Nguyen Thi Nam Phuong, a 2014 RMIT Vietnam graduate in Professional Communication, has spent the last five years learning the ropes of financial journalism in Ho Chi Minh City.
“Before I graduated, I asked my lecturer what kind of work I should do and if she could give me any recommendations,” Ms Phuong said.
“She told me there was a job opening at Vietnam Investment Review and I would be a good fit. She introduced me to the deputy editor-in-chief, and I started working there the same month I graduated.”
Ms Phuong said the job was very challenging at first, as she did not have a background in journalism or business and finance, the newspaper’s main focal points.
“My boss assigned me to write about finance, which I was clueless about,” she shared. “It was like learning a new language. I was really upset about it at first because I didn’t understand what the whole thing was about.”
In the process of writing stories she also had to interview high-profile executives and businesspeople who were often at least twice her age.
“These are big guys in suits, and I wondered if they would be interested in talking to a young journalist like me,” Ms Phuong said.
However, once she got the hang of the basics, the young journalist found that her job provided incredible learning opportunities.
“I read and read and read. It’s like learning English,” she explained. “If I came across a term I didn’t know, I’d Google it and keep Googling it until I understood. Also, the fact about meeting influential guys in suits is they’re always smarter and more experienced than me, so I always get to learn something from them. It’s eye-opening and very rewarding, as well.”
After a few years, Ms Phuong decided that she wanted to pursue a more formal education in journalism.
“I was writing about foreign investment and foreign investors but I’ve never been to those markets, with most coming from the United Kingdom and United States,” she said. “But I didn’t know what kind of market is there or what kind of background these investors have.”
She applied for scholarships and failed three times before being accepted by the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI), a program funded by the US government and aimed at developing leadership among young Southeast Asians.
“I applied for YSEALI on a whim. I was 25 and it’s for students from ages 18-25, so it was my last shot,” Ms Phuong explained.
One of her most prominent memories from the five-week program, which she joined earlier this year, was a visit to the Newseum in Washington DC, where she bought a shirt that says ‘Believe me, I’m a journalist’.
Upon returning to Vietnam, she was awarded a full Chevening scholarship to study financial journalism at the City University London starting this fall.
She hopes to use these opportunities to not only further her own career in the future, but also to help mentor business journalists in Vietnam.
“I’d like to be a Vietnamese journalist who understands foreign investors and understands their mindset,” Ms Phuong said.
“I feel like that is a problem here – you have a lot of foreign journalists who are amazing, but the Vietnamese side is lacking. Also, I feel like young business journalists in Vietnam have it very tough, as I know from experience, and I would love to coach future generations.”
Story: Michael Tatarski