A 21-year-old Network Engineer
He came inside with a computer, dressed up with neat suit and leather shoes, courteous, firm, clean, handsome, a little bit shy and childlike. I was surprised that he looked so young. This 21-year-old young man only finished junior high school curriculum in grade one. However, he has been in IT industry for seven years. He once was a well-known network engineer of InfoHighway Shenzhen branch, and also an excellent network engineer of China Motion!
“It is the Internet that gives me the chance.” This is how he concluded his own career path. Even though the traditional proportion of age and achievements has been changed in the world of legendary Internet heroes and Lin Xinglu is not a famous star on the top, it’s still significant for this young man who dropped out of school at the age of 13 and has already reached this level of achievement today.
“Only the paranoid succeed.” A well-known entrepreneur said. Since Lin Xinglu encountered with computers that his father spent 6,700RMB on in 1993, he became a computer mania right away and he almost put all the energy, passion and concerns on it. It is his zeal and focus that make him today. He once only knew 26 English letters but now he is a master.
In 1979, Lin Xinglu’s father rode a bike from Lufeng, Guangdong to Shenzhen that is 200 miles away to do his small seafood retailing business, with only 2RMB in his pocket. The next year, Lin Xinglu was born. At the age of 6, Lin dangled after his cousin to school every day, which touched the teacher to receive him as a student. He has a little sister later. And he once attended a Math Olympic contest.
In 1993, Lin Xinglu went to a junior high school in Bomei town in Lufeng. He was short and sat in the first row of the classroom. There were some notorious bummers in his class, bullying other students, seeking a quarrel around. During a final, one of those bad students disturbed Lin, therefore they had a big fight. After class, all the bummers gathered around to beat Lin and made him to hospital. His mother was extremely worried about Lin’s school life, so they supported him to drop out.
My father bought me a computer
Lin told me a story. There were two people, one knew how to read, the other didn’t. Then they went to a place with a sign said, “No crab catching here.” The one who could read left, but the other one got a lot of crabs back home. This kind of situation was common in his hometown that those who were knowledgeable seemed useless, and that those who do business and make a big fortune matter. Therefore I could say that his parents were not regretful or sad about his dropping out.
Lin has a cousin who was learning computers at that time in an Electronic Technician School. And his father was fond of radio as well, so he took Lin to Shenzhen to buy some books on computers in summer vacation, which enabled Lin to do self-study later. But his father couldn’t afford his tuition and living expenses in Shenzhen, so he couldn’t continue schooling.
In the end of 1993, Lin Xinglu’s father spent a great deal of money (6,700RMB) at that time in buying a new computer to him, which his mother was strongly against. She thought it was luxurious to let a kid play computer games when they lived in a survival level of life. But his father was determined to do that, which was crucial in fostering their genius son. When Lin remembered the scene that his parents fought for the computer after 7 years, his heart was filled with gratitude. “If my dad didn’t buy that computer, I would never reach where I am standing now.”
Lin started with practicing typing. He wrote down every command to memorize. Then he started getting some clue of it and was proficient in using 14 internal commandments. He ventured a journey with thousands of mistakes and formatting to be an expert. In 1994, Lin found an oasis in domestic market, Kingsun WPS system. Inside the software of WPS, two names jumped out to him: Qiu Bojun and Li Ming. They are programmers. It would be phenomenal to develop good software that others could see your name when then use the system, which inspired him to have his initial career plan at the age of 14.
Actions speak louder than speech. He studied dozens of materials, books and magazines on IT, including assembly language, C programming language, etc. He took every chance to advance his programming skills. When there were some short source programs published in newspapers and periodicals, he would type them into his computer, debug, compile and change them into his programs, in which he gradually mastered programming well. Half a year later, he began to write his own small programs and software, and took them to the computer counters of Shenzhen Saige Market, selling them. To his and his dad’s surprise, some people did buy his works when he was at such an early age.
In 1995, it was popular in Shenzhen to swap and copy software. Lin acquainted with some programmers at that time. They appreciated this young man’s talent and intelligence, so they invited Lin to develop software on home-schooling education with them. He learned a great deal from them. In the end of 1996, these programmers gave up software development and threw themselves into the upward stock market in Shenzhen, leaving Lin alone to insist on the pursuit of IT.
Working at InfoHighway
In 1996, Internet came to its era. Lin was exalted to see http:// or @hotmail.com showing up on newspapers. On December 16, InfoHighway Space Time was launched in right cities across the country. On January 1, 1997, Lin found this exciting product in Saige Market, so he went to the Science and Education Center for consultation. They showed him how to log into Internet and upload his articles on their forum, therefore thousands of people could read his articles instantaneously.
On January 7, Lin registered an account of InfoHighway Space Time, bought a MODEM card, and surf the Internet. It was one of his unforgettable days that he almost turned the computer upside down. Later, he found out that many netizens around had their own homepages. Thus, he created his first homepage which was about Mother’s Day in Notepad. Meanwhile, he was a big fan of MIDI music, so he developed a program called MIDI Music Space for music downloading and pop star fan’s URL.
There were not many netizens at that time. Lin got acquainted with one of them who turned out to be someone influenced his rest career pathway. That is Song Yizhi, general manager of InfoHighway in Shenzhen branch. One day, Lin sent Song a message through WorldGroups client software of InfoHighway, telling Song that he was looking for a job and maybe he would go to a computer company in Shekou. Surprisingly, Song offered Lin to his company, InfoHighway. It was like a great blessing from God that this teenager who even hadn’t finished junior high school could work in such a famous national company.
In 1997, 17-year-old Lin entered marketing department of InfoHighway. InfoHighway’s dedicated client program was developed by themselves and when there may still exist some errors, he was appointed to check the program. After a whole day checking, he wrote all the cases into a report to the CEO. Then the company used the Update program he wrote.
Later he was appointed to customer service department as a technical support. Due to his passion and longing to know the core part of Internet world, he came up with an idea to be a network engineer. Therefore, he dedicated his efforts on self-study. Then he passed the certification exam CNE of Novell. After learning some theories, he began to ponder the servers so that he could use it when he entered the operation department. He used three computers to make a small LAN at home. And then put the Proxy Server in the LAN and connected it to the Internet. With learning the source code that from some free server software, he mastered the key to further programming of Winsock.
Soon later, he became a network engineer in the operation department. The operation department is the highest technical department of each branch. Except for daily work, he often developed some CGI programs at the same time. Then he developed a Unix-like Send Mail for NT version, and also released the first small mobile advertising network of 88×31 size in China which was similar to the network alliance “Star Network Love LOGO Interconnection”.
Seeking dream in Beijing
In March, 1999, a dozen of InfoHighway management personnel resigned collectively. As a network engineer of InfoHighway, Lin had to find a way out. Fortunately, many new companies were growing and booming meanwhile, desperately in need of outstanding network talents.
It was the time when the value of experiences sprang up in the Internet era. No diploma? Never mind, as long as you are experienced. No experiences? It’s ok, as long as you are thoughtful and have enthusiasm. Risk capital was introduced in China, which gave birth to tones of new websites in the age of Ideas plus Technology.
Some ICP companies from Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou contacted Lin. He chose Beijing in the end. He explained that though Beijing was a city with various talents and fierce competition, it was a place with lots of opportunities and IT industrial clusters.
When Lin was about to decide where to go, Song Yizhi, general manager of InfoHighway in Shenzhen branch, gave another thrilling call to Lin. Song was planning a new company called China Motion, which was dedicated to develop the first personalized website in China ( http://www.bytemen.com ) Song invited Lin to join and Lin promised to collaborate.
A new company was a new beginning. Lin worked overtime day and night together with other programmers, artists and staff till they officially launched version 1.0 of Bytemen on May 17, 1999. On May 19, China Motion company announced its formal establishment.
With the development of version 2.0 of Bytemen, the original team moved to Beijing in October 1999 and began to arrange for Beijing China Motion Development Center. Henceforth, Lin finally started his journey in Beijing.
Hong Kong China Motion Beijing Office was located on the 14th floor of Beijing Hnegji Center, whose neighbor were Sohu.com and China.com. As a core developer, Lin fought tooth and nail to develop a new function into Bytemen in that cold winter. It was his fist time to see snowflakes and he joined the snowball fight in the street.
The new millennium was the age for B2B and B2C. Lin received an e-commerce development plan from the company. Then the Beijing Office separated itself from China Motion Company and found a new company called Chinamotion.com, appointing Zhang Shuxin as CEO and introducing risk capital. Lin got involved in several project groups, such as B2B, B2C, C2C, COMM and WAP. In addition, Lin developed an IT Writing Community together with Du Hongchao, Liu Ren.
Chinamotion.com had undergone numerous revision and upgrades. After rejecting the whole scheme, it was redesigned and finally made the development platform based on Microsoft. Lin preferred to develop in Unix platform. He was such a distinguished employee that he was one of the few people one who was granted options. However, he still chose to leave.
In July, 2007, introduced by Chen Xuetao, CIO of Shengxuntong, Lin joined Shengxuntong in the redesign of the Wireless Portal website and was responsible for the design and development of the short message application gateways. The company required that the platform should be cross-functional, which means it could be operated in various operating systems like Linux, Windows, etc. Meanwhile, it must adopt Java language to develop. But Lin had no previous experience in using Java language, which gave him a heavy pressure. He studied while doing, and consulted Java experts on the Internet through ICQ to upgrade his ability.
From the end of 1999 till now, Lin has been engaged in research and development related to wireless interconnections, and personalized and industrial application platform development, etc.
Lin Xinglu’s Interview
Q: You are 21 years old now, so how do you view your past career path?
A: Using computers was the turning point of my life. If my father didn’t buy that expensive computer, I would end up with doing some small business in the streets. What’s more, the Internet gave me a great chance to acquaint myself with those who influenced the rest of my life.
Q: What do you think what your colleagues’ point of view about you? Do they recognize you because of your capability or your age?
A: Suspicious and picky people always exist. Especially when I entered a new company, there were always people wondering how could I make it or how could I become a programmer without a graduation certificate. But after a while, they would come to agreement with my ability. But I am well aware that there is a variety of specialists in IT area, which inspired me to be a humble person. I once refused to be the CEO of a company. Because I knew that I lacked the knowledge of management and sophisticated social skills, I turned it down immediately.
Q: Your parents live far away from here, how is their life? As your father chose to leave the countryside to Shenzhen and bought you the first computer and became a turning point of your life, what do you think of him?
A: They are having stable life now. And they don’t have to worry about me anymore, which I am very grateful. My father is a high school graduate, we can count him as a knowledgeable person in my hometown. It was his knowledge and wisdom that changed my life.
Q: What do you do in your spare time? What’s your hobby? Do you have a girl friend?
A: I often work overtime. Working and learning are my hobbies. I don’t do sports. I will read and listen to music when I am tired. Except sleeping and some necessary social dinner with e-pal, I always sit in front of the computer, but I never play any video games. As for my girlfriend, she is in Canada, and we met on the Internet.
Q: Have you considered going further study?
A: It’s kind of impossible for me now. But I am constantly longing for more knowledge, because lacking knowledge will put a ceiling on my career. That’s why I never stop self studying.
Q: It seems that you like chatting on the Internet. What attracts you?
A: When I am unhappy, I choose to tell friends my sadness by sending a crying emoji, they can understand well my situation and give me encouragement. What’s more, it’s more convenient to talk on the Internet when others are not available at that moment. But now I used the Internet for technical communications most of the time.
Q: Are you satisfied with the lifestyle of a workaholic?
A: There are two types of people in IT field. One is task-oriented, another is passion-driven. I am the latter one. I find great joy in work.
Q: Do you plan to start your own business in the future?
A: I am not sophisticated enough now due to lacking management experiences. But I will think about it in a few years.
Q: What if we would not have computers in the future?
A: It seems impossible! That’s my source of joy and where my career is! I can’t do anything else without computers.
From: Character Weekly (May 21, 2001)