Entrepreneur, Technology Consultant, Chief Operating Officer at Kastling Group, Carnegie Mellon Computer Engineering, Yale Executive MBA (EMBA) Candidate, INTJ, Enneagram Type 1 (The Reformer)
I come from a broken home, but I have fond memories of my childhood. My mother was a former nurse, and my father was a former professor that founded a small education company. I grew up in Seoul, Korea at the tail end of its rapid industrialization period when my neighborhood was comprised of farms juxtaposed with 20-story buildings. My parents sent me to an English-speaking private school amidst farms in the outskirts of Seoul. I’m incredibly thankful for my parents’ sacrifices in lifestyle in lieu of my education. However, I mostly remember myself as a confused child speaking broken English at school and broken Korean at home.
In 1995, my mother and I moved to California, and I learned about the Internet. I started designing websites the same year (5th grade) and learned to code in visual basic. In my free time, I memorized HTML tags and decompiled visual basic programs for fun. By 6th grade, I was typing over 95 words per minute on a qwerty keyboard.
After about a year of learning, I created a website that ranked popular websites as an alternative to huge directory listing sites such as Yahoo, which contained too much information and obsolete links. My ranking website eventually averaged around 16,000 unique visitors per day and generated advertisement revenues of about $2000 per month. I learned early on that addressing what you find frustrating could become a viable business.
Unfortunately, there was one thing that excited me more than websites: video games. I was an avid gamer in 7th grade. I played Quake I (highest rank 35), and also led a guild on Team Fortress that participated in online tournaments. We were not always first, but our guild undoubtedly had the best website. I learned to recruit the top players, organize practices by situations, facilitate communications, improve morale, and build a well-coordinated team. While I was gaining new technical and life skills through extracurricular activities, my grades were flatlining particularly in the GATE program in middle school. I lost interest in academics, and my mother was worried about my future. When my report card consistently came back with a Cs, Ds and Fs, my mother declared that we move back to Korea, away from my existing routines.
While I was forced to put more effort into my studies in Korea, I continued my passion for the web by creating an online portal for my high school and organizing a webmaster club that grew to over 30 co-ed members in the first year. I also continued my passion for video games to a limited extent. I played Starcraft and Warcraft III, and I even became a referee for the first World Cyber Games (WCG).
Upon graduation, I matriculated at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) not only because of its strong computer engineering program but also because my favorite Warcraft III team was composed of two students attending CMU. I met my Warcraft III partner who made a similar decision, and we ultimately became a high caliber duo (highest rank 3).
In my final years at college, two friends and I started a mobile application project called Blue Sky that was sponsored by Motorola and CMU. It was a grand idea to elevate local communication using bluetooth technologies. Unfortunately, I had to leave the team upon graduation to start paying off my student loans by working for General Motors (GM) as an engineer. Thinking back, I was afraid to take the entrepreneurial leap at this time because I had seen the challenges of early ventures through my father’s business.
I realized at GM that my strength was optimizing inefficient processes with technology because I was far more interested in submitting multiple process improvement and technology patent ideas than performing my regular duties. I aligned my career with my strengths and worked as a consultant for Accenture and Booz Allen Hamilton. While the consulting firms were phenomenal in many aspects, I questioned whether the lack of career and training opportunities and travel obligations could achieve a fulfilling life.
In 2013, I co-founded a boutique technology consulting firm, Kastling Group, to address these concerns that enable us to provide higher quality specialized services empowered by a mission to ethically provide customer-centric modern services for all Americans. Kastling Group provided multimillion dollars of services since 2013 and supported over nine federal agencies and large corporations such as MasterCard and American Red Cross. Kastling Group came with an entirely different set of challenges, but we enjoy facing them without losing focus on our vision and values.
I am currently pursuing a Yale MBA to better evaluate and improve my goals and to find like minds in a pursuit to make positive impacts around the world.