A Working Woman: Thuy Minh On Speaking Up And Being A Mother
Viecetera spoke with Thuy Minh on working as a mother, not settling in your career path, and being spontaneous and true to who you are as a working woman.
A Working Woman is a series of articles that aims to share the living and working experience of women in the beginning of their careers. This series seeks to primarily target aspiring young women in every path of life. Each episode contains lessons and values from the work and life of a working woman.As a working woman and mother, Thuy Minh emphasizes always putting yourself first and speaking your mind.
- Occupations: Journalist, MC, VJ, author, and television formatter
- Books: Boy-ology (2014), #MinhvaLinh – Hai chung minh di khap the gioi (2015)
- Programs: Van tay IME (VTV6), Ghe do (YanTV), Bitches in Town, Khong Cay Khong Ve (Billboard Vietnam)
- Mother of Linh and Midori
What is the one value that you never compromise as a working woman and how does it influence your career?
It may sound as if I heavily emphasize my ego, but always choose yourself and your feelings. Everyone usually thinks that emotions are something that is impulsive […] Despite knowing the toll it takes on my [reputation], I feel that I need to speak my mind often.
I think this value has a crucial influence on my career as a working woman in Media and Communications […] Working on shows is a way to lift emotional “blocks” off my shoulders. All the programs and content I worked on reflected my thoughts and emotions at that moment in time. The way I approach a topic also stems from my personal knowledge and my life experience. [Only through that emotional and experiential connection] do my products reach an audience. If I am not fond of what I did, how can I expect others to be enthusiastic about my work?
The same thing applies to life outside of being a working woman as well. There will always be arguments and debates between you and your colleagues, your loved ones, your enemies, and those who don’t know you well. When argument bursts out, I’ll think about the probable consequences. Will I lose my job or hurt someone’s feeling [if I speak up]? Meanwhile, I also ask myself […] what do I want to say and is it important to my own feelings?
Ultimately, I have only one value: to respect my own feelings.
“Everyone says I am a feminist figure […] I gave a TED Talk about this issue. However, I don’t want to be involved in activism because it causes me to feel inferior. If I am a woman, I will just simply be a woman.”
How did you find the path leading to your current career?
From my childhood, there has always been a voice inside, telling me to work on something that has to do with […] claiming justice. I [followed] that aspiration by working as a lawyer […] However, in my teenage years, I had created my own editorial newspaper for my class, and then for my school. I didn’t think much about it back then, but all my teachers had told me that I should become a journalist. Subsequently, Hoa Hoc Tro (Vietnamese E-Magazine) discovered my newspaper and introduced it to its readers.
When it came to applying to university, I enrolled in the field of Journalism and the Arts. I failed the entrance exam for Journalism. Still, when life presented obstacles, I worked even [harder] to succeed. Because I failed the exam the first time, I was more determined [than ever] to become a journalist.
From journalism, I knew that I needed to learn about other media platforms such as TV, radio, broadcasting, […] but that wasn’t enough [for me].
I decided to work for an online gaming firm. This job revealed a whole new world to me and pushed me to start thinking more in the digital direction. [Now, the digital era is upon us].
In terms of my career, I allowed myself to not be restricted by industry, and to see where spontaneity led me. In my opinion, one should try a variety of things, and depending on different times and environments, your personalities and perspectives will [align] with a [certain] type of profession.
Thuy Minh attributes her success as a working woman and mother to her mentors, those that were willing to teach a new generation.
How does your work influence your overall life as a working woman?
I always love to work in many professions and occupying my time with many tasks [as a working woman]. I believe that working on a new task helps me transfer to a new state of mind, as well as helps me overcome the limitations of the previous state of mind [and it makes me happy]. Therefore, working women are happy women if they know how to take advantage of that happiness. It is being able to “release” [stress], to throw yourself into new challenges, to be in many places all at once. Hence, I don’t think work is something separated from my life; on the contrary, working is like breathing. It’s a part of my body and helps define who I am.
Please share some memorable moments in your life and career as a working woman.
There are two moments that are always at the back of my mind.
One [instance] is the first time I moved to a new city. Now, new cities equals new excitement for me, but when I was younger, it meant loneliness. I remember writing an article named “A new city.” It was about the feeling of a young person, too young to move to a new city. This person did not know what to do yet. They couldn’t stop feeling like they had to take on the whole world. Regardless of all that, she still had to show to the world that she was strong-willed and knew it all.
The second-most memorable moment is when I chose to give birth as a working woman, pausing my career for one year. Back then, I often hosted stage programs and long television shows. [When I chose to have a child] I had to defer roles that I wanted to other people. At that time, I couldn’t say I was even having a baby, morning sickness or that I was tired on stage.
I was a little disoriented and confused [in those two moments]. Everything turned out to be all right [in the end].
“I am confident that in some corner, at some point, there will always be a person from whom we can learn something.”
Has there been a time when you cowered behind your own career as a working woman?
I am convinced that even in the most glorious career, there will be at least one or two years when […] nothing goes smoothly. I found myself in that situation when I was 25. Back then, my program was shut down for three months due to a minor excuse. That was the only time I fell into depression, not wanting to do anything. It felt like all my efforts resulted in nothing. Everything betrayed me. I locked myself inside for a couple of weeks.
Then, I realized that there will always be other choices waiting for me; if life doesn’t offer plan B, there will still be plan C, D, etc. Life comes around to [help you] learn how to satisfy your own emotions, understanding that happiness is right where we are standing, not on an imaginary peak that we need to conquer. Women need to accomplish happiness [first before conquering a goal].
Do you have a mentor for your career? What are the perks of having this relationship?
Of course, I do. If I didn’t have a mentor to guide me through stages of my career, I wouldn’t have become who I am today. I am very fortunate because all my mentors are female. They are the people who see potential before [we do]. For example, Hoang Mai at Hoa Hoc Tro editorial, MC Diem Quynh at VTV, or, recently, Dr. Phuong Mai — all inspired me to learn more about Neuroscience.
Mentors are people with great personalities[perhaps] because they were also guided by seniors early in their career. Helping out inexperienced mentees is a way to return the favor to the people who helped them in the past.
In Media and Communications, guiding the [next] generation brings benefits – that is, it keeps us from [growing] obsolete. I usually voice my opinion from my perspective and ask [my mentees] to respond. For me, the young generation breaths new life into our times. They [also] bring forth perspectives that makes ours out-of-date. [This new viewpoint] is a perk of guiding [future] generations.
“My most prideful thing hasn’t come yet.”
What is your advice for young people aspiring to work in Media & Communications?
I only have this very general advice since I believe that mankind is full of variability. You should learn more, read more, meet more interesting people; put yourself out there and confront your fears […]that’s it.
What is one thing that has changed since you became a mother? What is your secret to regenerating energy to accommodate your busy working life?
The downside for working women who are mothers is the [invisible] tie to their children. I am afraid that the fathers do not feel this “invisible” knot as intensely as the mothers do. Whenever my meeting overlaps my kids’ pick-up time, I get very anxious. I realized the longing to come home to my kids is very real. There were times when I would come home late after work and my kids were up even before I stepped foot inside the house. Children have a bond with their mother, something so special that they know their mom is coming home […] After having a baby, all women will soon discover this unique instinct.
“I oftentimes joke that men have a box in their brain called the “doing nothing” box. Contrarily, women’s brains do not contain this box because we are always do something.”
I set up a rule for myself called the “pulling” rule. This helps me understand that I and my child are distinct individuals. Vietnamese moms are used to thinking that they are one entity with their children. In fact, children aged six and above do not really need their parent. They are occupied with the quest of understanding themselves. By that time, we parents only have to observe and support our children if need be. As a result, we can allocate our time logically and set up a timetable that includes working time, time for our children, and time for ourselves.
Another tip is to go on a short solo trip. I make sure my children are well taken care of. Going on a trip will [carve] out some personal time for yourself — which is important to helping [renew] your energy.
Are there any differences in the rearing of your daughter and son?
From the outside, I treat them both equally. However, I recently pick up a tip from Biti’s campaign which encourages young girls to speak positively about themselves. So, I often ask my daughter, “Who is pretty? Who is smart?” And she will reply, “I am pretty, I am smart!”
I do think that although social structure and culture cannot be redefined all at once, we can change ourselves. Therefore, I hope children and even more [working] women can be more self-aware of their own values, becoming more self-confident, taking good care of themselves, knowing their own strengths and weaknesses and thriving to become the best version of themselves.