My Unconventional Tech Journey

The long story of a mid career switcher from intelligence and invstigations to software engineering.

The US Army

Throughout primary and high school, my goal was to always become a ‘James Bond’ figure or some sort of ‘government agent’ because I was obsessed with the movies. Fun fact: My dad named me after Sean Connery. I knew I had to get my foot in the door somewhere and thought that military intelligence was a good way to go. Without telling my parents, I signed up for the Army at a recruiting office and luckily tested high enough to obtain an intelligence job. I know, ‘bad son’ move, but I didn’t want to follow the traditional Korean path of becoming a doctor, accountant, or engineer (funny how life works). Through my 8 years of service, I had the opportunity to work with the most brilliant minds in the country. The units I joined were full of unique, kind, and intelligent people. There, I got to work with many men and women from the three letter agencies I so longed for.. and thus I learned that the career I once dreamed of having was NOT for me. Every single person from those agencies had just one thing in common: they were all either divorced or never had the opportunity to start a family. I have nothing against that and I respect their service, but for me, starting a nucleus family is something I desire to do one day.

Once I figured that out, I was quite unsure of what to do career-wise. I naturally utilized my skills and credentials from the Army Intelligence service and entered the private sector.

Investigations & Finance

I started my first career job outside of the military at a private investigations firm based in SoCal making just $2 above minimum wage and boy was it an adventure. I started in the field conducting surveillance on people committing fraud and as exhilarating as it sounds, I wanted to work in the office. Thanks to the skills I learned in the Army, I proved that my value reached beyond field work. I quickly became a regular in the office and eventually ran all operations and training for every investigator in the country. It was a tedious job but I did it well and implemented mission critical software that dramatically improved internal metrics for performance and overhead. The software project was my baby and I made sure to train other members of the team on how to utilize it before I left.

I eventually went on to conduct financial investigations at a startup that focused on due diligence processes for various financial firms (banks, VC, PE, etc.). There, I quickly proved knowledge and capability (again thanks to my Army intelligence experience) and over time became a senior vice president at the firm. At that point in the company, I saw the transformation from a small group working in very bespoke requests into a large scale operation with high profile clients. I had the traditional ideal of success, but I was not exactly happy or satisfied. The outlook of my career in the niche space seemed extremely narrow and if there is one thing that I know about myself, it’d be that I do not like being boxed in. I got bored, very bored and I couldn’t see myself engaged in something with no growth or new knowledge. I was in search for something more and eventually found that spark in tech

Software Development and BrainStation

Growing up, technology deeply became a part of my life as it did for many others. One way I engaged in tech throughout my non-tech career was learning to code on my own and staying up to date with the latest consumer products/functionalities. Because of COVID, I started working from home full time and I naturally spent too much of my down time learning to code. After months of self-learning I decided it was time to commit. It was a tough decision. Overall, I liked working at the investigations firm and loved the people there, but I knew I had to take the risk. With development, I discovered that you are in a continuous state of education. The best developers I’ve met are always learning, growing, and seeking new challenges; I wanted to be a part of it. Tech will continue to transform and be deeply part of peoples’ lives and I can now fortunately say that I will be a part of its inevitable growth.

My wife and I had an abrupt but productive discussion on this move. All credit for this opportunity goes to her. We both figured that if I was to make a huge career transition like this, it was best that I do it now before we start a family or get older. She supported us through this transition financially, spiritually, and emotionally. I am forever indebted to her.

To commit myself fully, I attended a coding bootcamp called BrainStation off a military scholarship that I am truly grateful for. I learned the necessary technologies and practical knowledge to create functional projects and obtain employment as a software engineer. Every project we completed was done in an agile environment and the whole experience put me on the right path (for the most part, more on this in another article).

Conclusion: What I Learned

When I take a step back and look at whats happened to me personally in the past year, I tend to catch myself and ask, “Is tech truly my passion?” Throughout my whole career, I was vaulted into certain opportunities that turned out to be great, but never pursued something truly of my own. Before moving completely into development, I thought of jobs in other industries like Esports, marketing, and media… and honestly, I saw myself being happy in those roles as well. What I realized was that my passion never had to do with any specific occupation or industry, but to achieve my own deeper personal goal/purpose. I think most of us feel this way but it manifests differently for everyone. My personal goal has stayed the same since my time in the service: use my mind and body to its maximum potential for good.

Technology will continue to evolve and revolutionize the way people define what our future looks like. There is a lot of ‘good’ to achieve, regardless of generation. Becoming a developer === dedicating to a life of education. I am excited to continue to learn, grow, and contribute with all that I am. Thanks for reading!