Jin Sung Kang had number of internships at Facebook and Bay Area startups before joining Architech’s new Research & Innovation Lab in the fall of 2014. As the longest-standing research developer on the team, Jin has a vantage point that provides excellent insight into what it’s like to work in our fast-paced, high-energy environment.
What were you doing before you joined the Architech team?
I graduated in 2014 from the University of Waterloo with a degree in mechatronics engineering. I really wanted to do something meaningful and innovative, related to the Internet of Things (IoT). The position I found at Architech was originally a four-month contract and I thought if I didn’t like it I could always move on. When I arrived here, the Research & Innovation Lab had just opened and I was part of the first batch. So this was fairly new for the company as well and a great opportunity.
Do you have any regrets about not staying at Facebook?
Not really. Sometimes in the winter I realize I could have been in California. But my work at Architech is so exciting that it rarely feels like a job.
How does the Lab differ from your previous work experiences?
[At Architech] I work with PhDs, doing research alongside them. You definitely do a lot of things at once here. Some people might not prefer that, but I like that you can learn a broad range of things and you can go in depth if you choose to. I’m working with experts in the field who are always there to help you. At a bigger company, they’d just be looking at my code and saying, “OK, go fix this,” and that would be the end.
How does that dynamic work for you?
At first I was intimidated when [the PhDs] spoke to each other. I just sat there with my mind blown because I didn’t understand what they were saying. But I found that here people are really open and always took the time to sit down with me and explain aspects of the projects that I didn’t understand. A year in, I realize I’ve completed projects that would get me grad degrees from top universities. If anything, it’s motivating me to go back for a Master’s, which is something I hadn’t considered before.
How would you compare Architech to your previous startup experience?
Architech is more innovative in ways that other startup communities aren't. The size of the company is small enough that we can move fast, which is extremely important in driving innovation. Having the resources that Architech has, we’re able to hire people at a greater capacity than startups can. Being able to hire and work with smart people is extremely important to the company that wants to define the future.
Speaking of which, what are some of the most challenging or exciting things you’ve worked on here?
My first project was building technology that uses cameras to pick up a person’s individual heartbeat. Originally, the idea was presented in a paper published by MIT: the camera could see your heartbeat because your face would brighten when it pumped. People had done this kind of research before, but I was trying to find a way that would make this technology work in the real world, where the environment is completely uncontrolled. So I had to go through the scientific process of figuring out if my ideas worked or didn’t work and then finding a new way to do things. It was very interesting.
That sounds really exciting. Can you also describe the culture at Architech?
It’s definitely the most friendly and open place I’ve ever worked. In a number of my previous jobs, I was stuck in a cubicle and told what to do and my manager would come by once a week and check in. That was it. I wasn’t getting any other response as to whether I was doing well or not. You’d walk around the office and everyone was stuck in their cubicles and no one would really speak. But here it’s open and everyone talks to everybody. It’s great because your ideas are limited when you’re by yourself, but when you talk to others and get their feedback it can generate new or better ideas. As an example, the company is deploying a huge project in October that I invented and executed on my own, and I’m really excited about it and the fact that they put their faith in me for such a big undertaking. I can’t wait to show the world.
How has that experience impacted you?
At most companies, big or small, they probably wouldn't bother asking me for the idea in the first place. If I did manage to pitch my ideas, it would most likely be disregarded because someone in the upper management disagreed with me. If by miracle my idea was chosen, I'll be given a supporting role where I’d probably contribute nothing and would be forced to watch the project deviate from what I originally had in mind. There are only a few companies that will ask, “What do you want to work on?” and “What are you interested in?” and I’m fortunate enough to be in a company where my manager asks those questions. With the supporting environment that I have at Architech, I’m able to take the idea to how I envisioned it and show it to the world.
You’re here at an exciting time in the company’s history. What does it feel like to be here during this time?
When I started at the Labs, it was just three of us and we were the only junior developers at the company. But now, you can actually see the switch we’re making and where Architech is going; it’s the kind of innovation hub I want to be a part of.
If you were going to describe to your friends what it’s like to work at Architech what would you say?
There aren't many companies where people can actually say, "I do cool things". But I can. I can’t talk about most of those cool things (yet) but I do cool things. I have a lot of friends working in the Bay Area – Apple, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Amazon – and I’m not envious of them at all. Some of the time they’re used as disposables and I’m here doing what I want and learning all the time. I feel like I can come up with crazy ideas and play with them and instead of stopping me, people tend to join me.