After more than 10 years of working hard in the hotel industry, Ms. Truong Thoai Yen, currently the Director of Marketing Communications of Sheraton Saigon, has been keeping her passion burning. Not limited herself in the tourism or hotel industry, she also explores other fields that interest her and always craves knowledge.
Meeting Destination Review one afternoon after some meetings, Yen still spreads out a lot of energy. She passionately talked about her career path, her love for the hotel industry, and also the endless knowledge of mankind.
What brought me to the hotel industry was very coincidental, but there were signs from the beginning, like the law of attraction that many people talk about. At the age of 18, being interested in and aspiring to work in hotel and restaurant management, I told my parents that I wanted to study in Switzerland, the world’s leading country in this field. Unfortunately, my mom had passed away right before I entered university. Therefore, I couldn’t study in Switzerland and stayed in Vietnam. However, at that time, tourism majors in Vietnam were not really developed, only available in colleges and technical schools. Then I decided to study economics, majoring in business administration. I think tourism is, after all, a part of the economy, so just study it and then move on.
While studying economics, I forgot how much I loved the hotel industry. After graduation, I worked for an agency (brand activation) but 6 months later, I realized that this wasn’t suitable for me. After thinking more carefully, I suddenly remembered my desire to be in the hospitality industry when I was 18. With a good marketing background, I chose to follow hotel marketing.
At the end of 2006, Vietnam officially joined the World Trade Organization (WTO). Media covered a lot of news about opportunities for Vietnam. As a youth, I feel absolutely excited! This marked a big shift in my thinking. Previously, I had never thought that I loved tourism, but I liked writing and wanted to be a journalist. Until that day, I held a Tuoi Tre newspaper featuring an interview with a professor from Harvard University about Vietnam’s tourism potential, with a photo of Ha Long Bay. He said Vietnam had potential but not enough outlook or human resources, which was very hard for it to develop the tourism industry. My pride as a young Vietnamese took a hit when hearing that sentence, so I took it upon myself to learn a lot about the tourism industry so that others won’t underestimate us anymore.
I don’t think there is a situation being changed completely as a turning point, but many a little makes a mickle. If I hadn’t read so much before, I wouldn’t have been pushed immediately like that when reading that newspaper. I’m proud of everything I’ve been through because it made me who I am today. Milestones will naturally appear after being accumulated day by day.
In 2011, when I quit the agency and found a job related to hotel marketing, I wondered who would recruit a person without experience. Anyway, I always believe there’ll be a chance for anyone trying to look for it. Luckily, I was offered the PR Coordinator position at Fusion Hotel Group and worked here for 5 years, from 2012 to 2017. After 10 projects, I was promoted to Assistant Director and then Manager.
As I put all my passion into the industry, I got a promotion very quickly. I have experienced all the functions of marketing whether in a resort or a hotel. Especially when Fusion has many properties, so I must understand all the markets. For me, Fusion means my youth, and is a place where I can learn, contribute and receive a lot. Because of too much energy, I and a former colleague opẻated a small company specializing in brand activation from 2013 to 2017.
After working for a resort, I decided to try working in a city hotel and was invited by Caravelle Saigon. One year later, I decided to start up. In 2018, I opened a European-style restaurant in the center of District 1 but it just lasted for 11 months. From this, I learned many lessons about running a business. While running my restaurant, I also ran many branding projects for independent hotels and patrons. When closing the restaurant, I started my business again since I found like-minded friends to set up a company specializing in solutions for small investors. So said, so done! We operated for 2 years and made about 60 apartments in Saigon, then the Covid-19 epidemic hit and I couldn’t stand it anymore, so I went back into office life again.
It was fate again. I became a member of Sheraton Saigon (Marriott), where I got a chance to show all of my strengths in branding, marketing and communication. As Marriott and Sheraton Saigon are both reputable brands, my daily work is very interesting and challenging. I restructured the Marketing Communications department so that the results are the highest with the lowest costs, just like how I did as an entrepreneur with my own startup.
I have learnt from various sources. I tend to be self-taught, and I think that teach me a lot. I have an infinite passion for learning and want to know clearly about what I learn. It is knowledge that inspires me. For example, if I accidentally see the phrase “mango cheese”, I’ll find many ways to find out why people combine mango with cheese. My whole journey is for knowledge, not to cope with a problem, but out of passion and curiosity.
While researching, I will be inspired by some figure, even someone I have never met. For instance, in the marketing sector, I admire Seth Godin and his philosophy. I bought all of his books, including the English version, to read because I really admire. Before entering Sheraton Saigon, I had learned for years about Marriott, a hotel brand that has existed for nearly 100 years. It inspires me a lot about the founder’s vision, mission and humility. All of Marriott’s core values are rooted in me, including “Put People First”, “Pursue Excellence”, “Embrace Change”, “Act with Integrity” and “Serve Our World”. The two founders of Fusion also inspire me about innovation and originality in product and service development.
When starting up, I met many people, friends and partners who gave me many lessons, awoke me and broadened my outlook on life.
Although I have aspirations, I am not an ambitious person. I don’t need to become great. I’m just passionate about everything and constantly learn new things to gradually become better, contributing more to society.
I have never intended to leave the hotel industry due to my huge passion. The hotel industry in particular and tourism in general are extremely amazing and beautiful because they serve humans. And when serving humans, I also become a better version.
Tourism is one of the spearhead industries of Vietnam. However, compared to the region and the world, Vietnam’s tourism hasn’t really developed yet, so there are opportunities for all young people. No matter the background, as long as you have enough enthusiasm, there’s a position for you in the industry.
I have received so much and haven’t exchanged any. My department is marketing, not operation, so on holidays and weekends, I still have days off, but sometimes I have to solve some big tasks. On days I have to work overtime, I think it’s essential. I know a task being finished will lead to a good result. To enjoy that, I’m happy to work overtime.
People often talk about work-life balance, but I’ve never thought of it. For me, this world is so wonderful, work and life blend together. Living means working and vice versa. It’s not going to the office for 8 hours, then coming back home and thinking that I finally can enjoy my life and rest.
I receive a lot so I also try to give by mentoring and guiding younger people. I feel that the big difference between Millennials and Gen Z is patience. If Millennials like something, they are “stubborn” enough to become experts. Gen Z is not like that, most of them will try many things but if none works, they will easily give up due to being dominated by the technology age. Sometimes, we should be patient enough to know whether we are excellent in that sector or not. Gen Z is more breakthrough than the previous generations but haste makes waste, sometimes they will miss the chance unless they try a little more.
I also learned some small but important lessons that I want to share with you. The first is enthusiasm. When we put our mind and heart into something, the result will be greater than what we expected. Enthusiasm is not showing off loudly, but doing everything as dedicated as possible such as writing an email clearly, pressing staples neatly,… After doing small things well, you can do big things.
Next is positive thinking. You should always see things multidimensional, and sympathize with the situation. For example, there are always unexpected and unavoidable problems in the hotel industry, we must think positively and find solutions, not excuses and blames.
Another lesson I want to share is Accurateness – Completion – Beauty. When you do anything, follow this order. In order to evaluate an issue, firstly, let’s see whether it is right or not. If yes, go to completion, which means improving. The final is beauty, just choose the best and most beautiful version among them.