Asylhan Ukenov’s passion for programming started in an unexpected way. For several years he had been on a career path that was geared towards medicine, when he realized that becoming a medical professional was not what he wanted. So when a friend introduced programming to him and offered to teach him the basics, he explored this new field with interest.
Programming proved to be a better fit, enabling him to practice development skills using logic, math, and his creativity towards the completion of projects. His journey with WIMTACH began with a drive to explore more opportunities to improve his skillset. When he learned about an opening for a Student Researcher position for a Back-end developer with fluency in C# (pronounced C sharp) and Unity, a game development platform, he quickly realized that it was a great opportunity to get real world experience. With his background knowledge in C#, he was able to successfully contribute towards an applied research project in the development of an application to be used on NREAL smart glasses which enable individuals to communicate non-verbally. Within a small team of three, composed of Professor Viji, Asylhan and one other Student Researcher, he was enabled to play a major role in the development of the app. Through this process he became better acquainted with Unity. The small team worked smoothly together to successfully complete the project. “It worked well,” he said. “It was easy to communicate, it was easy so we could support each other.”
WIMTACH helped Asylhan to become proficient in studying and developing fast skills. With the direction of Professor Viji, he was able to quickly gain the fundamental basics in using frameworks which was a very significant milestone for him. “When you know just one language and you don’t know any frameworks, you’re kind of lost there,” he said. He was also surprised to discover the expansive scope of the learning opportunities at WIMTACH, highlighting for example, that he never thought he would have any connections with the gaming industry. However, his involvement with the NREAL applied research project, enabled him to gain experience that he would have lacked otherwise. “This was a little bit different because I never thought that I would be working in the gaming industry,” he said. “It was new completely.” Still, he managed to overcome great feats when faced with unexpected challenges such as a late request for a feature addition. He was so motivated to assist his team, he was able to complete a feature within 2 days, something he reflects back on proudly. “In a school you are working on school projects which is usually pretty simple,” he said. “But when you are working with real clients … you need to adjust to that and you are actually learning a lot more.”
While managing his studies as a student in the Centennial College, Software Engineering Technology program, a part-time job and his Student Researcher role at WIMTACH, Asylhan was driven still, to absorb as much as he could. So naturally, he decided to learn another framework, this time: Django. In the end, his efforts were well recognized when he was selected as one of a small team of student developers who would eventually contribute to the development of the Naborino custom marketplace. This new position also supported his efforts to learn Angular and Front-end development, making him more comfortable as a Full-stack developer.
Reflecting back on his time at WIMTACH, he remembered a time when he wasn’t so confident in his development skills, but he was able to push past his fear and find his footing. His advice to other students who are considering an internship at WIMTACH is to push past the feeling of fear or an imposter syndrome and try anyway. “Don’t be scared if you don’t know something,” he said. “Everybody starts somewhere so if you feel like you don’t know, it’s fine … if you don’t know something just say I’m going to learn it,” he said.
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