Dan Kang

Story of My Life

hi, i'm dk. here's my story.
Born
Hello World
1992

I gained consciousness in Seoul, Korea as the youngest of three children: my older brother got me into computers and inspired me to go into technology; my older sister convinced me as a kid that the chocolate ice cream I was eating was poop and graciously offered to eat it on my behalf. Thanks for looking out for me, sis.

America
America
6 years old · 1998

My parents sent my siblings and me to live with my grandparents in the promised land of California. I successfully made my first friend in America and spontaneously combusted into a social butterfly with lots of pointing and three words: "You. Me. Friend?"

Mom death
Tragedy
7 years old · 1999

This is where my story gets fairly dark, but it gets better, I promise.

My brother and sister stayed with my grandparents while I moved in with my uncle and aunt. Unfortunately, they didn't actually want me and turned out to be physically and emotionally abusive for the two years I lived with them.

During this period, my mom and dad announced their plan to visit us in the States for the first time. Some time before the planned trip, my dad started telling me that my mom was too tired to talk whenever I asked for her on the phone. When the trip happened, he arrived alone, gathered our family members, and broke the news: breast cancer killed my mom. I cried and cried but no one else did because everyone had known for a while.

I share these personal events because I've long since discovered that openness and vulnerability creates strength. They are also a source of immense gratitude: When I look back on this period of my life and reflect on losing my mom in the midst of being beaten and neglected by relatives who were entrusted with caring for me, I can't help but be thankful that I somehow made it out okay.

Childhood
Child Entrepreneur
11 years old · 2003

I reached the peak of my creative life as a 5th grader:

I started a publication called Imagination Comix under which I created numerous comic books ranging from a choose-your-own-adventure stick figure spy series to one about a sheep named Famula.

I developed my own trading cards called Marble Monsters, held contests for crowdsourcing monster ideas from classmates, and hired a few friends to print cards from their home printers by paying them a dollar each. Andy wrote a letter saying that his mom wouldn't let him use the printer and asked if we can still be friends. I ignored him for the rest of the year. Just kidding.

I sold my own currency called Funny Money which were strips of paper with gold glitter that could be exchanged for snacks from Korean supermarkets. I'm told this was a felony.

YouTube
15 years old · 2008

A song cover that I posted on YouTube became popular (now at 100,000+ views from 130+ countries) and I discovered how amazing the Internet is for reaching people from all around the world. I also learned about my special power for curing racism: "Dude I was going to be racist and make fun of your slanty little asian eyes till you started to sing, and your voice doesn't suck like the girl I watched before this video, so... Good job?" (YouTube comment, 2008)

Princeton
Princeton
17 years old · 2010

I found myself staring in disbelief at the screen with an orange tiger and CONGRATULATIONS! written beneath it. When I excitedly told my grandparents that I got into Princeton, they nonchalantly continued watching TV because they didn't believe me. When I finally convinced them, I wished I hadn't because they thought this was big enough news to publish in the local Korean newspaper and I obviously thought that was ridiculous. It got published.

Facebook
Facebook
18 years old · Summer 2011

I worked as a software engineering intern at Facebook after my freshman year and fell in love with the tech world. The summer was magical and full of many firsts: making money, working with amazingly talented and accomplished people, and learning that free gourmet food can be a bad thing when I experienced the "Facebook Fifteen" firsthand and gained a ton of weight.

Twilio
Twilio
19 years old · Summer 2012

I considered returning to Facebook but decided to use my internships to maximize my exposure to different experiences and joined Twilio in San Francsico. I learned what it's like to work at a startup, especially the part where you get really good at ping pong.

Year off
Year Off
20 years old · 2012 – 2013

I took a year off from school because my grandma's health was deteriorating and it became clear she would soon pass away. I spent time with her in the beginning of the year, moved to Silicon Valley to build the next world-changing iPhone app and quickly realized it wasn't going to happen, briefly worked as a street fundraiser for the Red Cross and learned the fearlessness that comes from getting rejected for 8 hours a day, then fell in love with traveling when I took a leap of faith and ventured on a solo backpacking trip around 13 countries in Europe.

Hackny
hackNY
20 years old · Summer 2013

I became a hackNY Fellow and coded at a startup called Crowdtap by day and explored New York and ate unholy amounts of Artichoke Pizza with the other hackNY Fellows by night.

Google
Google
21 years old · Summer 2014

My previous three software engineering internships convinced me that at this point, I knew what it's like to work as a software engineer. I looked for a role where I could focus on figuring out what should be built and why, rather than the implementation details. I interned as an Associate Product Manager at Google in Seattle and instantly fell in love with stealing all the credit and glory after engineers do the hard work.

Graduation
Graduation
22 years old · 2015

I graduated from Princeton and backpacked around Asia over the summer when I got sick nasty abs because I literally got sick from drinking contaminated Vietnamese coffee and my body refused to digest anything for a week. When I got back, I joined Google as a full-time Associate Product Manager in Mountain View where I specialize in looking busy while actually just eating snacks all the time.

Meditation
Meditation
23 years old · 2016

A psilocybin experience blew my mind in the most wonderful way and it led to a fascination with consciousness and altered states. That experience and Sam Harris's work convinced me that there is value in spirituality and that it can be approached in a rational way whereas I had previously rejected it categorically as superstition. I started meditating regularly and attended a week-long silent retreat in Spirit Rock where I cultivated a deeper appreciation for mindfulness and spiritual practice.

Vegetarian
Vegetarian
23 years old · 2016

In 2011, I took a course by Peter Singer at Princeton called Practial Ethics that convinced me that modern meat consumption is unethical due to the immense suffering it creates for animals. I subsequently became pescatarian but started eating meat in 2013 despite still believing that it was unethical. In 2016, I decided to live more congruently with my ethical values and became vegetarian.

Tokyo
Tokyo
24 years old · 2016

Working at a multinational company like Google provides the unique opportunity to live in a different country and learn about other cultures and perspectives, so I decided to move to the land of mochi and see what life is like on the other side of the world.

Now
Now
24 years old · Updated: Jan 2017

I currently work as a product manager at Google in Tokyo, Japan.

These days, I'm focusing on reading and writing more, learning Japanese, and getting stronger using calisthenics (bodyweight exercises).