And so it started… one day I was in Munich going for a drive to the client office for series of face to face meetings, one too many cups of coffee and a rainy-chilly afternoon; the next day I woke up in Hanoi, surrounded by millions of scooters and honking cars, apparently trying to run me over, moist, heavy air, and temperatures that make you feel all the time like you are in the wet sauna.
Let me not forget the regular wake up call, which in this case is not referring to the title of an IT meeting or the phone alarm, which gently reminds you that you have to go to work, but a rooster who is crowing like it’s the last day on earth.
The word to describe the capital of Vietnam at first sight: “Overwhelming”.
But, how did we end up here?
Let me share with you a bit of background story: NTT DATA has a wider understanding of what being a Trusted Global Innovator title means, as a motto not only referring to the technical IT field but as well in working models/people dynamics. Thus, the German subsidiary has decided to make an internal competition and send 3 colleagues closer to the Asian roots of the company. By this initiative, NTT DATA Germany is trying to answer a few questions including:
- Is it possible to send 3 professionals, from the German subsidiary, with active roles in projects from different industries, in a 4 month remote marathon in Asia and have the same level of work efficiency? What will the impact of time difference be on the work?
- Will the 3 NTT DATA Remotes be able to strengthen the connections with the local subsidiaries?
- How does the remote experience influence the work life balance?
Thus, the 3 of us (Anja, Torben and myself) have become a part of a group of 34 people from more than 10 countries traveling together in Asia, while working remotely for several companies or as free lancers, on different topics ranging from graphics, design, coding to people being involved in social activities, marketing etc. To be more exact, the Asian itinerary for the group is Hanoi (Vietnam), Chiang Mai (Thailand), Kyoto/Tokyo (Japan) and Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia).
But, coming back to Hanoi. We tried to make the most out of the experience by visiting the main office of NTT DATA Vietnam in Hanoi. There we had the chance to meet the Managing Director, Akira Watanabe and Head of Human Resources, Trang Nguyen and had an insightful discussion about the business environment, working dynamics, people motivation etc.
We understood that there are intense collaborations for NTT DATA companies within the Asian region (especially with Japan, Thailand and Malaysia), with the Vietnam subsidiary having more than 60% of activities generated from outside of the country. NTT DATA Vietnam is focusing mostly on the business segment, but being open to work as well on the public sector (note that the country is led by the Communist Party of Vietnam).
The Vietnam business environment is very open towards working with other countries and this approach is supported by the local Authorities. On the Vietnam IT market, there is appetite especially for the technical side of IT whereas NTT DATA Vietnam is in the trend focusing on IT support activities and testing.
The colleagues at the Vietnamese subsidiary are young with an average age slightly below 30 years and the language used for communication in the Asia Pacific region is English, with Japanese being used in some projects together with Japan.
Besides the meeting with NTT Vietnam, let me give you a couple of my experiences and take aways from working from Hanoi.
Main tasks: I work as a Project Manager for a Financial Services Global client. We have been already working in quite an international set up both from client side and from our side for supporting a global HR system. The client team is coming from several countries in Europe, Hong Kong and the US whereas our team has colleagues from several NTT DATA companies from Germany, Spain, Romania and Malaysia. I will admit that there was a challenge to keep the connection warm with the Project Management team from the client who is located in Munich; but there are advantages seen as well by the client such as being closer to the colleagues working in the Asia Pacific timezone, the chance to visit the Project Team located in Malaysia and overall improving the understanding of how to do remote work to the benefit of the client.
Other activities: Besides my role in the Project, with which I am accustomed to, I became part of the core team for an EMEA level relevant opportunity at NTT DATA. Thus, we had quite long calls at very interesting hours (I remember that a call started at 2 AM in the night for the local Asia Pacific time-zone). The negotiations are still in progress so fingers crossed that we win this 😉
Working hours: 5 hours difference to CET time. I tried to minimize the impact of my working from Asia to the client and thus I my schedule was on CET time. And, a person quickly becomes a night owl with this program. 🙂
Working location: The working space has a fast internet connection, meeting rooms and creative rooms. Nonetheless, I take some of the important telcos directly from the apartment to insure perfect silence on the background. As the computer is essential here, with little fixing opportunities, I also have a laptop from the client especially as a backup solution.
Remote Year schedule: After a successful meeting with the MD of NTT DATA Vietnam, Anja, Torben and myself have the opportunity to meet local business people and we are in contact to try to set up meetings with the MDs of Thailand, Malaysia and colleagues in relevant positions in Japan in our intention to strengthen the NTT community.
History: Vietnam is most likely one of the safest countries to work from and visit that had a quite recent war. The Vietnam War is presented in a multitude of military museums, prisons and one is able to immediately feel the heavy atmosphere surrounding these places. Moreover, the abundance of the communist party symbolism, which is virtually present everywhere is especially interesting for me as an Eastern European – Romanian national. On top of everything, one can find an abundance of old Buddhist Temples, and the Vietnamese construction style add a lot of authenticity to the environment.
But now, the first month passed quicker than expected and thus we have to mentally prepare for our next stop… Chiang Mai, Thailand.
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