A Working Woman is a series of articles that aims to share the living and working experience of women at 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.
It’s one thing to want to climb the ladder and find financial support and stability, but it’s a whole different thing to take a huge leap towards becoming someone worthy of emulation.
Vietcetera sat down with Tuyền Vo, or Kelly to her friends, as the Head of Philanthropy Services at LIN Center for Community Development, where she connects different people together to create long-term changes. LIN is a Vietnamese non-governmental organization with a mission to help local non-profits (NPOs), skilled volunteers, and donors to fulfill their potential as vehicles for citizen participation and sustainable development in Vietnam.
Born and raised in Saigon, Tuyền grew up in a small alley in District 10. At an early age, she was already exposed to the harsh realities of life. But instead of setting limits to what she can do and become, she used her struggles to keep going and try even harder. Even before she saw the bigger world, she already had this vision in mind that she can do greater things; so she focused on unlocking her potential and took advantage of every chance she got to improve herself.
Tuyền believes that if we maintain an empowering mindset, disappointment, failure, and setbacks can actually help us. The key to life is to learn from these experiences and minimize the amount of time that we allow ourselves to stay discouraged.
At work, Tuyền links those who want to create social impact to the ones who need it most. But she doesn’t stop there, she’s doing exactly that and more. She started as a volunteer for an NGO while still in the university, and through that, she found her true calling — to serve as an inspiration and to provide an opportunity for others.
What did you want to be when you were a child?
Looking back, I didn’t have a specific dream as a child. I didn’t have the ‘I want to be a doctor, a teacher, or engineer’ because growing up, I didn’t know much. I didn’t have access to the bigger world. What I had was a clear goal of becoming somebody greater than I was then. As a kid, I didn’t know the specific person I wanted to be, all I knew was I needed to be the better version of myself.
Who has been your strongest influence in life?
I was lucky to have someone I can call my mentor. He was about to move back to Australia when I met him at an event talking about Mekong Delta and agriculture. I learned so much from him, not just about his knowledge but the way he looks at things and how he wants to change them. My mentor helped me understand life even more by seeing things from a whole different perspective. He was a story-teller and that’s the best part about him. He shares his life without highlighting his position, such a humble man.
What are you most proud of?
Looking back, I was given the opportunity that helped me reach the dreams I once had but not have access to chances or the right set of circumstances. At present, I am most proud of being able to do what I do — helping people achieve their dreams. Whenever I see it, I give people the opportunity by helping them with their projects and mentoring their potentials. It’s my way of giving back and paying it forward. When you’re doing what means so much to you, it doesn’t feel like work. I don’t stop helping people even outside work, and it's something I’m proud of myself.
With an inspiring story such as yours, do you have plans of sharing it with others and inspiring them?
I just actually started my own podcast. It was my mentor who inspired me to do this, not specifically the podcast but the storytelling and how it touches people’s lives differently. It’s my passion project and I’ve been releasing content for five months now. It’s entitled ‘Dear Our Community”. What I do is I interview people, and they tell their stories as if they’re writing a letter, thus ‘Dear our Community’. It’s like they’re directly talking to the audience. As I said, a lot of young Vietnamese don’t get the opportunity to do more but I’m hoping that through the stories we share, I can make them feel that they’re not alone and that they can do something to achieve whatever dreams they have. Initially, I wanted to write a book but it’ll take time so I decided to do something the younger generations will notice. Doing the podcast is something new and it also gives me a lot of exposure, allowing me to get to know myself more.
What’s your message for your 10-year old self?
I grew up as an independent person, I supported myself to school and did everything on my own. It wasn’t easy but I made it through. If I can send a message to my 10-year old self, I’d tell her to not give up and don’t worry because what’s meant to happen will happen as long as you do something to make it happen. I’m just glad when the opportunities knocked on my door, I opened and accepted them wholeheartedly.
What’s your message to female leaders?
I always say this but going back to my life story, since I grew up independently, I had to take care of myself, but the younger generation now has access to things, and it’s easier to learn any skill now than before. What I’d like to share is building the foundation and knowing your purpose in life is important. Seeking knowledge is easy, with technology you can learn that along the way, but the foundation must be there first. Another thing is, I started from the lowest, I was struggling growing up but now I’m here. So if you’re dreaming of doing something in the future, you can also achieve that. If I can do it, anyone can. Don’t stop believing in yourself.