David Hoang

David product designer and prototyper who focuses on mobile, wearables, and emerging technology. He occasionally speaks at conferences but focus primarily on prototyping and exploring in his studio. Influenced by his fine arts background, he loves exploring new materials to build experiences for humans to interact with. He is an INTJ and it is very apparent.

He enjoys walking, reading, painting, playing Destiny, and hanging out with his cat, Wilson. David tweets at @davidhoang and writes/prototypes at davidhoang.com.

He currently lives in Seattle, WA and San Francisco, CA, but misses Brooklyn a lot.

Published Thoughts

I am sitting at Kailua beach in Hawaii and writing this post; thoughts are fresh on my mind. This is the first vacation I've gone on with my family in about eight years.

It was about twenty minutes before sunrise and I was outside our rental home with my mother. As she was swimming in the water, I was looking for which direction the sun would rise. When Mom came back up to the beach, I asked her help me by holding my iPhone to 91 degrees east so I could set up my new GoPro I just bought to create a time-lapse video.

"Oh, this is so cool!" Mom said.

It was interesting that she was so impressed with such a basic app that often gets thrown in an “extras” or “cannot delete” folder in iOS. She told me about how they used a compass to guide them through the Pacific Ocean. I am of Vietnamese descent and my parents came to the United States in 1980 in a wooden boat that is about 1/8th the size of boats you see in a lake when people are partying during the 4th of July. They traveled from Vietnam to a refugee camp in Indonesia (where my older brother was born) to the United States in a wooden boat, all guided by an analog compass.

Along the way the boat my parents were on got boarded by pirates. Among the people executed were two of my dad’s brothers…my uncles I never got to know. Among the chaos, the pirates also took the compass.

Spending time with my family gives me an opportunity to re-listen to stories I heard as a kid, now with a different lens as an adult. To hear the hardships is quite the humbling experience. It makes you think that everything you complain about on a daily basis seems minuscule compared to what my parents went through. I hear friends share similar stories who grew up with immigrant parents about the hardships they endured and the risks they took for their family to live here in the United States. You don't have to come from an immigrant family to experience hardships or these stories, but it is a common theme amongst friends I've observed.

Here I am, with my family. Among them are my parents finally retired after providing for us after all these years. My brother, his wife, and their little child…my nephew and next generation of our family.

And then there is me…unmarried, childless, and I just quit my job. (This is not a complaint but a sharing of the difference in place-in-life)

Until about two weeks ago, I was the Director of Mobile Design at Black Pixel, a digital products group based on Seattle, Washington. I worked with some renowned engineers and very talented designers and testers. My first director role, the ability to work remotely, and got to work on some great projects.

But I quit. I still quit my job. A lot of people didn’t understand why I left. I think a lot still don’t. I honestly almost changed my mind about it many times, but there were events that validated my decision was the right one.

My parents literally gave up their lives to risk everything they had to go to the United States to raise my brother and I, and I just quit a very good job.

By the way, I quit my job with nothing lined up. This isn't the first time. I left HTC and ExactTarget (later acquired by SalesForce) with no opportunity lined up. For me, the exploration is necessary.

After we set up the time-lapse with the GoPro, Mom and I went to swim in the ocean. She's so happy now in the water; the same body of water that was once fear and uncertainty. She’s with her family, hanging out with her two sons, and her grandson. 

The waves calmed a bit and things got quiet; an opportunity to talk. I told my mom I was sorry. I told her I was sorry that I haven’t stayed put, personally or professionally. She gave that look—the look a mother gives you when they explain something you to and you better be paying attention.

She told me what I am doing with my life is exactly what they wanted. Mom told me that they came here for us to have the opportunity…to do anything with very little risk.

It was that moment I realized that risk in my mind is not very much of a risk. Leaving a job with nothing lined up? What is that compared to what my parents endured? The worst case scenario is I'd have to find a means to pay rent or move back with my parents. A big piece of humble pie, but in perspective, not a huge risk.

I have always been a risk taker; sometimes taking non-conventional paths or being in the midst of ambiguity. However, I always felt bad about it, but not anymore. I feel empowered by my family who endured so much for me to make the most of swinging for the fences.

In my own way, in a very different context, and not literally, I am entering uncharted waters. I am simply focusing on where I feel I need to go. I don't have a compass, but have a sense of where I need to go.

Risk everything. You really have nothing to lose.