Team Profile: Meet Kukhwan


Read In Korean

As a yet minuscule startup, each member holds a significant power over the overall atmosphere of the team. And in our ultimate quest to make big waves in the data world, we need to make sure that the people at the helm are at least kind of cool. We think we’ve done a pretty good job so far in assembling a society of unique but equally driven members.

So we bring you this seven-part series, one of each devoted to interviewing each of our members in detail, to give you an in-depth glimpse into the people responsible for bringing you the future of machine learning with Daria. Plus, we peppered the interviews with questions from Dr. Aron’s “The 36 Questions that Lead to Love”*, cherry picked to make work appropriate and concise, but interesting.

(*actually falling in love with our members highly discouraged)

Kukhwan joined XBrain as our first and much needed visual designer in March 2017. He’s a man of many talents and many duties, from designing the business cards that every team member carries to taking charge of creating Daria’s vibrant front end. Kukhwan will tell you that he’s a classic introvert, but given the chance, you will quickly come to appreciate his quick sense of humor and excellent taste in everything from internet memes to tech gadgets. Get to know him better here!

KH would like to let it be known that he does not usually work with a wooden elf on his person

  • Tell us about your role at XBrain.
  • Kukhwan (KH): I work as the visual designer, serving mainly two roles — product design and brand design. Product design can be divided into two parts: designing the visual facets of the product itself and optimizing user experience. Brand design consists of tasks like creating physical material, such as banners or business cards.
  • Do you have a particular principle in mind when designing for XBrain?
  • KH: I always try to make my designs for XBrain as easy as possible, because the public perception of machine learning is that it’s something obscure and inaccessible, which is a sentiment even some industry insiders share. So I want to visually dispel that effect as much as possible. For example, a lot of software companies operate on a single-color scheme — often very cool blues and grays. With XBrain, I went for some character, with some friendly, approachable pinks and teals mixed with our main hue of indigo blue.
  • What does a typical work day look like for you, morning to evening?
  • KH: Because I work on everything design-related, I don’t really have a set task schedule. But generally speaking, I try to do a lot of work in the mornings, because that’s when I concentrate the best. Then I organize all this during our daily scrum meeting, and have separate discussions with relevant members at about 2 or 3 PM. I then work on my designs based off of these discussions. After dinner I try to watch webinars — right now it’s one on JavaScript, because I need to work on my coding.
  • What are the parts of your job that you enjoy the most?
  • KH: I most enjoy product meetings with the rest of the team to improve user experience. I get to learn about user situations that I wouldn’t otherwise be aware of, and improving Daria based on these conversations has been both interesting and fulfilling.
  • What are the least enjoyable/most challenging parts of your job?
  • KH: There’s nothing I don’t particularly enjoy, but the most challenging aspect would be probably the programming aspects, from conceptualizing the design to actually coding it into existence. But this is all fascinating work — I’m just worried about overall efficiency, because it can get pretty slow at times.
  • What is your go-to work playlist?
  • KH: I enjoy Korean indie-type music, like Bol4, Zitteun, and Sung Si Kyung.
  • Pick one item on your desk that tells us something about you.
  • KH: My Roost Laptop Stand, which was a pretty successful Kickstarter project. It’s a product that really pays attention to the ergonomical user experience of a laptop stand, and is also very, very light and easy to carry around. I also like monitoring how the company is developing its new projects, keeping tabs on their structural developments. It was a bit of a splurge ($99), but worth it!

A little into the frame you can glimpse KH’s immaculate aesthetic

  • What made you want to go into design?
  • KH: I originally wanted to go into automobile design, because I was really into cars from a very young age. So I studied with the intent of going into that field, which has a pretty narrow entry track — only two universities in Korea have such undergraduate programs. But I ended up studying digital media design, and really got into interactive design, of which user experience is a very big part. And I realized that to pursue this path, I would also have to moonlight as a programmer.
  • Why XBrain, then?
  • KH: XBrain really cares about its members — I’m aware that some startups suffer from a high turnover rate because they don’t really put effort into cultivating a sound corporate community and culture. But I know XBrain has tried to focus on that from a very early stage, and even now they put the most care and effort into making us feel like a team. Moreover, as a designer, I think the chance to build from scratch every visual aspect of a product and company is an experience that not many of my peers get to have.
  • What’s your most memorable episode at XBrain?
  • KH: Probably coming up with and completing our brand, which was something that the entire team worked on together for the first time.
  • If you had to have dinner with one XBrain member, who would it be and why?
  • KH: Jongmin, since we’re set to collaborate extensively on Daria, and it would be nice to get to know him better.
  • Recommend a movie for our next Cinema Society, please.
  • KH: Christmas In August (1998). Shim Eun-ha, the lead actress, was very very beautiful in it, and the sophisticated cinematography makes it hard to believe it was made in Korea in the 90s.
  • If you could sum up XBrain in three words or less?
  • KH: Potential. People. Culture.
  • Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest?
  • KH: I can’t pinpoint one individual, but someone I like who likes me back.
  • Would you like to be famous? In what way?
  • KH: No. I’m pretty much an introvert, and wouldn’t like being recognized on the streets.
  • If you were able to live to the age of 90 and retain either the mind or body of a 30-year-old for the last 60 years of your life, which would you want?
  • KH: Probably the mind of a 30 year old. I’ve been noticing that as I get older, I’ve just been looking to settle down instead of trying new things, whereas in my early twenties, I wanted to travel, study abroad, etc., etc. So before it’s too late, I’d like to retain that state of mind.
  • For what in your life do you feel most grateful?
  • KH: I don’t consider myself a particularly lucky person, but I do have considerably good luck in meeting people. You don’t really get much choice in the communities you enter into at schools, mandatory military service, or work, but I’ve always met the best people, and have received help from a lot of them.
  • If you could wake up tomorrow having gained any one quality or ability, what would it be?
  • KH: I’d like to be more extroverted. I’ve tried to change, but it just felt so unnatural that I gave up eventually. So it would be great if I could express myself more to the good friends I’ve mentioned above.
  • If a crystal ball could tell you the truth about yourself, your life, the future or anything else, what would you want to know?
  • KH: When will I meet the one?
  • Is there something that you’ve dreamed of doing for a long time? Why haven’t you done it?
  • KH: I’ve always wanted to study abroad, but haven’t been able to for one realistic reason or another. But I hope to find something that I really want to learn in depth and study that at a great school abroad.
  • What is the greatest accomplishment of your life?
  • KH: This is by far the hardest question. If I had to choose…it would be joining the XBrain team, and finding and doing what I enjoy. I’m lucky in that I’ve found direction quite early on, and that I have people around me who could help.
  • If you knew that in one year you would die suddenly, would you change anything about the way you are now living? Why?
  • KH: I would try to be more outgoing, for the friends in my life that have reached out and engaged with me first. I probably do need to do this even if my time here isn’t limited, though…
  • If you were going to become close friends with someone, please share what would be important for him or her to know.
  • KH: I don’t really react much to things, but it’s not because I don’t like the situation or because I’m unhappy. There are people who don’t really care about that, and these are the people I usually get along with.
  • Your house, containing everything you own, catches fire. After saving your loved ones and pets, you have time to safely make a final dash to save any one item. What would it be? Why?
  • KH: I honestly think I wouldn’t go back in that situation, but probably the picture diaries I drew when I was a kid…it’s quite fun to look at them now.
  • What, if anything, is too serious to be joked about?
  • KH: A lot, really…but one thing in particular that you should never laugh at is someone’s dreams, far-fetched as they may be.

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