Leah Huyghe advice for EnScholar

 

Leah Huyghe is a self-made web pro. She’s currently a UX designer at Samsung, with years of experience in running startups, web development, and a background in marketing. We had the chance to talk with Leah about her career journey entering the tech field, and got her advice for those aspiring to break into the industry.

 

Shortly tell me about your current career.

I’m a interaction designer at Samsung Electronics and freelance web developer. I contribute to a number of software projects, including the Samsung Enterprise Alliance Program, which provides developers and partners with the tools and resources needed to build great applications on Samsung devices. Prior to Samsung I was consulting tech companies on their web presence.
I’m really happy at my job, and I think that’s a little rare these days — too many people are stuck in jobs they don’t enjoy. I work on some interesting and complex projects that challenge me, and I collaborate with world-class designers and developers every day. The majority of the skills I use every day at work are skills I taught myself. My university degree is entirely unrelated to my career. I believe anyone has the ability to change their life with nothing but discipline and a WiFi connection, and I’m living proof of it.

How have you incorporated your strongest interests and values, and/or natural strengths into your career?

I really, really love tech. I think a lot of people who don’t work in tech assume that “tech” consists of IT, and intimidating concepts like systems, networks and databases. This is only a tiny sliver of the tech “pie”. I work to make technology beautiful and easy to use. I make people’s lives easier by creating approachable products. That’s all it really comes down to. I work in tech, software and the web because there’s nothing more scalable. When I say “scalable”, I mean it can reach a lot of people without a lot of resources. I love doing the work I do because I know it’s helping millions of people.

What was the hardest challenge you, or others in your industry, face when entering the coding and development industry?

Not quitting.

Seriously. This is something every young person struggles with. We’re very easily distracted. We have short attention spans. Coding requires many, many hours of solving problems and thinking analytically. It takes discipline. But it’s more approachable than people think. I think people don’t try it because they assume there’s this impossible barrier to entry — like getting a Computer Science degree or jumping into the deep end and building complex applications from the get-go. Programming increases your discipline, because it demands your attention for longer lengths than other work. So when I was exhausted and wanted to quit, I’d remember that I had the best opportunity in the world (no really, Steve Ballmer said this) to be learning what I’m learning, and that I can build anything with my skill set. It’s tough to maintain gratitude when what you’re working on is very difficult, but it’s important to remember that nothing all that great ever comes easy.
Some people assume that it’s tough for women in tech. It is for some, but it pivots around your outlook. I especially encourage women to get into tech (the industry itself, not just programming) because it’s so rewarding — no other industry moves as quickly and innovates as rapidly as it does.

 

If you could talk to the 16-year-old you right now, what advice would you give her?

I remember being in high school and having the ever-looming thought-cloud of doubt follow me around. This self-doubt that I would never amount to anything, because Whatsherface said so, and I would probably just be a barista forever. I remember feeling lost and looking for a solution to this lingering doubt, something that would stop the anxious thoughts. I remember thinking, if only I could find an occupation that has a high ratio of salary-to required- education ratio, I’d turn out alright, even if I didn’t enjoy it that much. So I turned to the culinary arts… because I could finish a diploma in 6 months and make about $35,000 annually right away. For a teenager, I was living the dream, on paper.

The only advice I can give is don’t do what I did — don’t pursue anything for any reason other than yourself. Don’t pursue something for the money, or for your parents, or for your partner. If you do, that lost feeling will subside, but you’ll feel the opposite — you’ll feel trapped and without control of your own life. Pursue something only for yourself. Put yourself first before anyone else. Even if that means leaving the country, away from the people you love.

 

Do you have any last advice for the students reading this who are currently finding their career paths?

It really, really doesn’t matter what people think of the path you choose to pursue: yes, even your parents. But getting an honest opinion from a mentor might be worth it. Your parents have the best intentions for you, but will probably come off too judgmental for you to take seriously. Get a vetted opinion from someone who’s been there but isn’t too emotionally invested in you.
Try to make new friends outside your social circle, and outside your school. I remember being 16 and could count all my friends on one hand. This isn’t awful, but we all had the same values (or lack thereof), same thoughts, and same interests. Try not to kill time with the same crowd all the time. Try doing something that really challenges you with people you barely know. Never underestimate what you can learn from anyone.
Get your heart broken. I mean really, really broken. At least a few thousand pieces. Lose your job or your lover. Commit yourself to something that might fail. Feel all the feelings.
Brokenness leads to growth. You probably don’t want to deal with it or feel it, but even though it’ll be unbearable, you’ll come out of it twice as strong as you used to be.
If you choose to take a year off after school, travel. There is no excuse not to. Australasia and Southeast Asia are good places to start. Don’t take a year off just to stay in your hometown. It’ll be the same when you get back, anyways. And remember to come back to invest in yourself. Don’t let that gap year turn into 6.

Brokenness leads to growth. You probably don’t want to deal with it or feel it, but even though it’ll be unbearable, you’ll come out of it twice as strong as you used to be.

 


 

To find out more about Leah or reach out to her, visit her website here.

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