Sometimes you discover your passion in life entirely by chance.
Inspiration is all around us, and finding your ideal career can be as simple as solving a common problem. For Zachary Lo, Co-founder of USThing, the issue he had was gaining access to HKUST services on his mobile during university life. Discovering vital information for students was difficult to find on smart phone, so he and a friend set about creating USThing. The solution is an all-in-one app for students at HKUST that offers information on everything from bookings, to directories, timetables, grades, and events.
For Zachary, a business student, the endeavour meant creating an app from scratch having no knowledge of coding or UX. Taking on the challenge, Zachary and a small group of students worked on the side of their study commitments to create the first prototype, making for a strenous working environment at first.
“Now I have a bigger team things are easier to manage. Back then managing the job was difficult. Teammates were helping in different roles but we had no money and had to balance building the app with studying and other commitments,” he says. “I even felt like giving up at times because some students told us that the app did not function well,” Zachary adds.
Another issue that Zachary encountered was working with partners on the project. “Being in a team is wonderful but at times there can be communication issues, conflict on business direction and indeed trying to co-ordinate especially when people have their commitments that need to be attended to,” says Zachary. “We had many issues to attend to including communication, and we even had arguments among partners and teammates,” Zachary adds.
At time it felt like some of the problems were insurmountable, but luckily for the student body, he soldiered on. After developing the app for a while, he found that its functionality improved dramatically, and so did Zachary’s passion for coding, which he taught himself on the side of his studies, a sign of his persistent character.
While he learnt many useful skills in business class, such as communications, negotiation, and public speaking, coding became his central professional commitment. ”Programming is interesting as you face challenges with every line of code, because it will have bugs, and you often can’t predict user behaviour. I did not expect to be a programmer, I thought I would work in business or engineering,” Zachary says.
USThing is going from strength to strength, with plans to expand the product. As they say, the proof is in the pudding, and Zachary can take heart from the fact that 50% of the student body are using his product, which is encouraging for the team. Much of this success can be attributed to Zachary and his team’s ambition to constantly get better.
Where does Zachary get his drive to improve from? “I love HKUST, and have been here for four years as well, so now I have the heart to help, and I think people in our team should have that passion as well,” he says.
The ride has taken Zachary from being a normal undergraduate to becoming an entrepreneur and joining the Cyberport University Partnership Programme, where he gained experience in Silicon Valley and Stanford University. “I didn’t foresee this happening, but the journey has been exciting so far, so let’s see what the future holds,” he says.