2019 Best & Brightest MBAs: Dung (William) Nguyen, Western University (Ivey)

Dung (William) Nguyen

Western University, Ivey Business School

A tri-sector leader who firmly believes in doing well by doing good for society.”

Hometown: Nghe An, Vietnam

Fun fact about yourself: Most people don’t know that I have been practicing boxing for years.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Academy of Finance, Major in Corporate Finance

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Prior to Ivey, I worked at Deloitte South East Asia and then Vingroup, the largest multisector group in Vietnam. At Vingroup, I initially led corporate strategy division, and later led the establishment of a retail chain that, in just two years since inception, became the market leader with 1,700 stores across the country. My role was similar to that of a start-up founder, responsible for the creation, operations and financial performance of the chain.

Where did you intern during the summer of 2018? Not Applicable – Ivey is a one-year full-time MBA program.

Where will you be working after graduation? I will be starting at Deloitte Consulting as a management consultant in Deloitte’s Digital Integration practice, based out of Toronto office. What’s really exciting about this opportunity is the chance to help companies navigate digitalization and integration.

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • Director, VietSeeds Foundation
  • International Senator, MBA Association
  • Richard Ivey Excellence Award for academic achievement and leadership potential
  • David Sparkling MBA Award for academic achievement and demonstrated community leadership
  • 3M Canada Company MBA Bursary
  • Semi-finalist, Ivey Business Plan Competition

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school?

I have been working with VietSeeds since 2011 in various capacities from a Volunteer to a Director. VietSeeds is a scholarship foundation that provides financial support, mentorship, and skill development for 350+ low socio-economic students annually to help them pursue higher education. At VietSeeds, I am the catalyst in bringing equal access to education to those less fortunate, those who would otherwise have no choice but to drop out of school and work low paid labor-intensive jobs after high school. The opportunity to change hundreds of lives by helping them continue their university education is probably one of the most fulfilling moments in my life. I know first-hand that it costs countless students, from backgrounds similar to mine, a chance to develop healthy self-esteem, a shot at fulfilling their potential, and for many more, it literally costs them their dreams. My feelings are beyond description when I see my students, just four years ago almost dropping out of school, now succeed in Wall Street or Financial Center in London.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I have seen countless cases, family members inclusive, who were impacted or even died by cancer and contamination in grocery supply chains. That prompted me to leave my successful consulting career and embark upon an impossible mission to build a local retail chain (supermarket and convenience store) that reaches every corner in Vietnam. We were very late in the retail sector as some of the biggest competitors such as Metro and BigC have dominated the local market for some twenty years. But we successfully built a retail chain from the ground up and turned it into the largest player as well as the market leader, all in well under two years. I took pride in this mission and held it near and dear to my heart that I was able to leverage my business knowledge, combined with a passion to do good for society, to solve one of the most complex pressing business and social challenges.

What was your favorite MBA Course? See above.

Why did you choose this business school? The best things about Ivey is its alumni network and the case method.

The people: Ivey instilled in its alumni an incredible pay-it-forward culture that constantly blows me away. Even before I was accepted into Ivey, people were genuinely generous in helping me make the best decision for my professional development. What’s even more extraordinary was that I can feel there is always a genuine sense that alumni would try their best to help me succeed even if that requires them to go the extra mile. Wherever I go, I know I will be taken care of by Ivey people.

The case method: I am incredibly impressed by Ivey’s inspirational wider commitment to case teaching. The case method is designed in a way that pushes me out of my comfort zone while transforming the classroom into a safe discussion for collective learning. It combines business, leadership and complex real-life challenges together and never fails to bring in clear ah-ha moments that make learning much more enjoyable and memorable.

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? Be confident, be your best, and do not over-think.” You probably hear this over-and-over again, but it’s worth saying one more time. As an Ivey ambassador, I have the opportunity to talk to a number of candidates. The one trait that I believe contributed to a successful admission and fulfilling MBA journey is confidence (but not arrogance). Confidence helps candidates to be herself or himself whether it’s on the application or in an interview. And that’s in the best interests of students. Ivey purposefully selects those that it believes make a good fit and the only way for it to do so is that you have the confidence to be yourself throughout the application process.

Think back two years ago. What is the one thing you wish you’d known before starting your MBA program? I wish I had known that one year would fly by so quickly. Coming into the program as an international student, I was very intentional about getting to know my classmates really well as they are some of my first friends in Canada. And I did. But I still wish I had more time and energy for these incredible individuals that Ivey brought together.

MBA Alumni often describe business school as transformative. Looking back over the past two years, how has business school been transformative for you? An MBA at Ivey has transformed me in three different ways: critical thinking, ethical values, and a global mindset. Firstly, having done hundreds of cases in multiple industries and roles, I personally become very comfortable to collect and analyze a great deal of information to make the most informed business decisions. Secondly, Ivey brought together a truly global student body and experience; just by immersing myself in that environment, I almost automatically was forced to think globally and see things from perspectives of classmates who come from different backgrounds, regions, and expertise. Lastly, Ivey devotes a great deal of time and resources to encourage students to seriously think about ethical values in doing business, and it fully reinforced my long-standing belief that it’s possible to uphold ethical values while thriving in business.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Super mothers, namely all of my classmates who are mothers and bring their kids to Canada with them! I can name more than one of my classmates that fall into this category. If I want to learn about effective time management and stress handling, the best people I would reach out to are those mothers. These mothers exhibit incredibly effective time management strategy that helps them excel in every front: studies, raising children, job search, and social events, which we have a bunch at Ivey.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? My mom, who got admitted into a top university, but was so selfless that she decided not to enroll due to financial barriers so that her seven siblings would still be able to go to school. Unlike other mothers in our hometown who asked their children to drop out of school and start working labor-intensive jobs early on, my mom always said that education is our best chance into a better future and she made sure she did her absolute best so that we can go to school. And it was her unfinished dream too, to be able to attend university. From early on, I set myself on my personal mission to make her dream come true. That incredible drive that I have always had comes from a jobless yet visionary mother who never made it past high school.

What is your favorite movie about business? Walmart: The High Cost of Low Price. I am personally proud that Ivey invests so much in teaching business ethics to business future leaders, its MBAs. This documentary is a good test of students’ critical thinking skills, and a reminder to all of us as a great way to see what is right and what is wrong. It will serve all of us well many years into our careers that ethics is something we should always keep at the back of our heads as a moral compass for every business decision that we will make.

What was the goofiest MBA term or acronym you encountered – and what did it mean? MBA as “More Bucks Annually”. I find this interesting because “More Bucks Annually” could be interpreted in many ways: MBA graduates earn more annually, MBA graduates invest more for their future, MBA graduates generate more wealth for the society – or any combination of these interpretations.

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…working full-time for Viet Seeds Foundation so that the miracle of education can reach millions of other students who would otherwise have to give up their college dream.”

What dollar value would you place on your MBA education? Was it worth what you paid for it – worth more or worth less? There are things that can easily be measured against a dollar value such as return on investment for my MBA. In this sense, the MBA certainly is worth more than the investment. More importantly, there are things that I feel should not be measured in monetary terms such as lifelong friendships and the powerful network that we created in business school.

What are the top two items on your bucket list?

  1. One week a year to go see the worst in order to do the best.

I have been inspired by one of my former bosses that the only job-offer negotiation he had with his employer was that he does not take annual leave (except for emergency), and uses all his annual leave in the summer to fly to Africa to volunteer for four consecutive weeks. I want to challenge myself to devote one week a year to go to the worst places on Earth and give a helping hand. As Melinda gates once said: “if you want to do the best, go see the worst”.

  1. Buy one thing, Give one thing.

I am extremely fortunate to be able to rise above life predicaments and extreme hardship to be where I am today. But other people might not have been as lucky. To remind myself of responsible living and foster the sharing culture in my family, I feel it’s important to set a goal that whenever I buy one thing, I am personally obligated to give away one thing to those less fortunate. I would love to champion responsible living and practice it on a daily basis.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? Three words: a tri-sector leader.

Hobbies? Boxing, Swimming, Reading, and Traveling

What made William Nguyen such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2019?

“William certainly personifies strength of leadership character and competence – all that is best in an MBA. He is the epitome of a “servant leader,” “marshals resources and organizes activities,” and is a person who truly brings his voice to values in a way that I see as second to none in my thirty years of teaching in the MBA – he “does motivate his peers to dream bigger and act sooner”.

William has a singular aim to inspire more students from low socio-economic backgrounds to continue pursuing education despite the challenges that they might encounter. He embraces this to his core, having been raised by a single mother, who had three children and no job when at the age of two, William’s father left the family. No one in his extended family had ever made it past high school. As such, William has a level of gratitude for education that permeates the MBA class. More importantly, he inspires others. He has been a living example to those who thought higher education was out of reach, and a reminder to those who find themselves taking education for granted. That level of gratitude and appreciation is infectious and something that sets William apart. It serves to ground his fellow classmates in critical ways.

He has worked tirelessly as an Ivey ambassador to promote Ivey to students in developing countries, who would initially not dare to submit an application even though they are perfectly fit and qualified. His continued commitment through his work at Ivey and VietSeeds instills and nurtures a philanthropic spirit within the MBA Program and a pay-it-forward culture within a generation of younger Vietnamese.”

Dr. Mary M. Crossan

Distinguished University Professor

Professor of Strategic Leadership


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