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Career Validation

Mike Nguyen, Director of Engineering, JCM Global

Career Validation

In his spare time, Mike Nguyen fiddles with cars, appliances and electronics. When he’s working at JCM, he also fiddles, but with a little more tech savvy.

“I’ve always liked to tinker with electronic devices to understand how things work internally,” says Nguyen, a Vietnam native who emigrated with his family to the U.S. at 10.

Gravitating towards computer science as a major at Cal State Northridge seemed a logical choice. So did obtaining employment with JCM Global in 2008—known as JCM America then—as a software developer.

“Computer science allows me to continuously learn new ways to improve existing solutions and create new technologies,” Nguyen says.

What sold Nguyen on JCM was the chance to work on a bill validator, of all devices.

“I was curious how the bill validator was able to use LED sensors to identify and validate currencies worldwide. This job allows me to learn a lot more about electronic devices and algorithms,” he says.

His initial work focused on gaming and vending, before a promotion to lead a small team working on high-end banking products for ATMs using neural networks, then considered cutting edge.

“JCM promoted me to software engineering manager, where I helped transition a system product and multiple thermal printer products from an acquired company to our Las Vegas office,”

Nguyen says.

He also put together another team to design and develop a system to integrate with the firm’s peripheral devices.

During Nguyen’s 13 years with JCM, the company has opened the door to learning and creating new technologies. “I would have to say I have not had a dull moment here,” he says.

As current director of engineering for JCM, Nguyen manages teams working on a wide range of varying technologies: new hardware designs, developing embedded systems, firmware development for the bill validator and thermal printer product lines, system development using web services to link casino systems, and with peripheral devices.

Covid-19 put Nguyen’s team of teams to the test.

“It was challenging to work remotely since we did not have remote access to all test environments and equipment.”

But a month after lockdown, the company overcame the obstacle.

“I think the pandemic forced us to be more efficient and learn how to adapt to a new normal,” Nguyen says.

It all comes down to how you deal with confronting an obstacle, Nguyen says. “As an engineer, I would say that there is a solution to overcome every obstacle out there. Sometimes, it might be difficult to quickly find a solution, but there is always a workaround until a solution is found.”

Often that comes down to getting more people involved to brainstorm. “To me, an obstacle is just a puzzle waiting to be solved.”

Like any successful person, Nguyen has relied on mentors, one in particular. “Dave Kubajak has always been my go-to mentor,” he says. “As senior vice president of sales, marketing and operations, Kubajak wasn’t my direct supervisor. But he has always been there to offer valuable advice and help guide me throughout my career.”

To young engineers who might want to consider Nguyen’s career choice, he says stay determined and focused on goals.

“If you find a challenge that you can’t overcome by yourself, then ask for help. If you are early in your career, then it would be wise to find a good company with good people who are willing to be your mentor. Stay for the long term.”

Bill Sokolic is a veteran journalist who has covered gaming and tourism for more than 25 years as a staff writer and freelancer with various publications and wire services. He's also written stories for news, entertainment, features, and business. He co-authored Atlantic City Revisited, a pictorial history of the resort.

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