Minah Kim

AGE: 28
INTERESTS: I love video games and computer games. Normally, I spend time with friends, we cook and enjoy eating food together. I love pets, I have one dog, Mari, a shih tzu and poodle mix. Also, I play the piano.

Where are you from?

I grew up in Alameda, California. I moved to the United States from South Korea when I was 13. My brother and I moved to Alameda to be with family to pursue our education. Adjusting to life here wasn’t that bad because I made friends at the middle school I went to and they were really welcoming. I was a very normal kid, I wasn’t very social but I had a few good friends. Then I became less social when I went to college, and now that I am at 42 it is really different from what I did when I was in college. College was hard because I didn’t really reach out to people to get help or interact with people. If I had to study for a project or anything else I did it by myself. I didn’t go to office hours or interact with professors. I didn’t have a social life, just worked hard and studied. Now I regret going to a traditional college, I only realized that after I came to 42.

What did you do before 42?

I went to UC Davis and studied Biology. While in college, I heard about military service and signed a contract after graduating. After joining, I had to prepare myself physically and mentally. I got a part-time job and stayed in Davis for an extra year. I thought I wanted to go to pharmacy school and studied for that. I have been in the United States Army for the past 2 years, it is very different than 42. Here it is very relaxed and chill, and you can manage your own time and projects. The military is just the opposite, you are on a strict time schedule and if they have a task they want us to do, then they expect those things to be done on time. I am a reservist in the army. As a reservist, you can have your civilian life, but once a month for about 2 days over a weekend, you need to complete your service. When I signed up for the military I was hoping to get a job related to healthcare because I studied biology. But now that I learned about coding and know there are future job prospects in tech, I am headed in a different direction.

Did you have any programming experience before 42?

No. I thought I would go into something that was related to medicine.

How did you hear about 42?

My roommate, she actually started 42 with me, but she initially had more interest in 42. When she first talked about it I had no idea what she was talking about, except that it was a school that teaches you about computers. I knew what coding was, but not really what it does or how it works.

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

They love it, even though they don’t know anything about computer science, they just support me while I am trying new things. They always support me with anything that I do.

What was the piscine like?

Hard, you have a feeling they are giving you a lot of things that you think you can’t handle. But I loved it, I made a lot of friends actually too. I was surprised by how we can learn from each other without any teachers. There were friends in the piscine who talked about how education can work in different ways, and how we were actually experiencing that first hand. Even though it was super hard, I felt I was learning. It was a new experience for me.

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

I was proud of myself! My level wasn’t that high compared to other people who knew about coding before coming in. I was thankful and proud, and I actually enjoyed the piscine, that’s why I think I got a good result.

How does the 42 Cadet Program differ from the piscine?

More relaxed. Work wise it is more focused because you can actually spend more time and make sure you fully understand it, like algorithms and theory and the math that you are using. During the piscine you only learn C language, here in cadet they provide several different projects where you can actually learn other computer languages. I already knew about time management because of college and the military. No one will tell you that you aren’t being productive, so I try to spend my day very productive. I wake up early and exercise before I go into work, or sometimes will exercise after. I also try to schedule a time for me to do other stuff while I also do my projects.

How do you find help with your projects?

Mostly asking people, I ask a lot of people a lot of questions! If I have a problem with understanding something, I study it by drawing it out step by step, or if I am stuck on something I try to research it. But mostly I get answers from asking other people.

What do you like best about 42?

The atmosphere, it’s cool there are just rows and rows of computers. I also like the crash lounge and the music room, I was happy to see the music room because I play the piano.

What is the most challenging aspect?

Keeping up with work. There is a continuous flow of projects, so every time you finish a project you feel relieved and proud because you felt like you achieved something. But after that, you face a harder project and it becomes something new that you need to face. It’s in ongoing stages, you learn something and feel that pride. Then you realize that there are still new things that you have to learn. It gave me the feeling that I am still very new and there are a lot of things to learn. It is overwhelming but at the same time motivating.

What do you like to do in the Bay Area?

Hiking, my favorite is Mission Peak in Fremont. Mission Peak is super hard, it doesn’t seem like the trail would be hard but it is. I also like to camp, like Yosemite, Lake Tahoe, Monterey. I like taking road trips too. I think that’s what is good about the Bay Area, all of the outdoor activities.

What is your dream job?

I am not sure. I am not just learning to code here, I am learning about new opportunities out there through friends at 42. I am still researching and learning what I want to do with the skills I am learning at 42. Before 42, I didn’t know the difference between software and hardware.

What is your favorite quote?

I always say this quote, “life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.” -Forrest Gump
Basically, you don’t know what is going to happen in your life, it could be sweet or bitter. But this quote helps me to think positively and to remind me to not get discouraged, even if you get something that you didn’t expect.

Connect with Minah on LinkedIn

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

Interview by: Stacey Faucett