A Working Woman: Sylvia Nguyen On Social Responsibility In Business
In 2016, Vietcetera met with with Alphanam Group’s hospitality leader Sylvia Nguyen to learn about her team’s leadership in Vietnam’s emerging tourism industry. She’s also recognized for her social impact efforts, from officially launching Alphanam Green Foundation to directing strategy and development at VietSeeds Foundation. We recently had the opportunity to revisit Sylvia, nearly three years later, to share her career learnings for our ‘A Working Woman’ series.
What ambitions and goals guide your career decisions?
I see my role in the private sector as a change agent for driving positive, sustainable impact. By doing business, you provide products, jobs,… and therefore the “deliverables” to the communities are clear. To me, that’s not enough. I feel that the private sector can do much more in terms of driving initiatives for sustainable goals, especially with environmental concerns and gender equality. Collectively, or one company at a time, we can change our business practices or products to orient our customers towards better habits and better decisions for the planet.
What brought you to work in the male-dominated real estate and hospitality industries?
Passion. My passion for my work brings me to work everyday, I never thought of it as a male or female-dominated industry.
How would you describe your personal brand evolving from the time you finished uni to today?
My personality has not changed much, however the way I express myself has changed a little. When you are in uni, social life is life. Publicly I used to share a lot more about where I go, what I do, what I eat… and the personal struggles with understanding people or the world around me. As I got older, my goals became clearer, and most of my work requires long term investment, so I share a lot less about the day to day moment.
When I work, I need total and complete silence to peace-out my mind. When I’m not at work, I need that quiet space even more to reflect, recall, recharge. Over the years, it becomes less important to me how people see me or understand what I do, I want to share things that are more important to me. The important things such as unjust situations that need community’s voice, green campaigns that change lives (Nha Chong Lu – Song Foundation), students at Vietseeds Foundation, how things are changing around the world and what that means for Vietnam…
One thing that doesn’t change much is the content I write for myself. I have always been a firm believer of patting yourself on the back, and moving on instead of dramatizing. Most people think I get more serious. I don’t think I’m serious, I’m just more quiet :). I spend my energy on accepting the things I cannot change, and changing the things I can’t accept.
What core skills do you believe are necessary for success in your field?
Attention to detail. Lots of curiosity to master things so that you can simplify it for other people. Willingness to listen.
What is the most rewarding aspect of your job?
To see hotel associates smiling when the hotel is full.
What has been the most challenging aspects of your role?
To stay relevant in a local and international context. I constantly learn, and update myself.
Another thing that is challenging to this industry is its fast growth, which comes with the shortage of skilled human resources. Due to the limited supply, the quality may not be on par with the salary. We often said: “Human resources are the most important assets.” Currently, we updated that by saying – human resources that fit with our company culture, are the most important assets. I want to work with people who think long term, think sustainably, and think equality.
Do you have a network of mentors? Who are they? How did you find them?
I try to learn from everyone I meet, or work with. After each interaction, I tend to reflect on what I did, what people did, and the lessons I could learn from that.
From your projects so far, what are you proudest of and why?
Alphanam Green Foundation, because I was able to start something that combined my personal beliefs with the company’s mission, and gradually make this an important part of our business: to give back to the community.
What message would you most want to share with young professionals?
Pay less attention to other people’s lives. Instead, turn inward and study your own because that’s the only way you can solidify your mission and drive. Each person has the ability to reach their heights in a unique way.
Going hand in hand with that, is to lessen the need to justify. Justifying where you are going, where you are not, your relationship status, your jobs etc… The world doesn’t need your explanations. Be yourself. The world will adjust.
And if you want to make a difference? Just do it.