What started as a hobby became a career for El Camino College professor

As a 10-year-old boy, he was hooked on technology when he would play games and draw on his family’s Apple IIGS computer. The computer was fairly new, only two to three years old but it was his new phenomenon.

Now, standing around six-feet tall and stands upright. He is wearing glasses and has short hair. He is dressed in beige slacks with a white unbuttoned shirt at the top.

Khai Lu, 39, is a computer informations instructor at El Camino College. This is his second semester teaching at El Camino, his third semester teaching overall. He previously taught at Long Beach City College.

Lu teaches computer informations classes at El Camino. He teaches the intro class, an advanced database programming class, pc maintenance class, advanced Microsoft excel and soon to be a cloud computing class.

He graduated from the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA). Before teaching, Lu was an Information Technology (IT) manager at UCLA before becoming an IT professional at the Kuwait Cultural Office in Century City.

As an IT professional he builds, designs, and maintains information systems.

He enjoyed playing with technology as a hobby but never thought he would love it enough to find a career path in it. He always thought he was going to be a professional in the medical field.

“At a young age I was exposed to a lot of computer systems, programming, hacking and playing with devices just getting them to work [but] I thought I was going to be a medical professional,” Lu said.

Born in Culver City, Lu attended West Torrance High School, where he fell in love with the technology world. Lu took a computer science class in tenth grade and his teacher, Mr. Thompson, gave students leeway to make and do what they wanted.

“Mr. Thompson encouraged us to be creative and gave me a lot of freedom to explore programming,” Lu said. “That’s where I discovered it was a really fun hobby for me, it wasn’t even something I was thinking about doing professionally.”

In the computer science class, there was a student that was making his own games and Lu wanted to learn. Lu said the student was the smartest in the class so he asked him and the student agreed to help Lu create his own games from scratch.

“I used a TI-85 [calculator]. I was making my own games in class,” Lu said. ” We would have to program the device using a special programming language to create a program you want whether it be a game or a new calculator or something useful.”

Lu made card games, tetris-like tile games, and 20 questions. He said he never finished making a complete game because once he played it, there was always something he wanted to add or something he needed to fix.

“I would take somebody else’s thing, figure out how they did it and put my own changes to it,” Lu said. “It’s these little projects you make over time, you’re not going to make millions off of it but you can never lose that knowledge.”

The new course that is being introduced to El Camino is being taught by Lu is the cloud computing class. Cloud computing is using computing resources over the internet to complete a project or to run your system or application.

“Cloud computing is revolutionizing how we create websites and how we do business on the interne and it used to be expensive,” John Yeressian, real estate professor said. “Everyone’s heard of the cloud but Amazon, being the giant it is, is able to drop the prices to run cloud computing.”

The cloud computing class is in conjunction with Amazon Web Services (AWS) and is one of the more popular classes offered at El Camino, Yeressian said. The only other local college that offers this AWS cloud computing class is Santa Monica College.

“Amazon is one of the big movers in the cloud computing world because they have the funds to direct the future of cloud computing,” Yeressian said. “I feel like everyone should feel more secure. Eventually everything will be up in the cloud, like we wont even need to have hard drives anymore.”

There are 83,000 job postings that are associated with cloud computing. There are another 5,000 that list AWS cloud computing as a skill. There is a high demand in jobs for people that know AWS cloud computing, Lu said.

“If I wasn’t leaving [for UC Riverside] I would definitely figure out some way to take that class,” business major, Cole Tewiki, 23, said. “Not only is Amazon taking over sales but the internet in general, having that [AWS cloud computing] as a skill could earn you much more money now and later in life.”

Update: May 30, 2019 9:12 a.m. The word “carrier” was changed to “career” in the headline for accuracy.