Interview With Founder Of Tokyo Techies
Duc Doba is an ex-Softbank engineer with a vast range of experiences in the field of technology. Duc has a methodology to teach students through an engaging and hands-on learning experience. From this, he founded Tokyo Techies, an institute for technological studies. Today, we sit down interview with founder of Tokyo Techies, Duc to ask him about how his personal background and love for teaching led him to building Tokyo Techies.
Q1: When did you start programming?
A1: I began 17 years ago in Vietnam. At that time, I didn’t have my own computer so I had to study at an internet café and then coded on paper at home. This method helped me to understand the principles and fundamentals behind informatics. Using this knowledge I became competitive enough to attain third prize at the National Olympiad in Informatics in 2005.
Q2: Where did you go after the National Olympiad?
A few years later, I was in search of a more global and English speaking environment and Rakuten offered just that. My time at Rakuten as a technical leader of Rakuten Ichiba mobile apps helped strengthen my desire to share programming knowledge globally. I knew that, in today’s world, this could only be done in English and I began looking for more opportunities to do so. I then worked on a mobile shopping app with LINE and later moved over to Softbank to build a new cloud computing business.
Q4: In your experience, what is the most important thing that students need to succeed technically?
A4: Students need to have a distinct goal and a clear plan to meet that goal.
By far the most important thing that students need to be successful is a big picture perspective. Once students define their goals and set out a roadmap for skill development to reach that goal, it becomes a relatively simple process. In this sense, building technical skills is similar to building muscle through weight training. Both require a long term plan that is met through consistent, repeated practice.
Example of a skill development plan
One of the students that I worked with wanted to create his own chess bot. I guided him to create a step-by-step long term calendar for this project. This calendar included the different steps of the project which included understanding algorithms, studying chess programming, creating a smart engine and building a user interface. With a long term plan like this, the student was able to systematically execute a difficult project.
Q5: Why do you think current technology training doesn’t work?
A5: I can say from professional experience. At one of my previous companies, there was a 3 month training program that taught outdated skills not actually used in daily work. Furthermore, training classes consisted of over 20 people, resulting in lack of direction and interaction.
Classes need to be smaller in size so every student’s progress can be correctly accounted for and understood. Classes also need to be taught by professionals who have experience working in that field. These professionals can explain to the student the bigger picture of the field at large and why individual skills are important. This is the only way students can understand where their skills stand in the technological landscape. Only then will the student be able to always understand what needs to be worked on next.
At Tokyo Techies we’re actively using our learning from our professional life to make the courses as impact as possible for our students. For example, we have many data science classes led by seasoned data scientists from large firms in Tokyo. We also offer small group robotics courses with a PhD industry expert in the field. I feel so much more confident that these students are learning the complete picture because of this approach.
Q6: Why did you set out to share your knowledge through teaching?
A6: I’ve always been interested in helping others: this is a quality I got from my parents who are lifelong teachers. My parents, mentors and many other people have helped me to become the person I am today – I naturally want to give back by sharing what I know with students.
In college, I enjoyed participating in volunteer activities. When I moved to Japan, I became the president of the Vietnamese Youth and Student Association in Japan (VYSA), which aimed to create strong relationships between the youth in Japan and Vietnam through cultural activities. Tokyo Techies is the latest way I want to support others in their journeys.
Q7: How did you set out to share your knowledge?
A7: A few years ago, I started running hackathons (for high school/college students and professionals) in both Tokyo and Vietnam with Neil Nguyen (founder of Tokyo Academics). At these hackathons, I was greatly impressed by seeing what things young minds can achieve if taught and motivated properly. An 18 year old student was leading a team of three computer science teachers (!). We later asked him how he became proficient in programming, and he told us he has loved programming from a young age and has been constantly receiving help from professional engineers online.
We continued hosting hackathons with the faith that we would be able to help more students become impressive young intellectuals and engineers. In 2015 after the second Hackathon, Neil and I decided to found Tokyo Techies. Over the past 3 years, we’ve focused on classes taught in small groups by tutors with professional experience. We’ve branched out offering-wise, and have an incredible group of instructors and mentors from the fields of robotics, data science, programming, and more. We continue to love to come to work every day, and we look forward to meeting more and more students and helping them along on their way, whatever their aspiration.