Elevating Vietnam’s Next Business Leaders

Thursday, July 11, 2024


WDI’s Advanced Mini-MBA Program Takes Root in Vietnam, Which is Swiftly Moving from a Middle- to a High-income country

Over the past 40 years, economic reforms and global trends have pushed Vietnam’s economy from one of the poorest in the world to a middle-income economy, according to the World Bank. In line with its continual and steady development, the country expects 5.5% growth in 2024, up from 5% in 2023. This expansion has put Vietnam well on its way to achieving its goal of becoming a high-income country by 2045.

WDI has managed programs in Vietnam for the last 20 years, as part of the Institute’s mission in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). In 2004, the Institute hosted a six-week management education program for executives from Vinacomin, Vietnam’s national mining country. In 2017, MBA students from the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan worked with Vietnam Partners LLC to develop a Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation and a venture capital fund focused on start-ups. Another group of MBA students joined Solagron, a high-tech agricultural company that relies on solar energy to cultivate and process microalgae, in 2024 to build a market entry strategy.

“Vietnam has all the characteristics of a market perfect for WDI’s involvement,” said Amy Gillett, WDI Vice President of Education “Its economy is an innovative one. Its players want to diversify, support start-ups, and strengthen managerial skills, so it’s the ideal time for us to be there. There is massive potential.”

Over the last three years, WDI has been elevating Vietnamese business leaders’ skills through its Advanced Mini-MBA Program at the FPT School of Business & Technology (FSB). This partnership brings together educators and business leaders to expand participants’ management skills, bolster business education opportunities and encourage economic growth in the country.

“Helping countries transition from centrally planned economies to market economies is WDI to its essence,” Gillett said. “When you make that transition, you need to cultivate and rely on a new level of management skills. WDI is perfectly equipped to train business leaders in these important skills, whether it’s in Eastern Europe, Sub-Saharan Africa or Southeast Asia.”

FSB mini MBA cohort

Boosting Business Through Education

Not only has the government supported economic growth in the country through improved infrastructure and healthcare, but the nation’s businesses have pushed for inventive ways to accelerate their industries. The country is experiencing a steady increase in GDP per capita and improved infrastructure access.

“Vietnam is an interesting setting for management training because of the unique characteristics of the business environment. The high degree of government participation in the economy, for example, means that a company’s go-to-market strategy must respect this government — or, even better, leverage the government participation for competitive advantage,” said John Branch, clinical associate professor of business administration at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business. He teaches in the Mini MBA Program in both Vietnam and in Riga, Latvia.

The certificate program was co-developed by Gillett and David Estrada, WDI Education program administrator, specifically for the Vietnamese market. It digs into how to leverage these government relationships and requirements, and it also covers critical lessons on foundational business skills. WDI-affiliated faculty and FSB instructors teach executive students about strategy, sales management, marketing, finance, operations, entrepreneurship, leadership, negotiations, human resources and more. Through a combination of in-person and online sessions, the program pushes participants to focus on digital transformation, leadership expansion, practical decision-making and organizational-level thinking.

“The program is mutually beneficial,” said Nguyen Viet Thang, Dean of FSB. “WDI has brought us new values and perspectives, and having top WDI professors participate in teaching is a great benefit for Vietnamese students and faculty. Conversely, we hope WDI gains significant value in understanding the corporate management culture of Eastern countries in general and Southeast Asia in particular.”

WDI at FSB with Paul Clyde

Pictured from left to right: Dr. Nguyen Viet Thang, Dean of FPT School of Business & Technology of FPT University; Paul Clyde, Former President of WDI; Dr. Truong Gia Binh, Chairman and CEO of FPT Corporation; Bradley Lalonde, Co-founder and Chairman of Vietnam Partners LLC; Ha Nguyen, Academics Head of FPT School of Business.

WDI has brought us new values and perspectives, and having top WDI professors participate in teaching is a great benefit for Vietnamese students and faculty. Conversely, we hope WDI gains significant value in understanding the corporate management culture of Eastern countries in general and Southeast Asia in particular.

This year’s program will run from July through October 2024, and each module is deeply connected to real-world dilemmas and solutions. At the end of the program, participants complete a final group project around current management challenges they face in their own businesses. Participants are asked to consider a specific issue, analyze it, and formulate a practical solution. Groups then present their project, which includes market analysis, implementation plans and feasibility decisions, to the class. At the program’s culmination, participants receive a co-branded WDI-FSB certificate — emphasizing the deep value of these global relationships and cross-cultural educational opportunities.

“The WDI and FSB partnership is a win-win situation. It fosters knowledge exchange, expands access to valuable educational programs, and ultimately contributes to the development of a strong and globally competitive business community in Vietnam,” noted Bradley Lalonde, co-founder and chairman of Vietnam Partners LLC, in a recent business newsletter. Lalonde, a private equity and fund management expert who served as the first CEO of Citibank Vietnam, played an essential role in the development of the partnership program.

A Dedication to Development

This unique FSB partnership program was created to strengthen both individual business skills and the larger economy. To achieve that goal, the curriculum is directed toward those in leadership roles – in many cases, the people driving the evolution of their industries. Participants in the program must have at least five years of management experience, and their expertise and sincerity show in their dedication to the course.

“What I admire in any learner is curiosity, and the Vietnamese learners in this program are especially curious,” Branch said. “They always ask questions. They try to dig deeper into the concept theories, and they want to see direct application to their own situations.”

For students, the program is an opportunity to learn from some of the best business faculty in the world, build a network of global business leaders and transform their own skills. For WDI, the program is a chance to bring its connections and educational prowess to a newly booming nation — an effort that aligns perfectly with its mission of unlocking the power of business to provide lasting economic and social prosperity.

“From my perspective, the partnership between WDI and FSB holds significant value for both institutions and, ultimately, for the business landscape in Vietnam,” said Lalonde.

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