From the start of the MBA the Global Experience Week was something I was looking forward to. I have never been on a mass class trip before so the concept of visiting Vietnam for the first time with the entire MBA cohort was particularly exciting. The high expectations I had for the trip were comfortably exceeded by a truly life affirming experience that will live long in memory.
Upon arriving in Hanoi you are immediately struck by the intense energy of the
city, thousands of motorbikes – some with up to 4 humans on board – careering along the roads with little to no regard for traffic signals or pedestrians. The sheer mass of humanity along with the fantastic smells coming from the restaurants combine into a fascinating chaos that somehow just seems to work.
The trip kicked off with some interesting guest speakers who gave an insight into the unique business environment in Vietnam and how the history of the country has shaped both the economic and cultural character of the region. This was a theme that would come up again and again throughout the week.
The following day I was in the group that visited the Piaggio plant, a scooter manufacturer. The presenters were impressive and slick and repeatedly asserted that Piaggio’s presence in the country was driven by the local market. However, the reality is that Vespa’s are priced well outside the reach of the majority of the population and thus they hold a relatively small portion of the market.
Midway through the week we flew south to Hoi Chi Minh City, where the legacy of history was immediately apparent. Hoi Chi Minh City is significantly more developed than Hanoi, complete with luxury brand stores and plush hotels. We had the opportunity to visit Saatchi & Saatchi, where the CEO gave us some fascinating insights into consumer behaviour and gender issues in Vietnam.
The trip to the Ho Chi Minh tunnels was incredible, with some truly sobering images of the brutality of warfare. Having spent 2 hours examining the horrors of the Vietnam war, entering into the social events for that evening did seem strange.
Socially there were many highlights, but the Foodie motorbike tour was particularly special and involved amazing food, magic shows, live rock music and was a great way to see the city at night.
There are many things that I will remember from this trip however one memory stands out. In Hoi Chi Minh City we visited TMA solutions, a software design company run by Dr Le Nguyen. Despite being a software firm the lobby is full of historical artefacts and literature honouring Vietnam’s rich and tumultuous history. At this point in the MBA programme, when the cohort is dispersing throughout the world to internships and full time employment, I think this is a poignant metaphor. While we fully embrace the bright futures which I hope we all have in front us, you cannot forget who you are and where you come from. Andrew is a student in our 2016-17 Full-Time MBA class.