November 20, 2019
In the first post of the series, we talk to Aung Kyaw Paing (Vincent), who’s a full-time Android developer and part-time music nerd at nexlabs. Vincent joined nexlabs as an intern and has been with us ever since for 6 years now.
About my education, I studied at the University of Yangon and graduated with Computer Science Major. I first learned about programming when tinkering around with a drag-and-drop Game Editor, called Game Maker, and a more advanced Warcraft III Map Editor. However, my first experience with programming and coding after taking a class on Java at Yoma Technologies.
Post that, I was a beginner game mod working mainly on a website called “Hive Workshop” where people can share custom game content. After I learned Android programming and came to nexlabs, I left that hobby and began creating real-world usable apps.
It was during my first year at University that I heard of nexlabs. It was on a program called “App Bus”, where chosen students get to visit different startups and tech companies around Yangon.
When we arrived at the nexlabs office, back when it was at Kyun Taw Road in a small apartment (check out the picture of it below!), I was amazed by the place as it didn’t feel like an office at all.
Knowing they had an internship program that I could apply to, I sent in my resume and an app I had developed. Almost all the best developers in Myanmar were there and I wanted to be a part of it.
I was interviewed by Ko Swan Htet Aung, who’s been my biggest mentor. He’s currently the Founder of Expa.AI, the number one Burmese AI company in Yangon. I found the interview nerve-wracking since it was my first and almost had a panic attack going there. I got through but, and haven’t looked back ever since!
What was your first day like at nexlabs?👣
I’d write my first production-ready app on the first day. But something funny happened. The iMac I was given to work on didn’t have Android Studio. We tried to download it. But given the slow internet in Myanmar back then, a whole day passed and it was still unsuccessful. Turns out I didn’t have to code anything on my first day.
On the job: What did you do? What were your key roles and responsibilities?✏️
The first task assigned to me was to develop a Burmese Transliteration Keyboard for Android. Transliteration is a form of writing the pronunciation of a word. For example “!ကည့်” could be written as “kyi”. This is also most commonly known as Burglish or Myanglish. I didn’t come up with the algorithm since another intern had already written it for the iOS Keyboard. My job was to repurpose it for Android.
What was the best thing(s) that you learnt? If you ever ran into a problem, how did you overcome it?😎
Personally speaking, my biggest challenge was overcoming the Imposter Syndrome. I felt I didn’t quite fit in and was faking my way in as everyone around me was super good at what they do. It took me a couple of months to overcome this, even after the internship was over. I still go through it sometimes but it’s not as bad as before.
When coding, a challenge I faced was when I had to read the documentation for the Android keyboard, and as a last resort had to reverse engineer an open source keyboard. It
was pretty tough back then for me, at that time to figure out which part links to which. But it made me more confident than ever.
I also learned a lot about ethics when working. As I was finishing the development of my keyboard, I practically explained the algorithm behind it to my friend under the hood. When my mentor/senior found out, he had to coach me on how to not share everything and to withhold information at times, especially when work related.
Another thing I learnt from my mentor, unrelated to the job, was to spend money on experiences and not on things. I remember I wanted to buy a Gadget, his advice that I should rather go on a trip instead of buying something I didn’t need still sticks with me to this day.
What was your favorite moment in the internship?🧡
Every part of it, to best honest. But if I really have to choose one, it would be when I finished making the keyboard and released it on the Play Store. I was excited and proud of myself, and felt fortunate about the trust my mentors had in me.
How would you summarize your experience at nexlabs? Any parting thoughts?🎉
Blessed would be one word to summarize it. I’d thank everyone actually because I learnt something from every single person, especially Ko Swan Htet Aung. He taught me a lot about communicating with people. It helped a lot as I wasn’t a people person before.
What was your journey after the internship like? (Bonus question!)
Going back to university after the internship made me miss it a lot. The internship helped me differentiate between the important and unimportant parts of the coursework, and focus more on things that created value.
A general misconception is that things that are taught at university are not useful when coding in real-life. I found that to be wrong. You just need to find out what’s useful and learn that.
Internships, I believe, help one get more confident about their own skill set. I wanted to improve and learn more, so I came back to nexlabs after during 2nd year’s holidays and worked part-time again. After graduating, I came back to work full-time.
Vincent is now the Tech Lead at nexlabs and the host of Techshaw Cast, the first-ever tech podcast in Myanmar.
Topics: Insider, Day in Life