Michael Wong’s first passion was martial arts. A regular at his local dojo in inner Sydney, he developed the skills and discipline required to become a serious devotee.
And as a child of migrants from Hong Kong, he was imbued with a hard-work ethos, conscious of the opportunities open to him, and determined to make the most of them.
Like many teenagers, he also developed another passion – for computer gaming. His interest required funds – he needed to upgrade and buy the latest games, after all. “I decided to write my own forum, to share my gaming experiences and to provide an outlets for friends and other gamers I was meeting on the web to share our experience,” he explains. “This was in the still-early days of online advertising, and I suddenly realised that I was earning reasonable money from the advertising space on my forum.”
He also realised he was spending less time at the dojo.
As he developed his programming skills, so his income grew off the back of his forum work. He was 16.
“I’d worked out what I was really passionate about,” says Michael. “I loved martial arts – still do – but I loved programming more. As I developed my games forum, the income from it allowed me to the freedom to consider new options, and of course gave me the freedom to create more value.
“I’m always seeking new experiences and new ways to create something that hasn’t perhaps existed before. The way we all interact with our device screens – the skill and discipline of the user experience, or UX – is well-understood today, at least by web designers and app developers. Back in 2008, things were different!”
Michael noticed that consumers of his forum content were starting to contact him for advice about building their own. They couldn’t code (or didn’t want to). Spotting the opportunity, Michael started to learn more advanced web design, and early UX design, and provide web site services. Affiliate marketing, which started to take off in 2010, added impetus to his early web design work: more organisations needed web sites to support their product and marketing sales strategies. Many needed help in creating those sites.
Yet Michael had always maintained a high level of self-awareness. Operating as a self-taught freelance website designer limited his experience and his expertise. “I realised that, whilst I loved being a freelancer, and having the freedom to work with clients I loved on my own terms, I was becoming constrained by what I knew. The web design and UX worlds were starting to catch me up!”
He branched out, taking the first of what would eventually be two employed roles – the first at Freelancer.com, the second at hiPages. He was at each for about two years, and has since returned to his original self-employed status.
What next for this disciplined young entrepreneur? “The last year has been incredible. I started my own company, Mizko, and I’m now writing a UX design course. And I’m now using a Microsoft Surface Book, which is changing the way I think about design, and the way I actually do design.
“UX design is very iterative, collaborative, and in many ways open-ended. Where you end is often quite different from where you imagined. The way I do UX design is also pretty structured, a process that moves the design from sketches to wireframes, web flows, colour coding and design layout, feedback and discussion with the client, prototype build and final review.
“Using a device – the Surface Book – that allows me to do all of these things in one cloud-based collaboration ecosystem, using all these different input types, is pretty radical for me. It’s early days, and there’s lots more to explore!”
As we finish the interview and filming, and before he leaves to decompress with some calisthenics, Michael has a final piece of life advice: “Work out what your passion is, learn what you’re good at, and do it well.” Find Michael online or follow him on Twitter
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