October 30, 2014

My First Trip to Vietnam

Amongst Waverley’s multiple development centers, the largest are in Kharkiv, Ukraine and Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Engineers at both offices work on similar projects (at times they collaborate on the same projects) and have been getting positive feedback from our clients. As the lead QA Engineer in our Kharkiv location I’ve developed a good working relationship with our QA team in Vietnam but didn’t know any of them personally. On top of that I didn’t have any first-hand experience of Asia. I discussed this with two of our executives: Matt Brown (CEO) and Patti Gosselin (COO). Soon after that meeting I ordered tickets to Ho Chi Minh City and started planning my trip.

I landed in Ho Chi Minh City at midday. A project manager from our Vietnam office met me at the airport. He was so friendly and happy to see me that I decided to visit Waverley office first and check in to my hotel later in the day.

It was mid-September so while still warm in Ukraine it’s nothing like the 77-86F I was met with in Ho Chi Minh City. But I’d checked the weather and I expected it to be hot. What I didn’t expect was a perfect taxi service. I’ve never encountered better taxis than in Vietnam. The drivers are instantly recognizable in their green uniforms and just need to hear the address or see a business card. As in Kharkiv most people in Ho Chi Minh don’t speak English but those “guys in green” do. If you don’t see one nearby you just call a taxi service (Vinasun is the best one) and ask for a car.

VN triptychThe heat out on the streets contrasted nicely with the temperature inside the office. Good air-conditioning was common in Ho Chi Minh – seems like air conditioners are everywhere. In fact, regarding work places, work stations, equipment in the office – everything felt similar to offices in Europe and the US. I’m not sure whether this applies to all offices in Vietnam or only the Waverley office but staff report to work at 8-9 AM and go home around 5-6 PM (in Kharkiv most of our staff arrive and leave two to three hours later, to synch with clients in the US). During the working day the folks in our Ho Chi Minh office have coffee breaks and a one-hour lunch. What I appreciated in their working process: synchronization. At any time you can find a technical specialist in the office; no need to call or chat via Skype to ask a question. Also people in the office prefer to have a lunch all together: it’s like small team-building exercise every day. And what was unusual for me: people sleep in the office if they don’t want to go for lunch or finish lunch early. So during the lunch break it’s possible to have a meal and sleep a bit to refresh brain and body.

During my visit I asked to have a one-on-one meeting with each QA team member to get a sense of strong and weak areas of their knowledge. After completing all meetings I concluded that the team is very motivated to work in IT and have good educations, almost everyone has a technical background, they understand the testing process and generate proper reports, and all are willing to learn more and grow like into true technical specialists. I did at times have difficulties understanding their English pronunciation. Often Vietnamese omit final consonants and medial sounds, confuse sounds etc but I think it’s just a question of time and practice on both sides. The more one communicates with people from Asia the better understanding of their English one has. And any problems are really limited to pronunciation. No problem with their writing and they also understood my spoken English well.

For me in my first visit, Vietnam felt like an unusual country. Food is different, a lot of scooters and motorbikes and innumerable very small shops – not like in Europe or the US where we can buy everything we need in a supermarket. People are very polite, friendly and ready to help at any moment. What I really appreciated and what stayed with me was the sense that anything a Vietnamese person does, he or she does out of consideration for the welfare of the family, rather than for themselves alone.

I am definitely interested in visiting Vietnam one more time to shake hands with the people I met, to meet new people and get a feel for Vietnamese culture one more time. And I hope to do it soon!