Career Path: Kenny Chen, Engineer at DigitalOcean banner image

Career Path: Kenny Chen, Engineer at DigitalOcean

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What do the career path and the day-in-the-life look like for an Engineer at DigitalOcean?

We connected with Kenny Chen to find out!

Also, DigitalOcean is hiring! Click here for all of their job openings!

Where did you go to college?  What did you study and what were some of your initial jobs out of school?

I completed my B.S. in Exercise Physiology at Queens College. I later learned they were also a top college in NY for Computer Science, but I didn’t know I wanted to do that then!

What prompted you to make the transition from the fitness industry to tech?

I had a great time in the fitness industry and learned a lot about myself. Ultimately, it felt like I wasn’t mentally challenged enough and the career ceiling was generally lower. I’ve always had an interest in tech—I had made websites and built computers in the past. After researching and reaching out to friends, tech became more appealing as it seems to directly match what I was searching for: a job I would enjoy, where I would be challenged and could grow in the kind of environment I was looking for.

How did you land your first role at DigitalOcean and what were your responsibilities?

Initially, I just wanted any job in tech! I knew I needed to get my foot in the door and prove what I could do even though it was likely going to be an entry level job with a pay cut. I applied for all types of jobs that interested me, while still trying to learn about software development. During a Meetup, we were using DigitalOcean to deploy our sites and I was amazed by the simplicity and speed. I applied for the engineer position but I wasn’t technically ready to be a developer yet. I was ultimately offered to interview for the customer support position which was a good starting point since I had been building customer service skills for many years by then.

You are currently a Software Developer at DigitalOcean. How did you learn how to code and progress within the company to your current position?

I made the leap after leaving NYC and moving to Colorado for Turing School, a developer bootcamp which lasted 20 weeks. By this time, I had been at DigitalOcean for over a year and had luckily shown enough people that I was capable of coding.  I was fortunate to land a developer position when I completed the program!

Any tips for someone who is considering making a career change?

Honestly, it's a tough decision. There’s risk involved. I took a leap of faith and went all in, even moving across the country to achieve my goals. This ended up being one of the defining moments of my life. I’ve made lifelong friends and have been set up for a career I wouldn’t trade anything for, at a company that has such great values and has offered me so much.

Day in the Life

Coffee, tea, or nothing?

Both! Usually not too much of either though.

What time do you get into the office?

I usually start work at 10 am, but with the remote friendly culture, I sometimes work from home in the mornings.

What are three things that motivate you in your role?

  1. The constant challenges that arise.
  2. Working with great people.
  3. Believing in the work I do.

Every day is different, but can you outline what a typical day looks like for you?

Usually, I try to review what I did the day before, make sure I didn’t miss anything. Very common to be coding for 50-75% of the day, and then code reviews, discussions and meetings usually make up the rest.

What time do you head out of the office?

Usually around 6 pm.

Do you log back in at night or do you shut it down completely?  

I try to shut down completely, unless I am on-call, or something urgent arises. Then, I try to help out where I can.

Any productivity hacks?

Blocking out times during the day or silencing notifications for a bit can help limit distractions when I need to focus. Instrumental music helps me get in the zone too.

What are the 3 apps that you can’t live without?

A window management tool (Spectacle), a keyboard customizer (Karabiner), and a copy + paste tool (I use Alfred).

What professional accomplishment are you proudest of?

Hmmm, I do a poor job in documenting achievements (you should do it!). I’d have to say helping the team scale and improve as the company and customer base has grown so much in the past 5 years that I’ve been here!

Who do you admire or call upon for professional advice?

There are so many great people I’ve met. Too many to name, but it’s always important to keep good people around you to keep you grounded, honest and humble.

Alexander Culafi is Producer & Editor for VentureFizz. He also edits and produces The VentureFizz Podcast. You can follow him on Twitter @culafia.

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