Harvard MBA graduate Do Thi Thuy Hang has travelled to nearly 30 countries and worked for many American financial organisations, including Lehman Brothers and Barclay Capital. She recently left America to work for ivivu.com, a brand-new tourism website in Viet Nam. Hang talks to Tuoi Tre Cuoi Tuan (Youth Weekly)'s journalist Cat Khue about what inspired her to make this decision and shares her thoughts on today's young people.
Inner Sanctum: You have spent nine years in America. Would you have come back to Viet Nam had it not been for the collapse of Lehman Brothers in September, 2008?
Returning to Viet Nam and doing something for my hometown have always been my wish when I was living far from home. The collapse of Lehman Brothers was a huge shock to the financial world, but many individuals in America were still determined to continue their specialized work as freelancers or staff members of other corporations. The event of September, 2008 has, however, encouraged me to fulfil my wish earlier than expected.
Inner Sanctum: You have already travelled to nearly 30 countries. Which one do you feel comfortable living in most?
I am interested in travelling, exploring, learning new things, and experiencing new lifestyles. However, the more I have travelled, the more I was convinced that there is no place like home.
Life in Viet Nam now is pretty comfortable because my family and my friends live here, I get delicious food, and especially because I have a chance to live close to things that are Vietnamese. I moved to Ho Chi Minh City two years ago and am enjoying life very much.
Inner Sanctum: Is most of the "capital" to invest in insecure market like that of Viet Nam, taken from your experience of travelling around the world?
I do not think that only the market of Viet Nam is insecure. In my point of view, markets everywhere are full of changes and have interesting surprises along with individual difficulties. I sometimes feel that market is like taking a trip. No matter how careful one is in preparing, planning, and calculating for the trip, there will certainly be incidents that could happen beyond one's expectations, so one must always be on the alert.
Inner Sanctum: You have challenged whether anyone could travel like Huyen Chip who has travelled to 25 countries with barely US$700. How have you yourself travelled?
I think that the desire to travel, discover, and gather experience is anyone's pride, especially the youth. By challenging, I emphasise that anyone from any background and situation has to be very careful and must take every option into consideration, including expenditure for the trip.
I do not challenge who can imitate who, but I expect people to agree that a long risky trip requires not only personal dream and desire but also consideration of family and friends, and even other practical factors such as time, money, and personal safety.
Inner Sanctum: Knowledge gained from such experience has helped you much in building the travelling website ivivu.com as well as understanding what your customers require, hasn't it?
Many other members of ivivu.com besides me have travelled around the world. Though I have been lucky to travel, meet new friends, and gain new experience, I have always reminded the members that each person or customer has different expectations, which may even depend on various objective factors. Hence, it is important to understand and listen carefully to customers' demand instead of subjectively taking for granted that "what we want is what customers want".
I think that customers have to be satisfied with how much they have spent, by being provided with sufficient information and exact and appropriate price. No matter where they go or where they are from, our staff members take care of them and deal with their troubles so that they can have unparalleled attention to their business or wholeheartedly spend time with their family. To do so, we have to utilise our professional knowledge, travelling experience, and even life experience!
Inner Sanctum: I am interested in one of your comments that many young people are too different from your generation, when they even complain on Facebook if it rains. Were people at your age concentrating only on education?
I believe that the young generation of any age group are full of energy and always want to share about themselves. Facebook or other social websites are only tools or meeting places to make new friends and share things quickly and conveniently. That might explain why nowadays youth rarely keep their personal feelings to themselves but share them on such sites.
For the youth in my generation, on the other hand, the Internet used to be a luxury, but that does not mean we were interested only on education. We also hung out, had get-together, watched TV, listened to MTV channel, or read comic books such as Doraemon.
Inner Sanctum: Do you intend to continue with your study or temporarily concentrate on your current work?
This issue has been talked much. Schools are not the only places where you can learn. I believe that experience gained from life and work also teaches us certain lessons.
I am still completely wrapped up in both working and studying, but I think that knowledge should be sufficient to balance everything in life and contribute to society without causing trouble or being a burden to anyone. Thus, I always expect myself to gain enough knowledge.
Inner Sanctum: How do you inspire your partners and colleagues? By advising them to follow your way of living or be themselves?
My thoughts are always simple and I share them with others in the same way: "Hang is Hang, A is A, B is B, C is C… A better life or career we build together requires Hang, A, B, C, and everyone. And it is certain that we cannot fulfil that life or career if it lacks even a single person."
This is also my point of view towards work. The whole group needs to unite their efforts and allocate work according to each member's professional skills and capacity in order to achieve something great. One of the important rule is that individuals should have correct, sufficient, and responsible awareness of their role when working in a group. It sounds theoretical but the fact is not too different from theory.
Inner Sanctum: Did you participate in group activities similar to Vietnamese Youth Union during the years you were studying abroad? What are the similarities and differences?
American students are very enthusiastic about group activities, especially in the elite educational environments. The development of humans through extracurricular activities has always been highly valued, and they are implemented with the same seriousness as studying activities inside class rooms. There are differences in certain situations, but I think they share the same goals of training and helping individuals to integrate into groups and contribute to the community.
Inner Sanctum: From your experience, what do you think should be done to attract more young Vietnamese to join useful activities of the Youth Union?
Like other young people, I have participated in many activities by the Youth Union in Viet Nam, some of which were very useful and interesting while some others could not put into action their purposes.
In my point of view, besides synchronisation from the upper organisations to strengthen practical activities with specific, detailed, and practical goals, individuals should have a more positive and critical contribution, so that group activities will be more beneficial and interesting. — VNS