Chasing dreams is never easy. But for the women helping to engineer Vietnam’s future, chasing dreams has offered both challenge, and hard-earned reward.
Vietnam is a nation with a strong record of promoting gender equality, with one of the most engaged female labour forces in the world. Yet women persistently face challenges and as a nation we must come together to address.
With GE’s commitment to local development of talent and expansion of social opportunity in Vietnam, we’re dedicated to playing our own part in helping tear down those barriers. For the first part of our Chasing Dreams series, we present the story of Le Thi La, of GE Hai Phong Plant.
I was born and raised in Hai Duong. My parents are both farmers, and I have four sisters. We weren’t a rich family, but my parents didn’t force us to help them with farming work. They wanted us to study hard, so that we’d do well enough to attend good schools.
They worked hard to make sure they could buy us all the books we needed for our studies. They even sometimes borrowed from friends or family to do so. My eldest sister would use the books first, then pass them on to me. After that it was my turn to look after them, and then pass them down to my younger sisters. Despite the difficulties, my parents always ensured that we had what we needed.
When I was little, I wanted to become a police officer. Because I loved reading so much, my parents wanted me to become a teacher. But the more I studied, the more I realised that my real talent was with maths. My eldest sister was a teacher around that time, and my parents saw how difficult things were for her. As a result, I changed my focus to maths, chemistry and physics, and those quickly became my favourite subjects.
If I was to be honest, the main focus for me when I was younger was to study as hard as possible. I didn’t really have an idea of what I wanted in the future. I studied hard because I wanted to see my parents happy. I wanted to make them proud. That’s been my motivation since I was young.
My sister was also a very good student. My parents expected that she would have a bright future. But she was unlucky. She did not manage to get into the school she wanted and that hit my family very hard. My mum cried. My dad cried. And that shocked me. I’d never seen him cry before. It made me feel very angry. The same night, I promised myself that I would attend the best university so that my parents won’t have to sad anymore.
Challenges and opportunity
As I grew up, I went to Hanoi University of Technology and Science. I spent five years at university studying electronics and telecommunications. The knowledge I acquired has been incredibly useful. Now I’ve been working for GE for five years, and I’m a Lead Engineer for the Generator Production team, in-charge of managing the engineering team.
Before things became easy, it was very tough for me in the beginning. To be honest I was a little shocked when I first joined. The role requires me to pick up new skills and constantly keep learning. The learning never stops and there were days that I felt like giving up. It didn’t help that my husband and I were trying for children at the same time!
My husband has been and still is a huge help. He is incredibly supportive. He works in a similar field, so he would sit up with me, and learn with me. He actually taught me a lot about electronics. We were like ‘study mates’.
I had to learn to be confident and adapt quickly to the processes in GE. Special projects like leading the NPI projects helped me grow my technical and leadership skills. It’s thanks to these efforts that I was promoted to Lead Engineer. I’m so happy with the recognition GE gave me, and the fact they helped build me into a more professional and confident worker.
At GE, I’ve never felt that employees are treated differently because of their gender. It all boils down to the passion we have for our work. You could almost say sometimes being a woman is an advantage! Working with supervisors and engineers with very different styles, has taught me patience and the ability to listen to my peers.
Now, my job is leading an engineering team to fulfil our production. It’s a challenge for a woman with a young baby but this has taught me on managing a team, resource planning as well as balancing quality time with my family.
One thing that is clear after five years working with GE, is how much importance they place on investing in their people. They really care about developing their employees. GE has provided me with a great variety of training, with resources on skills like leadership, communication and technical skills. I’ve also been lucky enough to visit Ho Chi Minh City for training, as well as travelling to places like France and the USA on business.
When I was younger, I got into the habit of setting life goals, but I didn’t really stick to them. In my opinion, if you really want to succeed, it’s essential you work hard to meet your goals. Don’t just set them for fun.
Finally, whether you are working on a small task or a huge project, always remember to give your best. Even if you’re supporting someone else, it’s always important to work to the best of your abilities. That doesn’t only command respect from your peers but it shapes you as an individual in both your career and in life.