Interview 1/2 by Seoultech Times

NJ Namju Lee
9 min readApr 13, 2021


This article is about the Interview I did for SeoulTech Times.


For those who are interested in my interview in English, The contents are generated by Translation from the original article(Korean), I will revisit when I have time to revise the content later. Please aware of the fact that it could be have bit different against the original one

To design a dream, fly away — Part 1

Today, as the fourth industry has become the main industry stage, coding and computers have become inseparable in the design field. Lee Namju (Architecture, 99), whom I met in this interview, is currently working as a specialist in computer design in the United States. Computational design is an area that combines coding and design. After graduating from college, he went to the United States to study for a better future, starting with MIT researchers and graduating from Harvard and UC Berkeley. And I am active not only as a developer but also as an information and knowledge carrier. I listened to him about studying abroad and coding and design.

Q. Please introduce yourself briefly.

A. Hello! I’m Director Lee Namju. I entered the architecture department of Seoul National University of Science and Technology with a class of 99. I am currently working as a specialist in computational design in the United States. It wouldn’t be too much if it’s an area where design and coding are fused, such as a combination of liberal arts and natural sciences. Simply put, I’m designing through coding. About 20 years ago, I performed at the KBS Song Awards and the Korea-China Song Festival as a professional B-boy dancer because I liked dancing. After that, I founded NJSTUDIO and provided architectural simulation and 3D design visualization services. He finished his studies in the United States via London and Australia, and is a design engineer who uses data and coding as design materials and tools.

Q. Please explain about your current work.

A. I think there will be three big stems. First, I work as a software engineer for ESRI company that handles GIS data. We are developing data visualization and 2D and 3D design software. Second, NJSTUDIO is researching and developing design methodologies and solution consulting and design algorithms using data and computation. Third, we share expertise and experience at NJCHANNEL. We are also focusing on creating and educating video or writing content and creating an ecosystem of knowledge about design and coding.

Q. After graduating from our university, he started as a researcher at MIT and graduated from Harvard and UC Berkeley. I wonder why you decided to study abroad in the United States.

A. To start with the conclusion, there was a similar frustration that young people feel these days in Korea. I can stand the hard work. However, the helplessness that came from the glass ceiling turned to overseas employment when I felt that there was no change no matter how hard I tried change. To do so, I studied abroad.

I started a startup when I was in my third year of college after I was discharged from the army, and that turned out well. At that time, there were not many competitors in the market, so I think I was able to go up relatively quickly. I think I faced relatively fast success and the limitations accordingly. For example, a sense of helplessness from points such as working and not getting paid, passionate pay, and a left-facing star was the main cause. At that time, I think it was more difficult for me to accept the obvious future in which there was no hope even though I worked hard than to have a hard work and life. I had two hearts. Will one compromise with reality and rationalize it and live without knowing it? Or do you want to go to a wide overseas market and try again?

I wondered how far I could go myself. I wanted to test and check. At the same time, I found it advantageous to have a degree to survive abroad in the mid- to long-term, and it was time to acquire knowledge through studying abroad, especially in areas that I am interested in, namely design, data, and coding. It’s the same now, but I couldn’t find enough data in Korea at that time.

For the last reason, Korea, which I have experienced, is very exclusive to emerging manpower and industry in terms of its already established territory. It’s probably a rice bowl. I understand. As much as the temple can’t leave, the monk leaves. It’s a relatively more reasonable and predictable system that gives me opportunities and pays for my skills. Things have changed a lot these days, but the areas I was interested in at the time were not mainstream. Korea was not a good environment to gain knowledge and practical experience as a non-mainstream nation. I was lucky to have the opportunity to work as a researcher at MIT, and this opportunity gave me other opportunities, and I think I was able to gain skills and experience at prestigious universities and research institutes in the U.S.

Q. How did the knowledge or experience you learned while studying abroad affect your current programming and architectural design?

A. In terms of knowledge, we have the ability and insight to use data, which is rice in the fourth industry, for design. We talk a lot about the fourth industry these days. Artificial intelligence, ultra-connected, ultra-low latency, parallel computing, cloud systems, autonomous driving, drones, etc. It seems diverse, but in the end, you can divide it into “how to collect data?” “how to process data gathered like this,” and “where and how to apply insights extracted from data.” Designers should use a tool called coding to actively utilize data materials in the design process. Materials are important for architectural design. Wood, glass, reinforced concrete and plastic, for example, every time these materials are introduced to the design industry, tools and processing techniques are diversified and refined. The material of the 4th industry is data. It’s a tool for processing these materials, coding, programming. Being able to code as a designer has many advantages.

Empirical influences seem to create a lot of confidence. I’ve been living abroad for over 10 years. In the process, as I meet many people, talk to experts in various fields, work, and study, I think I can see the major points and directions in the design field of an era. Of course, my position appears in it. I start to see what I can do to make a meaningful mark on the map if I concentrate more. I have confidence that “it’s worth a try.” “They’re doing this, and I think I’ll be better at this,” he said. Also, when my friends who studied and worked with me produced good results from all over the world, I thought, “That’s different!” from the vague yearning in the past, but now I’m like, “Hey, dude, this is what I did. You were so interested that you finally solved it like this. Should I try it like this?” I think there’s definitely a stream of consciousness and confidence.

Q. While studying abroad, you must have faced many practical problems. How did you overcome these problems?

A. Unfortunately, reality is reality. I started studying abroad when I was 35. Because it took time to solve the language problem and the cost problem.

I had to improve my English. It’s a very embarrassing story, but as a motivation, I knew that “Important” meant “important” on a plane that was on its way back from London to get a job after graduating from a 26-year-old university. My TOEIC score was less than 300 points. And I had to earn my tuition. Harvard’s tuition is also on the high side in the U.S. If you calculate this by hour, you’ll get about 130,000 won per hour. If you do it for a week, it’ll cost about 1.8 to 2 million won. If I know this fact, I can’t let myself down during the semester.

It wasn’t easy to get accepted and raise tuition fees. As a result, about 50 family and friends, and my friend’s parents, Chinese friends, and two Koreans who don’t know each lent me 10 million won. Even if I took a break from school, I left with the intention of trying at least one semester. There were a lot of ups and downs, and eventually I paid back everything including interest after graduation. I was really lucky.

I can’t generalize the tip because it’s all different, but I want to share the mental part. Looking back, everything was impossible to even think about studying abroad, but I thought only one thing. If I successfully finished studying at a good university and came back to Korea by doing better at what I am good at now, wouldn’t I be able to do more fun in a more favorable environment? I think I imagined those brilliant spots whenever I had a hard time.

One tip I want to share is my major knowledge and confidence accordingly. As long as you study English acquiredly, there is definitely a limit, and you are worried that your pronunciation or grammar will be wrong, and if you feel intimidated, there will be a vicious cycle. These days, I experience mental breakdown several times a day. For example, Harvard and MIT, if you present a class curriculum, they give you a chance to take a class through review. I applied and had a chance to open the class. The contents of the class are already things that I know too well and do well. My mentorship was like this. “English is not my native language, so I can be wrong.” “But you’re here to learn my hard work and knowledge.” “So you know what I’m doing!” “Well, I’ll show you a lot of interesting and interesting things.” And after I changed my mind, I felt confident, “Okay,” and found myself immersed in it. In addition, we do presentations every time, and I have experienced a lot of English that I know well, boast about, and have confidence in sharing. In other words, if you are good at your job, confident, and confident, English will follow you.

Q. Is there anything you want to ask students who are about to study abroad?

A. If you look at the exotic and romantic vlogs, YouTube, or writings of international students, studying abroad looks new and romantic like Jupiter, which has very beautiful stripes, but the reality is that it is a star filled with great pressure and an uninhabitable atmosphere. For me, studying abroad would be a more realistic description of a battlefield without gunshots.

It’s not about fighting with others, it’s about my incompetence, my stupidity, my limitations, my new environment, my survival in a different language. Acquiring new knowledge and skills with unexperienced culture and language is an absolute disadvantage. That’s why I think mental armament is the first. “I learn in a very unfavorable situation, but I think I maintained my concentration by thinking that the achievements of this learning will lead to my job and salary, and eventually deliver good news to those who have helped me mentally and financially.” The two people who have never met lent me 10 million won each, and I wanted to repay them for their trust and gratitude, so it became a reason to endure in times of hardship.

Second, focus on one or two things with a clear goal! I don’t think I can do everything well. I think studying abroad should have a clear purpose, not just getting a degree, but studying abroad. Of course, as is always the case, most of the time, there are some parts where the purpose is slightly changed and reinforced. Since it is a study abroad where you always open your eyes, ears, and mind, what opportunities and information you have, expensive money and precious time, I recommend you to take the closest class to it as a strategy of choice and concentration. He boldly threw away what he had to throw away, and clearly took care of what he had to pack. The point is, I don’t know anything else, but I’m a mentee, “I only beat one!” Think of it as “You’ll be the best in this class.” When I graduated from Harvard, I think it was my strategy to win the first prize in digital design and graduate with three honors.

Continued in part two …



NJ Namju Lee

Software Engineer & Computational Designer at NJSTUDIO