It was a few weeks ago that I first came across Next Trainee Challenge - a kind of VinUni’s management trainee (MT) simulation with prestigious big corps and huge winning prizes.
As a competitive CBM student, I was no stranger to these kinds of competitions - you sign up, have your aptitude test, do a couple more team challenges before sitting an interview with the people at the top from leading companies. As easy as it might sound, MT can be a real hassle for both the contestants and the organization team as they require massive amounts of preparation time and intensive working. Thus, I was genuinely surprised to find out such a competition is hosted at VinUni, and not some other hundred-year-old public universities, whose name most of us are all too familiar with.
But that was not the shockest thing to me. Wait until you come to know the people behind the organization team, the ones who initiate it all. Mind you, they cannot be found on campus. At the time I’m writing this article, Le Phuong Ngan (CBM, Cohort 2) and Nguyen Ha Anh (CBM, Cohort 2) were probably coordinating the whole program from the comfort of their rent in France and the U.S., respectively.
On the way towards something big…
Ngan and Ha Anh were, honestly, a powerful duo among our cohort. Smart, hard-working, and overflowing with confidence, the two girls were elected to become co-Presidents of VinUni Business Insider (VBI) at the end of their first year. Leading a big club was not easy and the girls knew that. In their mind, they have always wanted to do something big to not only make VBI stronger but also bring real impacts to their community. And an opportunity knocked on their door: They will get to pitch their ideas and turn them into reality with the help of sponsors on the last Career Day.
The idea of MT did not arrive early though since Ngan and Ha Anh were inexperienced when it came to MT. They were simply “too young” for the kind of programs that ask for third and final year students only. Here, they tried to challenge the status quo and ask themselves “Why can’t freshmen compete in MT programs?”
The common pain point, thus, gave rise to a unique twist on the traditional MT. Next Trainee Challenge is not like any other management trainee. They give the spotlight to much younger participants and aim to create the next generation of talented trainees.
…Big or small?
Remember how I said MT can be a real hassle? I mean it. It is not easy to organize a large-scale competition and the struggles start earlier, even before our co-presidents take a leave for the Western world.
The competition model was changing non-stop, days before our official launch. Even when it was finalized, we had a hard time forming a team of people who could turn those into action. There were just countless rejections and “sorry, I am really interested but I cannot join you!
The situation got so tense that the two recalled fighting with each other for the first time. Ngan was personally on the brink of a breakdown, thinking there was no hope left, but she resisted giving up.
I remember telling Ha Anh to be patient with it and not to give up at that point of time. No matter how small-scale or unimpressive it is, at least we try. The first competition will help create a stronger foundation and resources for the next cohorts to come.
On a side note, Ha Anh did admit that she felt grateful to have Ngan yell at her when she needed it the most.
And Across the world
Thankfully, everything started to get into shape: the idea, the team, and feeling that they have to get this underway. And that was when they broke the news to each other: Both are going on an exchange program miles and miles away from VinUni.
At first, when I knew that I would spend the next semester in Paris, I was glad that at least Ha Anh was staying to keep everything organized and executed as it should be. Turns out, both of us were leaving.
Doing everything from a distance does seem like a dreadful scenario because you know you would not be the first one to react and try to fix when things are not going the way you want. Worse, Ngan and Ha Anh did not even have someone they could wholeheartedly trust to handle things the way they wanted. Fortunately, they managed to learn the simple one thing - delegation.
Come to think of it, it was more of an opportunity than a threat to VBI. As our members are forced to step up and decide for themselves, they grow more confident and resilient than they would have had we been there, guiding their every move.
And studying abroad while working in Vietnam was not really without its sweet charms. Difference in time zone turned out to be their best friend, allowing them to work around the clock and maximizing their productivity (no intention to romanticize this though). And when you’re out in the wild, every good news from home becomes the best thing possible, comforting you along the way.
I remember sitting in my class when I received a message that we have successfully invited Nestlé - a top FMCG firm - to be our sponsor. The feeling was seriously unmatched. I was screaming internally!
Just like the sun never set on the British empire, the work (and the joy) never stops on VBI members’ laptops.
Standing on the shoulders of giants
I once came across a VBI post, in which they expressed their gratitude for “standing on the shoulders of giants.” Old as the proverb might sound, its meaning never gets old. As someone who genuinely cares about the way VinUni clubs portray themselves online, VBI does give off that authentic and sincere vibe. They were not simply thanking for business etiquette, they were giving due credit to the people that contributed to their success.
So I could not skip the opportunity to learn the language of gratitude from the real “insiders.”
“We were seriously thankful to the two former presidents, Ms. Dan & Ms. Thao. Without them laying a strong foundation for us, we cannot make the Next Trainee Challenge come true. We also want to thank other past and current partners, mentors, and sponsors (whom we leverage to the max for the competition) for supporting us.” - Ha Anh
Ngan also did not miss the chance to pay tribute to the members, with whom she worked (and suffered) everyday, from Marketing to R&D to External and Operations.
As the interview came to an end, Ngan told me that she would probably step away from hosting a university event once she gets NTC done. But I guess it’s easier said than done.
At least, for the Next Trainee Challenge’s Finale that is set to take place on October 21st, our dynamic duo will be watching (and praying) from the other side of the world.
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