Student Impact Profile

Dan Truong

Senior Software Engineer
Ignited Teacher: Jonathan Ho, AP Physics teacher


Impact Story

Now a software developer at the global company Zendesk, Dan Truong traces his career path back to occasional after-school hangouts with his AP physics teacher, Ignited alum Jonathan Ho. While their industries of focus were somewhat different – Jonathan’s background was in economics, and Dan was pursuing tech – the insights Jonathan shared about his own college and industry experiences were formative for Dan’s career journey.

Before becoming a teacher at Dan’s high school, Jonathan had spent some time working in industry – and he has kept his industry knowledge up-to-date through an Ignited fellowship at Lockheed Martin in 2020, where he analyzed the Fleet Ballistic Missile organization’s peer review process, using Excel/VBA to automate their data analysis. He also served as an Ignited coach in 2021, leading other teachers to engage with industry professionals and translate the experience for their students.

As a high school senior with first-generation immigrant parents, Dan faced a lot of unknowns and few connections when he started gravitating towards a career in tech. “Jonathan was a source of inspiration for me as someone who also came from an immigrant family but was able to build many connections in various industries. As a teacher, he was able to provide a lot of that wisdom directly to students like myself.”

Dan remembers meeting Jonathan at a Starbucks just before leaving the Bay Area to start his freshman year at the University of Pennsylvania – where Jonathan himself had attended and had encouraged Dan to consider. Dan was nervous about how a college degree would translate into getting a job, and Jonathan advised him on how to find resources for interviews and build connections with students and teachers on campus.

The skills Dan built with Jonathan’s guidance ultimately paid off; as he pursued a major in computer science, he leveraged resources from the university and scholarship programs to prepare for interviews and establish connections – which ultimately led to an internship at Zendesk and a full time offer after his graduation. Now at Zendesk for over three years, Dan works remotely as a back-end engineer on the permissions and authorizations team, writing code to handle the logic that dictates access for various types of users in Zendesk’s business-to-business software.

While much of his work involves hard-skills required for trouble-shooting code and developing decision logs and flow diagrams, the durable soft skills Dan gained as Jonathan’s student remain integral to his day-to-day as he is in constant communication with team members across multiple time zones. “The big takeaway I‘ve gotten from my experiences with Jonathan is how important it is in a STEM field to not only be voracious for knowledge but also to know how to interact with folks and work together. Soft skills are just as valuable as the hard skills,” Dan says. “It’s one thing to learn from a textbook and know all the formulas to develop an answer to a problem, but it’s a different thing when you have to incorporate soft skills and know how to be assertive in a room.”