Vietnamese tech talents find homeland has appealing career prospects

By Xanh Le   March 10, 2024 | 03:00 pm PT
Vietnamese tech talents find homeland has appealing career prospects
A person works on a laptop. Photo by Pexels
Vietnamese tech workers studying and working abroad are returning home in increasing numbers since they find the country offers more opportunities for career advancement than competitive developed markets.

Quan Nguyen, 25, recently quit his job at OpenAI in the U.S. to return to Vietnam though he would possibly earn 10 times more in Silicon Valley.

He says: "There is increasing investment in Southeast Asian tech industries. It feels easier to accomplish things in a Vietnamese startup than in Silicon Valley where I basically have nothing."

Quan received some pushback from his mother, who preferred that he stayed in the U.S. for the much higher pay, but he says that if you are not exceptional in the U.S. it is extremely difficult to make something big.

"Most people like me will just be a normal tech engineer and it is very competitive even to be promoted to a leader or manager’s position."

But he sees that many Vietnamese companies are looking to develop AI and hopes he can contribute his knowledge and also build a career.

Quan is among a growing number of Vietnamese who, after years of living abroad, are returning to the country to seek opportunities in the fast-growing tech industry.

State-owned telecom giant Viettel has been recording steady growth in its overseas markets for the last seven years, including a 20.5% jump in revenues last year.

Private tech group FPT reported revenues topped $1 billion from software for the first time last year.

The layoffs from tech jobs in developed countries have also been causing many to return.

Huu Nguyen, 30, an engineer at Facebook’s parent company Meta, says whenever there is a major layoff, 80-90% of Vietnamese in Singapore would leave for Vietnam. The same trend is seen in the U.S. but to a lesser extent.

"Some of my friends received offers of VND100 million (US$4,000) a month in Vietnam and higher positions than in those countries. They can live very comfortably in their homeland."

Any successful foreign service and product can be brought to Vietnam and modified to suit local consumers, and ride-hailing services is one example, he says.

In foreign countries most Vietnamese can only remain at the employee level while in Vietnam they can be managers or even chief technology officers, he adds.

Nguyen Ngoc Dung, a researcher in innovation and startups, says in the last five years an increasing number of Vietnamese have returned home to work in the tech industry.

The trend has gathered pace in the last two after many global companies laid off workers, she says.

They either work for startups or leading tech firms, she says.

Returning Vietnamese expatriates are always welcome, and one person who came from Silicon Valley was even hired as the director of an AI department at a conglomerate, she says.

Quan is now developing a ChatGPT-like product for Vietnamese, which he says can use the Vietnamese language even more fluently than ChatGPT.

"The standards in research and development in Vietnam are rising and this makes returning talent increasingly comfortable."

Dung says the U.S., Japan, South Korea and many other countries have attained higher technology levels than Vietnam, and therefore people who return from there can contribute much to both reforming existing projects and starting new ones.

Some who found their own startups can create jobs, she adds.

Vietnam’s internet economy is set to see the biggest growth in Southeast Asia by 2025, according to a report by Google, Temasek and Bain.

"There is a lot of freedom in the country for returning talents to research and create new products and services," Dung says.

"They can follow their passion."

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