Vu Thanh Cong
Master of Business Administration (MBA), UCD Smurfit Business School
With significant experience in the ICT sector, Cong returned to studying with a 2013-14 Irish Aid IDEAS Fellowship award. He hoped to enhance his strengths for future management roles contributing to Vietnam's hi-tech development.
I worked for six years in industry before I came to the MBA programme. My last position was Project Manager with Google on the ‘Knowledge Grab’ project. It is a way of arranging huge databases, like Wikipedia, so that specific information can be reached efficiently. It’s different from Google Search because it returns the exact information, instead of webpages. An example would be answering the question: ‘What is Barack Obama’s date of birth?’
Each language had its own project so I worked on the Vietnamese language project and managed a team of about 20 contributors looking for credible databases that we could arrange into the Google format. This information is being used in the latest technology, like ‘Google Glass’, and also when you search as well.
I wanted to do an MBA to learn more about the business and management side, rather than the technical dimensions. I also knew that I could not do programming forever – new and younger people would be better than me at some point. So I was looking to the future in terms of management and strategic planning.
I actually found the Irish Aid IDEAS fellowship quite randomly – I actually think it was by fate – because I only heard about it a few days in advance and I was away on a business trip, so I had very little time to apply. But everything fell into place. I realised that Smurfit was an excellent business school and I seized the opportunity with both hands.
Now I’m on the course, I’m gaining a lot of experience, especially with native English speakers. It has been very interesting the way the programme has divided us into teams and had us work that way for the whole semester. It’s much like real life, trying to make it work with people from diverse backgrounds. It makes for very interesting debate and sometimes heated arguments but it was the best study team I’ve been part of. I learnt a lot from each of them.
In my first semester, there have been two courses in particular that I have loved the most. The first is Strategic Management – I have learnt about how companies should respond when they face big problems. I thought it was a very complicated area but the professor has made it very accessible, involving and interesting. For Performance-Driven Marketing, the classes have been a dynamic conversation week-in, week-out. As a technical person, I didn’t know much about marketing. We built the product and pushed it out to the marketing people to do their job and we might think that manufacturing or programming are the life-line of the company but sometimes they’re not, sometimes a smart marketing campaign can change the game around.
This course has been a transformational experience. I have a new found confidence working with people from other backgrounds and other countries. I’ve also learnt to think more strategically and look from other points of view, like marketing and finance. It has really equipped me to look at all the factors, big and small, in a new way. I’ve found it very rewarding and it will help me later on in my career.
When I return to Vietnam I hope to gain a senior management role in an I.T. or technology company and I look forward to applying the knowledge I’ve gained. There are a lot of improvements we can make. To give one example, the Irish are very direct in how they work together. When I next lead a team I want people to be unafraid to voice their own views and to believe more in their own capacity. I’m looking forward to taking that kind of work ethic back to Vietnam.