Like most people in their 20s, Nguyen Huyen My once felt lost in this world, not knowing what she wanted. For a long period of her life, she was told by her parents and relatives what she should do according to society’s standards.
However, things turn around for her when she stepped into the world of tech. As she becomes more proficient in this field, she realized that tech does not only mean coding, rather its ultimate goal is to improve personalized experiences and blur the boundaries between people.
Fast forward to today, Huyen My is the co-founder of proptech Resident, a comprehensive and intelligent real estate management platform, and the champion of the Future Solution Contest in Techfest 2021. She is also the director of the social projects at SheCodes Vietnam and made it to the list of this year’s 25 talented faces of Forbes Under 30 Vietnam.
As we continue to celebrate Women’s Month, Vietcetera met with Nguyen Huyen My as she talked about her stories from an impoverished, country girl to a startup founder and her thoughts on equality in tech.
When did you finally decide to switch to the tech field?
It was the moment when I found myself and understood what I am passionate about and was born to do. Many people would be surprised to know that I did not have everything figured out in the beginning. Growing up, everyone around me convinced me that “a woman should only be pretty, nice, study well then get into a good university, work in a big company with stable salaries, and finally get married.” When I was 23, fresh off college, I got hired to work at a big corporation as a product development executive.
There was a time that I suddenly felt lost, left with no motivation to work. I wondered to myself: Who am I? Do I even like what I'm doing? At that time, I participated in a project which aims to create a Vietnamese digital knowledge system that everyone can have access to without limitations. Although it did not achieve big success as everyone expected, it helped me find my motivation, which is creating equal chances for everyone. It felt like something struck me and made me realize what I was born to do, and that is to not just settle with my initial goal. After that slump, I’ve become someone who is always excited to accomplish her life-long mission.
Why do you think many women are still hesitant to do tech-related jobs?
This depends on many factors. First, women should ask themselves whether they enjoy working in the tech industry. If not, I totally support them working in any other roles that make them feel happy and proud. Second, there are some that want to try but are still having doubts. They might be worried about a few biases in this industry like harsher working environments, fewer chances of promotion than men, constant overtime periods, or losing time for family and children.
However, I believe if there are people who think like that, it is likely that they are not fully ready. For me, our biggest enemy is ourselves. Let's be confident in pursuing our passion and happiness. Only then can we find joy and fulfillment in our daily work. As more companies strive to initiate actions to support women with their responsibilities at home, they will have more suitable choices to follow a career in tech. The good news is, there are lots of women in tech organizations, communities and mentors who are ready to listen to you, share their experiences and provide guidance for you along the way. Therefore, I think external factors are not important issues. This area is not tailored to fit any specific gender so everyone has a shot to improve.
Based on your experience, can you share a few tips on landing a job in tech?
For students who have tech backgrounds, you should start experiencing and find out what roles are best suited to you such as frontend developer, backend developer, business analyst or tester. After that, begin building your profile through personal projects, team assignments, internships, or hackathons. It takes time and a lot of effort but by doing that, you can expand your range of knowledge and skills to prepare for a higher position as you wish.
As for those who have zero knowledge about tech, it is a difficult but not impossible task. You can start by determining what area you take your first steps in and it should be directly related to your studying major. Any type of technology has its own applications. For example, if you study banking, you can look into fintech. Students who learn medicine can explore health tech or medtech. By doing so, you can make use of your advantages, in addition to finding tools to develop or analyze your technological products or solutions. The next step is still figuring out what position fits you, learn more about it through courses. Nowadays, more and more opportunities are available online and offline.
Having no background in tech, how did you build up your knowledge and improve your skills?
If you want it, you can find the way. In tech, there are platforms like Coursera or Udemy which offer free and paid courses from prestigious universities. Some can acquire new knowledge through mentoring programs or tech classes. Compared to my time, young people have so many opportunities and abilities to go further and faster than I could at that age. Today, it can only take up to six months to master basic skills in the field if you are invested enough.
Why do you want to encourage more women to work in tech?
Sometime in 2017, while working on some external projects, I was surprised to see that the proportion of female workers in the tech industry was too small. In a team of 40 people, there were only 4-5 women.
After researching, I realized in Vietnam, women only make up for less than 10% of the workforce in tech. These alarming figures have urged me to create more activities to help women become more confident and get access to this field.
This is the reason why I came up with the idea of encouraging more women to work in tech, hoping to create a place where they can experience working in this industry and be themselves. The perks of having a community like this help lots of women to feel that they are not alone and there are others who are like them. It’s also a great platform to create a wide range of role models to inspire later generations.
What’s your biggest takeaway from working in tech?
Happiness and tranquility within myself. You can only become the best version of yourself when you can be you. I believe in the power of changes that technology can bring to our lives. At the moment, I am using it as a touchpoint to execute the mission of my life: creating solutions that provide equal chances and smart life for everyone.
As a female startup founder, have you ever encountered any difficulties or received doubts from other people?
To be honest, I feel fortunate to never have to feel like I was treated with inequality or had to face too much hardship. In the past, there were partners who asked me, “Why don't a girl like you choose something easier?” and I always wonder why they do not ask men this question and what “easier" work are they talking about.
There is no gender for jobs. Everyone deserves to have equal chances regardless of their gender. Once you focus on perfecting your work, you will never be afraid of hard work or being a girl anymore. This does not mean I ask for partiality from men. My wish is that society can provide fair opportunities and each individual strives for themselves, not for the recognition from others.