When you’ve got talent and commitment, it’s not just where you’re from, but where you’re going that inspire others. That’s why a story like that of Thaison Nguyen, a Vietnamese-American employee at GE and ex-U.S. Navy officer, presents such a worthwhile lesson.
Thaison was born in Saigon, Vietnam and grew up in the southern U.S. state of Georgia. He grew up in a time where community integration was far less established than one might expect in the modern United States. That created some significant barriers during his childhood as part of a small Asian community.
“I struggled to learn the culture, and the English language at first,” says Thaison, “but by persevering, I managed to overcome the challenge. It’s all about having the right mindset and attitude.”
“It’s all about having the right mindset and attitude.”
That positive mindset and can-do attitude was evident throughout Thaison’s life, and it’s something which ensured he was a perfect fit for the global family at GE. It also prepared him admirably for the challenges and achievements on his journey along the way. According to Thaison, that was especially valuable during his education at the United States Naval Academy.
“I was thrown into a tough and aggressive environment right out of high school. That first year is designed as a screening process to keep the right people, who have what it takes to serve as officers in the U.S. Navy. You’re in the company of the best of the best. You learn that true winners are the people who are able to overcome obstacles, both physical and mental.”
He reflects on his first assignment as a Damage Control Assistant on a U.S. destroyer. If the name doesn’t give it away, that’s a role where diligence and reliability are essential. His captain was clear on the two things expected at all times; understanding the assigned task, and taking care of your fellow sailors. That ethos perfectly echoes the philosophy at GE, positioning Thaison as an ideal candidate after his time with the U.S. Navy.
In 2001, Thaison signed up to a long-established program run by GE in the United States, designed to provide opportunities for, and benefit from the experience of, military veterans. That program is in large part why one in every 13 employees for GE in the U.S. is a veteran.
The transition from military life in the U.S. Navy to industrial life at General Electric may have seemed like a daunting one at first, but according to Thaison, it soon became apparent that shared cultural attitudes to teamwork and commitment made for an easier journey than he originally feared.
“That shared leadership philosophy of leaders who encourage their people and are committed to ensuring you have the right tools and training to do the job – that’s something that both organisations share.”
Perhaps the greatest change came in 2014, when Thaison accepted a position that would allow him to return to his cultural roots in Vietnam. Thaison had worked in Asia for seven years at this stage, having previously drawn to the potential value he could offer to the company’s work in this vibrant and growing region. This newest role provided a return to his roots that resonated with Thaison.
“Having been away for so long, I found myself having to relearn the local culture and heritage. The business environment was slightly different, but I was committed to doing well and contributing to the country… being able to converse in Vietnamese and Chinese meant I felt I could be effective in the region.”
“I was committed to doing well and contributing to the country.”
Cultural understanding is an essential value that sets GE apart. The company is committed to operating in communities and benefitting from shared understanding and shared connections. Thaison’s position in Vietnam offered a perfect opportunity to see that cultural commitment in practice.
These values are universal across GE according to Thaison, who notes that no matter where in the organisation he has worked, the foundation of the business is built on mutual-respect, honesty, integrity, and putting employees first. Those values aren’t just essential to the company as it operates today, but vital to a successful future according to Thaison.
“The world is getting smaller, with increased connectivity and customer behaviour and expectations aligning to a global standard. To be globally competitive, companies like GE need to have the best people, close customer connections and engagement. We need to be agile enough to respond to changing market dynamics… to be effective, global companies should be aware and recognize local culture.”
In this increasingly global world, true connections aren’t just built on technology, they’re founded on talent. Those are people like Thaison Nguyen, who had the honour of serving his country, before embarking on a journey that ultimately led him to serving in a community at the root of his cultural heritage.
Today, Thaison is a manager at a GE factory in Dung Quat, Quang Ngai, a position he has held since 2017. He is responsible for over 300 employees, as well as managing overseas activities related to operations, production, safety and personnel development. What does his journey teach us about the value of culture and a commitment to hard work? We’ll leave it to Thaison’s own words to say.
“When you have a goal, you have to stay focused and be clear on what you want, and your direction. Work hard, get help from others. You can’t do things on your own.”