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Interview with a Computer Engineer
In this interview with a computer engineer, we hear what it is like working in an environment where Asian employees are held to a higher standard than other employees. If you've ever considered working as a computer engineer, especially in the education industry, this interview may share some insight into what this job is really like.

Q: What is your job title and what industry do you work in? How many years of experience do you have in this field? How would you describe yourself using only three adjectives?

A: I am a computer engineer in the software industry. I work for Foxtrot Industries, a maker of software programs for educational programs. I have 9 years of experience in this field. The way that I would describe myself in three adjectives would be precise, serious, and patient.

Q: What’s your ethnicity and gender? How has it hurt or helped you? If you ever experienced discrimination, how have you responded and what worked best?

A: I am an Asian male, Korean to be exact. I feel as though being an Asian male has hurt me even though the perceptions of my ethnic group inside of this profession are mostly positive. I feel like I am sometimes shouldered with problems that I should not have because people have higher expectations of me than my non-Asian coworkers. I am put on projects and expected to do most of the work. I have learned to speak up for myself to my colleagues and to management to make my feelings known. However, this does not endear me to these people personally, and so it can be kind of isolating.

Q: How would you describe what you do? What does your work entail? Are there any common misunderstandings you want to correct about what you do?

A: My work entails working out code bugs in educational computer programs that the company sells in retail and directly to public school programs. One common misunderstanding is that every computer engineer does the same job. At a company of my size (300 people) the job is actually quite precise. My job is to look for bugs in the animation.

Q: On a scale of 1 to 10 how would you rate your job satisfaction? What might need to change about your job to unleash your full enthusiasm?

A: I would rate my job satisfaction at about a 6. I would love a more artistic job. I would like to program full products. Also, as I explained earlier, I feel somewhat put upon by my colleagues. Therefore I am often not invited to outside events. Also, in the office I am sometimes ignored. I would want to have a better relationship with my colleagues to really get into my work.

Q: If this job moves your heart – how so? Ever feel like you found your calling or sweet spot in life? If not, what might do it for you?

A: Computer engineering does move my heart; this job does not, however, because I am only really doing a piece of computer engineering. I do think that I have found my sweet spot, because I spend my free time learning computer engineering and software engineering in particular. I don't think that working for the education industry is my calling, though. I would love to get into the entertainment software industry.

Q: Is there anything unique about your situation that readers should know when considering your experiences or accomplishments?

A: Outside of work, I actually get along with most people, but I am somewhat sectioned off with Koreans as my friends. My parents are definitely racist, and I think it rubbed off on me whether I wanted it to or not.

Q: How did you get started in this line of work? If you could go back and do it differently, what would you change?

A: I got started in this line of work by accepting a job offer straight out of college. The recruiter came to my campus and accepted my resume. If I could do it differently, I would have looked at more companies before accepting his offer right off the bat.

Q: What did you learn the hard way in this job and what happened specifically that led up to this lesson?

A: I learned the hard way that sometimes originality is not actually appreciated. I am really told what to do, and the fact that I always have to complain to my boss does not endear me to him when I want to try something a little different.

Q: What is the single most important thing you have learned outside of school about the working world?

A: The working world is mostly about politics as well as skill. You must have the ability to get along with people in the working world. People may respect a technically talented person, but people ultimately want to work with people that they like.

Q: What’s the strangest thing that ever happened to you in this job?

A: The strangest thing that happens to me are the crazy things that the bugs do to the programs. Once, there was an audio file from Youtube actually put into the program. The audio file contained a lot of profanity, and the program was for first graders. Luckily, we fixed it before giving it to the school district.

Q: Why do you get up and go to work each day? Can you give an example of something that really made you feel good or proud?

A: I get up and go to work each day really because of my financial obligations and the hope that I can make things better at the office between myself and my colleagues. I also get up every day to learn more about my craft so that when my opportunity comes, I can take it.

Q: What kind of challenges do you handle and what makes you want to just quit?

A: The challenges that make me want to quit are mostly personal. The stupid comments of people around the office about Asians kind of get on my nerves. I also must face the challenges of a boss that I know does not like me, and will not accept my ideas readily.

Q: How stressful is your job? Are you able to maintain a comfortable or healthy work-life balance? How?

A: My job is less stressful than it is boring and frustrating because of the office situation. I keep a healthy work / life balance by making sure I go out with my friends and with my wife outside of work. My wife is pregnant with our first child so of course this takes up a great deal of my time.

Q: What’s a rough salary range for the position you hold? Are you paid enough and/or happy living within your means?

A: Salary range for my position is around $65,000 a year. I am paid about this much, and I live within my means.

Q: How much vacation do you take? Is it enough?

A: I have 2 weeks paid vacation. It is enough, I suppose.

Q: What education and skills do you need to get hired and succeed in this field?

A: To succeed as a computer engineer, you definitely need to master one or more of the platforms that serve as standards in the industry. Knowing Java, Flash, etc. is a must. Also, you need a college degree. Many companies will not promote you above a certain level unless you have one.

Q: What would you tell a friend considering your line of work?

A: I would tell my friend considering being a computer engineer to not be Asian! It is simply too difficult to escape the stereotypes.

Q: If you could write your own ticket, what would you like to be doing in five years?

A: If I could literally do whatever I wanted in five years, I would love to be running my own entertainment software company making video games.