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MIT Sloan Fellows MBA Program

From the C-Suite to the Classroom

By

Anh Vu, SFMBA '21

Anh Vu humbly refers to herself as a generalist who specializes in “cleaning up and setting up organizations across industries to grow.” After graduating from Oxford University as a Vietnamese Government Scholar, Vu began her career as a trader with HSBC in New York and London, then pivoted to commodities trading with Trafigura in Singapore. Her other finance and corporate development roles include private equity investor, portfolio manager, healthcare executive, and—right before joining the MIT Sloan Fellows MBA Program—CFO of one of the largest ride-hailing companies in Vietnam.

Was there a specific experience that made you consider a mid-career MBA?

I was the executive chairman for the largest hospital network in Vietnam. As a finance professional, I stepped into this role without a background in healthcare. In many ways, hospitals are not normal businesses. Of course, you want to scale and grow, but you have to juggle this with the core purpose of helping people. And when COVID-19 hit, I realized that healthcare is an industry that is ripe for disruption.

One of my main questions as an executive is, “How do we make better decisions?” I had some hypotheses about how fintech might disrupt the healthcare industry, but I wanted the opportunity to work through these solutions and immerse myself in MIT Sloan’s healthcare and technology ecosystem. I don’t have answers yet, but I’m at the epicenter of very smart people who find solutions to tough problems.

What impact has the pandemic had on your first two semesters in the SFMBA program?

Because of the pandemic, our summer term was remote. I was able to come to Cambridge once the Vietnamese borders opened in September. Throughout the fall, I took hybrid courses—both in-person and online.

In some ways, the pandemic has allowed me to maximize my time spent learning. I was able to take some great courses, including Healthcare Lab and Fintech Ventures. My H-Lab project was amazing. It was a project for a family-owned, home-care business in the Boston area. Our team helped them rethink how to deliver telehealth during COVID. Not only am I learning about the healthcare system in the United States, but I’m also making an impact.

What stands out to you about the SFMBA experience thus far?

I’ve been so appreciative of how our professors have gone the extra mile to make our experience as strong as possible. For example, Professor Andrew Lo taught my Healthcare Finance class. It was scheduled from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. to accommodate classmates in other time zones around the world.

He put together an incredible lineup of speakers, for example, the CEO of Moderna and members of the Biden presidential transition team who spoke about tackling the pandemic and preparing for vaccines. It has been extraordinary to learn from so many world-class leaders.

I also took a phenomenal leadership class, Leading in Ambiguity, with Court Chilton. I can’t tell you how much my classes have shaped me as a person. They’ve prepared me to feel more comfortable being myself, helped me identify specifically what I want to achieve—and given me the courage to admit when I don’t know something.

The Sloan Fellows cohort is made up of 100+ students from 40+ countries. What is it like to be a member of such a diverse community?

The diversity is amazing because we don’t all come in with the same experiences. On the same project team, we could have someone who’s worked in R&D in biotech, someone else who’s a scientist, another person who’s run a company, and someone who’s an entrepreneur. It gives us a very broad perspective and allows us to have constructive conversations and apply different approaches to solving problems.

I became very close with my summer Lab Team. We had one teammate in the United States, one in the Middle East, one in Europe, and two of us were in Asia—it was like we were a multinational company! Because our class started remotely, we got to know each other first via Zoom. Now that we are able to meet one another in person, we have a real appreciation for the time we spend together and are getting to know each other on a deeper level.

Have you been able to take advantage of any clubs or other team-building opportunities?

Through the Design Club, the Martin Trust Center, and the $100K Entrepreneurship Competition, I’ve met students in PhD, Supply Chain Management, Engineering, and Computer Science programs. The opportunity to rethink the way I consider things has been one of the best aspects of the experience.

In most organizations, there’s a degree of hierarchy—but here, we are all MIT students. We share the same mindset and collaborate together on the same playing field. It’s really refreshing. In every class and club, there’s an element of teamwork. You can choose to be a part of the team or lead the team, but it’s all about working together.

How has the SFMBA program supported you in achieving your professional goals?

I’ve been very fortunate in my career to accelerate into decision-making roles, but I wanted to step up my leadership skills by learning how to make better decisions. I’m interested in disruptions and taking on challenging problems like making healthcare more affordable or using fintech to disrupt the industry. But to grow as a leader, I needed to really get to know myself.

The Sloan Fellows MBA program has given me the opportunity to roll up my sleeves, explore questions, and immerse myself in an exceptionally supportive community. Now I’m ready to take on more challenging roles and make a larger impact on the people around me and on society.

What advice do you have for prospective students considering the MIT Sloan Fellows MBA program?

If you’re at a crossroads in your career or life, or have an urgent problem you want to explore, this is the place to be. I think the key to success is being extremely curious and humble and having the mindset to embrace all the vast opportunities MIT has to offer. Here, you can learn to fail and get up again very quickly. No one judges you—everyone is right there with you.

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