Interview with International Alumni
Ms Huong Nguyen
IAJN: Can you please share your journey of how you ended up studying at Stanford University?
I went to middle school and high school in Vietnam, and won a scholarship to New Zealand to complete the International Baccalaureate (last 2 years of high school) there. Most of the students at my high school in New Zealand were international, and wanted to go to colleges in the US or UK. Thus, following this trend, I applied to Stanford and got admitted with a scholarship.
IAJN: What are the 3 most important lessons you learnt during your time in the USA and at Stanford?
- Hard work: I did my Undergraduate and Master at Stanford in 4 years. It was not easy to get in Stanford as an international student; it was also not easy to survive the rigorous Stanford classes. The experience taught me how to appreciate the values of hard work, resilience, and determination.
- Independence: American culture is very different from Vietnamese. Asians value family and agreeability, while the West favors strength, individuality and independence. Living and studying at Stanford have taught me to think independently and critically about the world. While I am still attached to certain Asian traditional values, I become more liberal in others. It’s a very interesting process: I take what I want to take from the pools of values around me. Immersing myself in a completely different culture / country has given me the special opportunity to choose and become what I am today.
- Entrepreneurship: Stanford is the in the heart of innovation. Living there and interacting with all the brilliant people on campus and in Silicon Valley have inspired my passion in entrepreneurship – to start and grow meaningful businesses, and the courage to follow the entrepreneurial journey.
IAJN: What advice would you give for students preparing to study abroad?
Be open-minded to new experience and work hard to follow your dreams – either it be ticket to an Ivy League college, painting, mathematics, Wall Street, or Silicon Valley.
IAJN: In your opinion, what do you think of the start-up scene in Vietnam currently and its future potential?
I founded Viet Youth Entrepreneurs (a nonprofit supporting Vietnamese entrepreneurs) 6 years ago and I can tell that the startup ecosystem then is very different from now. Now, many young people want to become entrepreneurs. I think there Vietnam has inherent advantages that create a conducive environment for startups. First, Vietnamese culture promotes self-starters, hustling, and individuality, which nurtures entrepreneurship. Second, Vietnam has a very young economy, with the SOEs still in their privatization process. This means the economy needs a constant influx of new SMEs to survive, which creates ample opportunities for entrepreneurship.
IAJN: What lessons have you learnt from working at a top-tier firm like Bain & Company?
I learned how to work in a structured way. As a leading consulting firm surviving on its top-tier people caliber, Bain has built very solid HR capabilities, which includes recruitment, training, and talents retention. While, as a big corporate, Bain did not teach me valuable entrepreneurial skills, the structured, highly efficient brainstorming + collaboration + execution procedures that I was trained in, and the culture of hard work, creativity and team spirit that helped Bain keep its talents, have benefited my skills greatly.
IAJN: What advice would you give to an International Alumni who wants to become an entrepreneur?
Think carefully, consider all your values and your goals before deciding whether this is the path you want to follow. Once you have decided, just go with it. Don’t become an entrepreneur because you have heard that creating startups can bring billions. Do that because you life the lifestyle – that’s the only way. Things will go wrong along the way and that is an essential part of entrepreneurship. Enjoy the ups and downs and persist.
IAJN: Can you share with us why Viet Youth Entrepreneurs was created and what the organisation means to you personally?
Inspired by the strong startup spirit in Silicon Valley, and realizing that Vietnamese education by that point does not encourage creative thinking and innovation as much, we created VYE to bring entrepreneurship education to Vietnam in 2011. During the past 6 years, the organization has grown to become one of the largest startup communities in Vietnam. VYE is a channel through which I can pay back – I have always believed education is the single cause I want to contribute the most to. 6 years engaging with VYE has also gained me many beautiful friendships, business partnerships, and exposures to new opportunities, and I am very grateful for that.
IAJN: What makes you excited about the future and can you name a goal that you’re passionate about working towards?
I am passionate about contributing to Vietnam’s socio-economic development. That has been my deep motivation since high school, and that has not changed. I returned to live Vietnam after 7.5 years abroad earlier this year, and am very excited to work on my goals more rigorously!
|MS. NGUYEN THAI DONG HUONG – Co-founder, Viet Youth Entrepreneurs. Part of the prestigious Forbes ‘30 under 30′ achiever list for 2016, Huong co-founded Viet Youth Entrepreneurs (VYE) in 2011, whose role is to work with the local start-up community. In partnership with IDG Ventures Vietnam, Stanford Technology Ventures Programme and John Von Neumann Institute, VYE organises annual start-up boot camps and other activities and programs. Huong completed a Bachelor of Science (Symbolic Systems) and Master of Engineering (Management Science and Engineering) from Stanford University. In addition to co-founding Viet Youth Entrepreneurs, Huong has worked in a number of countries for top-tier companies such as Bain & Company, Zalora, Square, Prudential, Stanford University and Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC). She is passionate about being an international alumni and helping make the world a better place through entrepreneurship, innovation and education.|
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