A brief history of humankind…
…or just me…Growing up fearlessly in Vietnam.I spent my early childhood growing up in Vietnam. The war just ended a decade ago and Vietnam was in recovery mode. I don’t have a lot of memories from that period. But I remember that I ran around barefoot on the streets and played with pigs :D.
With other kids, I would jump from rooftop to rooftop. As a kid, I had no sense for height and didn’t feel the fear. It’s a shame that we lose much of our bravery when we grow up.Moving to cold GermanyIn 1992, I arrived with my mom in Germany. It was the first time meeting my father. He had left shortly after I was born. We went to Germany for work. After the war, some Vietnamese were fortunate enough to go to Germany to work in factories for the russians.Growing up in east GermanyI grew up in a small town in the east of Germany close to the polish border.
After the fall of the wall, East Germany was comparable to the wild wild west. There were a lot of opportunities for foreigners. A lot of Vietnamese people started their own businesses and asian restaurants popped up like mushrooms.
On the other hand, because so many foreigners started their businesses and accumulated more wealth than others, East Germany also became a breeding ground for racism. Starting from a young age, I started to learn martial arts to protect myself. It would become part of my life and I could apply many lessons to life and business in general.
Moving to MunichAfter High School, I decided to move to the other side of Germany and pursue a degree in architecture.
Creating ideas and building things has always been a big part of my life and so I thought studying architecture was the perfect outlet for my creativity.
However, a few years into my studies, I felt that it wasn’t the right thing for me and I started to look for alternatives.
It was at the same time when mobile technology was on the rise and the first smartphones came out that caught my curiosity. I’ve always been a tech fanatic and combining technology and design seemed like a logical step for me.
So I became a self taught industrial / product designer.Moving to JapanAs fortunate as I am, I received the opportunity to study in Japan for 8 months. This was the breakthrough for my personal growth because I learned the value of traveling and learning from different cultures. My perception of the world changed. I always thought, that life is meant to be safe and stable but my experience in Japan showed me the opposite: life is meant to be explorative!
During my time in Japan, I was also fortunate enough to intern at a big japanese tech company, Toshiba. This smoothed my way into the digital field and I decided to become a UX designer after returning from Japan.Back in GermanyAfter finishing my Architecture Studies, I decided that I didn’t want to look for a job as an architect. Instead, I wanted to get into the UX field as quickly as possible and looked for intern and trainee positions.
I was lucky to be hired as a trainee in a small german software company that focused on iOS applications. It was a rough experience but it gave me a good start for my UX career.
After 1.5 years, I decided to move on because I wasn’t really happy how things turned out. I didn’t learn as much as I expected and felt that the german way of doing things didn’t really resonated with me. I really wanted to get out of Germany at this point and work in an international environment.
After taking a few months timeout and trying to apply for multiple international companies, I was really surprised to get approached by frog design…Growing as a designerBefore I started my Location independent Lifestyle, I worked as an interaction designer for a design company called frog design in Munich.
I can’t express how grateful I am to have had this opportunity because I met wonderful designers who became close friends.
It also made me realize the limitation of the industry / the business and that I need to look for other ways to make an impact.I focus on building my Bio, not my CV.Today, one of the things I value the most, is collecting experiences.
Over the years, I witnessed how many people became victim of the grind and burning out as a result. It is always about a bigger paycheck and the next promotion.
It makes me sad, because life is so much more than that.
It was the same for me though. After a few years working as a designer in the industry, I found myself in the same situation.
I couldn’t sleep, I had a hard time to focus, I grinded my teeth during the sleep. I felt that my creativity was stagnating and my output was low. I was uninspired and not happy after all.Something had to change and so I decided to become a freelancer that would allow me to take more time off when I needed it. I could also focus on my side projects and revive my creativity by traveling and building my own businesses.
The best advice I can give to young designer is therefore:
Don’t chase promotions but focus on becoming so good that no one can ignore you
If you focus on that and nothing else, the financials will come automatically.Making an Impact as a designerDuring my career as a designer working for big companies, I realized that there is more than just building the next big app.
I always wanted to work for companies such as Samsung, Google or Apple. But I realized that I cannot make an impact by being a small cog in a big machine.
After making this realization, I knew I had to come up with an alternative path and I started to build my own businesses on the side to acquire additional business skills.
When working as a designer for a company, you have a limited view and control over a product. Companies hire you because you are good at one thing: design.
They don’t hire you because you are good at marketing or business development.But understanding and acquiring these skills, can make you a much better designer.
For that reason, I believe that EVERY designer should have the attempt to build a business and understand all the parts that are necessary.
I started a lot of things in the past, some more successful and bigger than others.
One of the businesses I’m most proud of and where I learned the most, was designing my own coffee filter with the mission to spread the awareness about vietnamese coffee in the western hemisphere.
You can read the entire story in my portfolio.