The Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation (CEI) at Fulbright University Vietnam in collaboration with USAID and Tetra Tech is hosting a Workforce Gender Equality Accelerated Program designed and moderated specifically for Vietnam Electricity (EVN). The program consists of organizational and personal assessments, a 6-day virtual training, and four months of coaching to prepare EVN’s management participants to become agents of change and develop other skills.
On three consecutive weekends from December 4 to 19, 2021 followed up by four-month coaching process, the program is facilitated by an international team of Engendering Utilities change-management and gender equality experts whose backgrounds vary greatly in Human Resources across multiple industries from electrical to consumer and non-profit to private sectors.
The program curriculum draws from USAID’s toolkit, Delivering Gender Equality: A Best Practices Framework for Male-Dominated Industries, which demonstrates methods for introducing gender equality initiatives at each phase of the employee lifecycle. Intended to be a catalyst for change, the program provides a holistic practical learning environment that ensures success for EVN’s participating employees and the group itself. Throughout the learning courses, participants are prepared to become agents of change within their organizations by developing the skills needed to:
- Identify gender equality gaps within their organization
- Develop a business case that demonstrates how gender equality will benefit the organization’s bottom-line
- Take targeted, tangible, and strategic action, grounded in assessment, to increase gender equality in their organization
- Strengthen leadership and change management skills to exercise more influence, thus, create an equitable and diverse workplace
- Effectively engage other male and female leaders within their organization in support of desired changes.
Following the training, participants are taking part in a virtual coaching process spread over four months to help them successfully drive change, improve gender equality, and build resilience in their organization. Before and after each participant joins the course, they must complete Participant Self-Assessment, whose aim is to record their knowledge, attitudes, and current practices related to promoting gender equality in the workplace. Hence, EVN will be evaluated on how the group, as a whole, implements the Gender Action Plan, which has been built during the course, for their subsidiaries.
Gender equality and women entrepreneurship in Vietnam workforce
In Vietnam, there is a common notion of women being secondary earners while men being breadwinners, recorded in both rural and urban settings. This is known as a ‘gendered structure’ economy. This involves the perception that women’s natural competency is mainly limited to housework and not in management and business. Vietnamese women tend to face greater vulnerability and disadvantages due to low levels of financial and digital literacy, lack of opportunities for capacity development, and discriminatory sociocultural norms.
According to research, the gender earnings gap in Vietnam is estimated to be 29.5 percent, with 21.5 percent in urban areas and 35.2 percent in rural areas. COVID-19 has also contributed to a reduction in working hours for women and the loss of jobs. Between the fourth quarter of 2019 and the same period in 2020, Vietnam’s women labor force participation rate fell from 76 percent to 73.8 percent.
The participation gap between the two genders is even more immense when it comes to male-dominant industries, specifically the energy sector. Based on a report by Vietnam Electric Trade Union, as of December 31, 2020, the total number of female employees in the EVN group is around 19,997 – accounting for only 20.6% of the total group population.
Moving forward Vietnam’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by the UN, Resolution No. 28/NQ-CP has been approved in March 2021, which embarked the National Strategy on Gender Equality in 2021 – 2030. Specifically, by 2025, 60% and by 2030, over 75% of state management agencies and local administration at all levels shall have female leaders. The resolution is also aimed to increase the rate of female employees engaged in paid work to 50% by 2025 and to approximately 60% by 2030. As UN Women praised Vietnam’s commitments to increase female representation in the workforce and politics particularly at local and provincial government levels, the strategy is expected to help Vietnam better achieve its national targets for women’s entrepreneurship, shaping a more sustainable and inclusive economy and society.
In male-dominated sectors, expanding women’s participation leads to tangible economic empowerment outcomes for women, such as formal employment opportunities and higher income. Increased gender equality also improves organizations’ business performance, encourages companies to meet their bottom-line by enhancing employee satisfaction, reducing turnover, and driving productivity. In time, well-functioning organizations will be the unassailable bedrock that shall support a stronger and more resilient Vietnamese economy.
The CEI’s commitment to driving entrepreneurship and innovation across Vietnamese society
“So far, the training has brought us all, participants and facilitators, together and created a premise towards building and implementing the Gender Action Plan at EVN,” says a participant about the Workforce Gender Equality Accelerated Program’s virtual training sessions. “I have learned so much from other participants and their organization. The courses are well-developed and purposeful, which has inspired me – a woman, to change my own perspectives and behaviors. I wish that each of us will become an ambassador of Gender Equality.”
The participants at EVN gave the Workforce Gender Equality Accelerated Program an NPS of 4.6, with a 4.8 out of 5 going to the smooth communication between facilitators and learners throughout the virtual courses. Among all of the learning contents, Empowering, Self-motivation & Leading Change and Gender Strategy & Change Management are the two most worthwhile modules chosen by respondents. Coaching sessions with high-profile experts are also expected to be one factor accounting for the success of the program.
Launching the Workforce Gender Equality Accelerated Program has been one of CEI’s efforts in developing and improving company culture, policies, and practices that advance gender equality, and is most applicable to companies that have (or are in the process of developing) standard human resource practices. The program further proves the CEI’s commitment to incubating and accelerating ventures going after Vietnam’s toughest challenges. With great hope, the CEI aims to cultivate the next generation of ethical leaders and changemakers of Vietnam and the region.
“Even though it is the first-time launch in Vietnam, the Workforce Gender Equality Accelerated Program for EVN has opened doors for a start of new initiatives and more insightful perspectives on this sector. Our facilitators who lead the training content adjustments are looking forward to tailoring more Vietnamese context and data on gender equality for Vietnamese corporations,” shared Spencer Ton, CEI’s Director.
Since its launch in 2019, the CEI as Fulbright University Vietnam’s first University Center, has initiated various innovative programs to embed entrepreneurship and innovation into the core of Fulbright’s culture and academic program. Furthermore, the CEI has also offered impactful learning opportunities on entrepreneurship and innovation for stakeholders across Vietnamese society and the region, including non-Fulbright students, professionals, startups, companies, and members of the general public.
Follow CEI to update the latest Entrepreneurship & Innovation activities:
“A Curriculum for Tomorrow’s Workforce” – this is one of the key principles upon which Fulbright University Vietnam builds its liberal arts undergraduate program. Interwoven with an interdisciplinary core spanning the arts, humanities, sciences and engineering – one that inspires students to master the faculties of critical thinking, intellectual curiosity and the desire to do good for society throughout their life – is a number of learning opportunities outside the classroom developed by Fulbright’s dedicated departments. A sterling example is the Venture Fellows Program, organized by the university’s Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, Fulbright’s very first center since our establishment 5 years ago.
Cultivate and Empower entrepreneurs and innovators to solve Vietnam’s biggest challenges
Vietnam faces a disconnect between its educational priorities and the demand for skilled employees. While Vietnamese students perform well on standard academic tests, employers consistently report that students lack the skills needed to excel, as reflected in the high underemployment rate of college graduates. On top of that, while the Vietnamese economy and startup ecosystem are booming, major existential challenges loom on the horizon. The country is one of the world’s most at-risk countries in terms of climate change, Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi continue to grow rapidly while already struggling with air pollution and congestion, and advances in automation and artificial intelligence threaten Vietnam’s manufacturing labor force.
As a university that aims to cultivate the next generation of ethical leaders and changemakers of Vietnam and the region, Fulbright is committed to empowering aspiring and current entrepreneurs and innovators—both our students and beyond—to tackle our society’s greatest challenges. Rooted in our mission to close the gap between higher education and Vietnam’s greatest needs, the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation (CEI) is Fulbright’s flagship effort to embed entrepreneurship and innovation into the core of our culture and academic program. The CEI offers impactful learning opportunities on entrepreneurship and innovation for stakeholders across Vietnamese society and the region, including non-Fulbright students, professionals, startups, companies, and members of the general public. In time, as both the CEI and Fulbright University Vietnam grow, the CEI will incubate and accelerate ventures going after Vietnam and the region’s toughest challenges.
“CEI is Fulbright’s gateway into Vietnam’s thriving entrepreneurship ecosystems. We aim to cultivate and accelerate innovation both in our students and across Vietnamese society,” says Vo Duy Anh, Strategy and Operations Manager at CEI. “As a startup university ourselves, we believe that through nurturing entrepreneurial leadership, we can cultivate and empower entrepreneurs and innovators to solve Vietnam’s biggest challenges.”
The mission of Venture Fellows Program: Build, Contribute and Network
The Venture Fellows Program is the CEI at Fulbright’s flagship initiative. Launched in April 2020 and organized annually since, it is a six-month entrepreneurship-focused, work-study program that supports Fulbright students to work at the country’s most exciting startup and technology companies over a summer internship, with 4 main objectives:
- For Fulbright students to chart their entrepreneurship pathways, build business toolkit, get a inside view through impactful project work, and grow their network
- For entrepreneurial, high-growth companies in Vietnam benefit from and contribute to the development of a talented pipeline of students
- Providing a structured approach and scaffolded support: pre-internship seminars, ongoing mentorship, post-internship, reflections for Fulbright students
- High quality network of partners, mentors and peers for Fulbright students to foster self-learning and personal development
After two successful cohorts in 2020 and 2021, the next iteration of the Venture Fellows Program will span four months from June to October 2022. Prior to the summer internship of highly selected Fulbright students at partnered startups and companies, at the moment until April 2022, the CEI is currently seeking potential organizations in HCMC and Hanoi to join the program and mentor our student fellows. The 2021 cohort attracted 13 partners in Hanoi and HCMC, including VNG, Aspire, CoderSchool, EnCapital, Ru9, JobHopin, UrBox, EcoTruck, Manabie, Homebase, Funtap, Tribee, ReactorSchool, whose evaluation of Fulbright interns were nothing of short of delight.
“100% positive. Our intern is a superstar — brilliant, versatile, enthusiastic. We put her on different types of projects to test her, ALL were new to her, but she thrived. She always delivers, everyone is so happy with her. Only suggestion for the program is to send us more interns!” — Stefano Pellegrino, CEO of Aspire.
“I look for three things in employees. One is logical thinking, two is clear communication, and three is a very good attitude. And I think that Fulbright students exhibit all three of those things.” — Le Lan Chi, Head of ZaloPay.
“After the interim report, the other team leads were so impressed that they wanted the interns too. Next year, other teams would want to bid the interns!” — Christopher Day, Chief Commercial Officer of CoderSchool.
Our 2021 partners gave the Venture Fellows Program a NPS of 80 with 92% of partners saying YES to hiring the interns as full-time employees after the internship. The fellows also gave the program a 8.15 score for learning and personal development satisfaction and 8.25 for work and internship project satisfaction.
Nurturing Vietnam’s future leaders
The CEI’s selection process — for Fulbright students to confidently gain professional work experience in entrepreneurial, growth-focused companies — demands the following criteria:
- Strong academic performance
- Demonstrated interest in entrepreneurship
- Community or campus involvement, including leadership experience
- Maturity and humility
As a result, only 26 excellent fellows were selected from 57 applications with 58% chosen fellows having GPA above 3.67. Prior to their actual internship at partnered companies, Fulbright candidates are required to participate in training courses organized by the CEI that will prepare and equip them with the necessary skills to adapt and thrive in a rigorous, serious work environment. The 2021 cohort of the Venture Fellows Program involved more than 46 hours of mock interviews and 126 hours of student assessment, as well as 32 hiring managers acting as key contacts to supervise, coach and nurture Fulbright students’ development during their summer internship.
Nguyen Nho Thuc Khang, Class of 2023, was placed as Sales and Business Development Executive at Reactor School. “I was so impressed with the support that CEI provided for Fulbright students in their previous cohort of the Venture Fellows Program, that’s why I decided to apply,” she says. “My position at Reactor School allowed me to learn and thrive in a fast-changing environment in the most positive way. The experience there helped me strengthen my passion and gain insight into the world of venture capital, startups, and investment in general, which I intend to pursue after graduation. After the internship, I received an offer from Reactor School to join their Reactor Ventures program, part of which was a sponsorship to study a course about venture capital. And so, the Venture Fellows Program did indeed exceed my expectations and prove to be a truly meaningful experience.”
Nguyen Thi Thuy Duong, Class of 2023, also shares the same sentiment. “I had the opportunity to work as a Data Researcher and in Business Development at JobHopin,” she says. “After the internship, I’d learnt a lot about the real-life experiences in a for-profit startup, while appreciating the one-on-one coaching and training sessions which the company is keen to deliver for its young members and their personal development. The lessons that I’ve picked up helped me realize that I want to find a way to channel them into social enterprises, to support my passion working for organizations aimed at social goods through my meaningful contributions. Regardless of which organizations you work for, clear communication and effective strategy are key to foster our goals and make our dream come true. ”
Over the next 2-3 years, CEI aims to continue growing the Venture Fellows Program to become the top choice internship program for students. We’re working on expanding the program to external top-tier university students as well as partnering with more high quality companies that can offer meaningful internship experience and working environments. Ultimately, through the Venture Fellows Programs, CEI wants to empower the next generation of Vietnamese entrepreneurs and innovators, to reimagine the university in Vietnam, and build the next generation of leaders equipped with the skills to tackle global challenges.
Find out more about our program and how to apply at https://bit.ly/VFP2022-PartnerInfoPack
Earlier this Fall, Fulbright University Vietnam was delighted to partner with Yale-NUS College and leading partners in the field of Entrepreneurship and Innovation to host the Fulbright Innovation Week 2021. The event fostered entrepreneurial mindset and innovation culture among Vietnamese students via Virtual Start-up Showcase, equipped them with hands-on knowledge via Entrepreneurship Seminar Series, and cultivated creativity alongside practical problem-solving skills via a Hackathon, which took the students venturing into the region’s toughest challenges.
Inspire and be inspired
Fulbright Innovation Week 2021 attracted more than 400 diverse registrations across 38 cities and provinces in Vietnam, from high school students to fresh graduates. The Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation (CEI), the main organizer of this event series, was faced with some tough decisions in choosing the booth presenters from a pool of extraordinary applicants with fierce competition.
Although the whole week happened virtually, the engagement level still ran high with countless exciting activities. Unlike the typical events with long hours on Zoom that seemingly deplete all of the participants’ energy, Innovation Week took place on various platforms, including Gathertown – cyberspace customized for the Virtual Startup Showcase, which was a refreshing and lifelike experience, as if participants were visiting an actual exhibition.
Here, after a long a rigorous screening process, 17 best student business/startup projects from both Vietnam and Singapore were selected to present at the exhibition. This was a fun playground for students to promote their projects and ideas, acquire new leads, and find potential co-founders and investors. And this works both ways: the participants also got a chance to visit different startup booths, learn more about each startup journey, make new friends and take home some ideas to ponder upon.
Practical launchpad for daring ideas
Following the startup exhibition was the Future Leaders Forum, which was a 2-day intensive training program for student club leaders in Ho Chi Minh city. Students were immersed in a packed schedule of exclusive leadership training to create actionable plans after the program, followed by coaching to ensure the plan implementation with the combination of diverse learning approaches such as group discussion, panel discussion, presentation assignment, and interactive brainstorm and reflection.
Beyond training sessions, the Future Leaders Forum was a great opportunity for students to gain a life-long network with other talented leaders, entrepreneurs, and innovators across Vietnam and Southeast Asia.
Students were also introduced to new concepts in Entrepreneurship Seminar Series, with two special workshops hosted by industry leaders. The field players added another practical layer to the conversation by sharing about their own entrepreneurial path, demystifying the halo of renowned success stories, and encouraging young minds to explore the depth and breadth of knowledge, nurturing their curiosity and creativity for future innovations.
One of the main lessons is that there is no shortcut to the valley, no one-size-fits-all approach to entrepreneurship, and no recipe for success. Indeed, there is immense value in learning from others’ experiences, but that cannot replace actual practice and trying out things for oneself. “Success story is a double-edged sword for people who are trying to live by the book written by other people”, said Tri Lecao, a founder and CEO of Vibeji.
Dare to conquer the top
With that spirit, the students went to earn hands-on experience at the Virtual Hackathon – a competition that demonstrates a similar model to the start-up process in a compact way, from starting with an idea, identifying the problem, proposing a solution, prototyping, to pitching it to the public.
Mentored by coaches from Reactor School, a top-tier Singaporean company that provides Entrepreneurial programs for students across APAC, students collaborated in randomly assigned teams of four to work on a social entrepreneur project to address the United Nations’ Sustainable Goals. After three intense working days, the teams pitched their project to a panel of judges comprising industry experts. Not only did they all get to watch and learn from other teams’ presentations, but they also received helpful advice from the mentors and special guests, who are pioneers in the entrepreneurship ecosystem.
“We have been to many competitions before but none of them were as intense as this Virtual Hackathon in terms of the given time – only 3 days – to build an entire project from scratch. Although there were times when we felt exhausted, however, we overcame the anxiety brain fog, climbed over the “wall of idea stuck” and finally, conquered the top of the “mountain of capability”. This hackathon holds the magic of change: You are no longer the same person when you enter as when you exit.” – Nguyen Van Thanh (Class of 2025), a member of the champion team Fabrik. The team has won over the judges with their creative take on solving fabric waste issues by breaking it down into fibers to make DIY kits/products to serve a large existing demand for authentic/DIY gifts.
Although there could only be one winning team, all teams came home with more than they have anticipated. The Hackathon at Fulbright Innovation Week 2021 provided not only companions, memorable moments, but also grounded lessons on the early stages of the start-up world. It was an entrepreneurial “sandbox” where students can fall without hitting the rock bottom, actively gain experience and useful knowledge to stand straight up with confidence.
The Center of Entrepreneurship & Innovation (CEI) at Fulbright University Vietnam is pleased to announce its 2022 Venture Fellows Program (VFP). Originally launched in 2020, the program aims to cultivate and accelerate Vietnam’s thriving entrepreneurship ecosystems, by supporting Fulbright students to work at the country’s most exciting startup and technology companies.
We’re now seeking startup partners for our next iteration of the VFP. From June to October 2022, the VFP partners can benefit from and contribute to the development of a talented pipeline of Fulbright students, while nurture entrepreneurial leadership and tap into Fulbright’s high quality network of startups and venture capital firms.
After a rigorous selection process, we will elect and train a group of 20-25 students for 2-3 months, then place them as interns in excellent startups for the 2022 summer. The 2021 cohort attracted 13 partners in Hanoi and HCMC, including VNG, Aspire, CoderSchool, EnCapital, Ru9, JobHopin, UrBox, EcoTruck, Manabie, Homebase, Funtap, Tribee, ReactorSchool.
“100% positive. Our intern is a superstar – brilliant, versatile, enthusiastic. We put her on different types of projects to test her, all were new to her, but she thrived. She always delivers, everyone is so happy with her. Only suggestion for the program is to send us more interns!” – Stefano Pellegrino, CEO of Aspire.
Find out more about our program and how to apply at https://bit.ly/VFP2022-PartnerInfoPack
The Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation (CEI) at Fulbright University Vietnam in collaboration with USAID is hosting a seven-week virtual course as part of the Workforce Gender Equality Accelerated Program aiming to improve gender equality in male dominant industries across Asia.
The program is facilitated by an international team of Engendering Utilities change-management and gender equality experts in conjunction with faculty and staff from Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation, Fulbright University Vietnam in collaboration with Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business Gender Equity Executive Leadership Program (GEELP), the Johns Hopkins University Self-Empowerment and Equity for Change (SEE Change) Initiative, and the Men Engage Alliance.
The first cohort of the program will be delivered virtually with representative participants from Vietnam, Bhutan, the Philippines, Maldives, India, and Pakistan. The course will be held from September 21, 2021 to November 8, 2021 with follow-up coaching sessions till end of February, 2022.
The Workforce Gender Equality Accelerated Program is a six-month program that consists of organizational gender equality assessments, the seven-week virtual course, and four months of change management coaching that prepares managers to become agents of change within their organizations.
The Accelerated Program focuses on developing and improving company culture, policies, and practices that advance gender equality, and is most applicable to companies that have (or are in the process of developing) standard human resource practices.
The Accelerated Program is designed for female and male managers who wish to develop their gender equality expertise, boost their influence, and spearhead change within their organization. Operations leaders, HR managers, and managers of other support functions who are strategically placed within their organizations to influence change are encouraged to apply. Each program accepts up to fifty participants, and organizations are required to send two to three employees.
“Good afternoon and welcome to Fulbright University Vietnam.
As we host our inaugural EdTech Vietnam luncheon in partnership with two wonderful organizations – EdTech and InnoLab Asia, I want to thank EdTech and InnoLab for their commitment to improving the future of learning and workforce development in the region by bringing in leaders such as yourselves to learn from and engage one another. I also want to thank my colleagues, Spencer and Jimmy and the team at Fulbright’s Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation for helping to lead this effort on behalf of our university.
For those of you who are visiting Fulbright for the first time today, we are proud to be Vietnam’s first private, not-for-profit, liberal arts higher education institution. Since our founding, we have worked to serve Vietnamese society by reimagining higher education in the country through the lens of an open and liberal education with a unique Vietnamese identiy.
One of our most important aims in this endeavor is to bring people together from across sectors to share ideas, to develop and communicate best practices, and to take lessons generated from particular fields and see how they may be of use to people in other areas of teaching and learning.
It’s wonderful to see all of you in this room today knowing the work you are all doing to transform the learning experience in Vietnam and the tremendous impact this has on students across the country.
Like many of you, Fulbright University is embarking on a not-so-well-trodden path as we work to reimagine education in the region so that Vietnam’s future workforce can be relevant to what we are seeing in the world today.
Convenings such as this EdTech symposium challenges us to reflect and be purposeful about the important roles we all play in pushing the boundary of education.
One challenge we should all be working to address is ensuring that Vietnam’s future workforce is adequately prepared to address the region’s greatest needs.
The COVID-19 pandemic has evolved this challenge by forcing institutions to reflect on how they can continue to prepare students when in-person learning is not possible.
This includes working to ensure our students are effectively engaged, our educators are empowered to use technology, and that our learning tools encourage students to critically think whether they are in a classroom or behind a computer screen.
Whether you are an entrepreneur, investor, educator, or involved community member, you have the opportunity to move the needle forward on this matter.
My hope is that the conversations you partake in and the insights you gain from our lineup of distinguished speakers will open you up to new approaches and perspectives to enrich your own work in the edtech sphere.
Thank you again for being a part of this important work and thank you for what your presence here means for the future of learning in Vietnam.”
Ms Dam Bich Thuy – President of Fulbright University Vietnam
Fulbright University Vietnam and VNG, one of the fastest growing technology firms in Vietnam, recently signed a memorandum of understanding for continued cooperation in the provision of internship opportunities for Fulbright students, as well as the co-organization of workshops and career fairs.
Under the framework agreement, VNG commits to be a partner in Fulbright’s Venture Fellows Program (VFP) in the upcoming 2021 cohort. Meanwhile, Fulbright will support VNG with shortlisting candidates and facilitating the selection and matching process.
VNG agrees to provide part-time and full-time internship opportunities to Fulbright students, while Fulbright will support VNG with the publishing and marketing of VNG’s internship opportunities through our Career Services arm.
The scope of the agreement further includes the co-organization of speaker series and workshops. VNG will also sponsor Fulbright’s career fairs, further bridging the gap between higher education and the labor market.
“As a newly establish university, we look at VNG as a role model that embodies our aspirations – this is a company built in Vietnam, by the Vietnamese, serving the Vietnamese market, with regional impact, and very soon global impact,” Fulbright President Dam Bich Thuy said at the signing ceremony.
VNG’s CEO Le Hong Minh also shared his remarks, saying that “over the last 16 years as a technology company, VNG has learned how important it is to grow people. It takes a lot of time and hard work to grow a stable workforce and create new technological trends; that mission of growing people has never been easy. At VNG, being patient with the training of people is our top priority.”
Established in 2004, VNG was the first unicorn startup in Vietnam and rapidly developed into a leading technology company with more than 3,100 staff working at 11 offices across five countries. In 2020, it was named among the Best Companies to Work for in Asia by the leading human resources publication, HR Asia. It is the second year in a row VNG wins the title.
Experiential learning is a fundamental tenet of Fulbright’s approach to teaching and learning. Students are also encouraged to explore and experience the world beyond the classroom. This summer 2020, Fulbright’s Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation (CEI) inaugurated the VFP with 17 well supported internships, providing our students exceptional professional experience with outstanding startups in the domestic market such as VNG, Holistics, CoderSchool, Lixibox, Manabie, and UrBox.
Are you a high-growth startup looking to hire bright and self-starting Fulbright students as interns in the summer of 2021? Are you keen on joining Fulbright’s tight-knit network of startups and venture capital firms dedicated to our mission of nurturing the next generation of entrepreneurial leaders? The Venture Fellows Program (VFP) could be a good fit for you.
The VFP is a highly selective work-study program aimed at cultivating entrepreneurial leaders. After a rigorous selection process, we will elect and train a group of 20-25 Fellows for 2-3 months prior to the summer, and then place them at excellent startups as interns in summer 2021. Following an incredible first year, where we placed 17 students in startups such as VNG, Holistics, CoderSchool, Lixibox, Manabie, UrBox, and more, we are now seeking partners for our second cohort.
Find out more about our program and how to apply at http://bit.ly/VFP2021-PartnerInfoPack.
On July 17th, 2020, Fulbright’s Venture Fellows were invited to visit the headquarters of VNG, the first Vietnamese “unicorn” with global ambitions, and one of the fastest growing tech companies in the country, as part of the Venture Fellows Program (VFP) “summer tour”. All summer, Venture Fellows will have the opportunity to meet with the leadership of the VFP’s partner organizations at their base of operations to gain a better understanding of how various companies’ function.
“Beyond equipping participants with solid internship experience, the VFP also aims to build, through exposure, deeper workplace connections, a clearer picture of professional expectations, and an appreciation for the varied strategies suitable at different stages of company growth, all highly useful assets to plan a successful career,” explains Ken Watari, who initiated the program.
The visit began with a presentation overviewing the history, business model and broad strategy of VNG by Chris Liu, VP of Publishing at the company, followed by a tour of the facilities outlining the roles and function of the many departments. As Venture Fellow Le Quoc Chi explains, “it helps us understand how different companies, at different scales, have different structures, departments, and ways to share the work and responsibilities. It’s also a great opportunity to ask questions to people at the center of the tech industries in Vietnam, such as Mr. Le Hong Minh.”
VNG CEO Le Hong Minh took time out of his busy schedule for a one hour meet and share with our students, fielding questions ranging from his thoughts on the future of technology to insights on building a project or a company. For Tung Lam, a venture fellow currently interning at VNG, the company is showing great interest in building relationships with a university such as Fulbright.
“They are showing us that they value a partnership with a university like Fulbright. As a liberal arts college, we have a very different profile. Traditionally, to find future employees for your tech company, you would go to the technology University, or the University of Science, and then you are looking for specifically tech people. But then students at Fulbright learn a vast majority of a very large range of subjects. Doing my internship with the business team, this is the kind of background that my team is looking for in students,” explains Tung Lam.
This thought was echoed in the Q&A session. A key takeaway was the importance of acquiring a mindset of lifelong learning and strong personal convictions to address a constantly changing world and continuously evolving professional needs. This is where a liberal arts education is an asset, encouraging students to forge their own path.
“It can be extremely frustrating for students to come out of University with a degree and then find out that it’s not as applicable to the workforce as they thought it was. The way Fulbright enables students to gain experience within some of the best companies in Vietnam is really, really valuable.” Toby Scregg, Managing Director at Eve HR.
Eve HR is one of eleven partners to our Center of Entrepreneurship and Innovation’s (CEI) Venture Fellows Program (VFP), a program that aims to address the delicate transition between school life and employment through quality, well-planned internships and continuous support.
On Saturday July 4th, 2020, Fulbright University Vietnam and our CEI celebrated the successful launch of the first VFP through a congenial “Summer Party”. The event gathered management and executives of some of Vietnam’s leading companies in digital technology, from innovative software solution start-ups such as Eve to established videogame corporation VNG, together with the participating students currently interning at their companies. Organized at the halfway point of the internship program, the summer event was the perfect opportunity for our students to connect with key actors in the entrepreneurial space. It was also a chance to share first impressions and assess the successes of a groundbreaking initiative that aims to deepen the link between education and the private sector in Vietnam.
Building the talent pipeline
“Vietnam is just now picking up on the trend of internships, but it is a crucial component linking education and the private sector. They are extremely important for workforce development, connecting future – or recent graduates with employers through a ‘talent pipeline’,” explains Ken Watari, Director of the CEI.
This talent pipeline should provide young graduates with better career opportunities, while addressing an increasing need for a highly skilled workforce. As Toby Scregg explains, “Vietnam is one of the fastest growing economies in the world. What does that mean? That there’s a massive demand for good talent.” Recent research conducted by Fulbright University Vietnam and the American Chamber of Commerce further confirms Vietnam suffers from an “Employment skill gap”: employers overwhelmingly lack confidence that education institutions in the country will equip the future workforce with the necessary skills to thrive in tomorrow’s labor market.
VFP addresses this problem by bringing both sectors into a collaborative partnership, where students can learn more about professional expectations while exploring their career options. Employers on the other hand are involved more deeply in educating the next generation of talents as they adapt to the demands of the real world. Where a classroom or an incubator tends to isolate student projects, internships force students to confront very real issues, such as how high the bar is for results, how hard it is to sell, or how difficult compromises can be.
Le Lan Chi, Managing Director of VNG’s ZaloPay Division, also understand the mutual benefits of tighter collaboration, saying, “the program allows employers to understand the value of Fulbright students. This exposure to the students helped me convince my company that this is such a great university for us to have a long-term employer relationship with. And for students who have that exposure, they understand what it’s like to be in a workplace environment and they go back to school and understand what skill set they have to build during the time in school to better prepare them for the future.”
As Le Lan chi explains, long-term partnerships would also foster better channels, allowing students to find productive internships more easily in the future. “I thought that as a first-year student, it would be difficult for me to go out and look for internships that would be really useful for myself, because students like us lack a lot of working experience. But VFP changed that,” says Venture Fellow Minh Tu.
CEI’s Venture Fellows Program also aims to lead by example to foster a culture of productive internships, as not all internships are created equal. Mismatching expectations or poor planning can hamper growth, especially in a country that is only beginning to adopt this model. As Ken explains, “the culture of talent development in Vietnamese companies is mixed. In a place like the United States, internships and how they are done is well established. People know you need a manager to support interns, you need to have a plan, you need to give them a concrete piece of work, provide them feedback and room to grow. That culture exists in some companies here, but other companies are still figuring out how to do that.”
“I had a terrible prior start up experience, so I would not have normally considered a start-up for my internship. But I applied because on top of the exposure to entrepreneurship, the VFP offered a scaffold to the learning experience, a plan for what would benefit us as interns and the partner organization in welcoming us, and continued support through the program,” relates Venture Fellow Phuong Thao.
Preparation is the name of the game
In the short amount of time students had to prepare, the CEI focused on some core skills that would help students adapt to their temporary work environment.
“We worked on two individual projects. One was data analysis, the other deep-dive research. We got divided into teams of 2-3 people, to eventually come up with a mock memo intended for a CEO,” remembers Phuong Thao. The self-led projects aimed to familiarize students with a combination of skills. The data analysis memo involved a variety of skills from project management to selecting and making sense of information, and presenting it in a compelling manner. The deep-dive research project drove students to learn detailed information about their partner company and reflect on their goal and place in their business to propose a mock strategy.
After practicing the core skills that would accelerate their integration into their partner organizations, our interns also received coaching on how to conduct themselves in an interview, a skill that was put to the test through several rounds of interviews, which were organized to find the best fit for their aspirations and skill-sets. The results showed.
“I look for three things in employees. One is logical thinking, two is clear communication, and three is a very good attitude. And I think that Fulbright students exhibit all three of those things. Even during the interview process, all the candidates greatly impressed me because they were so well-prepared with their research and they very clearly communicated in the interview process. If I could take all of them, I would,” asserts Le Lan Chi.
One step at a time
At their varied companies, students discovered many quirks of adapting to a workplace environment, and all found individual growth. For some, the hardest part was to shift in how they communicate information, from essay to emails, reports and presentations. Others felt embarrassed to ask for help or instructions. “The first week, I was told to install all this software to work on a project, but I couldn’t find much documentation on the process. I was afraid that if I asked for help people would judge me, so I was effectively out of options. Thankfully, my senior checked in on me and imparted to me that I should just ask if I don’t know, and it’s ok,” remembers Venture Fellow Nhat Khoi.
Finally, some students discovered that even small things can lead to bigger projects. “I am a very independent person, and I’m very used to doing more personal projects in smaller groups. It was a challenge for me to work in a bigger team. When working at VNG, it is a big company, so it was paradoxically difficult for me to start small. I had to learn to follow instructions and fulfill my responsibilities. I learned that working small problems is essential, and how small missions add up to something bigger,” reflects Venture Fellow Tung Lam.
Indeed, for Tung Lam, maybe the biggest lesson of all is to realize that tackling the issues of the world starts one small step at a time: “At Fulbright, we are encouraged to think of the bigger picture, and the larger forces at work. My experience as a Venture Fellow gave me a better idea of how we can have an impact and improve things. Big issues are only big before they are broken down into smaller steps.” And for the Venture Fellows Program, this is only the first step.