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Cong Pham: “It’s Like a Long-term Relationship!”

DSV Universe   -  

October 27, 2020

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Funny, friendly but also strict, these are the three adjectives to describe Cong Pham – ODC’s project leader. But you know what, that’s not all, keep on reading to find out more about this guy!

Let’s introduce yourself in 2 minutes!

I’ve been working there for more than 3 years. The first day at work was February 14, so it’s like a long-term relationship, well, longer than I’ve ever thought. Before that, I had chances to work for several companies of different sizes, from SMEs to enterprises, etc. Eventually, I decided to stay with Designveloper for some more while.

At first, I was a full-stack developer like you guys. And during my stay, the company became bigger and bigger, the number of projects was kept steady, and I had more opportunities to prove my skills and got promoted to the current position.

At the moment, I am ODC’s project leader. I did lead some other projects, small ones, Lumin and now ODC.

How about your strengths and weaknesses?

Firstly, I have a great passion for technology, kind of a techaholic. If there is something new or inspiring that makes me interested, I’ll spend time doing research on it. I can also adapt to new technology trends really quickly. Speaking of this, at the moment our team took on ODC, there was no one who had experience in coding with Go. This was a very trendy programming language a few years ago. As a result, we almost refused this project. Just after taking on this deal, we started to study, and join in several tech talks, meetings, etc. to get familiar with it. Finally, we were able to gain trust from the client and upscale ODC to a fairly big project like it is at the moment.

We worked with them on another project, but just took care of a small part of it, about 5% of the whole project. Now, we’re responsible for 100% of the workload that is related to technical matters.

And that’s the first strength.

The second one is that all of my activities are planned strictly. They all follow a timeline organized in my mind. I never write it on paper to show off with anyone but when something happened, it happened just like what I’d imagined.

About my weaknesses, I have issues with internal conflict.

It’s like when I was a developer, I approached the object in a very logical way and put technical factors first. Later on, after being promoted to this position, my responsibility changed to managing team members, working with clients, and solving business puzzles. There are a lot of factors that can affect my decisions.

That being said, some of them are not what I wanted, but what needed opting in to optimize the benefits of all parties. That’s what I hate and also my greatest weakness.

Do you have any hobbies?

Of course! I play sports a lot. And I did join in some check and badminton competitions. That’s an old story. Now, I only play badminton and swim.

I saw that you had a garden, how is it?

This hobby has just appeared lately. I have a small garden at home so I wanted to plant vegetables because there was plenty of free time as the pandemic was at its peak then.

For me, planting was a brand new experience, there are a lot of nice things to learn.

My small garden is all withered now since it rained a lot a few weeks ago. I’ll start taking care of it when the dry season comes. But I am really happy because there were 2 to 3 crops harvested.

How did you know about Designveloper to work here?

Actually, I began my career very early. That day, I had no idea what web development was. It’s because I was a BKU student. I had a general knowledge of things but not really profound and could not apply them to work. However, at the same time, I also thought: “Yeah, why don’t find a job and earn some money?” Then there it went. At work, my mindset was what people noticed, not my skills as there was nothing back then.

I worked there during my junior year. Until the last year of university, I quit it and worked as a part-timer for some small businesses.

It was the party after my graduation with Xỉn and Thái –  we were classmates – where I asked them about their plans and company stuff. Designveloper was pretty fun to me and “anh Hùng” was cool too. The company introduced me to a lot of new things and the people here were really young, so we arranged an interview. After 2 or 3 interviews at other places, I decided to work at Designveloper from then on

What are your main responsibilities?

Talking about the client aspect, I’m working like OCD’s CTO. They had a CTO once but he lacked experience, he was really good though. After his leave, I take care of everything relating to technical matters.

And at Designveloper, I am both the project’s PM and technical lead. I make decisions about technologies, human resources, and business to earn more revenue.

Which is the most memorable project?

The most memorable project is Lumin. At the time I started to work here, I coded for internal projects. The size of our company was very small back in the day, only 13 – 14 staff in total. Each developer would work on 2 to 3 projects. When my skill got better, I joined some profitable projects. And the first one was Lumin.

From then on, I started to improve the quality of Lumin and gained trust from that client. I did propose some ideas relating to technologies and their structure too. After a while, I promoted myself to be the project lead.

I was like the very first team lead of Lumin and the first self-promoted lead of the company. ( :V ) I’m really proud of this achievement.

Please share with us all the challenges when you work for Designveloper.

It will be boring if I talk about technical challenges. But well, there is a lot of new stuff to learn. I thought that working on a project – Lumin, at the time – was the best suit for me and I could make profits from it too. So I promoted myself and studied it. It’s quite difficult and took 2 to 3 months to launch the idea I proposed previously. I felt really happy because this was a very hard job in terms of technology.

So it means Lumin is more difficult to handle?

Those two pose different obstacles.

Firstly, when developing Lumin, there was no defined structure at all. Secondly, every team member had equal responsibility. But after becoming the team lead, I had to be in charge more and my decisions could affect others even more. When working with the Lumin team, I was kinda young. Plus, the project had no defined structure and its technology was hard to understand.

And at the moment we started ODC, my skills were pretty good. However, my responsibility for it is way heavier. I have to take on ideas from others too. That’s why it’s more stressful to work on this project.

And the experiences you’ve gained?

When talking about the most practical and precious experience here, I think it’s proactiveness. People have to show that they are proactive by some approaches I’ve just mentioned:

+ First, you have to propose anything you have in mind to improve the project, the workflow, or even the company’s structure, etc. For example, we didn’t have a marketing department at first, so “anh Rắc” (Triệu – HRM) must carry everything. If you believe this is not a good approach, just share it with us! In short, my idea is that you have to actively contribute ideas to let people know that you care and you want to improve things. Not just come to the office, code, then receive the salary, and go home.

+ Ownership is the second factor. It’s shown in many aspects. For example, getting a task means that you have to control it, not just complete, deliver, and voila! Instead, delivering the product is not the final step, you have to take care of it for good and all. As for your part in the team, you have to control your personality to connect with others and connect with each member of the team.

What are the upsides of Designveloper?

I think this is a common compliment for our company: the team is really young. So, we always take on reviews and criticisms, then adapt to it. This culture begins from day one and is still doing well up to now. And that’s the best thing when working here. We should carry this on to retain our talents and attract others.

It’s a bit awkward to talk about the thing that needs improving. So, there was once I talked about our vision for the company with “anh Hùng” and “anh Hà”. Well, “anh Hùng” just wanted to build a superteam with just 30 members who are really talented and can carry multiple responsibilities. As for “anh Hà”, he wanted to expand the team size just like any other tech company, the more projects, the bigger the company is. So, this is the conflict that they should compromise on to create a clear vision so that senior staff can decide if they should continue to work here.

However, after having a convo with “anh Hà”, I think we have a solid vision now. I mean, he wants to expand our company to the size of 60-70 members and establish a strong base. I think it’s good, and this is one of the reasons that makes me stay here.

To you, what was the most memorable event during your time working here?

Because of having had experience beforehand so I asked if I could just be on 1-month probation instead of 2. Back in the day, “anh Hùng” directly worked with us. So, after 1 month of probation, anh Hùng asked to meet me and said: “I don’t think you fit it here”. It was like I worked all alone and had excessive pride. That was why I was not suitable for the company culture as well as the work-in-a-pair concept.

Back then, the pair programming technique was applied absolutely. So yeah, I couldn’t work in a pair, and that’s the main point of all of this. Then, “anh Hùng” went on, “Unless you change to adapt, you can resign now.” At that moment, there were many things happening all at once, so I had to change myself. Well, that one month went pretty well But I had to be on probation for 1 more month and didn’t receive any salary or only a half of it.

At that point, I started to live independently in terms of financials, so it was pretty tough. However, it was “anh Rắc” who helped me a lot, both with work and money. And that’s what makes me volunteer to be in this long and complicated “relationship”. Anh Rắc still helps me a lot up until now.

So it must be really strict back then?

No, the environment was not that serious or something, but the pair programming execution was. So we really focused on work, but work hard, play hard.

Zone 8 is just the same. People often think that we always work silently and seem to be boring. Actually, it’s not.

We do focus on work, however, we still party hard. That’s called the micro-culture that I want to build up here. Not something that people always talk about like “it’s so silent there” or “does Cong force them to act this way?”

Once you work at Zone 8 or have a conversation with people here, you will understand that this silence is a normal thing. Because you have to choose between your comfort and your focus. One of them must be more important. It’s difficult but I decide that focus should win. That’s why Zone 8 is different from Zone 5.

Who is the DSV-er you respect the most?

Just like what “anh Hùng” said – I like to be a lone wolf and don’t want to depend on people so I don’t really idolize anyone. But if we are talking about the one that I respect the most here, it’d be “anh Rắc”. I did mention it right? He helps me relentlessly from the day I started working here.

I am a proactive person, whenever I think of an idea, I’ll propose it at once. After all, this is a “safe-to-fail” environment. It’s really annoying if we don’t have an opportunity to test our idea. However, at the time, reaching out to “anh Hà” and “anh Hùng” was a hard task, that’s why I always shared my thoughts about company stuff with “anh Rắc”.

What is your future plan?

As mentioned before, I’m a plan-driven person, there are short-term and long-term plans. I also talk about it when discussing it with the BOD. 

In a short term, for 1 to 2 years, I will still work here, of course. And in 5 years, or the long term, I don’t really know it for sure. However, I want to start a business related to my strength which is a technology with my own idea, and maybe partner with some insiders too.

Do you have any advice for us?

First of all, let’s talk about freshers. They often care only for technical knowledge and skills and just ignore soft skills. I made the same mistake too. I graduated with a technical major and was really bad at teamwork, and presentation in front of clients, or even team members. You might be stressed because of studying at school, of course, but my suggestion is that let’s spend some time on improving your soft skills during your 3rd or 4th year.

For DSV newbies, I think you should be proactive. Try to propose your ideas related to work, technology, the working process, etc. Leadership and ownership are needed to climb the career ladder in this field. It is just like how you express your personality, the more, the better. But if you just want to work as a knowledgeable robot, then stay the same. This applies to other teams too.

Is there anything else you want to address?

So, could I talk a bit about the culture of our two zones?

We moved to Zone 8 because it was too crowded in Zone 5 and not only ODC went there but also the design team. Our team had only 4-5 members back then.

At that moment, our culture stayed the same. However, as we expanded, we accounted for 80-90% of members there so our culture was defined and a huge difference arose.

Since then, people from Zone 5 just don’t want to come here and vice versa. I’m aware of this issue. But as mentioned before, it’s impossible to achieve the work-fun balance. And the kind of culture that I want to structure here is to focus.

Actually, it’s comfortable to be here because I don’t force people to work or play in a certain way at all. After all, I hope that the event and marketing team will be able to create a shared environment to communicate more. It sounds a bit generic but the idea is to help people understand each other because when there is such an environment they may share things like: “Well, how you doing? It feels weird here!” or “People spend too much time playing around! I need silence!” And people have a chance to know which environment they like more to choose the most suitable culture. That’s the thought of me as well as my team.

Thank you for sharing your valuable opinions. Have a great day!

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