Parting Reflections, 3 of 3: Next Step

August 21, 2012

You didn’t really think I’d forget about Part 3 did you? Here’s my final blog post. The “big reveal” and Yale SOM’s role in getting me there, after the jump. Precisely three months after graduation – three wonderful months of rest, reconnection, and reflection – I have finally decided where I’m headed next.

Applying to business school in 2009, I wrote about wanting to work in Vietnam. 34 years prior, my mother had barely escaped the country before it launched its failed experiment with Communism (it began shifting to a mixed economy in the late 1980s; that process is still ongoing).

When I looked across the ocean and saw what my life could have been had I not been born in the U.S., it inspired me to share access to the opportunities and freedoms I’ve enjoyed. So – supported by a Yale SOM grant and encouraged by various faculty and classmates – I interned there in venture capital and corporate strategy, explored an idea for a social enterprise, plugged myself into Yale’s local alumni network, and even helped plan a trip for 20+ SOM students to learn about economic development there. I’ve since accrued a number of employment offers through hard wandering, generous connections, and sheer luck. The multidisciplinary education I received at Yale SOM helped me successfully pitch myself for a variety of roles, ranging from senior associate at a venture capital firm to director of a 200-person operations team at an e-commerce company. (That said, I also received a healthy dose of humility in this increasingly competitive job market. For every option I got there were 3-4 that I did not get).

Ultimately, I’ve decided to do strategic planning and M&A work for Megastar Media. The company, which has become Vietnam’s largest theater chain just 6 years after its founding, was bought in 2012 by Korea’s CJ E&M to serve as the foundation of what it hopes will become Southeast Asia’s media content and distribution powerhouse. There were many pros, like joining an entrepreneurial subsidiary backed by a well-financed parent, having very clear upward opportunities, paying off my loans in just 2 years, retaining a fantastic work-life balance, and traveling to exotic destinations with relative ease (I’m already thinking about trips to charming Kyoto, idyllic Bali, newly-opened Myanmar, etc.). That said, I did have significant reservations about leaving the U.S. (see below) and also about the limited degree of direct positive social impact. On the latter, my trusted advisers reminded me that a) sometimes the best approach to strengthen liberty is indirect (i.e. in my case, promoting free expression by developing local capacity to produce and distribute content as opposed to, say, picketing in front of the Prime Minister's office) and b) if that’s not enough for me, I can supplement with non-work activities (i.e. in my case, advising organizations that promote local entrepreneurial capacity, and lobbying for support for victims of chemical weapons).

I won’t be away forever. The U.S. is my home. Filial piety will call me back to my parents as they enter the twilight of their lives. Patriotism compels me, even as I pack my bags, to think about ways to alleviate the systemic struggles of our country. And naturally, my entrepreneurial fire drives me to seek the revolutionary over the incremental. (All cheesy, all true). I close with this from former U.S. President (and Yale alum) Bill Clinton, originally communicated to my graduating college class but of equal relevance to Yale SOM students:

“Be true to the tradition of the great people who have come here. Spend as much of your time and your heart and your spirit as you possibly can thinking about the 99.9 percent. See everyone and realize that everyone needs new beginnings. Enjoy your good fortune. Enjoy your differences, but realize that our common humanity matters much, much more.”

I’ve enjoyed blogging about my good fortune in attending Yale SOM. It is truly unique among business schools and will only become more exceptional in the years to come. Of course, deciding on business schools is intensely personal. I’m well aware that not all who read these words will end up going to Yale or any business school for that matter. But I hope that, wherever we all end up, we hold tightly to that common humanity. Thanks for reading! Note: You can find me on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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Eddie Thai