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Law Student-Turned-Coder Jimmy Gong Looks Back at His 3-Year Engineering Career

Ryan Greis

Law Student-Turned-Coder Jimmy Gong Looks Back at His 3-Year Engineering Career's Image
 Jimmy's career path was inspired by his mom's own perseverance.
Jimmy's career path was inspired by his mom's own perseverance.

As the son of first generation Chinese immigrants, both computer engineers, Jimmy Gong saw his parents both struggle in their first years in the United States. Their hard work served as inspiration for Jimmy’s pursuit of career success.

His mother taught computer science in China at Jilin University. But when the family moved to Fairfax County, Virginia from China 30 years ago, the language barrier was an issue, and the particular CS skillset she understood did not relate to the industry in the US. Jimmy reflected on his parents’ perseverance:

“My mom worked at a fast food restaurant while she simultaneously putting herself through night school for a CS degree. Ultimately, she landed in an engineering role at the job she’s now had for twenty-plus years. She’s an absolute superstar. My dad came here for a PhD in physics and actually had a harder time getting a job because sometimes having a PhD kind of makes you overqualified.”

Jimmy went to NYU for college, where he studied philosophy, political science and economics in pursuit to get into law school upon graduation. Coming out of his third year, he had already finished all the credits required to graduate with a degree. So, his fourth year had room for a lot of electives. It was at this time, his senior year, where he reconsidered his future in law. After speaking with a mentor, a federal prosecutor at the time, instructed him that pursuing law was not worth it. Jimmy got cold feet and considered other options. He decided to take an Introduction to Programming elective class on a whim, where he learned Python and Java.

“It was absolutely mind-blowing. I couldn’t stop reading ahead. I was a senior in a class full of freshmen. When you’re a freshman, you don’t take things that seriously. But I was a senior so I was really gung ho. It was interesting and I was good at it, which made me feel invested in it.”
 Library at NYU  Photo courtesy of Pixabay.
Library at NYU Photo courtesy of Pixabay.

Jimmy earned his degree from NYU, and, for a time, remained unemployed while living on the East Coast. He knew he now wanted to get into engineering but had concerns that it was too late for him to shift focus, and didn’t know how to get his foot in the door. His mother tried to help him find a job at her company but he didn’t have anything to back up his interest. One of his sisters’ coworkers, who had gone to Hack Reactor, told him about the school and the experience. Jimmy looks back on his decision to attend:

“Honestly, I didn’t look at anything else. I’m kind of a ‘jump into it’ kind of person. I read about Hack Reactor to validate that the people coming out of the program were successful. Even during the interview, I vetted things pretty extensively.”
  Photo courtesy of Pixabay
Photo courtesy of Pixabay

Jimmy was accepted and attended the San Francisco campus. With no preconceived notions about the tools he wanted to learn, he relied on Hack Reactor to inform him of what he should be learning. Socially shy, he was now surrounded by a passionate group of individuals that took to each other:

“Part of the reason I had a hard time socializing and getting out of my shell when I was younger was because my interests didn’t really align with other kids’ interests. But the Hack Reactor group didn’t judge me for being awkward and had many of the same interests that I have. It’s really easy to talk to people when you’re all driven towards one thing.”

After Hack Reactor Jimmy began his job search and had 4 offers in 5 weeks.

Jimmy first took a job at a start-up within the R&D group at Daimler AG as a Senior Software Engineer. After 11 months he took a Software Engineer role at Twitch, a video game streaming platform, and found a great environment that allowed him to improve upon many of the skills he learned in Hack Reactor:

“I always thought Twitch would be a cool place to work. Who doesn’t love video games? It was kind of the dream come true. I’m really happy here from a cultural and work-life balance standpoint.”

Jimmy’s career goals at Twitch include managing people and projects:

“I’ve been good at focusing in on the component I’m working on. But I’m realizing that the soft skills I’ve developed at Hack Reactor and on the job matter a lot.” As I’m rising through the ranks, the ability to manage both people and projects is where I’m headed. I always want to engineer. I don’t want to manage without being involved in engineering because my passion has always been technical.”

The tech stack Jimmy works with at Twitch is React, Redux, and GraphQL. The group writes in TypeScript and uses SASS for styling, Webpack for builds, and Enzyme/Jest for testing.

Today, Jimmy finds himself hanging out with fellow Hack Reactor classmates, and a group of coworkers:

“I think finding real friends at my job has been the greatest thing. Between Hack Reactor and Twitch, I found people that I enjoy being around; people that I share the same genuine interest.”

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