We recently spoke with Thuy Anh Vu, SFMBA 2021, about how she is using her time at MIT Sloan to best position herself to pivot from finance to healthcare. Anh also discusses the importance of networking when seeking new career opportunities.
Could you tell us about your career journey prior to MIT Sloan?
Prior to Sloan, my background was mostly focused on finance and corporate development. I have worked around the globe, starting in London as an emerging markets fixed income trader with HSBC. In 2014, I moved to Singapore as a commodities trader for Trafigura, the second largest commodity trading house in the world. I then transferred to Myanmar to manage their trading and business development. I came back to my home country of Vietnam a few years ago to set up an in-country private equity practice, focused on investing in healthcare and fintech. Immediately before coming to MIT, I was the CFO for Vietnam’s largest homegrown ride hailing company.
What brought me to Sloan was the need to continue to broaden my skillset – especially in leadership, technology, and data analytics. I think in the future, those are the key levers for better decision-making as a leader. I was also very interested in healthcare because I think it is one of the last remaining industries that is ripe for disruptions. Yet, healthcare has not changed a lot yet, and I wanted to understand why. I have spent the majority of my time at Sloan learning about both the supply and demand side of healthcare which are healthcare delivery, biotech industry, and also continued my interest in fintech.
After Sloan, I am looking to advance my career within the finance and corporate development domain in the US, and eventually pivot to healthcare.
How has your experience at MIT Sloan helped you to develop a marketing pitch?
I spent a good amount of time within the Action Learning-driven class in healthcare labs, and in Professor Andrew Lo’s healthcare finance class to learn about biotech. Those are phenomenal resources, because not only I learned through the lectures, but there have been a lot of high-caliber speakers that come and share their stories. They have allowed me to understand what the current trends are, and what is next.
I’m also part of the Healthcare Club – and other clubs as well – and there are a lot of opportunities for startups.
In terms of what is very helpful for me, it is to craft my story. It’s an ongoing process, and it’s been very helpful to have time with the CDO. When I started my journey, I had a very broad view of what I was trying to do. Career success is a lot about narrowing down to what I am good at, what my focus should be, and what my priorities are.
What is your approach to networking, and how do you build and maintain contacts?
This is a very special year, so the Fall was a lot about just getting myself to Cambridge and being present there – attending classes, meeting, and getting to know my classmates. Since December, I started to spend time thinking about networking strategy and who I should be in touch with.
Also, as I am part of the Sloan Fellows program, the career options are not the same as with the two-year MBA program. The role I am looking for will be more senior, where you are expected to lead a team. Those opportunities do not come without networking.
There are several avenues that I look at for networking- one being through the CDO, and the other is the Alumni Network. I look for specific alumni through industry advisors, and it has been quite good in terms of maintaining contacts after an initial conversation. I also did not ask for specific roles, but focused the conversations about what they do, and how they think I should be positioning myself or whether my stories make sense. Finally, some of the events hosted by different clubs have also been helpful in making networking connections.
What advice would you give to students about networking?
Number one is having the right mindset toward networking. You network firstly because you are curious about the industry. Getting the job comes second. For me personally, right now it is more about finding the right organizations and the right team that share my values and my ambitions of what I want to do for the next five to ten years. My advice is to remain curious and want to learn more not just about the job, but also about the person you are meeting with.
Did you have to make any tough decisions throughout your career journey?
I always choose to end something because I have thought deeply about what I value and what makes me happy.
For me, work is very satisfying when you know that your work has a lot of value and impact on people around you – your coworkers, your organization, your customers, or the society that you serve.
The second thing is about learning – recognizing when you’ve learned something new and thinking about things that I don’t know.
Moving on from a job is a tough decision. It is always a difficult decision to determine the right time to stop – even if you are at the peak of your career. As I looked back at decisions I have made, those were because the job did not fulfill these components that I mentioned above.
What’s the best career advice you have received?
I am very purpose-driven but also results-driven, and I get things done efficiently. However, as you move to a new organization, you need to learn to be patient because other people move at a different speed than you. The best advice that I got was to set the right expectations for yourself, and then take the time to also learn about other people’s ability and speed. Then try to put yourself in the position to help everyone else around you move at a better speed.
Any last piece of advice you’d like to share?
Job hunting is a journey, and you should always look at it on a positive side. If something does not happen it is because something else better is coming and was meant for you. I am just waiting for that miracle, but while waiting for that miracle, continue to explore and build the right connections, build the right mental strength to enjoy the journey.