Last week, I said goodbye to my time in Ho Chi Minh City. Summer 2017 is by far, without question, the best summer of my life. Being a part of the SEO fellowship program, living in a big city, and most importantly, interning at VincaCapital, I have learned and grown so much this summer.
The internship at VinaCapital has offered me first-hand experience and valuable insight into the finance industry. I learned the operations of an investment fund as well as the responsibilities and daily work of a typical investment analyst. I got the chance to practice doing research and analyses every day, building financial models and delivering presentations. I also met many colleagues with whom I have built close relationship with and expanded my professional network.
This summer was also the busiest summer I have ever had. Besides my internship which probably took up 9-10 hours every weekday, I had to attend a series of training and events by SEO program and did several summer assignments for the INP and my future class in Norwich, England. For a long time, I struggled with my busy schedule and fell behind. But slowly, I tried to manage my time better by setting specific goals and did my best to stick with the planned schedule.
My time in Ho Chi Minh City has been very challenging and fulfilling. I have to thank Dickinson and the Internship Grant for making this rewarding experience possible and supporting me throughout this process. Now, I am ready for new adventures in England next semester and look forward to coming back to Dickinson in the Spring, hopefully becoming a much more grown person than when I left school last May.
Below are some lessons that I learnt from both my summer internships at E&Y and VinaCapital, hopefully this is helpful!
- Take every task seriously. Some tasks assigned to you might fell short of your expectation. Whether it is taking photocopies or manually typing in numbers for models, I try to give each job 100% effort. It may be trivial but proving to your supervisors that you can excel at even the smallest thing can substantially gained their impression and trust.
- Always be eager to learn. Be a proactive intern who constantly show your interest in learning. If you finish a task early, ask if there is anything else you can help. Your learning curve will be steeper and your supervisor will be impressed with your dedication.
- Improve your skills and learn new skills. Try to work on projects that suit your skill set so that you can strengthen them. At the same time, don’t hesitate to step out of your comfort zone and learn new skills.
- Constantly seek feedback. You cannot improve your skills without knowing what needs to be improved. After you finish a task, ask your colleagues and supervisors on your performance at specific areas.
- Building relationships with colleagues. Having an internship is a good opportunity to broaden your professional network. Get to know as many people in the company as you can and let them know about the projects that you are working on. You might learn a lot from their experience in the field and they might offer their help on any task that you are working on.
During my time at VinaCapital, I have become very close with my IGT team. Our team has the youngest analysts in the company and since all teammates are around the same age, our team bonds together very easily. Everyday, we share small talks about our lives and discuss the littlest things like a new movie release or our favorite milk tea brands. Sometimes, we discuss the daily movement of stock markets or the companies we are following. We also often grab lunch together, trying out a new place to eat each day (our company is located in the central of the city). Our team also has a shared budget for small gatherings as well as snacks and drinks during breaks. Nonetheless, when it comes to work, these people are among the most serious analysts that I know. They all shared some common traits: focus, goal-driven and hard-working. We usually work independently and rarely share a team project (that’s the nature of all teams at VinaCapital). However, the analysts in my team are always friendly and willing to help each other, even when they have already been occupied with their own projects. Though VinaCapital doesn’t have any formal training program for interns, the mentorship that I receive from my teammates has helped me so much during my internship. I am very glad and thankful to be a part of this dynamic and supportive team and will cherish the close relationship that I build with each person in the team.
Last week, we celebrated an analyst’s birthday and just like any other employee’s in the company, the celebration was very small and cozy. We ordered a birthday cake but since it’s a team tradition, it was not very surprising 🙂 At 5:30 PM, all team members went out for a small snack break (hosted by the birthday guy) and when we came back to the office, everyone was feeling happy and ready to work.
At the beginning of my sophomore year, I started looking for a summer internship in the U.S. I just finished my first internship at Ernst & Young in Hanoi, Vietnam so the first thing I did was updating my resume with my recent job experience. I knew that in the future, I would be asked about this internship so I wrote down some reflections on the tasks and projects I did, problems that I faced and how I dealt with them as well as other things I had learned from this experience. Apart from this internship, I also reflected on other positions in my resume, such as the Student Investment Group and Teaching Assistant. I believe a deep understanding of your past and current experience is very important during interviews. Whenever I was asked with a behavioral question, I tried to look back at all of my experience and find a story that best fits the answer for the questions. Besides polishing my resume and preparing for interviews, networking is undeniably important. As an international student, I cannot rely on family’s connections to get me an interview at a U.S. firm. I started networking with alumni who were members of the Dickinson Student Investment Group. The alums were very willing to help me prepare my application and refer me to HR department. Though I was able to attend some interviews, I unfortunately did not make it through any companies. As December was approaching and most firms had closed their internship applications, I looked for another direction. I thought about going back to Vietnam and finding a summer internship there. I knew a lot of my friends who were Dickinson upperclassmen secured an internship in Vietnam through a program called Sponsors for Educational Opportunities (SEO). Basically, SEO is a summer fellowship program that not only connects students with internships at prestigious firms in Vietnam but also trained them to be successful young leaders. Though the acceptance rate was very low, I successfully passed all three rounds and was accepted as an intern at VinaCapital.
While I didn’t succeed in my initial goal to have an internship in the U.S., the process of finding the internship was a valuable experience. I learned the habit to reflect on every working experience and prepare in advance for many interview questions. I also practiced my networking skills a lot and build up relationships with many professionals who may help me in the future. And finally, moving to Ho Chi Minh City and working at VinaCapital is one of my best decisions. Though I was initially worried about the cost of living in a big city and having a low-paid internship, the Dickinson Internship Grant has supported me so much during my journey.
A photo of my SEO-Vietnam Summer Class of 2017
It was almost 9 PM. As I packed my stuff and got ready to leave the office, I still saw a few people, both managers and analysts, conscientiously working on their projects. I have heard that at least five people can be found in the office at 11 PM every night. This is not uncommon in the finance industry, as some of you might have heard about the notorious hours of an investment bankers, who would typically not leave the office before midnight.
It was not until this internship that I got to experience the long hours of a typical office job. My work usually starts at 8:30 AM and lasts until 7-9 PM. I remembered that my first week at VinaCapital was pretty tiresome and exhausting as I was not used to the working hours and my tasks mainly involved putting numbers in financial models. It was funny how sitting at one place for an entire day could make me feel so tired that I would rather skip dinner and go straight to bed after I get off work.
As the weeks went by, I started getting used to the long hours. My work becomes more difficult as I got involved in bigger investment projects. I was assigned with new and challenging tasks, which makes me feel very excited and absorbed in my work. Every other day, I would get exposed to a different company or a different industry. I learned different financial models and tried building some on my own. Last week was my first time using Bloomberg Terminal and I am very curious and surprised at all the functions I could perform with it. I also got to practice tools like Excel when dealing with a huge number of data. One time, I spend four days working on a data set of revenues from more than a thousand retailing stores, just using Pivot table function in Excel.
The long hours were pretty discouraging but I believe that as long as I still find excitement in my work, I would not mind staying late.
Being the only intern in the research team means that I don’t have to share the work with any other intern but at the same time, every team member wants my help. The research team has one of the busiest schedules of the whole company. In a month, an analyst at my team is expected to make at least 2 investment proposals, and present them during our team meeting every Monday. We have a pretty small team, so each analyst covers 1-2 sectors, including construction, real estate, food & beverage, banking and pharmaceuticals. I mostly help the analysts with preparing the financial models for valuation, writing macro reports and creating the slides.
During my first week when I was still unfamiliar with the work and the analysts in my team, there were times when I had nothing to do for a whole morning. I figured that since the analysts in my team are so busy, there must be some tasks that they might need my help. So every morning when I came to work, I would message the analysts to tell them that I am available if they need help with anything. As a result, tasks started pouring in like crazy. At once, I was receiving tasks for four different proposals, which made me a little bit overwhelmed. Unfortunately, I was not able to finish a task for one analyst on time and let her down. I figured that because of taking on too much work, I could risk not finishing every task on time or delivering the best quality. Moreover, focusing on getting the work done made me forget to reflect on each task and improve my performance. Therefore, I decided to switch my strategy a little bit by only asking for more work when I have already finished the task that I was working on. I also try to be consistent with the projects instead of switching around between different proposals. Since then, I have ensure a better quality of my work and have a stronger understanding of the tasks that I did. I am still testing different approach to performing the tasks at work but I will always strive to find the most efficient way and make the most out of this internship!
Lately I have been assisting an analyst who covers the steel industry of Vietnam so I was able to walk through the steps of proposing an investment idea at VinaCapital. Firstly, we need to conduct macro research on the economy and the steel industry to understand whether investing in this industry is a wise decision with the current economic environment. One difficulty that many people face when doing research on topics related to Vietnam is a lack of public information. Back in the U.S., I did not have too much trouble doing research since most information and data are published online and I could always rely on the databases at Dickinson Library. In Vietnam, however, information can mostly be found through news and articles while official reports are only available through expensive subscriptions or in circulation of companies in related fields. After conducting the macro research, we can identify some key players in the field and create a pool of potential companies for further study. In this step, setting up private meetings with officials from these companies is very important in order to gain more knowledge. Last Monday, I got the chance to attend an analyst meeting that was held by the Vietnamese Steel Association and a leading company in the steel industry. The talk offered a great opportunity for analysts to ask in-depth questions and listen to insights from the industry experts. After collecting all the necessary information about the companies, we put them in financial models to determine the companies’ valuation and determine whether any fits our company fund’s portfolio. Then we summarize our findings into a presentation and present the proposal every Monday during our team’s meeting. The process sounds pretty well-structured and clear but it actually varies a lot depending on the company or the industry being covered. I know one analyst in my team who was working on an agriculture company had to make a trip to the company site in the countryside to visit its farm and observe the packaging process. The key point is that an analyst has to truly understand the company he/she is pitching, not just by the numbers, but by every aspect that involves the company. I feel very fortunate to work as a research analyst where I have the chance to gain in-depth understanding about a wide range of industries covered by my team.
It has been almost three weeks since I moved to Ho Chi Minh City and started my internship at VinaCapital. I have experienced and learned so much since my first day here but never actually got the chance to reflect upon my journey so far until this blog.
My first real day in Ho Chi Minh City is also the day I started my internship. I share the rental building with another intern at VinaCapital so every morning we would catch a cab to the company together. The building where we work at is located on a huge boulevard in the center of the city. Our office is on the 17th floor, with the view overlooking the boulevard featured in the picture below.
VinaCapital is an investment management and real estate development firm with a diversified portfolio in listed and private equities, real estate and bonds. The company currently manages three closed-end funds trading on the AIM Market of the London Stock Exchange. It was one of my proudest achievements to secure an internship at the firm as it would push me forward in my career aspiration in finance.
My first impression when I got a tour around the office is the small size of this company. There are around 70 people in the firm and all employees are close and know of each other. Even the news of an incoming intern like me spread around the office as I met and introduced myself to the employees. As soon as I settled down in my spot at my team’s cubicles, an analyst sitting next to me, who is currently my direct mentor, assigned me with my very first task: an industries research report. I was very excited and got down to work immediately. An obstacle I have during my first weeks here is a lack of familiarity with Vietnam’s market as well as Vietnamese technical finance language. However, I try to learn and familiarize myself with some independent research as well as ask for help from my team members. I was very grateful at everyone’s willingness to help me, even though they’re already overwhelmed with work. Most of the time I try to work on my own first. As I work my way through the tasks, I was very excited to connect and translate between what I have learnt at Dickinson and the real-life projects in Vietnam. The expected similarity between materials on class and the real-world application better emphasize and strengthen my knowledge and skills.
The team that I work in is called Idea Generation, whose main purpose is conducting market research to find investment ideas for other functions in the company. I am very excited at the broad range of subjects that I get exposed to because of working in this team and look forward to more new experiences in near future!