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Le Trung Kien was already a junior at CBM when he decided to change his major. Is he wasting his time and potential or is there more to it?

At VinUni, we talk a lot about dropping out, to the point that if someone said that they would drop out, chances are they will stay for a very, very long time. But there are other changes and announcements that even though they might not be as “big” as dropping out, are equally major decisions that could potentially put one’s life on a totally different track.

Meet Le Trung Kien, one of the first students to be accepted to VinUni as a Science in Hospitality Management (BSHM) major or at least that was what he initially applied to. See, BSHM is a fairly limited term as it places every student under the umbrella term of future hoteliers. Kien, however, did not subscribe to the same academic orientation. To him, hospitality extends beyond the realm of hotels or restaurants, to include anything that involves customer service, from hospitals, schools, to airports. Its scope should not be reduced to simply operational tasks but expands to experience design, market research, pre-opening projects, and consulting.

Kien and VinUni's first hospitality cohort, some of whom had been featured on our blog!

The reality is a stark contrast, in which hoteliers often find themselves doing all but manual work, from cleaning to serving. In other words, you are no more than a small cog in a large wheel and Kien could not see himself in such a future. The fear of living under your potential has lived rent-free in his head for two years until he was told of a way out.

Kien did have a go at Operational Hospitality before, like the time he interned at JW Marriott.

Some months ago, CBM announced a new program that allows Hospitality students to graduate with a Business Administration degree and a major in HM. Kien immediately jumped in on it. Now, he is off to Consulting.

Regarding Consulting

The major change came more easily than he expected. After all, he has been a consultant for the better part of his life.

I remember working as a Research Assistant at VinUni’s Provost Office, where I got to do intensive research and provide consultation for Vingroup on their billion-dollar initiatives and projects. Exhausted as I was, I was genuinely happy to see how much I have learned during the process and the impacts I wielded on those projects’ trajectory.
Kien's first Consulting-leaning experience at the Vice Provost Office was life-changing.

The experience was life-changing in that Kien was paid good money to learn and then use the knowledge he gathered to deliver tangible results to his clients. The same pattern can be found in everything he has done, as he continued to reflect on all the past 5-in-5 internships and how weirdly invested he was in the final presentations for companies like Viettel or Vinschool. He loves giving advice and seeing real changes!

Kien and his talented mentees at Avocado! Bravo!

Kien even went as far as starting his very own consulting business called Avocado, in which he focuses on consulting aspiring students on what they could do to achieve their dream of studying at international universities, such as VinUni. Consulting, Kien further realized, does not only do business good but also wonders to each one of us. Eventually, the Management Consulting course he took during his exchange semester in Australia had helped connect all the dots and showed Kien that Consulting is actually for him.

A Vietnamese hospitality student taking a consulting course in Australia? Why not?

Fail first, consult later

Even though Kien was excited about his new-found (long-lived) passion, he initially struggled to live with it.

It’s funny how I started so early only to figure out my interest much later than most of my peers.

After coming back from Australia, Kien waited no time to secure his first internship in consulting, though, to little avail. At the end of the day, Kien is still labeled as a Hospitality student, which poses a big question mark for many of his recruiters, who found it hard to understand why he suddenly applied for a Consulting role. Moreover, he was competing against candidates with backgrounds in Finance, Data, or experience at Big 3 and Big 4. It was clearly an unequal struggle and Kien had a hard time coming to terms with rejections.

Since the demand for hospitality personnel is always high and VinUni was famous for its hospitality program, I have never been rejected by a hotel or restaurant before. Consulting is a different story.
It only took Kien 2 weeks to find a well-paid operation job at a 5-star hotel in Australia.

Hard work did pay off and Kien successfully became a Consulting Intern at PwC, one of the 4 biggest auditing firms in the world. As he navigated the Consulting world, Kien found striking resemblances between Consulting and his old flames, Hospitality. As Consulting also requires you to work with and try to satisfy your clients, what he learned as a hotelier, from managing your clients’ expectation to staying calm under criticism, came especially in handy. Nevertheless, hospitality spirit alone could not solve the macro, strategic problems faced by your corporate clients. You need a combination of hospitality spirit and a business mindset to really excel as a consultant.

Kien joined his colleagues at PwC for a small dinner after work.

Hospitality still holds a special place in Kien’s heart.

Because of the difference in the way I see hospitality and the way the industry is perceived in Vietnam, many people thought I had stopped loving hospitality the moment I stopped working for a hotel or restaurant. This is simply not true.

Although he is not pursuing the operations side of hospitality, Kien is still working to explore the many diverse aspects of hospitality by trying to look at it from other industries' perspectives. For example, his time at VinHMS showed him the possibility of integrating technology into such a human-centric industry and how it could actually enhance the overall operational activities. Vinschool and Viettel Digital, on the other hand, introduced him to the kind of hospitality found in non-hospitality fields, in this case, education and fintech. Surprisingly, it was in those environments did Kien’s hospitality mindset shine the brightest. From creating the best learning experience for the students to improving users’ online touchpoints, customer experience is key.

The more I test, the more I realize how applicable knowledge of hospitality is.

In the foreseeable future, though, you would probably not see Kien the hotelier, except, as he put it, if there is a profound revolution in the way Vietnamese hospitality operates. Yet, I guarantee that for any role that you might see him working, there will always be that perfect combination between business acumen and hospitality spirit.

For the time being, Kien is happy with being the consultant he has always been.




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