My open source journey: From Pong to microservices

How a family friend installing Linux set him on a path to a fulfilling hobby and career.
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In 1990, I was a 9th grader living in Vietnam. I had never had access to a computer. One day my mother returned from a trip and gave me a book titled "How to program with Turbo Pascal." I was delighted—everything I read in that book made sense, and I started to write code on paper.

When the local university opened a computer lab that offered rentals, I spent all of my allowances for weeks, trying to write the classic Pong game in Pascal.

Soon after that, I moved to Austin, Texas, where I took computer programming courses in high school and community college. Since I needed a computer for school, I decided to build my own PC. A family friend who worked for IBM kindly offered to help install the operating system. My home-built PC seemed to give him a lot of trouble; it took nearly an entire evening to get everything working. To this day, I’m not sure why he decided to set up a dual-boot with Slackware Linux and IBM OS/2, but his decision had a positive impact on my path.

To support myself in school, I took a night-shift job at the local IBM PC plant, where I assembled circuit boards from scratch by sandwiching thin sheets of fiberglass and copper and baking them in a large oven. To log my work hours, I needed to sign into a company-wide computer system called VMS. I spent a lot of time browsing VMS, and one evening I came across an internship opening in IBM's software division. I thought it was a long shot because as a first-year community college student, I had virtually no experience. But my brief exposure to Linux and OS/2 caught the hiring manager's attention, and I got the internship the following summer. Looking back, the first internship on my resume definitely helped jump-start my career in software engineering.

Paying it forward and taking chances on others have been central themes in my life. The family friend who spent hours helping me installing Linux gave me a key to something completely new. The shift supervisor at the manufacturing plant saw potential in me and let me use the computer to search for better opportunities, knowing he would need to find someone to replace me. I am grateful for these opportunities and hope that I can help others in a similar way.

Today, I am a member of the Kiali team helping to build a visualization and monitoring tool for the Istio service mesh.

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Viet Nguyen is a rock climber and GIS enthusiast. He's currently a team member of the Kiali project.

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