On How I Ended Up In Kuala Lumpur

I’m back.

I’m sorry to all three of you monthly visitors for my lack of updates.

As you may know, I’ve been living in Kuala Lumpur for the past 2 months working at a company called iPrice (silly name, I know). It’s an e-commerce platform operating in 7 different countries in Asia. With a recent Series B round, I felt this was the best move for my career moving forward as their Head of Design & UX.

I posted a few times on Facebook regarding my job search: a possible future in Berlin, IBM, Bangkok, Manila, or keep Apical Design running for another year. Shutting down Apical was not an easy call, as my head was plagued with second guessing my decision to hang it up after only one year.

Looking back at it now, I’m not sure why I was so scared. Moving here has been such a great decision. Kuala Lumpur, as I had seen firsthand back in 2016 during #QuarterLifeCrisisTour2016, is a wonderful place to live with a surprisingly low-but-quality cost of living. And Malaysians have been nothing but welcoming and accommodating.

One of the best life advice I ever got was, “what kind problems do you want? What kind of problems do you want to solve? Direct your career towards that direction.” For most of 2017, I had the wonderful privilege of working with amazing organizations trying to crack the code of UX culture, process, and investment. And throughout these training, I always had this inkling desire to be back in the fray, solving these challenges I loved talking about.

The challenge of leading a department, solving designer-dev relationships, navigating stakeholder politics, nurturing UX talent, and trying to change the culture within an organization was exciting to me. The thing is, I don’t know if I’m the right person or if I have the right skillsets for this, but I knew it was something I wanted to try. So far, my team has been fantastic.

I don’t know how long I’ll stay here, but if the past two months is an indication of what’s to come, I think I’ll quite enjoy Kuala Lumpur.

– Ben

Favorite Lesson My Entrepreneur Dad Taught Me

Originally published on LinkedIn Pulse.

My dad’s been an entrepreneur long before I was born, so it’s not a surprise I learned a lot about business from him. Here’s one of my favorites that I’ll always remember:

When we first immigrated to the US from South Korea, my dad worked long hours at a textile factory. A few years into it, he came home and told us about the soda machines he procured, which was our ticket to the “American Dream.”

So we all went to work. Continue reading Favorite Lesson My Entrepreneur Dad Taught Me

On 26.

When I turned 25, I was exactly where I wanted to be in life.

You see, I’m a planner. But not those cool, healthy, mentally well-adjusted ones. I’m more of a “write down your goals, tape it to your wall, and work to the point of obsession” kind of planner. I love making spreadsheets for the most inane things in life (like my churning hobby), I write through packets of 5×8 legal pads every month, and make ridiculous to-do checklists every day. Without them, I can’t function.

It all started when I graduated from Notre Dame back in 2013. With my Film, Television, and Theatre degree in hand and no real-world experience, I quickly found myself to be unemployable. No matter how hard I tried or how many interviews I took, nothing worked.

After nearly a year of unemployment and incredible frustration, I sat down on my 22nd birthday and wrote down my goals on a piece of paper. It went something like this: “By my 25th birthday, I want to be working in Silicon Valley earning six figures at a job I love. I want to travel to 3 foreign countries. And I want to be in a fulfilling relationship (for once).” Pretty generic, admittedly. But the goals became a target to strive for each day, unwavering until they were accomplished.

And by the time I turned 25, I had accomplished almost all of it. My story was even covered in the New York Times. But it left me with a question that lingered, which was, “okay now what?” I had placed so much focus and energy on this 25 goal, I never wonder what I wanted on 26, 27, and so forth.

Because at 26, I have none of the things I wanted at 25. But to my surprise, I’m happier than ever.

Since coming back from #QuarterLifeCrisisTour2016, I started my own UX Agency. And almost every single waking hour have gone towards building the company. I’m not making any money, I’m back living at home, but there’s this renewed sense of purpose. This burning desire to make great work really propels me forward every day.

Building Apical Design from scratch has bee overwhelmingly stressful. It’s really a 24/7 commitment because there’s always something that needs to be done. As a few of my friends know, I’m constantly stressed nowadays. But the high of signing our first customer was unlike anything I felt before.

To be honest, I wasn’t looking forward to 26, since now I’m considered to be “late 20’s.” But as I found out this month, my anxieties sort of vanished with a renewed purpose – much like my 22nd birthday.

I don’t know where I’ll be when I turn 27, but I hope I can say I built Apical Design into a company I’m proud of.

Thanks for all the birthday wishes,
– Ben

How the “points game” saved me $4300+ on #QuarterLifeCrisisTour2016

When coming back from a big trip, the first question I get asked is, “what were your highlights?” Immediately following, most people ask, “if you don’t mind answering, how much did it all cost?”


It’s a fair question and a question I answer openly, because I love the planning, the organization, and the optimization of traveling. I can go on for hours talking about the minutiae of each planning decision I make. I’m one of those weird people who enjoy being at the airport since I see it as one of the most remarkable feats of human progress. In fact, the #1 match from a Job Aptitude Test at Notre Dame recommended I become a travel consultant. While I normally think these tests are garbage, this one nailed it.


In this post, I will talk about the “points game.” It’s a controversial topic that many people are skeptical of, because it sounds too good to be true and it seems like a lot of work (both false). But it’s a hobby that feeds my love of travel and organization, so I relish it. I even got a few friends hooked!


This is meant to be an informative post that highlights how I afford almost all my travels. By no means should you rush off to apply for a bunch of credit cards now. But if by the end you want to learn more, I’m happy to teach you!


The game is simple: sign up for promotions from banks through credit card sign ups and other offers, earn points, then redeem them for trips. Sounds pretty straightforward, right?


But wait Ben, wouldn’t signing up for a lot of credit cards hurt my credit score?


Yes, and no. You can read about how credit scores work here. Since I started this hobby back in 2015, my credit score has gone up 100+ points. I never carried a balance and always paid my bills on time. If you use credit cards like debit cards, you should be fine. Discipline in this hobby opened doors to traveling like never before. I used these points to redeem for $20,000+ of travel expenses in the past 20 months.

Continue reading How the “points game” saved me $4300+ on #QuarterLifeCrisisTour2016

5 Things I learned about UX in SE Asia after speaking in 5 countries

Some of you are aware I held my “Foundations of UX Research” talk during my travels in Asia. Within three months, I spoke in the Philippines, Korea, Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam. In total, there were 8 talks in 5 countries. I did it because I absolutely love talking about UX and the product development process as a whole. Plus, sharing my experience working at UXPin while traveling was immensely fun. And in general, I have a deep curiosity for UX outside the United States, so I had a mission to meet as many tech professionals as I could.

Manila, Philippines. Organized by UXPH and PWDO. Sponsored by GlobeLabs.

Continue reading 5 Things I learned about UX in SE Asia after speaking in 5 countries

On why I believe Donald Trump won the Presidency

We often talk about privilege purely in the sense of race. But I believe there’s a different kind of privilege that nobody really talks about, which is the privilege of choice and mobility.

A vast majority of us (in my network) have had it pretty good in life, whether we want to admit it or not. Most of us went to great public schools, went to college, traveled to different countries, and live in a nice area where we have jobs. Those of us who are unhappy with work can make the effort to transition into different careers relatively easily compared to the rest of the world. We understand some jobs will not create a future for us (like manufacturing), so we have the choice to do something else, which is why most of us are working in white-collar jobs. We’re not rich with money, but rather we are rich with choices. Continue reading On why I believe Donald Trump won the Presidency