When we hear of stories about young entrepreneurs, it is probably common to think of young people around 25 to 30 years old. After all, the founders of Google, Amazon, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, Snapchat, among many other organizations, were all in their 20s when they founded their organizations. With the human connection to technology and the mind being exposed early, the platforms to which we become accustomed as part of our daily lives cannot quite be re-created, but young minds can advance past what they are given to create their own world.
These young minds are thinking beyond to a world for themselves, not dwelling on the world that we are leaving for them. The older generations never once thought about the consequences and impact of producing nearly 300 million tons of plastic every year, of which half is for single use. As new minds enter into our world, new solutions are necessary to ensure the future of humanity. Brilliant young minds are figuring out solutions that older generations could never nor would ever have even imagined.
When we think of children, we often make the mistake of thinking they are incapable of making their own decisions and lack the intelligence necessary to do anything beyond what they learn in school. Remember though, they are “little versions” of ourselves — complete with sense of humor, sarcasm, stubbornness, and all those other aspects of our personality. Among them there are many rising stars, the next generation doing what their parents could only dream they would achieve. It is stereotypical of us to assume that teenage boys are only playing video games after school — aside from homework — while teenage girls are hanging out with their friends and fussing over the latest fashion fads while taking photoshoots of themselves on Snapchat or Instagram.
There are those few who are breaking through the barriers: realizing Facebook and Instagram are distractions, Snapchat filters are just photoshopped images that are not real, and social media is not always the best place to be. Even Netflix and YouTube can entertain us for hours upon hours and stop any real work from getting done.
I heard about Akmal Hazim, a young Malaysian boy, when he attended a RunCloud Meetup. If you haven’t heard about RunCloud, it is a service based out of Malaysia that helps you easily manage and monitor your server and web applications, taking care of all the technical difficulties that may arise by automating the process of upgrading and updating server software packages.
Akmal spoke at a RunCloud Meetup covering the topic of “How I Got Started and Why I Love Cloud Tech.” While I was not there to personally attend, as I live on the other side of the world, one of the RunCloud founders mentioned Akmal to me and I became intrigued that a 13-year old boy had already setup a web server, created a useful web application that monitors server speed, and was helping others to understand how to run their own servers.
At 13 years old, I had also taught myself programming in Microsoft Visual Basic 3.0 — for those of you that remember it — it helped you create Windows applications with ease. At the time, I was so passionate about programming, but I had no idea how to do it. Long story short, aside from reading up on programming with some basic books, I went to sleep and had a dream that I created an application.
It was just a very simple application. I think it asked you to enter in your question and would basically give you an answer based on the keywords in your question. I woke up and wrote the program without any struggles. For most programmers: this is where the real work gets done when we are programming: in our sleep as we process the technicalities and difficulties of the day, waking up refreshed and with renewed solutions.
As Akmal reminded me of myself, I wanted to understand his mindset so I emailed him and asked him for an interview. He responded within a few hours and was ready for an interview the next day. During our interview, Akmal spoke perfect English and understood every question I asked. I didn’t think of Akmal as a typical teenager. In fact, when I set up a Skype meeting with him, he asked me if I would be patient while he ordered his food. Akmal was in a food court in a mall. Once connected, Akmal conducted himself as if he were talking to the CEO of top tech company. Our conversation flowed with ease, as we are both technology buffs and love programming.
This is my interview with 13-year old Akmal Hazim.
Matt> What got you interested in technology?
Akmal> The raspberry pi interested me and uses the Python language for its applications, so I became interested in learning Python, and then also got into the C language as well. From there, I would learn PHP and the Laravel framework. I was curious about running microservers, so I did some research on running servers. My father ran a tech company and asked me to help set up a server that could run web applications. I was happy to do so and he hired me to work for him, taking care of the security, SSL, firewalls, updating servers, etc. This is where I became very familiar with Linux and the Terminal. My father said that if I were to make it in this world, I should be learning to code, so my interest keeps growing to learn new languages.
Matt> What do you learn at school and what is your favorite subject and why?
Akmal> I attend a technical school where we learn all the general studies including math, science, language, history, etc. My favorite subject is math because I can understand it very well as it is logic-based, like programming. I actually did not learn programming from the school, but taught myself in my free time.
Matt> So why aren’t you playing video games?
Akmal> I actually love video games but I realized that video games are not going to help me have a steady income. Sometimes I enjoy playing a video game for a few hours, but I always like to get back to researching and understanding technology, especially programming.
Matt> If you could be doing anything else right now and did not have to spend time in school, what would you do with that free time?
Akmal> I would love to run my own business, make my own SaaS (software as a service), and generate passive income.
Matt> Hopefully you don’t mind my asking, but what is something you have in mind that you would like to make?
Akmal> I would love to run my own hosting server, but something I have in mind for now is a service for freelancers and making it easier for them to communicate with and gain testimonials from their clients, keeping them up to date, ensuring the client is happy, and generating feedback for freelancer.
Matt> As a writer for RunCloud, I have to ask: how did you hear about RunCloud, why are you using it, and what are you using it for?
Akmal> I heard about RunCloud through a forum I was using that helped programmers with many different things. In this case, it helped me setup a server very fast and did a lot of the work for me, all in just a few clicks. I am using it to make my life as a developer easier. It helps me to host a few customers that I have acquired. I am hosting their websites and they pay me a fee to maintain their websites.
Matt> If you could work with any company in the world, who would you want to work for?
Akmal> Google or Facebook. I like Google and Facebook because they like to discover a lot of new technology and share a lot of it with the world, particularly AI… especially Facebook, they are so fascinated with AI… for example, they can recognize faces and also recognize users’ interests in products based on the information in their account. I am curious how Google keeps such top notch organized servers, always speedy, despite the entire world using them all the time. Both companies are just very interesting to me.
Matt> Where do you see technology going in the future?
Akmal> Technology right now is big on AI (Artificial Intelligence), AR (Augmented Reality), and VR (Virtual Reality). One thing I would love to create or see are glasses that you put on and you can just know anything about anyone by looking at them or going to a certain area and learning all about that area through the glasses. This is a combination of AI, AR, and VR to help us understand our world better. The technology might be so good someday, the glasses might even tell you if someone is lying!
Matt> What advice do you have for other teenagers?
Akmal> It is not wrong to be a teenager, playing video games, going out and hanging with friends, as you are young and you should experience childhood. But one day, you will have to work and you will need to make money in order to live. When that day comes, you will already have some useful tools to use if you started thinking about your future early. A great place to start is programming, maybe Python or NodeJS, or any programming language. When you learn programming, you can create what you want and do what you need. You can generate your own income by starting your own business if you prefer. Technology is only advancing and you can keep up and create it, or you can be a consumer of it. The most important thing you should know is that when it comes time to get a job, you want to get a job doing what you love most.
Our conversation lasted about 20–30 minutes and despite a spotty Internet connection and some background noise, I could tell that it is children like Akmal Hazim who are the future. While I am sure I can carry a conversation with a 13-year old boy, it is normally not about jobs, careers, programming, and technology. It is usually about video games, sports, girls, and food; during our interview, Akmal was eating an interesting looking Malaysian dish, which I believe is called Nasi Lemak — I hope to give it a try one day!
That being said, Akmal was born with a purpose: to help others and be able to support himself and his family in the process. His parents may have instilled this idea into him at a young age, but the wisdom Akmal possesses cannot be taught. It is innate.
You can check out one of Akmal’s products, a web app called BenchPoint.io that determines the speed of your server. Simply install the script and run an unlimited amount of speed tests to understand whether your server is performing optimally. The script installation takes about a minute and you can add as many servers as you wish and get immediate results!
No one forced Akmal to take up programming. While his father told him he should learn to code, he could have easily ignored his father’s advice and gone about being a boy, maybe maturing by the age of 16 or 17 — or older, understanding that he might be stuck working in a mart somewhere, maybe selling rice and beans, not that this is a bad life at all, as there are some who make their living doing as such, but instead, he has opted to dive into the world of technology, for that is where our future lies. I wish you the best of luck Akmal and appreciate you taking the time for an interview with me.
I encourage you, reader, to challenge your own children to think of ideas that will change their world for the better in order to save our planet. Whether they know coding or not, whether they were born hackers or not, whether they love to play video games, or snap photos on Snapchat or Instagram, the world is for your children, as you pass it on to them. They don’t have to be like Akmal, but will they at least think about making a difference in the world? Are they up for your challenge? Help them find their passion — because maybe your child will be the next great 13-year old entrepreneur.