Meet Vietnamese Googler who scored zero on first high school computer test

Source: Pano feed

Pham Tuan Hung did not have a computer and had little knowledge of informatics when he entered high school 14 years ago, but the Hai Phong resident ended up being part of a company all software engineers would die for: Google Inc.


Hung, born in 1986 in the northern city 100km east of Hanoi, studied in the class specialized in informatics at Tran Phu High School for the Gifted, even though the subject was totally new to him.

It is thus no surprise when his first-ever zero was earned from his first informatics test in high school.

Hung was so obsessed by the pathetic score that he had thought he could not pursue information technology.

However, through what his teachers and friends described as “intense but silent preparation and painstaking effort,” Hung took everyone from surprise to surprise with a long line of remarkable achievements in the subject on which he used to hardly earn a mark.

Pham Tuan Hung was on the school’s informatics team to compete at student-level contests, and won the National Contest for Excellent Students in two straight exams.

He then participated on the Vietnamese team to compete at the International Olympiad in Informatics.

And in a sweet ending for his high school years, Hung was admitted to the honors program at the prestigious University of Engineering and Technology under the Vietnam National University-Hanoi without having to take the entrance exam.

Pham Tuan Hung (C) poses for a photograph with his colleagues at Google headquarters in California.

Pham Tuan Hung (C) poses for a photograph with his colleagues at Google headquarters in California.

Despite those successes in high school, the 29-year-old still admits today that he did not dream of studying abroad like his peers at the school for the gifted did.

Back in the days when he was a junior, Hung attended a meeting held by the FPT Young Talents center where the keynote speaker, Dr. Vu Thanh Tu Anh, asked the attendees to raise their hands if they wanted to study abroad.

Hung and a friend of his were the only two who did not raise their hands.

But after the meeting, Hung began looking for information about overseas study and scholarships, thinking simply that “I can do what my friends can do,” he recalled.

Despite the achievements he made in informatics, Hung had to improve his English, which his friends and teachers said was only “moderate,” to reach the target.

A rough start would only strengthen the motivation for the man with strong will. And it was again the “intense but silent preparation and painstaking effort” that enabled him to master English.

“The answer to his effort is seven scholarships, five from the U.S., one from the EU, and one from the National University of Singapore,” said Dr. Truong Anh Hoang, dean of the software technology department at the University of Engineering and Technology.

Google engineer

Hung earned his M.S. and Ph.D. in computer science at the University of Minnesota in 2012 and 2014, respectively, with a 4/4 GPA in both degrees. He got the Ph.D. in only three and a half years, whereas it takes others an average of six years to do so.

Prior to his graduation in the U.S., Hung had been invited for visits by such famous employers as Microsoft, GE, Amazon, and Global Research.

But he felt most attracted to Google, a company which he believed would bring him many interesting projects like the one he had worked on during an internship there in 2012.

As a software engineering intern at Google, Hung was on the YouTube team that worked to make videos more accessible to visually- and hearing-challenged people.

“There were also people with those disabilities in my team but they worked harder than anyone else,” he recalled.

Hung said he is always impressed by the working spirit of the Google engineers.

“Many of them are very talented and have incredible work profiles, but none of them think they are so good to deserve the right to work unenthusiastically,” he said.

“But it is not only at Google, in many other companies in the U.S., I see people always work hard regardless of the positions they hold.”

Hung has been a Google software engineer since March 2014.

Having been in the U.S. for nearly ten years, Hung revealed that he “always wants to live and work in Vietnam.”

“Even though the working and studying conditions are better in the U.S. than at home, I think life in Vietnam is more fun because people give more love and care to each other,” he explained.

The Google software engineer added he always looks to “stick with the place where I was born and grew up.”

Before leaving for the U.S., Hung told his teacher Anh that he would return to Vietnam after ten years of studying and working there.

“Leaving also means returning,” he said.

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Đăng ký: VietNam News