#89: Chau Vu

“Establishing a career in the US makes me want to build a community to support those who follow me, especially building a network of relationships and ‘learning how to learn’”

Chau Vu - Co-founder, Career Coach @ TechCare Coaching

I started my journey in the US at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) with a major in Biochemistry. During my first three years of college, fueled by passion and foundational knowledge from my previous studies in Chemistry at the Natural Sciences specialized school, I dedicated myself to research in the university’s lab. However, I gradually realized that the research and job opportunities in this field were not very extensive for international students.

At that time, all I knew about Computer Science was that it offered numerous opportunities and high demand for employment. Taking a risk, despite studying Biochemistry until my third year, I decided to change my direction to Computer Science. Luckily, during that winter, I received my first internship opportunity even though I had only taken two introductory classes. I graduated with a degree in Computer Science from MIT with a few good offers, and have been pursuing the technology field ever since.

During my 10-year journey of building a career in the US, I encountered many challenges. As an international student burdened with financial responsibilities, in my first week of enrollment, I immediately went to the International Student Office to explore part-time job opportunities at the university. Throughout the 4 years of study, I practically juggled between studying and working, sometimes even working 20 to 40 hours per week. Studying in an environment with exceptionally talented peers at MIT was also a challenge that required tremendous effort and a resilient mindset to persevere.

Once I got to work, even though I worked in big tech companies that were very supportive, however, as an “international worker” and a “woman in tech”, I still faced certain barriers, especially during the period when I became a mother. There were days when my physical and mental health declined, but I had to push through because I didn’t want to lag behind in my career path. Fortunately, my husband, who also works in the tech industry, provided me with significant support. All of those challenges forced me to push myself beyond my limits, and gradually learn how to “force myself” to become more efficient, handling more tasks in less time.

I realized that I shared many similarities with young people in Vietnam. I, too, had almost no mentor or early career guidance, and my learning and research methods were not initially effective. Therefore, when faced with a new environment or a significant challenge, I might not have had sufficient knowledge and experience to overcome them. Later, when I had certain achievements, I spent several years mentoring them and creating an environment for them to network with each other. Previously, I didn’t know how valuable the network was, but when working, there were times when I needed help with side projects or areas I was unfamiliar with. At that moment, I truly appreciated the people I had known for a long time, with whom I had built a strong rapport and trust to work together.

That’s why I want to create a community so that in the next 5-10 years, or even in the next few years, whenever you need to apply for a master’s degree, apply for a job, or tackle a project, you’ll know exactly where to find the right mentor for guidance and support. I also realized that there are very important skills, and they have helped me “survive” in the tech industry. These skills include effective learning, communication, and conveying ideas. You may think these are just “soft skills” and not important, especially for those working in the technical field, but that’s not true. To be able to develop well in the tech world, a world that changes every day with new technologies, knowing how to learn effectively is very important.

I want to normalize the fact that as an international student, or a woman pursuing STEM fields in the US. You may encounter many difficulties. But if no one talks about such questions and answers, society will not know about these issues and it will be difficult to find ways to support you. That’s why I established Techcare Coaching. I want to mentor you more effectively and systematically, and convey my message more strongly. I don’t want you to feel pressured or feel self-conscious that “I’m not good enough” to pursue this field, because I believe that whether you’re good or not depends on your skills, and every skills can always be learned.”

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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