Perhaps leaders are made, not born but what if a born leader never gets the opportunity to learn and succeed? Thanh Van Dang’s inspiring journey from market-seller to entrepreneur shows what can happen when young women are empowered to lead.
Thanh Van Dang is CEO of Savvycom, one of 2017’s Top 30 Global Mobile App Developers. She built the company from the ground up and now leads a team of 100 engineers – a significant achievement for anyone but particularly for a woman from the rural provinces of Vietnam. It’s the kind of success she hopes will inspire others to achieve with hard work and perseverance.
As a child of seven Van happily sold peanuts and produce in the village market to help her mother afford everyday needs. Her father, a soldier, came home twice a year. As she grew older Van began to question why some people could afford new clothes while her one new t-shirt each year was a luxury; why some families had new motorbikes and theirs continually broke down; why others travelled the world when her world spanned 80km.
It was only when her father purchased an old computer to hire out to their fellow villagers that Van’s world expanded. She learned English at night school and taught herself to write simple code in Pascal to run a clock. Her excellent high school grades enabled her to study computer science at Hanoi University without sitting the entrance exam. Despite the $30 scholarship application fee of the time being a month’s living expense for Van, the opportunity to study in Australia under an Australian Awards scholarship was worth the risk.
“Four years living and studying in Australia opened my mind. Back then my goal was to leave poverty, but now I am driven to succeed and to not only support other women, but to create an oasis where women can support each other.
When she returned to Vietnam, Van worked in many different roles from researcher to business consultant and coder and representative, which provided a great foundation for starting her own software company in 2009.
Van continues to be one of a few successful women in technology, not only in Vietnam but worldwide.
“In the USA, only 12% of degrees in computer science are completed by women and many women (some 56%) leave their roles in mid-career, and the statistics in Vietnam are similar”, says Van. At the University of Sydney, some 26.4% of people completing IT degrees in 2017 were women, but there is still room for improvement.
Empowering women to pursue careers in IT and stick with it is something Van is passionate about. She told her own inspiring story about what it takes to be a female entrepreneur at TEDx BaDinh 2017 as well as the 2017 APEC Conference Women Business & Smart Technology Seminar and HNEW Empowering Vietnam Women Entrepreneurs.
“I’m a deep believer that we need more women in leadership roles”, says Van. “I will strive to contribute to a community dedicated to helping women to build resilience and find strength in the face of adversity, with shared stories, solidarity and support groups."
Happy International Women's Day 2018
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International Women’s Day on 8 March is a chance to celebrate the achievements of women and discuss what further steps can be taken to progress gender equity.