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Titan of technology

Released at: 06:07, 24/03/2018 Women in Business

Titan of technology

Photo: Viet Tuan

Ms. Chu Thi Thanh Ha, Chairwoman of FPT Telecom, has played an important role in the development of the company and its contribution to Vietnam's ICT industry over the last 23 years.

by Do Huong

Many people who meet Ms. Chu Thi Thanh Ha for the first time have difficulty imagining that she calls the shots at FPT Telecom, one of the largest Vietnamese groups in information and communications technology (ICT) in Vietnam. Ms. Ha has been a key player in the development of Vietnam’s ICT industry over the years and is the only woman leading an ICT company in the country. 

When she started out with FPT in 1993 she had just finished her fourth year of tourism marketing studies at the National Economics University. Opportunities for her at the time were many but she was attracted to FPT, where there were many outstanding leaders and a young and enthusiastic team. 

The company was yet to define its business model as ranging from tourism to computer and software sales, and its switch to internet infrastructure services was still two years away. “Concepts like computers, printers, and notebooks were very new, not only to me but also to all of my colleagues,” she remembered. “But the challenge of it all excited us.” Vietnam’s telecommunications infrastructure is now the equal of many countries around the world, she said, with good internet speeds and the latest in technology. 

Impressive achievements

FPT Telecom worked from the very outset with large and prestigious names in the global ICT industry such as IBM, HP, and Compaq and its IT products and services became well known among local customers. After providing IT equipment for two years, the company moved into providing accounting software, with major domestic companies such as Garco10, Vinamilk, and Masan counting among its customers. 

The next step in FPT’s business development was a turning point, as it established the FPT Internet Center in 1996, which introduced Vietnamese software written by young entrepreneur Mr. Truong Dinh Anh, which quickly found favor. Vietnam was still to gain internet access at this point, and the software allowed users to send emails and chat. 

Then, in 1997, the internet came to Vietnam based on FPT’s intranet network, with it joining three other internet service providers in being licensed by the General Department of Post and Telecommunications (now the Ministry of Information and Communications). More than 20 years later, FPT has accompanied every step of the development of the internet in Vietnam, building infrastructure around the country. 

In the time since, FPT Telecom has developed in tandem with Vietnam’s ICT industry, providing the infrastructure needed for internet access, from dial-up to copper cable to optical cable. 
Work is always a challenge, as once one goal is achieved another larger goal appears. “I always keenly pursue the company’s goals,” Ms. Ha said. “At FPT, we always encourage creativity and have a high level of teamwork.” Every member of staff brings their own strengths to the table, and taken together set the groundwork for success. For Ms. Ha, FPT has been always been a workplace of enthusiasm and excitement. 

Facing the challenges

Challenges accompany opportunities and vice-versa, and being a female leader has its good and bad points, Ms. Ha believes. “For me, leaders, whether female or male, must work hard to overcome the competition,” she said. “We must constantly identify opportunities for the company and be organized to reach our goals.”

In the ICT industry, technology changes so rapidly and accessing major markets such as the US, Europe, and Japan requires leaders learn by themselves. FPT Telecom has long held training for all personnel, from staff to leaders, such as seminars and working with foreign consultants, so that people can stay abreast of global trends to bring to Vietnam and create new products for Vietnamese customers.

One thing that can’t be denied is the fervor of FPT’s people. Ms. Ha recalled a trip to the US five years ago, when she and two employees (one female and one male) worked with a Sony client with a campus in San Diego. She was impressed with and proud of how her female employee approached and negotiated with what was a tough foreign client. Sony appreciated the effort and when it expanded in the US, FPT continued to work with the partner. FPT’s environment encourages women to work, Ms. Ha underlined. “Our leaders are very supportive and colleagues support each other.” 

A challenge for FPT Telecom and its current telecom units is that the world is shifting entirely to cloud. “FPT Telecom continues to work with its partners in this big shift,” she said. “The company will continue to invest heavily in connectivity infrastructure to accelerate connectivity and the development of new services such as IPTV.”

In the past, viewers could only watch TV channels that were broadcast, but can now choose and watch channels they like. IPTV is interactive television, and users can participate directly by determining their own needs. This creates new content and forms for customers to not only watch on TV but on other mobile devices, which makes it convenient to convert digital presentations. FPT always expects to be a pioneer in digital transition and new services, constantly researching services to meet customer demand.

Future strategy

The upcoming plan is to invest heavily in infrastructure, in particular focusing on creating new services that require a lot of technological resources. As such, FPT Telecom will attract quality human resources in ICT and create an environment that can quickly create new products. Major clients like banks now want to have units capable of providing ICT services in the process of digitizing transfers. The future of banking is digital, which requires major ICT investment. “Thus, the company wants to focus its investment and take the lead in providing digital transfer services for banks,” Ms. Ha said.

The company’s existing clients, like commercial joint stock banks, retail chains, and large enterprises, consider it a reliable partner in setting up data centers and in the near future converting to cloud. FPT Telecom is currently also working with major names such as Microsoft and Amazon.

2018 will see the company’s long-term strategy pursued. “I will focus on expanding the new marine fiber optic cable, with some cities and provinces that don’t have fiber transfer being shifted to synchronized infrastructure of good quality and the highest speed,” she said. Its goals require everyone be more creative, especially in digital shift, where internal systems must be digitized and applied in advance. “I want to provide customers with services that require our system be lightweight and advanced,” she explained. 

The company constantly provides applications for sales, automatic technical support, and a chatbox, where customers can talk to a machine. Automated payments, called Foxpay, will soon be used to settle customer accounts. “These are challenges and goals for the company,” Ms. Ha said.

All of the young and enthusiastic staff at FPT Telecom are making every effort and using creativity to bring customers the best experience in terms of technology on the internet. “FPT Telecom’s desire is that every Vietnamese citizen uses at least one of our services in the near future,” she said.

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