MBA Re­port

Ma­ter­nal brav­ery re­paid A refugee’s risky quest for a bet­ter life is re­warded by her daugh­ter win­ning a pres­ti­gious schol­ar­ship

The Australian - The Deal - - First Up - Story by: Glenda Korporaal

WHEN Nancy Nguyen was grow­ing up she used to ask her mother why she risked her life on a refugee boat from Viet­nam to Aus­tralia in 1975. Her mother’s hus­band had fought in the South Viet­namese army and, af­ter the fall of Saigon, the fam­ily faced pos­si­ble per­se­cu­tion with their chil­dren be­ing ex­cluded from the coun­try’s ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem.

“A life where there was prej­u­dice and, be­ing barred from ed­u­ca­tion for gen­er­a­tions to come, was never an op­tion for her,” says Nguyen who was born in Perth af­ter her wid­owed mother came to Aus­tralia. “She de­cided to jump on board a boat and search for free­dom and a voice. The sac­ri­fices she made have al­ways been a driv­ing force be­hind why I value ed­u­ca­tion.”

A busi­ness ad­viser work­ing for oil and gas gi­ant Wood­side, Nguyen has be­come the first person to win a schol­ar­ship to do the Univer­sity of Sydney MBA awarded by the UN Women Na­tional Com­mit­tee Aus­tralia. Nguyen orig­i­nally did a Bach­e­lor of Science in phys­io­ther­apy at Curtin Univer­sity and set up her own busi­ness. De­cid­ing on a change of di­rec­tion, she then did a Mas­ters in oc­cu­pa­tional health and safety. Her high marks in the de­gree saw her of­fered a job at Wood­side in 2005 where she has done a va­ri­ety of jobs, in­clud­ing work­ing off­shore on oil rigs, in an on­shore project in Libya and work­ing on the com­pany’s Browse gas project.

She says she was at­tracted to the Univer­sity of Sydney’s MBA pro­gram be­cause it was very hands on. “It is very im­mer­sive,” she said. “It is all about learn­ing about your­self – break­ing down your traits, get­ting a feel for your strengths and weak­nesses and how you can im­prove on them. I felt I could use it to build on my skills – the skills you need when you are deal­ing with peo­ple face to face.”

Nguyen, who says she “loves ed­u­ca­tion”, sees the MBA as help­ing her goal to serve in a se­nior lead­er­ship role at Wood­side which, she notes, has two fe­male non-ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tors, Sarah Ryan and Melinda Ci­lento. She says Wood­side has been very sup­port­ive of her plans. “It is part of their di­ver­sity pol­icy. They are al­low­ing me to take the time off to ful­fil my course re­quire­ments.”

Nguyen says she sees do­ing the MBA as help­ing to build her lead­er­ship skills. “I am work­ing in a highly com­pet­i­tive, male dom­i­nated en­vi­ron­ment. The MBA will give me a greater un­der­stand­ing of how busi­ness op­er­ates and the finer de­tails.” She is also keen on ex­pand­ing her skills in fu­ture by serv­ing on some com­mu­nity boards. “The MBA will help me be­come ‘board ready’,” she says.

She still ad­mires her mother's courage to come to Aus­tralia and bring up two chil­dren on her own. “Com­ing to Aus­tralia wasn’t al­ways easy, es­pe­cially in­te­grat­ing back in the 1980s and try­ing to find work here, com­ing from a non-English-speak­ing back­ground. Com­ing from a refugee fam­ily from Viet­nam, I am grate­ful for the op­por­tu­ni­ties I have been able to pur­sue. I am part of a first gen­er­a­tion of women in my fam­ily to have a ter­tiary ed­u­ca­tion in Aus­tralia.” She hopes that win­ning the schol­ar­ship will help en­cour­age other women to suc­ceed in busi­ness in­clud­ing in the oil and gas busi­ness. “My aim is to help open doors for other women in my in­dus­try and in the broader com­mu­nity.”

Nancy Nguyen says the MBA schol­ar­ship will help her be­come ‘board ready’

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