Lan Phuong Nguyen
“Curious about the world. Constantly putting efforts to make the complicated awesomely simple. Oh là là! “You do not really understand something unless you can explain it to your grandmother.”
Hometown: I’m from Hai Phong – a coastal city of Vietnam, but I have spent the majority of my adulthood in different parts of Southeast Asia: Hanoi, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Ho Chi Minh City.
Fun Fact About Yourself: I own more than 300 lipsticks as a part of my previous job as product marketing manager for make-up brands, even though I rarely use them. Most of the time, you will see me in the bare face to let my baby skin breathe. I proudly say that after years of product testing, my eyes were well-trained to distinguish 50 shades of the red lipstick spectrum!
Undergraduate School and Major: Foreign Trade University, International Business Management – Advanced program collaborated with California State University Fullerton. Looking back, I am thankful for my extended network at my university and my organization (SEO-Vietnam) for enabling me to build strong sense of conviction, unapologetic ambition, and a growth mindset to face new challenges.
Most Recent Employer and Job Title: I worked in L’Oréal as a Senior e-Marketing Manager, where I manage the entire e-business of L’Oréal’s full range including skincare, make-up, haircare, and hair color. I lead a multi-function team to operationalize 360° online ecosystem and business marketing across digital, print, and e-commerce media. My team and I strategize a branding plan, product launch initiative, and portfolio positioning to maximize the brand’s exposure. We design guide-frame and the scorecard for onsite and offsite tracking to maximize sales and return on investment.
Aside from your classmates, what was the key part of HEC Paris’ MBA programming that led you to choose this business school and why was it so important to you? My choice reflects what I value the most: an extraordinary learning experience from a top-notch credential program. I wouldn’t rely on only one specific ranking as each scoring system has its own methodologies. HEC Paris constantly outperforms in every ranking; such performance is a testament to the caliber of the school’s curriculum and faculty.
On professional background, I had the chance to work under the leadership of two inspiring CEOs of L’Oréal who are both were HEC Paris Alumni. I learned a lot from intellectual vitality coming from the best minds, which are all rooted from this French business powerhouse. For a girl who is deeply curious to reveal the key difference of brand management philosophy in the French luxury way, between winning mindshare versus value-share, HEC Paris is one of the world’s best MBAs for my target industry.
What course, club or activity excites you the most at HEC Paris? It is so easy to fall in the infamous FOMO in first term at business school. I have browsed through the list of student clubs, and there are so many things I want to participate in. However, as I’m mapping it to my priorities, I am most looking forward to activities at TEC and Marketing Club because of my interest in inclusive reflection for work-life integration and marketing technology.
I am also especially interested in the school´s Luxury Chair in partnership with Kering, which provides students with a solid and innovative program centered around a fast-paced and constantly-evolving luxury industry.
HEC Paris is just 17 kilometers from Paris. What do you see as the best part of earning your MBA so close to Paris? To be honest, for a long time, I have found myself enjoying countryside life where I can find harmonization and connection with nature as a human-being. Of course, a too-isolated location would be a minus point for networking, yet HEC Paris students enjoy the best of two worlds: an easy commute to Paris via public transportation to enjoy vibrant city life and a quiet campus inside a forest.
After all, the MBA journey includes experiences about the world outside of business too. The City of Light is a cultural and tourist hub. After all, in one hour, I can be in Brussels, London or Milan or many other European hot spots by plane — which will make travel plans with my partners more accessible and memorable.
Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: Looking back in key milestones, whenever I encounter this question, I had slightly different perspectives and unique responses. A year ago, I would tell you about my leadership in a strategic direct-to-consumer project, where I led and coordinated across functions (commercial, supply chain, IT, digital) to internalize our e-commerce operation — which in turn helped L’Oréal jump from the #4 to #1 E-brand in the premium mass-market segment during COVID challenges.
My definition of accomplishment evolves over time, and my story now will be the evolution from what I shared in my “statement of purpose” essays. Since I got admitted to HEC Paris, I decided to gift a portion of my time for pro bono and community coaching projects. I have embraced a knowledge sharing journey for half a year. Since then, my classes have welcomed more than 800 participants both internally and externally. with subjects including brand management, data driven marketing and e-commerce.
Through teaching, I also learn by synthesis what I did in the last six years. Questions from participants also enable me to reflect my know-how from other perspectives. I take a big step toward learning when I am able to extract what is useful from all the knowledge, facts, and data that I am exposed to.
Through my stories and reflection, young marketers get a stronger sense on career orientation and start with a clearer sense of why and self-assessment. I find fulfilment through a widening impact circle to empower the next generations of marketers. Months of teaching for hundreds of people are summarized in just a few seconds, yet I believe the long-term impact will last in many years to come for those marketing practitioners.
How did COVID-19 change your perspective on your career and your life in general? There are three experiences that transform my perspective towards career and life during this COVID time. The first not-so-happy thing is that I couldn’t come back to Hai Phong — my lovely coastal hometown — to visit my parents before my departure to Paris. In the past, it was one-hour-flight which I could conveniently book, pack, and go anytime. Now, it has become the luxury which I desperately wish for.
Luckily, I spent my last three weeks in Vietnam quarantining in isolated quarters called the “Happiness Village”. I had a chance to immerse in mother earth, eat whole food, and practice mindfulness. Working from the sea, I enjoy this mobility to the max. It’s a golden time to care for my personal wellness and fully recharge for my upcoming transformative MBA journey.
During this summer, I also read quite a lot, and one of my favorite books was Friedman’s Total Leadership, which really inspired me to redefine happiness and success. I am really into the concept of integrated life management in four-way win: to create value for the different parts — for work, home, community and your private self, the domain of mind, body and spirit. I learn to care for total self-wellness, and undoubtedly want to see my working partners to enjoy that total happiness in my upcoming ventures.
What led you to pursue an MBA at this point and what do you hope to do after graduation? After spending six years managing few prominent brands, I became more aware of my shortcomings as a leader. Working alongside with my regional brand partners, we have been trapped within our own boundaries of back-and-forth approval to implement the thing-outside-brand-toolkit. Fearless & fast-moving indie brands continue to set records for the beauty industry amid the current crisis, leaving giants behind with ‘me-too-but-late’ innovations. These experiences have motivated me to upskill to architect my approach in a way that married data and predictive analysis with execution to solve the last mile problem with agility and speed. I hope that the HEC Paris experience will be transformational, helping me gain a deeper understanding of what it takes to run a successful business, and grow tremendously as a person.
What other MBA programs did you apply to? I did not apply to any other MBA program outside of France. As I aspired on an EU location to explore culture-rich continent, INSEAD and ESSEC are two other programs where I applied.
What advice would you give to help potential applicants gain admission into HEC Paris’s MBA program? Be authentic. As I write this, I have not started school yet, so my sample size is rather small. I have communicated 1-on-1 with around 15 of my future classmates, but they have all impressed me with their intellectual curiosity and expertise in their fields. I feel that every classmate could teach me a course! Find your differentiator. You might be the star at your current job, but then you come here and realize you’re surrounded by incredible people and bright minds, find what makes you unique and stick to your value. Also, appreciate the application journey as a chance to reflect on your value and what matters the most to you.
Find alumni, maybe someone with a similar professional background to talk to, from whom you will find inspiration to envision yourself in the next five-ten years. I only found out about the HEC Paris alumni Vietnam chapter just before my flight, so I urge you to do it sooner than me.
Don’t forget to take care of yourself. Business school applications can be treated like a marathon and the key thing is to train hard with the right energy management. Take a deep breath and I hope you enjoy this journey as I have.
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