From Med School Dropout to Software Engineer

It’s not typical to hear someone proudly proclaim that they’re a medical school dropout. But Divin Kong isn’t typical. Born in Cambodia and now working for Amazon in Canada, Divin has had an interesting career ride. Find out how Divin used his MOS certification to direct him away from medical school, and on to a new career path in software development.

Certiport: Divin, I was so excited to see your recent job update on LinkedIn. Thanks for taking the time to reconnect with us.
Divin: I’m happy that you reached out. It’s been a few years, so it was good to hear from Certiport again.

Certiport: Now, we know your story, but why don’t you share a little background on who you are.
Divin: Of course! I’m originally from Phnom Penh, Cambodia. I grew up wanting to pursue a career in medicine. But all that changed in 2014. IIG, Certiport’s Cambodian Partner, came to my university to select a few students to compete in the Microsoft Office Specialist (MOS) Cambodia National Championship. It was the first time I heard about MOS certifications. Earning those certifications completely changed my life! I feel like I’m living my dream right now.

Certiport: Tell us more. How did it change your life?
Divin: My MOS certifications helped open so many doors, and I realized how passionate I am about technology. I earned my MOS Excel 2010 and MOS PowerPoint 2010 certifications back in 2014 and 2015. My high scores brought me all the way to the MOS World Championship, where I took second place in the PowerPoint competition.

Certiport: That is incredible! Do you feel like winning the silver medal in the MOS Championship helped open a lot of doors for you?
Divin: Absolutely! It opened a whole new world for me beyond what I’d ever dreamt of. My skills got recognized by my university and, more importantly, Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications in Cambodia. Further, I got a sponsorship from Metfone to pursue a master’s degree in Singapore. This gave me the credential I need to navigate in this competitive job market.

Certiport: Amazing. What was it like to move to another country to pursue an advanced degree?
Divin: It was tough at first, the language, the culture, and the new standard of education. Eventually, I got the hang of it and ended up doing well there. Despite the initial struggle, it was once in a lifetime experience. It changed my perspective of myself completely. I used to see myself as an individual trying to do well in life so that I can feed my family, but now I too can make a difference in this world and that’s a great feeling, the feeling that I’m a part of something bigger.

Certiport: What an incredible shift in perspective, going from just having a job to contributing to the greater good. After you earned your master’s degree, did you go directly to work for Amazon?
Divin: No, I went to work at Visa as a Senior Software Engineer while I was still living in Singapore. I helped develop and maintain a global dispute management system and internal tools, primarily in Java and JavaScript.

Certiport: What an incredible job to get, especially right out of your master’s program. What made you decide to leave Visa?
Divin: Yes, it was incredible, and I couldn’t ask for more. However, I had to leave VISA for two main reasons. First and foremost, I have family members in Canada, so I wanted to move a bit closer to them. Secondly, I knew I could learn and grow more as a software engineer at Amazon. Amazon has a much broader range of domains from payment to e-commerce to cloud computing.

Certiport: Was it tough to go through the application and interview process at Amazon?
Divin: Getting a job in a big tech company like Amazon is very competitive. It forces you to stand out amongst many super talented people from around the world. Having my certifications gave me an edge because they prove that I have essential skills to be efficient and effective in my work.

Certiport: That’s such a good point. I’m sure efficiency is super important in your role.
Divin: For sure. I’m currently working as a Software Engineer. In my current job, I’m mainly working on improving the user experience on Amazon retail website, specifically in Canada and Mexico. Since my work requires me to work with a lot of software engineers and managers across Amazon, I need to make sure I use all my tools efficiently.

Certiport: It sounds like your job can be overwhelming. Do you have spare time outside of work?
Divin: I do, and it’s so great to live in such a beautiful city like Vancouver. In my spare time, I’m jogging around Vancouver. The scenery here is breathtaking. I go hiking occasionally as well. Other than that, I’m watching tech conferences online to catch up on new technologies. Tech is such a big part of my life, in and out of the office.

Certiport: We’re so glad that certification helped you find your passion. Do you have any advice for younger students looking to find their passions?
Divin: Yes, not everyone is lucky enough to have found their passions from the get-go. You have to try different things even if it's outside of your comfort zone until it finally clicks. Like Steve Jobs once said, “Keep looking; don’t settle.”

Ready to help your students find their passion for technology? Learn more about MOS certification at www.certiport.com/mos.