2020: A Year to Remember and to Forget

Remember last January, when so many of us were making plans and predictions for the year to come? Who was to know what 2020 would actually have in store?

  • My Career
  • COVID-19 & Friendships
  • My Best Reads of 2020
  • My Best Online Courses of 2020

My Career

Late 2019 and early 2020 it was clear, I will leave the company that I love and the founder (Chris Freund) that I respect so much. It was time for me to get back to more hands on role and be focused on a product that can help me to relentlessly elevate local experiences (my life purpose).

I decided to join a local Vietnamese bank which is for those who know me is a very odd choice. I am not a fucking corporate person, I have no politics capability, I am too impolite for such fake cultures and I am very much focused on building engineering organization that delivers predictability and innovation which usually does not work in corporates and specially banking industry. The decision of me joining a bank is still a big question for many of my close friends and in our campfire, always comes back and challenges me. Besides, me becoming father for first time this March 2021 and my wife not planning to move to Hanoi permanently is making my career choice more questionable.

However, with all complexity of this career choice, I am still keen to push my limits and live out of my comfort zone and let’s see how far we can go. I have managed to deliver some great results but also I have failed and struggle in many areas, here are few items. My purpose of sharing these topics are mainly to inform those who want to make similar career choice to be more informed. Do not get me wrong, it is still a fun challenge, just better be prepared and informed.

  • We have managed to deliver multiple public releases on our retail banking app which is a great achievement and credit goes to all team members
  • I have managed to hire over 85 engineers from all around the world within couple of months, credit goes to our Talent Acquisition team. I have tried to recruit people from product background, also with a mandate that whoever join my team (architect or not) must code. This is a very strategic direction which has helped us to be very calendar on-time in our deliveries. But it also comes with challenges which is hunting me every day such as: (1) our retention policies are very old fashion and have nothing in common with modern tech world that you read on books like Work Rules, (2) we have many issues on equipment and network policies, (3) we cannot offer MacBook to all engineers which is quite new to me, (4) we have a serious knowledge gap among new members and old members which is very complicated to address, (5) salary review and raises are quite unpredictable and does not give the leader enough autonomy to decide and promise to few key roles, (6) procurement, security & budgeting processes are so complicated and time consuming that we cannot even purchase tools that are required and (7) definition of equal is really wrong and knowledge workers are being equalized with non-knowledge workers which is the root cause of many hurdles and requires mindset shift which is quite complicated.
  • We have launched our learning and skill assessment platform (PluralSight) which helps our team to learn and also our leadership team to strategize and have a clear skill inventory and for first time have a clear and actual ROI results.
  • We have managed to finish our Team Charter, you can read more about it in my other post.
  • We have delivered multiple business capabilities like eKYC, eKYC SDKs, lending, POS integrated lending, property website integrations for mortgage lending and many more partner APIs. This has been a game changer.
  • We have moved into DevSecOps and I am quite proud of this achievement credit goes to our strong DevSecOps team. We are now using technologies like Docker, minikube, K8s, OpenShift, Nexus Pro, GitOps, SonarQube, Helm, Vault, Jenkins, puppet, ELK, ansible, terraform, terragrunt and prometheus. We are moving more into infra as a code, security as a code, IAM as a code and etc. We are believer of DevSecOps manifesto. The following figure is our maturity model assessment framework.
  • Our microservice architecture is getting in place more than before, we are putting in a brand new API gateway which is quite exciting.
  • We are moving towards kafka and redis, this direction helps us to become more efficient and responsive.
  • We are finalizing our cloud strategy, we have managed to deliver multiple key POCs such as data lake, on-premise PII security, on-cloud data warehousing, ML and etc.
  • We have finalized our role architecture and career path, credit goes to Capability Development team. For technology roles, I have used SFIA as reference and direction.
  • Now, we have a strong team which can deliver any project. I am very proud of this team and I hope we can retain the talents in this complicated environment.

Few exciting projects going to kick off in 2021 in areas such as: cloud transition, retail banking and business banking. It is going to be exciting year but with many complex corporate nonsense hurdles.

COVID-19 & Friendships

As of 30 minutes ago (December 31st, 2020 12:32) total cases in the world is 82,618,673 (everyday +21,423) and 1,802,439 (everyday +1,226) deaths. There are many sad stories all over blogs and news agencies.

Kudos to all frontline workers. Your selfless service to the greater community is helping us all get through these tough times. You deserve our applause, our thanks and our respect.

Unfortunately COVID-19 did not leave my family alone. Back in March 2020, I was having a regular phone call with my mom, she was worried and had some stress, she told me: “your brother is hospitalized and he is fighting COVID”. I was in my negotiations with my new job and dealing with issues of leaving my past job; this was very stressful message to me. We had no way of communicating with my brother, just a camera which was removed few days later.

Almost a week later after his hospitalization, doctors told us there is no hope. The experience of living so far away from my lonely mom and after deploying all the resources that money can buy, hearing this message was like being hit by a truck without going unconscious and feel the pain every second even till now that I am writing this post. All childhood memories of watching sunset together on the roof of our home, helping me with my homework, all codings & programmings we did together and all games we played come to me like a movie in front of my eyes.

Few days later, the message came through that he passed away and nobody was next to his bed to hold his hands. It was a unique experience of pain that I wish no one go through. There could not be any funeral, any gathering and no one can even stay with my lonely mom. My mom was coughing and after the test it showed symptoms of COVID-19. I was having a 24/7 video calls with my mom, trying to help her to mourn and fight this damn virus. The first few days is a hell.

We managed to move on despite we have many wounds and sorrows that comes to us everyday. We are still alive and trying to find meaning for live that can push us through.

I would not been able to push on living if it wasn’t for some of my great friends who knowingly or unknowingly help me during these tough days and do not abandon me, friends like: Minh Do, Thao, Quynh, Thanh Ha, Minh, Soe, Moji, Woan Huey Ooi, Premila, Tu and many more that is hard to mention here. I owe you guys. Thank you.

My Best Reads of 2020

You can read my last year best reads in here. This is the list of 2020 best reads:

  1. Influencer, the new science of leading change,
  2. The Book of Why, The New Science of Cause and Effect,
  3. Game Thinking, Innovate smarter & drive deep engagement with design techniques,
  4. Accelerate: The Science of Lean Software and DevOps: Building and Scaling High Performing Technology Organizations
  5. The Culture Map: Breaking Through the Invisible Boundaries of Global Business
  6. No Rules Rules: Netflix and the Culture of Reinvention
  7. The Joy of Movement: How exercise helps us find happiness, hope, connection, and courage
  8. Aesthetic Intelligence: How to Boost It and Use It in Business and Beyond
  9. Friendship: The Evolution, Biology, and Extraordinary Power of Life’s Fundamental Bond
  10. The Dichotomy of Leadership: Balancing the Challenges of Extreme Ownership to Lead and Win
  11. The Ride of a Lifetime: Lessons Learned from 15 Years as CEO of the Walt Disney Company
  12. The Perfect Weapon: War, Sabotage, and Fear in the Cyber Age
  13. The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers
  14. Managing the Unexpected: Sustained Performance in a Complex World
  15. Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment (I read 50% of it and it is an amazing book)
  16. Building Digital Experience Platform
  17. Billion Dollar Whale: The Man Who Fooled Wall Street, Hollywood, and the World
  18. The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon
  19. A classic re-read book: Start-up Nation: The Story of Israel’s Economic Miracle
  20. David and Goliath (Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants)
  21. How to Make a Nation: A Monocle Guide

My Best Online Courses of 2020

  1. User Experience Design by Georgia Institute of Technology
  2. Food and Health by Stanford University
  3. Critical Thinking for the Information Age by University of Michigan
  4. People Analytics by University of Pennsylvania
  5. The Power of Team Culture by University of Pennsylvania
  6. Data Lakes and Data Warehouses by Google Cloud Platform
  7. Advance Machine Learning by aws
  8. Microservices with Kubernetes, Spring Boot and Spring Cloud by GCP
  9. InsurTech by University of Pennsylvania
  10. Graph Analytics for Big Data by University of California San Diego
  11. DevOps Culture and Mindset by University of California, Davis



Scaling Up, Growth and Digital Transformation guy.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store