Vietnamese Youth Connects to Homeland While in USA via Community Engagement

Ionah Hang Nguyen loves her hometown of Hanoi. In fact, her name is Hanoi spelt backwards! Her love and pride of the Vietnamese capital inspired her to accomplish big things in the USA. In an interview with the press, she talked about her inspiring journey.
December 21, 2022 | 07:56

Back in her days studying at Hanoi Foreign Trade University, Hang intended to study abroad in the US. After graduating, she decided to move to Ho Chi Minh city and tried different jobs. She was working while operating USGuide, a non-profit organization aiming at inspiring and helping young Vietnamese realize their dream of studying abroad in the US at higher educational levels.

Journey to the US

Through the network of USGuide, Hang knew many Vietnamese former students in the US. Among them, many stay in the US to work for large corporations, while others return to Vietnam to start their careers.

Hang had the opportunity to meet and work with Nguyen Manh Tuong, who returned to Vietnam after graduating with an MBA from Chicago Booth. He developed a start-up with a few employees at first, and 10 years later became the well-known MoMo. His success story inspired Hang to set a goal to study MBA in the US.

After six years of working and carefully preparing for her plan, Hang was accepted into the MBA program at Duke Fuqua Business School and started her new journey in the US in 2018.

Vietnamese Youth Connects to Homeland While in USA via Community Engagement
A photo of Ionah Hằng Nguyễn.

When she first came to the US, Hang faced language and cultural barriers, which made it very difficult for her to integrate into the environment. Hang was not afraid to reach out to students and alumni of the school, as well as friends in the Vietnamese MBA community in the US for help, learning experiences, and job search.

She was fortunate to meet many kind people who encouraged and supported her wholeheartedly from the first days she arrived in the US, especially in the process of finding a job. With the help of everyone and her efforts, Hang was accepted into Amazon's Retail Leadership Development program when she was just starting her second year of the MBA program.

Looking back on her journey, Hang realized that having a community that is always trustful and supportive is very important to help each individual overcome barriers and achieve their goals. Therefore, with a wish to build a cohesive MBA community in the US, Hang has connected hundreds of MBA students through the Facebook group “US MBA - Vietnamese students”.

Hang and other members of the group organized many useful activities, namely the series of events called "Happy Hours" and "Soul Time" to share knowledge, skills, and experience in finding a job, developing a career, and adapting to life in the US; or the annual MBA Retreat program for members to gather and bond in different cities in the US.

"I am very proud of the Vietnamese - US MBA family because everyone is very close, supportive, and empathetic. I rarely see a community with such deep and quality connection," said Hang.

Founding the Viet Spark

During her MBA study, Hang once gathered a group of friends in the Vietnamese - US MBA community to practice interviews to get into technology companies in the US. The group has helped many members get the job they want.

From this encouraging result, she joined a few friends in the group to establish the Vietnamese Business Professionals in Tech (VBPT) in June 2020, then changed its name to Viet Spark and registered a legal entity in the US as a non-profit organization.

Hang said that the majority of Vietnamese working in technology companies in the US have jobs in the technology sector. The business sector seems not to be the strength of the Vietnamese.

Viet Spark was formed with the desire to connect and motivate young Vietnamese from these industries to find jobs and develop successful careers in the technology industry in the US.

Viet Spark's members are mainly MBA, Master, or Ph.D. students in business. Viet Spark wants to create a playground connecting technical and business students, helping people learn from each other and have the opportunity to find teammates for individual projects or startups.

After two years of establishment, Viet Spark has organized dozens of practical and effective events and activities, such as the annual program "Break Into Tech" for those who are looking for job opportunities in the technology industry. They also host the webinar series called “Industry Xplained” sharing expert knowledge and perspectives, the series of articles "Humans of Viet Spark" introducing prominent members of the technology community, or networking sessions and workshops to develop skills and provide career orientation.

“Break Into Tech” is a free program that lasts for three months and has received many positive responses from mentors and participants. The rate of participants who get jobs at US technology companies after six months of joining the program is up to 85%, of which many of them get into big tech companies such as Amazon, Meta, Apple, etc.

Hope to see more successful Vietnamese people

Another impressive activity that ​​Ionah Hang Nguyen and her teammates spent much effort on is the Tech Summit 2022.

This activity is organized by Viet Spark in collaboration with the Association of Vietnamese Professionals and Students in Seattle (SVPS) and the Representative Office of the Ministry of Science and Technology in San Francisco, aiming to connect and develop the Vietnamese community in the field of technology in the US.

Attracting more than 100 Vietnamese young people, students, and experts from many parts of the US, Tech Summit 2022 includes networking activities, visits to Amazon and Microsoft headquarters, talks, and seminars with guests from leading US tech companies.

Vietnamese Youth Connects to Homeland While in USA via Community Engagement
Tech Summit 2022 attracts a large number of Vietnamese youth, students and experts from many parts of the United States.

With the initial success, Viet Spark and SVPS are expected to further coordinate with the Representative Office of the Ministry of Science and Technology and related departments to organize this activity annually in different cities of the US shortly.

“Vietnamese people are very intelligent, hardworking, passionate, and progressive. We have such huge potential for development, not inferior to Americans, Indians, or Chinese. However, the number of Vietnamese in senior executive positions in large tech companies or owning successful and well-known startups is still limited. My dream and Viet Spark's dream is to see more Vietnamese succeed and increase the presence of Vietnamese in leadership positions of big tech companies", said Ionah Hang Nguyen.

Hang took up a senior product managing position at Amazon and recently joined Koidra - a Seattle-based startup. She is always energetic in community engagement activities as well as providing mentorship for many young people in Vietnam and the US in the process of applying to study abroad and find a job.

For Hang, participating in community activities and helping others succeed is a way to balance her life and reduce the pressures of daily work. She believes that when helping someone succeed, she gets more energy, which becomes an indispensable part of life.

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