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Tips to Succeed From Grandma Shark Do Lien

Madam Do Lien’s advice for the younger generation.


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Being the only female panelist on Shark Tank Vietnam season three, Madam Do Lien is known as “Godmother of the Youth” or “Grandma Shark.” Her full name is Do Thi Kim Lien and she was born in 1968 in Vinh Phuc. Currently, she is the South African Honorary Consul in Vietnam and founder of the Green Vietnam Fund. Shark Lien has been successful in various businesses, including LIAN, the leading insurance mobile app in Vietnam, and AquaOne Corporation, a company specializing in domestic water supply.

Shark Lien is also an educator. Starting out as a teacher, she is now principal of the College of Business Administration and Management (CBAM) and is a passionate supporter of startups.

In the following conversation with Culture Magazin, Madam Do Lien shares tips and advice for young people pursuing dreams of success in the business world.

CM: You have a number of different titles, including “Godmother of the Youth.” Where does this name come from?

Shark Do Lien: I was a young entrepreneur starting my own business, so I deeply understand the difficulties and challenges startups face. They are in need of business orientation, financial support, experience, and management, to optimize their strengths and to achieve success. After 30 years working in the field, armed with experience and lessons of how to be successful, I aim to pass on valuable pieces of information to the younger generation. I want them to continue to spread the values that my generation as a whole, and I as an individual, have created for our community and society. The young people welcome me and call me “Godmother.”

CM: What role do you think young people play in society?

In any era or society, the role of the youth is always of high importance.

Shark Do Lien: In any era or society, the role of the youth is always of high importance. The ultimate power, the limitless creativity and never-ending energy are unique values lying in the hands of the younger generation. They are capable of spreading trends to the entire community and becoming the main force to carry out the plans of the previous generation to boost society’s development. Their ability and energy contribute to a more positive modern society.

CM: Some believe that today’s young people have it too easy and are heavily dependent on others. Would you agree?

Shark Do Lien: Different circumstances and environments will create individuals with a variety of lifestyles and behaviours. I don’t agree with that statement because I have always worked with young partners who are passionate, self-reliant, responsible and fully aware of their jobs. Surrounded by these people, an U60 grandma like myself receives positive energy to keep on fighting as if I were still in my 20s. I believe in them and entrust them with tasks to maximize their potential and their confidence to lead any business.

CM: The younger generation has a tendency to pursue passions but sometimes neglects building a foundation of knowledge and education. As a senior, what do you advise?

Shark Do Lien: I always encourage and support young people to follow their dreams because there is nothing as great as being true to your desires. However, there is a difference between following your passion and faking it. Keep the fire inside you burning, but don’t forget to accompany it with practical knowledge. It is important to be constantly learning, observing, researching and participating in social activities to understand objective reality and subjective ability more thoroughly.

CM: In the age of industry 4.0, what role does education play in the development of society?

Shark Do Lien: The age of industry 4.0 is having a significant impact on a wide range of sectors and aspects of social life, and education provides a fundamental foundation. High-quality personnel are those who are well-educated and know how to take advantage of modern technology.

Education not only occurs formally within families or schools. Social education is equally vital, especially the skills of accessing information and screening through practical experience. Only the wisest ones who select the right knowledge to take in, and the right path to walk on, can gain personal success and contribute long-term values to society.

CM: As the sole female shark this year, what are your thoughts on the many projects young people brought you?

The first impression that I have on the startups is confidence, knowledge, responsibility, and passion.

Shark Do Lien: The first impression that I have on the startups is confidence, knowledge, responsibility, and passion. The young people possess independent and self-reliant thinking. They also possess a positive source of energy suitable for starting a new business and advancing further into the market. We are always ready to support those young people.

On the other hand, there are a few individuals who are struggling to define their direction and the core values of their products. We will offer them straight-forward advice and lessons so that they can find their way back to the right track of entrepreneurship.

CM: The collectible card game “Su Ho Vuong” was designed base on the inspirations from Vietnamese famous historical figures but its characters’ illustrations are not appropriate to Vietnamese culture. Why did you agree to invest in this startup while there were opposing ideas from other sharks?

Shark Do Lien: My proposal to invest in the project of “Su Ho Vuong” is so I can accompany and guide this startup to have a better viewpoint of our national history, in a respectful manner. I would feel guilty and hurt if the younger generation participates in a game that leads to misunderstandings of Vietnamese history. Even though it was not a successful deal, the influences of my personal advice and the strong reactions from the online community are actually taking effect. The creators of “Su Ho Vuong” are now working on editing their designs.

CM: Is the problem with “Su Ho Vuong” that the creators did not do their research and clearly understanding Vietnamese history?

Shark Do Lien: As a grandmother and a mother of a growing child, I believe that the younger generation is sometimes overconfident with their choices without anticipating the consequences. As someone from the previous generation having gone through many ups and downs in life and understanding the gains and losses, witnessing young individuals make mistakes and pay the price is the last thing I would like to see. I assume that the issue of “Su Ho Vuong” does not lie in not having a clear understanding of the history of Vietnam, but it is because they did not respect the absolute history when transferring it into tangible products.

CM: What is your opinion on the need to further disseminate Vietnamese history in schools?

Shark Do Lien: A developed nation is considered to be a nation that preserves and promotes the historical traditions of its ancestors. Every individual thriving to develop must always remember and be proud of his or her origins. Educating the youth to be fully equipped with historical knowledge is not solely the responsibility of schools but also of each and every family and of the entire society. If the younger generation has more opportunities to interact with history through the means of their preference, history will gradually become the interest and self-knowledge of many.

CM: Having the opportunity to work with many young people, do you see any difference between those who have studied abroad and returned home and those who have stayed and developed themselves in Vietnam?

Shark Do Lien: The biggest difference between those who have studied abroad and those who have stayed in Vietnam is the time spent experiencing what it is like in a foreign country. This is something precious that no books can teach. Each group has its own strengths and its own different sets of charisma. the I like it when both groups work together with me in a dynamic, high-pressure environment. They both integrate quickly and complement each other in terms of knowledge, experience, and relationships, for the shared purpose of work efficiency. Between them there is no distance, which thrills me.

CM: There is a growing number of young people who do not return to Vietnam after finishing their study abroad, leading to a brain drain. What is your opinion on this?

Shark Do Lien: Studying abroad in developed countries and then choosing to settle permanently there is a common thing in modern society. Everyone has the right to choose which environment is the best for their future when it comes to opportunities to contribute, develop personally, fulfill dreams and bring value to their lives. I always encourage young Vietnamese, regardless of where they are living, to feel proud of their origins. I ask them to aim for building our country after accumulating enough knowledge and experience from training and working in developed countries around the world.

Everyone has the right to choose which environment is the best for their future when it comes to opportunities to contribute, develop personally, fulfill dreams and bring value to their lives.

CM: As an investor, do you think that Vietnam is a “promising land” attracting high-quality foreign human resources, including overseas Vietnamese and overseas students?

Shark Do Lien: Indeed, Vietnam is a “promising land” for development. It is attracting more and more investors from different fields requiring gray matter such as technology, finance, clean energy and the environment. Consequently, the high-quality workforce, including overseas Vietnamese and overseas students, tends to return home. This is a golden opportunity for Vietnamese expatriates to contribute back to the motherland. Many of my projects include their contributions. I appreciate them and create opportunities to unleash their inner potential and at the same time shine as proud Vietnamese.

This post is also available in: Tiếng Việt