Ask Me Anything 2

Following up on our AMA series, this time we talked about how to excel in one’s career as an international professional in “Ep.2 – Thriving in Your Career” on February 21st. We invited 3 seasoned professionals who have reached senior/managerial positions in their careers.

Giao Le, VPF’s current President, discussed her journey from working at McKinsey Vietnam to a Manager position at Reddal here in Finland.

Sarah Nguyen, an Ex-President of VPF, returned to our event to share more details about how she came to be a Manager at Bain Nordics with an MBA in between.

Huy Bao transitioned from an IT Auditor position in EY Vietnam to EY Finland, where he currently works as a Senior Consultant in the Tax Technology & Transformation team.

Content highlight:

Various questions related to promotion, mentorship/sponsorship, career switch and conflict management were asked. The panelists and the audience derived interesting discussions from these questions.

Finnish corporate culture has quite a flat hierarchy, which in general encourages juniors to speak up. However, our panelists still suggested that you have to first earn the right to voice your opinion to make your suggestion more credible and impactful. This means that once you have proved yourself to be a capable employee, your words will be given more consideration. And when the time comes to voice your opinion, be fact-based, structured and have the big picture in mind.

When it comes to conflict management, it may not always be a good idea to try to confront your colleagues. Oftentimes, you will have to pick your battles to see if it is a really critical topic that can impact you, your colleagues or the company/client significantly. 

Another important component of fast-tracking your promotion, aside from competence, is to have mentors and sponsors. And yes, there’s a difference. Mentors guide you to make good career choices, but sponsors are the ones who can help you move in the firm, either vertically (upward, hopefully) or laterally across departments. Having someone with more seniority in the company to vouch for you can go a long way. Therefore, it is important to seek out both types of help.

There was a consensus between our panelists, that their working environment is generally healthy and has a low level of politics. Unlike the corporate stereotype often seen in, for example the US or Vietnam, companies in Finland may not suffer much from nepotism and politics, but rather celebrate meritocracy. In other words, if you are good, you will get rewarded. So don’t be too worried if you miss out on Friday beers when you don’t enjoy drinking. Our panelists didn’t, and they are still doing very great!

Interestingly, one question also received inputs not only from the panelists but also other participants. It was about how to manage the bosses’ & clients expectation about what can be realistically delivered in a project sprint. As a developer, it is crucial to communicate up front about what can be achieved and what the priorities look like. Being “agile” doesn’t mean that new tasks can be inserted midway and still completed along with all the other current deliverables. A tactful way to reject adhocs could be: “I could do [this task] now, but that would mean I have to de-prioritize the current task. Are you sure you want to go forward with it?” Depending on the answer from the superior, we can move forward knowing that the decision was accounted for. In general, try to present your responses with options and alternatives rather than flatly saying “No”..


We received really positive feedback about the content of the event and the stories shared by the panelists.

VPF would like to thank our three panelists Huy Bao, Sarah Nguyen, Giao Le and our moderator, Phuong Anh, for narrating the conversations as well as Hai Ta for coordinating the event. 

VPF is doing its best to bring more interesting speakers to our future events. We are committed to building a strong community of expats in Finland and looking forward to seeing you at our next events!