh at my stupid decisions but would help to fix the mess that follows.

Ticket system in Australia is so efficient and Sydney is definitely a popular stop for many artists. Having the opportunity to go to Adele “25”, SIA “Nostalgic For The Present” and a tribute show of the Beatles “Beatlemania on Tour” without the need to fly out or think of the visa is just so great!!!

Good flat white ♡