Q and A with Minh from North Vietnam
“…learning, continuous learning, and investing in ourselves always pay off…”
Q: Tell us about yourself.
A: I have always been passionate about making the world a better place. This was inspired by my parents, who both had a strong interest in world politics, literature, culture, and people’s lives generally. Since college, I have worked for 30 years in international development on poverty reduction for disadvantaged communities, economic development, and natural resources management. I want to see economies growing, enterprises thriving, the environment staying healthy and beautiful, and people’s lives improving.
I have also been strongly interested in sharing my knowledge and experience and supporting people’s growth. I used to be a dedicated manager and team leader. For the United Nations, I managed and motivated a team of senior, older female, and male staff colleagues to stay strong and deliver during a transitional period for human resources in its Hanoi office in the early 1990s. For the UK Aid program in Vietnam, I was part of and then led a team in 2015 of an economist, climate adviser, and program manager to design and implement projects worth hundreds of millions of US dollars. In addition, capacity building for member countries was one of the priorities in my work on socio-economics with the Mekong River Commission Secretariat until late 2022.
About eight years ago, having survived depression due to a family crisis, I realized I lacked the knowledge and “soft” skills to build good relationships. I had always been kind, dedicated, and responsible, but at times I had also been unaware of other people’s feelings and thinking and in many cases may have thought I was always right. I started to focus my learning on these soft skills, or people skills, to understand men and women more, and above all to focus on my relationship with myself. I learned to love myself, accept myself, and take better care of myself, to be in a much better position to love, accept and care for others, as a woman. I recognized deeply the values of self-love, inner strength, and feminine confidence, and the benefits these can bring to a woman’s happiness and inner peace. After my job as an economist with the Mekong River Commission, I decided to become a full-time happiness coach for professional committed women, who, like me, may have focused and succeeded in their professional lives, but less so in their personal lives…women who would benefit hugely in all aspects of their lives by improving their confidence and inner strength and achieving the happiness they deserve and desire. Here is my LinkedIn page minh-nguyen-050299102 and website www.minhzenliving.com.
Q: What were your younger years like?
A: I grew up in the North of Vietnam when the country was still going through war and then reconstruction. My parents were loving and also strict, and taught me a lot about discipline, hard work, kindness, and respect for others. We were poor, like many other families in Vietnam then, but always rich in our thirst for knowledge and information about our country, and about the larger world. My father would bring back books he borrowed from his university library every week of subjects ranging from history to geography to politics and literature. He would also listen to radio programs from America, the UK, and France (which were considered “enemy” influences then). He wanted me to do the best I could, so he bought me books in drawing, music, and maths for me to explore. I did not do well with art but was much better in maths and English, and I was successful in a highly competitive entrance examination for one of the most prestigious high schools in Vietnam, thanks to guidance from my dad.
Each week I left my family, for boarding school, with high-performing students from all over the North of Vietnam, only returning home with my family on Sunday. It was demanding but also very rewarding. We considered our teachers as our second parents, and classmates as special friends that I still keep in contact with after nearly 40 years, and visit from time to time. I then went to college for teaching English as a foreign language. I did not become a teacher but an administrator with the United Nations office in Hanoi, Vietnam, thanks to my English capacity, hard work, and positive attitude. I also did a second degree, in economics as I wanted to do more substantive work, which I did also with the United Nations as a program assistant managing regional projects. I then got a scholarship to do my master’s in development economics in the UK in my early thirties, with my mum’s strong support in taking care of my small children together with my family. In reflection, I am always grateful for the good education opportunities I had, my parents’ relentless support, and my family’s care for my children.
Q: What is something valuable you’d like others to know?
A: Through the ups and downs of life, I have learned that hard work, discipline, and consistency are important to do well in your work and life. But I have also realized the importance of softer skills such as self-love, understanding of ourselves and others, believing in ourselves, taking care of ourselves, accepting ourselves and others, choosing happiness and positivity, raising ourselves up, and moving on…whatever life throws at us, it is an opportunity for us to explore, to learn, and to further grow. Once we develop the ability to have a basket of tools to use and stay strong and positive inside out, including embracing our vulnerability, we are and will always be fine. And learning, continuous learning, and investing in ourselves always pay off, quickly and sustainably.
Q: What does feminism mean to you?
A: Working previously for a long time in international development, I have been trained in gender equality extensively. I have also been lucky to work in organizations where women receive equal treatment and a lot of support. However, I feel I did not fully understand the “feminine power” as somehow it was widely believed and propagated (at least before in our society) that women may suffer more than men, or that women are disadvantaged (and this latter view is still true in many societies). Only after I improved my knowledge and skills about men and women, and about relationships did I come to know and fully appreciate that being a woman is a beautiful thing, and in fact an advantage in many ways.
Feminism to me is to recognize and take into account the differences between men and women in all activities and environments, and to give equal opportunities to men and women, as all the gender equality rhetoric often says. More personally, and more strongly than ever, feminism to me is about empowering women to appreciate their unique roles and power, at home and in the society at large, as loving, nurturing, supporting, and compassionate forces. I would not seek to compete with men at work or at home. We all have unique and valuable energies to make the partnerships work, at home and at work. And once we women believe in ourselves more, and most importantly love ourselves the right way, we can be successful and happy in all our important relationships. We can live a truly “zen” balance with the world and our loved ones.
Here is my youtube video on feminine confidence that you may find interesting. https://youtu.be/vQAeX4IsVO0
Other things I like to say:
Life is beautiful! trust yourself! And trust the Universe! And thank you to The Woman Wednesday Blog for featuring me and other women, all working hard in our different capacities to improve the lives of ourselves and others.