Doan Kieu My - Chasing the dream of “Superconnector” for the startup world
In light of the fragmented startup ecosystem in Vietnam, the "Superconnectors" like Doan Kieu My in particular and her team, YellowBlocks, in general, are of exactly what we need.
Characterized as people who know everybody and are known by everybody, the Superconnectors are “invaluable people”, as the Entrepreneur proclaimed, because they help bring different people together to create new opportunities and values.
A superconnector can either be a single person or an organization. In those emerging start-up nations like Vietnam, when the key players in the ecosystem were still scattered and disintegrated, Doan Kieu My (Kimiko) has soon realized the absence of the superconnectors.
On becoming a “superconnector”
It was October 2018 when My founded YellowBlocks, a startup company that acts as the bridge to shorten the gap between new and emerging global technologies and their practical implementations in Vietnam’s current enterprise scenario. And the idea of being a superconnector is the primary inspiration of the startup. Superconnector, in its truest meaning, is a term for a person or an organization in society that helps people to connect and create strategic partnerships with others from different fields.
“To be able to do this, a multi-disciplinary comprehension is indispensable, as well as negotiation skills, communication skills, and most importantly, a true passion for connecting people and disseminating values for the society. Along with creating a social hub for businesses, we also utilize our interdisciplinary expertise in media consulting and brand positioning to provide services for many technology and investment companies”, Kieu My said.
Over the past year, YellowBlocks has established many strategic partnerships and signed MoUs (Memorandum of understanding) with four official governments, namely Vietnam, Australia, Singapore, and Austria.
According to Kieu My, this year YellowBlocks has proposed three pivotal objectives: supporting the technology community; expanding its PR-Communications service package among Vietnamese enterprises, and keeping its position as a reliable source of information and assistance for foreign corporations and investors who want to do business in Vietnam. Bearing these substantial undertakings, the team knows that challenges are inevitable.
“The consulting business model has not been properly understood and appreciated by the majority of Vietnamese businesses. We always find it difficult to explain to customers that the values that we provide are not merely counted by a ten-hour consulting session, it is indeed the knowledge accumulated and distilled over many years of experience, with appropriate adjustment to produce the best proficiency and values for each specific company. That is why we, even though really want to help Vietnamese businesses, find ourselves providing services solely for foreign clients.” said Kieu My.
What quality shapes a superconnector?
One common thought is that people possessing a broad network can become a good superconnector. The truth is not that even close, and it’s never easy to become a superconnector. Besides having interdisciplinary knowledge, they have to show unparalleled shrewdness, strong business acumen and recognize clients’ needs at the very first glance.
“YellowBlocks did not have a clear orientation when it was first founded. Because every country differs from each other in the development stage of the high-tech market in general and among startups, in particular. Not to mention that this job demands thorough assimilation of many cultural aspects of the client’s country. Nonetheless, YellowBlocks has acquired for itself a solidified set of core values and secured a firm foothold in the market only over a course of one year.”, said Kieu My.
Those established core values are, first and foremost, Trust, Integrity, and Ethics: each project demonstrates our pride, trust, and heads towards superior quality.
Secondly, Value-driven: the primary motivation that keeps us grinding every day is to bring true values for our clients.
Thirdly, Respect: YellowBlocks owns a diverse set of different platforms. The team respects the difference from platforms, ideas, contributions, and the hard-working attitude.
Fourthly, Collaboration: we believe in the idea of sharing the cake to make the cake bigger, not keeping that cake only for yourself. Every project at YellowBlocks is executed with the “win-win-win” mentality kept in mind.
And finally, Passion: this is the catalyst and source of energy that keeps the company grinding day in and day out, on the right path that we’re committed to go through.
When speaking of success from an individual perspective, Kieu My doubtlessly put “Trust” atop. It’s another measurement of outcome, yet a much more reliable one. “A successful person is the one that obtains the trust - from clients as well as from employees - based on his efforts, commitment, abilities, and performance. For me, “trust” is a vital factor, both in work and in personal life. That explains why I have many friends and all of them are very ‘authentic’.” She said.
Kieu My - a perfectionist superconnector
After receiving her bachelor’s degree in Computer and Telecommunication Science (Helsinki University of Technology, now Aalto University, Finland), Kieu My then returned to Vietnam to join an information system integration company, wholeheartedly devoted to the work.
"From the early days of employment, I always thought that if I was paid one dollar, I needed to create 10 times that value for the company - because I was in the front-line team - directly in contact with customers, and the task was to ensure harmony for the back-line team to operate together.
Later on, as an executive manager, I took the role in both front-line and back-line, and that made me obsessed with the thought of optimizing internal processes - and values for customers. The logic of science had been embedded in me that I always tried to experiment new things, not just renovating old things.”, she said. According to My, after a year working, she felt a lack of business expertise and decided to sign up for an MBA program at Gloucestershire University, England.
The founder of YellowBlocks admits, her perfectionism is sometimes a blessing, but oftentimes, it’s a curse. “There were many times when my employees or partners finished a preassigned task, but since the product was released with my name and YellowBlocks logo stamped in it, I had to burn the night oil until 3-4 in the morning to review even the smallest details like the wordings, or if the semicolons were put in the right place.”, said Kieu My.
My is still happily married to her work, 24/7, without knowing the concept of weekends for many years. Her day starts early at 6 in the morning and finishes no sooner than 1 a.m the next day. Those online and in-person meetings on planes, on cars, in the office with employees, partners, and customers just keep queuing up. She even lets work blend into her rarest personal time: checking emails during lunch, or late at night; sparing her downtime to instruct and train the team on new projects, etc.
The rest of the day will be spent on family time. No matter how hectic her schedule is, she always manages to spare one to two hours before bed to read. Her frequent book titles range from Leadership mindset, Business mindset, technology, innovations… “That is the time when I can get reset and revivify my energy, at the same time accumulating multifaceted perspectives in different fields.”, She said.
In the upcoming days, Doan Kieu My will be the first and only representative of Vietnam to be invited by Victoria State government (Australia) to attend the Victoria Global Women in Business Summit. She plans to share more about the overview and outstanding initiatives in Vietnam such as the “Women in tech Vietnam” community. At the same time, she wants to address and discuss to tackle the obstacles that hinder the participation of women in the tech industry and share examples of successful women who have substantial influence in the tech industry in Australia, as well as in Vietnam.
Before the trip, via The Face, Kieu My wants to share her three life lessons with young women wishing to venture into the field of technology.
The first is the capacity to connect. Perhaps people will think that going to events, meeting a bunch of new people will be a waste of time because we’ve already had many social networking platforms. However, it’s the way you meet, interact, and connect with others at an event in a real-life setting that sets you apart and brings you opportunities that you could never expect to have otherwise. "Go to an event, think of whom you will plan to meet at the event, and what will be exchanged during the meetup. From these networking times, you will meet more people and learn heaps from their past experiences, even if it was a success or failure.
The second is to develop a variety of skills and knowledge, rather than focusing only on technology. Technology itself is just a regular field of study, not too intimidating as people might think. There is practically no need to study too deeply technical knowledge. But women who want to work well in technology need basic knowledge in related industries such as Tech Understanding, Business Understanding, Marketing Understanding, Finance Understanding …
And to wrap it up, no matter if you’re a man or woman, we all will eventually face challenges and opportunities in our careers. Regardless of gender, we are all individuals with thoughts, ambitions, and passions. Find out what you want to do and be completely determined for it", Kieu My said.