#63: Zwee Dao Thai Duy

“Thinking about starting up in Vietnam, then Elon Musk decided to retire early, and there I became my own boss early on.”

Duy Dao - Former Senior Product Manager at Twitter

During a conversation with Duy, I sensed something remarkable about him. There’s determination in his work, humility in every story he tells, and the enthusiastic spirit of a young person who has been away from their homeland for many years and wants to return to start a career.

After completing high school, Duy received a government scholarship to study Information Systems at NUS. He then traveled to Europe for internships before returning to Singapore to work for various startup companies for about five more years. After his time in Singapore, he decided to go to the United States to learn for a few more years. The simple reason being that this is where the world’s finest technology and startup “geniuses” converge. With an interest in AI and Robotics, he chose to pursue a Master’s degree in this field at Cornell University. During his free time, he tinkered with building robots, teaching them to walk, and even picking up trash. I stumbled upon his YouTube channel and watching those robot videos was quite enjoyable.

After completing his Master’s degree, he joined Twitter as a Senior Product Manager in the AI domain. After two years and acquiring a wealth of knowledge, he felt it was enough and wanted to start something of his own. I asked him about his decision, whether he wanted to come back to Vietnam to start his own venture or continue in the US. He mentioned that he struggled with the decision for a long time, unsure whether to return or stay for another year to secure the visa. After being away for so long, he felt that he had learned a great deal from various companies in different countries. He also didn’t have the desire to go to another country, work for another company, or pursue a massive undertaking that he hadn’t yet explored. In the end, he still wanted to “come home.”

So, Duy had been working abroad for 13 years, living on three continents - Asia, Europe, and America. It’s no surprise that he wanted to return home. Maybe the universe was telling him that it was time to start his own business and not work for others anymore, especially at his age :D. In 2022, everyone knows what happened - Elon Musk bought Twitter and helped Duy start his own business earlier than planned (Duy laughed as he told me).

During the period when Elon Musk “reformed” Twitter and laid off many employees, my LinkedIn was filled with this topic, and it was quite a depressing read. I was curious about Duy’s feelings at that time, and he shared his experience and that of his colleagues. Some colleagues were disappointed, frustrated, and even angry. It’s understandable because facing pressure to find a new job within two months can be exhausting, especially if you’re not yet done with your US visa. Some colleagues had just taken out a mortgage and were laid off, so it was stressful to pay off the debt each month. Those with children who were laid off faced even more difficult situations. Generally, it was a lot of pressure and stress. Later on, Duy caught up with everyone, and they all found new jobs in a short time. When Duy told me about being laid off, he was quite calm because he had already planned to start his own business in Vietnam, and it just happened earlier than expected. After quitting his job, he traveled around the United States, watched the World Cup, and then returned to Vietnam for Tet. It was quite an interesting experience!

Talking to Duy, I realized something great about him: It’s not about what happens to you, but about your attitude towards it. Stay optimistic and positive, and everything will be okay.

Techie Story is a digital magazine about inspiring tech people who have contributed continuously to Science, Technology, and Innovation. Please contact us at team@techiestory.net if you want to contribute your inspiring story.
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