Kelly Wong was appointed Vice President of Operations at VNG Corporation after nine years as CFO and Deputy General Director at Kido Group. He told VnExpress about his ambition to turn VNG into the cradle of Vietnamese made technology products, but also the ideal workplace providing ample opportunities for staff.
Why did you choose to work in Vietnam?
I found my fate in Vietnam suddenly and unexpectedly. In 2000, one of my classmates in Canada invited me to Vietnam to work after they graduated from university, and I have stayed in the country since.
Beginning at HSBC, I focused on financial support for enterprises. After a few years, I started working for HSC, specializing in securities, mergers and acquisition (M&A), and investment. Nearly 10 years ago, I moved to Kido as CFO, before joining VNG in early 2020.
Looking back on my 15-year journey in Vietnam, I find myself lucky because everything took place in the right time, the right place, and the right industry. I gained great experience whenever changing jobs.
I am not hesitant to change environments and embrace challenges in new fields. I have found like-minded people at VNG where I am now in charge of operations. I also run the online game department, which is the key business contributing to the majority of VNG’s sales.
What of your experiences studying abroad can be applied in Vietnam?
With my background in industry finance, I watched the market develop. When I first started here, commercial banking or corporate banking were very new, so I was working with companies to help their finance grow, therefore develop the companies.
Also, when I was a university student, I participated in a non-profit organization similar to Sponsors for Educational Opportunity (SEO) Vietnam. The goal of SEO Vietnam is to connect and develop leadership capabilities for young generations of Vietnamese. SEO Vietnam provides an opportunity for students and experts to gain experience working overseas and return to Vietnam after finishing.
To facilitate this goal, VNG has organized Vietnam Internet Ecosystem in America and Singapore over the past three years to give an update on Vietnam’s internet economy to talented overseas Vietnamese. The event is a forum to discuss the local tech scene to attract a high-quality workforce to Vietnam.
Additionally, the model concentrates on training courses for major corporations. It is not merely an internship but also a training course attracting hundreds of students. The model can be used to develop programs that create management capability. Everyone talks about teaching, leadership potential but how can we make it? You need to have a very systematic way to rotate people around you. I believe the system can be applied in VNG to create flexibility in business departments to bring about breakthroughs.
Why did you decide to switch your career from finance and investment to technology at VNG?
This was a tough one. After almost 10 years of working in finance and investment, I felt the need to carefully consider switching to a tech company like VNG. When I saw this chance, I took into consideration many factors, especially the human one. They will learn and grow with me, contributing to the company’s development.
As an expat living in Vietnam, I have been facing the challenges of language and cultural barriers but I have stuck with the country due to my colleagues. I remember that VNG chairman Le Hong Minh once said: During our development in the past and present, VNG has never put top priority on business goals. As the pioneer of the Vietnamese startup community, during the past 16 years, we have been focusing on the human element.
The statement is reflected through a series of activities that foster human resources and take care of the lives of all VNG members, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic. This has created a very unique DNA for VNG, and perhaps this is what made me decide to join this unicorn startup. If you want to make the right decisions at the right time, you should think that it is time for challenges, and continue to fight for it.
On 15th anniversary, VNG announced the new target of 2332’. Can you explain this?
It means achieving 320 million worldwide users by 2023. Although this sounds impossible, I believe that this will be an exciting journey for the young, ambitious, and always forward-looking corporate culture of VNG. The 2332’ target makes sense, given that VNG already has 100 million users for its online entertainment business and Zalo – the No.1 messaging mobile app. The company plans to launch new products across many overseas markets.
Our teams in overseas markets will need to make observations and share these valuable insights with VNG. I believe VNG has tremendous opportunities in overseas markets since 300 million people in Southeast Asia and Latin America are young and mobile-savvy.
What is your future plan?
Key focus areas for VNG to make a breakthrough in the future should be in line with its ultimate mission of Build Technologies and Grow People. For a better Life.
The main barrier the corporation needs to overcome is to figure out how to use technology to engage people because the only way you can make things better is when technology has positive impacts. It takes a lot of time to develop good technologies, it takes even more time for people to adopt technologies and even more time to measure their positive impact.
The question we face at the senior level is how we identify new technologies. Everyone talks about AI, IoT – they are fancy words, everyone is talking about it, but not doing it. The problem is to make sure we understand and apply them to mainstream life.