Vietnamese-born Chuong Ho is someone you might be tempted to describe as ‘lucky’.
He won a full scholarship during his final year of high school to study a double degree at Swinburne, scored a coveted internship at Google, and has now been offered the role of a lifetime as a software engineer at the tech giant’s Sydney campus.
But luck has nothing to do with it. Chuong pushed himself relentlessly to achieve his goals, driven by sheer determination to use his skills for what he sees as an opportunity to level the playing field through tech.
The Bachelor of Engineering (Honours) and Bachelor of Computer Science student, who is due to complete his studies later this year, will start work at Google next year.
Determination is key
Growing up in Vietnam, Chuong was a maths whiz and spent a lot of his time wondering how things worked. These interests naturally translated to a desire to work in computer science and engineering.
When his school selected him as their representative in Vietnam’s national academic competition, ‘Road to Olympia Peak’, which awarded the winner a full scholarship to study at Swinburne, he realised the dream could become a reality with a bit of dedication.
Vietnamese-born Chuong Ho won a full scholarship to study at Swinburne in a Vietnamese academic competition, ‘Road to Olympia Peak’.
“I enjoyed studying and was motivated, so I began training with coaches who were former winners of the competition in my free time after school each day,” he said.
The ‘Road to Olympia Peak’ competition is revered in Vietnam, and the national final is watched by millions of people when it’s televised each year.
“There were four rounds in the national competition, and everyone was very talented. I was over the moon when I won,” Chuong said.
Having previously completed a month-long exchange to Sydney in high school, Chuong already knew and loved the Australian way of life. But that didn’t stop the culture shock as a new adult moving out of home for the first time.
“I came from living with my parents to being totally independent,” he said.
“And I was also struggling with the language barrier. When I first started, I was getting worried because I only understood about 50 to 70 per cent of what was being said in classes. But when I started socialising, that really helped with my English.”
Third time lucky
Being offered the job at Google marks the end of a years-long mission for Chuong.
He first applied to work at the company in 2018 during his first year of university, but was knocked back.
Undeterred, he put his head down and focused on developing his skills. This included undertaking an internship working on a Swinburne research project.
The next year, he reapplied to Google. Again, he was unsuccessful, but his motivation hadn’t waned.
“It’s very prestigious, the best of the best,” Chuong said.
“I knew it would be very hard, and I needed to develop more skills.”
The ‘Road to Olympia Peak’ competition, won by Chuong Ho in 2017, is revered in Vietnam, and the national final is watched by millions of people when it’s televised each year.
In 2021, following a gruelling five rounds of interviews and coding challenges over five months, Chuong was chosen as one of just over 50 interns hired by the company in Australia that year. In fact, less than 4,000 internships were awarded by the company globally last year, and it’s estimated this represents no more than 2 per cent of applicants.
Even smaller are the number of interns who are offered permanent positions, underscoring Chuong’s impressive achievements.
“I will be working as a software engineer, which means I will be working on designing new products and maintaining current products,” Chuong said.
“It might be trying to improve speeds of a program or finding ways it could work better.”
Diversity, equity and inclusion
Asked about the attraction to working at Google, Chuong’s response confirms his humility.
“I feel like they are making a substantial change to society in a positive way,” he said.
“Everyday Google searches happen across the world and help people retrieve information efficiently. The Google products are designed with a lot of thoughts on usability so that everyone, including those with little technology background and those who need accessibility assistance can use them and benefit from. I really believe in their core values of diversity, inclusion and equity.”
In the future, Chuong hopes to increase the equitable technology solutions available.
“I wish to work on products that can transform other people’s lives in a positive way. That’s my lifelong commitment.”