Alumni Interview: General Assembly Hong Kong Alum Denis Tsoi

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Meet Denis Tsoi, a graduate of General Assembly’s 10-week Front-End Web Development course in Hong Kong. In a previous life, Denis worked as a dealer for a precious metals brokerage. He realized that “working in finance is not what it’s cracked up to be,” and since learning to code at GA, he’s embarked on a new career as a web developer at the creative agency Imagination HK.

What inspired you to learn to code?

It all started a year ago when I first joined Dim Sum Labs, a hacker space in Hong Kong. At the time, I didn’t know anything about programming or how to make a website.

One of Dim Sum Labs’ co-founders, William Liang, mentioned an upcoming Startup Weekend event that he’d be mentoring at. I had just finished reading The Lean Startup and The Four Hour Work Week, and thought I’d give it a try. At the event, I noticed a surplus of “business” types, but not many designers or coders. I was frustrated when I realized that I wasn’t one either.

A few months passed. I was applying for jobs, and emailed someone at a startup that I was interested in. While I was bummed that they weren’t hiring, I thought it’d be best to keep in touch since he was so nice over email. I later found out he was teaching GA’s Front-End Web Development course, which I had heard about through somewhere else. It was a sign!

What surprised you the most about learning to code?

That it’s incredibly difficult to find an environment that is conducive to personal learning, one that is full of energy and warmth. It also makes a big difference to have teachers to turn to. My GA instructors, Mart and Kit, guided me through the tough times, and were receptive to discoveries that I had made on my own.

What’s your favorite resource for aspiring developers? Who do you admire in the space?

From the international scene, I’m inspired by Mr.doob and Lea Verou. Mr.doob’s work in three.js (a 3D JavaScript library) is pretty awesome – check out his work in Arcade Fire’s “Reflektor” music video. Lea’s work in CSS3 really got me inspired when I just started out, and I regularly visit her site. For reference material, David Walsh is worth a quick search, as are articles from Smashing Magazine or HTML5 Weekly. Another good tip is to follow your favorite developers on Twitter – they often publish new work that way.

In Hong Kong, my coworkers at Imagination HK are a great source of inspiration. For someone starting off in the industry, not being the smartest person is actually a blessing. Being apart of such a close-knit team inspires me to work hard and to continually improve myself.

Lastly, we have to ask, what is your guilty pleasure?

I’m usually pretty busy these days, so I don’t get a lot of time to myself. Whenever I do get well-earned “me” time, I like to either sleep like a pig or sit at home reading a good novel with a tub of ice cream.

When Denis isn’t hacking away on side projects (check out his GitHub account), he can be found at Dim Sum Labs, where he serves as a Community Organizer, or at home enjoying a quiet family meal.