Hafzul (Havi) Karim Bhuiyan

AGE: 25
INTERESTS: I’m a man of many interests. In my free time, I enjoy reading articles and watching random YouTube videos. I’m always looking for new ways to acquire knowledge. Like most guys my age, I always try to find time to play video games and football when the weather is nice. Even though I’m not very good at it, I enjoy singing.

Tell us more about where you are from and what shaped you:

I’m Originally from “The Big Apple,” aka New York City. The small neighborhood I came from is called Kensington and it’s in Brooklyn. I’ve lived there most of my life and came to know many of the people, making great friends along the way. I have an older brother, Ataul, who is not much older than me. We pretty much grew up best friends and spent a lot of time hanging out together. During most of my childhood, I went to public school and playing basketball with my brother in NYC parks.

I was always a curious kid, eager to learn, but traditional school really just wasn’t for me. Even though I only needed a few more credits to graduate, I ended up dropping out of high school to work full time. In retrospect, I can definitely see how that was a bad decision. I ended up getting my GED and went to New York City College of Technology to study computer science. I studied at NYCCT for only a semester and a half before dropping out again.

Career-wise, I worked at various retail positions, mostly at  T-Mobile stores. I was always infatuated with technology and working at T-Mobile meant I got to play with all the latest and greatest devices as soon as they came out. I was also very good with sales and management so I grew to really enjoy it. Eventually, I opened a MetroPCS store in Cobble Hill, an upscale neighborhood near downtown. The neighborhood was very nice! There were a lot of nice clothing stores, cafes, and restaurants. With nice neighborhoods come high rent. When I first opened I expected to be making a lot of money, enough to justify the high rent. But I quickly realized I had overestimated how much I would really be making. I struggled every month to make rent and other operating expenses to keep the business afloat.

I ran the store for about a year, and I was still making little or no money. Things came to a point where I knew I had to move on, and I decided it was time to close the store. It was a very difficult time for me. I felt that I had made a huge mistake and wasted a lot of time chasing a dream that was ultimately a fantasy. But looking back now, I appreciate the experience for what it was. The thing about mistakes is that after they are said and done, and the dust settles, you get an opportunity to look back and learn from the entire experience.

What did you do before 42?

Before I came to 42 I was spending a lot of time with my friends and was not being very productive. I was going through a tough time in my life, I had just shut down my business and had nothing to do. For a while, I was just coasting. Living life day by day, with no real goals or ambitions. I knew I wanted to do something productive, something that makes a difference in the world and helps people, or at the very least puts a smile on their face. I just didn’t know how. What I did know was that I had to learn the skills necessary to make the difference. I always loved technology and had a passion for programming, but I just wasn’t good enough to bring my ideas into the world.

At one point I considered going back to college but I owed them a sizeable amount of money and had no means of paying it back. So I began searching for other options. I also looked at many different schools, but nothing really felt like it was a good fit for me. One day I was casually scrolling through my news feed and I saw an ad for 42, a school for software engineering education. I scrolled through the 42 website and saw how you can get an education in tech for free.  It was exactly what I was looking for. It seemed like a sign from God, my store was closed and I had nothing to lose. So I decided I was going to go to California to become a software engineer! I signed up for a piscine and it was the best decision I ever made.

Did you have any programming experience before 42?

I had some experience making very basic Android apps and knew a little bit of HTML, CSS, and Javascript. Learning C programming at 42 helped me a lot. Now I feel like I have a much deeper understanding of functional languages.

How did you hear about 42?

Through social media. I was scrolling through my news feed on Facebook and came across an ad. I was curious and clicked on it. Coming from Brooklyn, everybody is always trying to get you involved in some scheme or another, so my immediate thought was that it was too good to be true. Then I came to the piscine and realized that maybe some good things really are free.

42 is everything they put on the website plus more. What makes this place special is the community. I knew this was a community I wanted to be a part of for the rest of my life.

What did your friends and family think about your decision to attend 42?

My family was very supportive. Some of my friends thought it was too good to be true. My brother kept on insisting I do more research before I made my move. Like most people when they first hear about 42, my mom was skeptical at first. But she always trusts in my intuition. She is my rock, my biggest supporter. My mom knew I thought about things and all the possibilities. She gave me her blessings and paid for my way out here.

What was the piscine like?

I like to think of myself as an intelligent person. Then I came to the piscine and saw how dead wrong I was. I felt like I was drowning. After waking up in the morning I would say, “I am going to get it today” or “I got this today.” Then I would go into the lab and realize how terribly wrong I was and struggled. Honestly, I didn’t think I would get in, I only passed three exams out of four. I was so determined to get in that the night before the final exam I didn’t sleep at all and I stayed up all night studying.

When I came in for the final exam I was happy, sipping on Red Bull, which was the only thing keeping me alive. I was confident that I would pass, and I ended up getting a decent score. I was basically sure I would get in. But then I realized I wasn’t the only one, and that some people got higher scores and then all that certainty went right out the window. The night I left the piscine, I donated my basketball to the 42 community. On it, I wrote, “C you guys soon.” As I got ready to get into my Uber I turned around and thought, “please let me come back here, this is where I truly belong.”

What was it like when you received your post-piscine decision email?

I almost died! When I found out I was driving and had my phone up for GPS.  One of my close friends and I were on our way to Queens to eat at one of my favorite restaurants. The notification came up on my phone, “Dear Novice…” As soon as I saw it my heart started pumping and I knew I had to pull over. My friend was like, “Are you okay?” I just sat there silent staring at the message for about 15 minutes. My friend was like, “Can you drive?” I told him, “No, man, God just blessed me right now. I am going to California, and I am going to be a computer scientist!”  So I went home after we ate at the restaurant, and my mom had cooked all of my favorite food. There was no way I could refuse, so I put on another 2,000 calories. That was one of the best nights of my life.

How does the cadet program differ from the piscine?

Honestly, I thought it was going to be easier at first. I like the fact that we have more time, but the cadetship is not easy at all. I’m not only learning C but am also learning all the skills for the career I want, which is cross-platform full stack development. What matters to me the most is the community we have and the people in it. I thought I  was in a good community during the piscine, but now it is a larger pool of people, and it’s pretty much like one big family. I like the events we have and all the great people we get to meet and learn from.  42 is literally the best environment for work and education.

How do you find help with your projects?

Google! I spend a lot of my days on Google and YouTube now. If I can’t find the answer online I ask my roommates. I also never hesitate to ask my other fellow 42 cadets. They are all so intelligent, and we all help each other. Wherever I go I try to make friends. I am not a very shy person. When I get stuck I have no problem going up to someone and saying, “I know you did a great job on this project, tell me your secrets.”

What are some cool tech events you have been able to participate in?

Being in the Bay Area has allowed me to attend some pretty extraordinary events. I volunteered at Dev Week and received a free ticket. That was one of the coolest things I had done. I was able to attend DevWeek and hear from some amazing people including the CTO of Slack, Cal Henderson. I also went to a few cool machine learning and AI events, including a very interesting symposium at Stanford University. The coolest event I’ve been to so far was the Quantum Computing Event I went to recently at the Google Cloud Campus.

What do you like best about 42?

Everything. Literally everything. If I had to choose something education-wise I like the entire curriculum. 42’s concept of education is the way people ought to receive education, it is the best way. When you pay tuition at a traditional college you feel like you are forced to go to that class. You start to hate it, because it starts to feel like a chore, and you have all these assignments you don’t want to do. I actually want to do that stuff here. The community, the people here, they are what makes 42 the best tech school in the world.

What is the most challenging aspect?

The most challenging aspect for me is time management. I am excited to learn so many different things. I am doing the PHP piscine, the Hercules project, and I am learning javascript and building my own website. Dividing my time between those projects is difficult. Making a little bit of progress on each thing is not enough. I would like to be able to manage my time better so that I can get more done quicker. 

What do you like to do in the Bay Area?

My roommates and I like to go out every other weekend. We are all very close friends and hang out together all the time. We like to go out and explore the surrounding cities in the Bay Area. Also, we go to lunch once or twice a week in this area and check out new restaurants. Sometimes we get together with some other friends and go hiking, camping, exploring or to the beach on a really nice day.

What is your dream job?

It may sound self-inflated, but I feel like I was born to change the world in a positive way. I want to make the world a better place for everyone. I want to build that software that changes the world and makes lives easier. Or build something that just brings people joy and puts a smile on their faces.

What is your favorite quote?

Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” -Winston Churchill

I like this quote because it reminds me life will always throw things at me, both good and bad. When I am successful it reminds me that there is always room for growth and opportunity for much more success. When I fail I am reminded that the sadness I feel in those moments is not forever and certainly not the end. No matter what, I have to remain strong and continue living life trying my best every day.

Connect with Havi on LinkedIn

Photos by 42’s in-house photographer, Priscilla Vongdara

Interview by: Stacey Faucett