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Dropping a university degree and making a proper living as a self-taught techie in Hong Kong 

Sigma School
15th April 2024

Watch the full interview here : 

In this episode of Stories of Hackers, we talked with Robin. Robin is from Hong Kong and we invited robin on board because he has a really interesting story to tell, about his journey of self-learning since he doesn't have a uni degree but right now he’s able to make a proper living as a self-taught techie in Hong Kong. We hope you guys can learn something from Robin’s tech journey, enjoy!

Can you introduce yourself and your story to our community members?

Hey guys ,my name is Robin and i am born in Hong Kong,  i've been staying here since

I was born and I actually don't have a degree. After I graduated from secondary school, I went to different places like Australia and Korea and travelled around as I just wanted to see the world. After that when I came back to Hong Kong and kind of wanted to settle down, I was thinking about my path and where I should go,  then I discovered I am kind of interested in being in the IT field so that’s how I started my journey.

I'm sure, especially in a super advanced country like Hong Kong where everyone is so competitive, what got you thinking like “hey, i probably don't need to get a degree”?

The main reason why I don't want to go for a degree is because it costs a lot of money and also I can get real work experience by starting working earlier. That's the main reason why I didn't go for a degree and by then when I graduated from secondary school, I thought it's a good idea to just go out and see the world because for me that’s a better idea than just keep studying. 

I kind of disagreed with the main idea of how the education system wants us to just finish the degree and come to work. I don't like this concept because it’s making everyone the same after that. How can you stand out? By further studies, get a Master or even Phd? By getting more certs to prove yourself? It's never going to be enough and it's going to cost a lot of money.

What did your parents think about your decision?

They just  don't agree with what I choose but they always let me choose unlike some of my friends when they wanna skip degree, their parents would just go “whoa whoa you can’t do that if you do that you are not going to be able to survive in this society”. 

So what do you do after you came back from your travels?

I was searching for my path about what i should go for about one or two years and then I found this IT intern project, trainee project so they allow you to stay in a secondary school or primary school for one year and you can practice your IT skill there and after the contract is over, you can just go somewhere else. It's a government project from people without IT knowledge to be able to learn on the job and get paid. What I did for that year in the project is mostly act as a technical support like for example students or teachers when they have trouble using the computer then they'll ask for our help.

The salary back then for my first job was 9.5k HKD and for your information, the average of fresh graduate IT support can be around 13k HKD. But still, I will say this 9.5k HKD salary and the one year job experience are better than going for a 3, 4 years university experience because after you graduated from this IT project, you got the chance to go and interview at big MNC companies. Unfortunately not many people know about the existence of this project. 

After I graduated from the project, I just sent my resume everywhere to the IT companies out there and lastly because of an introduction by my ex-colleague, I got to become a developer for an IT company and get paid pretty well. 

When you were brought into the developer job, were you able to code or what was your level back then?

Just a tiny little bit because I watched a lot of tutorials on the internet. That's where I started actually self-learning because no one was there to teach me back then so the internet resource is very important to me. I have to take in a lot of those tutorials to obtain the knowledge. 

I watched like half a year of coding concepts before I got into this job so I was able to talk to my boss about some of the coding concepts. Even though I have any job experience in coding before, I think my passion in coding impressed my boss and he agreed to hire me. My advice to everyone out there struggling to find a job is just don't be afraid and throw your resume to those companies to let them decide if you're able to join in but of course you have to prepare before the interview,  you just have to prepare yourself but don't be afraid  to apply for jobs. It took me four months and almost 100 job applications to get my first developer job.

That’s very inspiring! So what are you working on now?

I was actually back to being a technical support right now but it's in a big company so I think I can get some solid experience right here because everything is professional.

What do you think are some of the biggest challenges you faced throughout your whole journey?

I think the biggest struggle this whole time is lack of connections because you know i started from zero and i don't have any friends related to IT or maybe just a few of them so i have no one, no friends to learn from, so i have to keep searching for google i have to keep learning and searching so i can solve those things by myself.

What’s one advice you would like to give to your younger self, or maybe to the beginners out there?

Don't give up, i know it's difficult in the first place, if you're still inexperienced when you saw those things, let's say networking hardware and software programming, it just kinda looks like an alien language in front of you but as long as you keep learning, it will all eventually start to make sense to you.

Thanks for the awesome interview! 

Hope you enjoyed this series!

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