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Expats get ‘stress-free life’ working in Vietnamese tech

By Dang Khoa   January 12, 2023 | 04:13 pm PT
Expats get ‘stress-free life’ working in Vietnamese tech
Staff work in an office of FPT Group. Photo courtesy of FPT Group
The desire to work in a burgeoning IT industry and experience a new culture led Mexican national Luis Ruvalcaba, 35, to Vietnam.

He came across a job opening on tech giant FPT's LinkedIn page four years ago. He applied and was interviewed by HR, the Senior Project Manager and the Project Owner before obtaining the position of Project Manager.

Working in an environment with talented people in Vietnam, both local and foreign, at FPT Software, a subsidiary of FPT, has left Ruvalcaba feeling energized and has provided him the opportunity to advance his career. "Working here has helped me enhance my time and task management skills."

Ruvalcaba is one of an increasing number of foreign professionals working in Vietnam’s booming IT sector.

FPT has 1,888 foreign employees from 55 countries and territories out of the company’s current staff of 60,000.

As of 2022, Vietnam was home to 70,000 IT companies, up 9.37% from 2021 and three years ahead of the country's original 2025 objective, according to the Ministry of Information and Communications.

According to the 2022 Vietnam IT Market Report by recruitment platform TopDev, companies in Vietnam hired 175,370 information technology staff in 2022, up 36.2% year-on-year, as the country’s tech sector continues to boom with rising investment.

Recruitment demand for IT staff is set to exceed 229,000 by 2023 and 290,000 by 2024, said the report.

Gautham Rajkumar, a 29-year-old Indian Senior Developer at FPT Software in Hanoi, said Vietnam’s IT development far surpassed his expectations when he got here about a year ago.

Even though many international IT workers have already worked for various other companies abroad, many have had unexpected experiences in Vietnam.

There were more than 93,000 foreigners with work permits in Vietnam as of January 2022, according to data from the Ministry of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs.

The less strict implementation of work regulations here made many expats surprised.

Having worked for other international corporations in the past, Rajkumar assumed that Vietnamese employers would adhere to rigid working hours, as what he’d experienced in other cultures.

"But I was really surprised and happy when I actually arrived in Vietnam to see that not all my expectations were true," he said.

Luis Ruvalcaba, a Project Manager at FPT Software, poses for a photo. Photo courtesy of Ruvalcaba

Luis Ruvalcaba, a Project Manager at FPT Software, poses for a photo. Photo courtesy of Ruvalcaba

Meanwhile, Ruvalcaba acknowledged that he initially felt a little lost because he was new to FPT's working methods and had to learn to adjust to how things function here.

He still remembers vividly that he arrived at the office at 7:50 a.m. on his first day because work was supposed to begin at 8 a.m. But by the time the clock had struck 8, no one had arrived yet. They started arriving at around 8:15 a.m., he said.

While it’s common in Vietnam, taking long siestas is a rare practice for foreign IT workers.

He was taken aback when his coworkers shut off the lights and napped on the floor after they returned after lunch. He remembers asking a coworker: "What time do we start working again?"

"I was surprised because nobody sleeps during office hours in my home country," he said, adding that he likes lunchtime here more than in Mexico, where it only lasts an hour at most.

Now he also takes an afternoon nap, pulling his chair back a bit and resting his head on his arms on the table.

Ruvalcaba said his new habit helps him re-energize both his mind and body and this boosts productivity in the afternoon.

Rajkuma agreed.

"There’s no siesta in India," he said. "But this is a very clever way of increasing work efficiency."

Open source, open culture

Rajkuma also finds the friendly and open culture at work in Vietnam beneficial.

Rajkuma, who spent five years working for an Indian software company back home, where he described the working environment as "stressful" due to the "crushing hustle culture," said that Vietnam has an "amazing" work culture and he finds that people here treat each other like family.

Ruvalcaba concurred, saying that he often hangs out with his colleagues after work for food and drink and often attends company or team parties.

"In Mexico, people can just drink on their own. I like it here that people drink together at the same time and cheer ‘1,2,3 Vo!’"

Rajkuma praises Vietnam for its manageable work schedule, allowing him to maintain a healthy work-life balance while living here.

He said that overtime and weekend hours often go uncounted in India. Meanwhile, in his company in Vietnam, all the overtime work "is recognized and is paid."

After working on short-term projects in Japan and South Korea, Ruvalcaba has found that the work in Vietnam is just as hard but moves forward with far more flexibility and a much more positive and team-oriented culture.

Having a cup of coffee and a chat is a common pastime for many in the workplace here, he said. In addition, he noticed that Vietnamese people are more willing to pitch in and work together on projects.

Meanwhile, he pointed out that workers in Japan and South Korea are less open with one another and the work environment lacks a sense of teamwork because everyone is so focused on their individual tasks.

Found in translation

One of the major challenges for foreign IT workers is connecting with their local counterparts through language barriers.

Lukas Toman, IT Security Manager at Home Credit Vietnam, a local branch of the Czech international consumer finance provider, said learning Vietnamese has been a bit challenging. He has to rely on English and ask for support from his colleagues, "who are really supportive and understanding."

Rajkumar also admitted that Vietnamese was a bit difficult to learn and that it kept him away from making new friends, enjoying jokes, and sharing ideas at work.

"Unfortunately, I have missed out on making friends with some colleagues because we can’t speak the same language," he said.

Echoing this sentiment, Ruvalcaba said some of his team members were a bit shy when speaking English, so there was a bit of a language barrier at the beginning.

He and the team overcame this challenge by switching to using messaging apps to liaise with colleagues, allowing them to have more time to think of words or to translate a word if needed.

"I also took Vietnamese classes and picked up quite a lot," he said.

He said he enrolled in Vietnamese classes to communicate better with his team. Though it wasn’t easy in the beginning, he is now able to read, understand and follow what coworkers discuss in chat groups.

Meanwhile, Rajkumar has been helping colleagues improve their English by providing speaking lessons outside working hours.

Despite some difficulties adjusting to the Vietnamese workplace, the IT professionals VnExpress International spoke to like working here and plan to stay.

Rajkuma said he has applied for a temporary residence card and plans on "staying here for a long time."

He said anything new he experiences, from going for bia hoi or karaoke parties with Vietnamese friends, is a memorable moment that he will cherish.

"If you get the chance to live and work in Vietnam, go for it!" he said. "You’re not going to regret it – this country has amazing food, beautiful places, interesting history, loving people and a stress-free life."

 
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