April 25, 2020 From Architect to UX Designer: A Journey of Transformation Featuring Khanhlinh – Topcoder Nation Ep. 14

A career transformation is a rare event in which a person goes through a deliberate process to change professional lanes. It involves learning new skills, practicing and gaining experience. Beneath all that, there is an underlying reason why this happens: motivation.

What drives a person to make such a decision? Is it money? Is it freedom? Is it passion? Each case is unique. We’re here today to be delighted with the particular case of Mister Do Hoang Anh from Vietnam, who I’ll call khanhlinh from now on, as per his Topcoder handle, and as he prefers.

In Topcoder there are people who have interesting journeys and then there is khanhlinh, whose story is a mixed salad of preparation, passion, courage and persistence. In a nutshell, he managed to jump the lane from architect to UX Designer once he found Topcoder.

From zero to hero: he never touched a UX design tool before in his life so he had to start from scratch. After time spent patiently learning how to design, and learning how to fail, eventually he learned how to win. He became a top designer in the community and a three time TCO finalist.

Imagine there’s Topcoder

Now he designs full time at Topcoder when he is not being a hubby and dad, or on other occasions, playing as John Lennon’s copycat. Let us enjoy his story, his journey of transformation.


There are wise people who say that luck is when opportunity meets preparation, meaning that you have to be ready when opportunity knocks at your door. What if you’re not prepared? 

Khanhlinh’s door was broken apart by opportunity’s call. He had to defy this wise saying when his friend nghi85, also from Vietnam, told him about Topcoder, a place full of opportunities for designers, with the freedom of choosing your own work and great payment. Why not give it a try?

Both of them in TCO19

Trying just a tiny bite of design sparked a hidden motivation to switch lanes for khanhlinh. Because of his profession as an architect, he intuited that UX Design should be familiar. Wrong. He noticed there was a whole new universe to dig deep into in order to succeed. There was a passionate call, however, that was pulling him to learn the design process and its outcomes.

Being an architect, he possessed principles that can definitely be useful in UX Design: aesthetics, balance, spacing, usability. How about the new process though? The tools?


When you go fishing what do you bring with you? The best possible gear that will help you catch the fish efficiently. We can mirror this attitude in Topcoder challenges. What do you bring to a Design challenge? Normally, Sketch, Adobe XD, Photoshop, some heroes MS Paint, some others AutoCAD.

That was not khanhlinh. When he joined his first challenges he didn’t know more tools than AutoCAD, inherited from his architecture background. He started to create icons, websites and mobile apps using AutoCAD. They first looked like some sort of black and white outlines.

AutoCAD generated icons

Definitely not good enough to win challenges. Nevertheless, an excellent start to win experience. He began receiving something people tend to underrate when they start in Topcoder, and personally, I think it makes the whole difference to improve your game: feedback, ladies and gentlemen.

He started perfecting his game, his fundamentals of design concept. He proved that the tool is not a game changer but what you do with the fundamentals you know can be.


This is what khanhlinh can create with his magic hands now

Something an architect and a designer share is definitely the curse of perfectionism. In this opportunity, it served as fuel for khanhlinh to be able to keep learning and pushing his limits.

Someone I won’t name here suggested that he start learning Photoshop. He started learning a new tool, spent more time, got more experience, yet he continued pursuing his path, enjoying the gradual progress he made. Victory? At two months in he still had zero wins. But he had motivation, perfectionism to achieve.

This is when the mystical and drastical graph of results shows a peak. That’s how progress works, when you encounter the first Topcoder victory it’s like something conspires for you to have a winning streak. His moment eventually came. He began sweeping top positions in challenges, even winning multiple placements in unique challenges.

Artist genes must be in the family. His daughter participated in a fun design challenge. She won.


Khanhlinh lives in Hue City with his family. He can not leave this city; it has fresh air and used to be the capital of the country. He had a dream of building his own house in this city .

Using his former professional expertise and funded by the hard earned rewards from Topcoder competitions, he managed to design his house from scratch. He laid out every brick, every grain of sand, every window, with the same passion he has for design, giving life to a delightful home he enjoys every day while working hard and dreaming harder.

Next time someone tells you that you can’t change your career, think of people like khanhlinh. People with strong reasons to change can jump the lane. He spent a countless number of hours pursuing what he loved because he had a strong motive. As Friedrich Nietzsche puts it:

“He who has a why to live can bear almost any how”

Peace out folks!


Are you living the gig economy lifestyle at Topcoder? Want to join fellow members? Share your story, your travels, and experiences about the ultimate goal of working at Topcoder; the freedom, the flexibility, and the earnings that make it happen! Join Topcoder Nation.

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