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Q&A with MBA & Chevening Scholar: Tuan Pham

Updated: Jan 6, 2021

Q: Tuan, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your career to date? 

A: My name is Tuan, I am from Vietnam. I joined Warwick University in 2018 and before the MBA I worked with Coca-Cola, Unilever, Kimberly Clark and a fashion company. I decided to pursue an MBA because, after 10 years of working, I found I needed to reinvent myself.  I saw my vision differently from how I did in the past and I also plan to set up my own business in the future.  The experience I gained from working in established companies has been very helpful, but for setting up your own business quite a different mindset and skills are required. After the MBA I first worked with OYO a hospitality company and one of the biggest startups in India.  And now I'm working with Telio, a leading B2B e-commerce company that is one of the biggest e-commerce startups in Vietnam. 

Q: What made you do an MBA? And why did you choose to come to the UK and to Warwick? 

A: For the why I did the MBA, I think I have mentioned to you that I needed to reinvent myself and eventually I want to set up my own business. I wanted to have a transitional time and develop a new set of skills to be more entrepreneurial.  I also was lucky because as you know I was a Chevening Scholar and most of the expenses for my stay in the UK were sponsored by the UK Government.  This was a very big deal because in a developing country like Vietnam it will take someone around 5 years to save enough money to study in the UK.  That would have been very hard for me. The scholarship also connected me with a valuable community of other Chevening scholars.  As to why the UK,  I believe that the UK is one of the best educational environments for students and personally I feel that I share a lot of the same values as the British system. 

Q: It sounds like a really interesting opportunity.  How did you find out about Chevening?

A: I actually looked at a lot of scholarship programs from different governments, USA, Australia, but and after discussing with some of my friend who already got the scholarship, I found that Chevening was the most suitable scholarship for me, because it is about the Masters scholarship and that requires a  different set of skills.  

Q: Can you tell us how was the application process?

A: The process has three steps. The first is that the UK government releases the questions and you need to write an essay for each question. You be asked to tell about yourself,  your leadership experience, networking skills, your career plan, and which programme you want to study.  You must answer in 500 words or less and you will submit this around October.  I heard that there were around 1000 candidates from Vietnam; it is super competitive.  Then after that the committee will take two or three months to review the essays.  The second step is the interview. Once a selection of candidates is picked you will have a very intense interview with the embassy representative and they will ask a lot of questions around what you wrote in your essays and why you choose the specific course in the UK today.  And then once you pass that you will need to apply for the MBA or Masters programme and you need to get admission from at least one of the schools you listed in your essay.  You will get the answer from Chevening around June and then have about three months to prepare to study in September.


Q: Were there any challenges that you faced when you were applying?

  A: Yes, the first was balancing between preparing for the essays and interview, while you are so busy with your work. Most of the time I would stay late at work, until midnight, to prepare the essays. The second challenge was, I'm a little bit older than most candidates, most Chevening candidates are around 27 or 28, and I personally feel that they have more time to prepare. I felt a disadvantage here as I work and am also a parent. The essays really need to show your skills and how they specifically complement your chosen programme and what you want to do after.  You need to show your experience skills and how they are relevant to the scholarship requirements. 

Q: What was your experience like studying in the UK? What challenges did you face and what skills did you gain? 

A: It was a great experience. I met people from 40 countries with different backgrounds and different cultures. It was very important for me to open my eyes and be more adaptable. I needed to respect the differences among people and I didn’t really learn this before I did the MBA.  There were so many challenges when I started the MBA.  The language barrier was one of the main barriers for me. For the first few months I struggled to really get my point across. And the second thing was I was away from my family and my son.   I learned from people a lot, There were many people with different backgrounds and different ideas and as a result when we worked together we were able to develop the full picture of the issue.  The second set of skills I gained were around strategy and entrepreneurship.  I learnt a lot not only through the class lectures, but also from industry guest speakers. I was able to develop my entrepreneurial mindset and I think this will very helpful for my long term career.

Q: What tips would you recommend to people like yourself who would like to study in the UK and are considering applying to a scholarship program like Chevening?

A: The first is that each MBA has its own focus. For potential candidates, they need to choose carefully their programme and think how it can help them develop the skills and knowledge they need. That is very important, because MBA programmes are all very different. So really, you need to talk with the people, the school and professors and advisors to know how the MBA programme will fit to your career plan.  For Chevening, you really need to know what you want to be in the future, that is very important, because for example, for the UK government in Vietnam, they will want you to focus on a particular business and you really need tailor your career plan to fit with that requirement.  You only have 500 words for each essay, you need to be able to know how to sell your strengths and tell your story.  You need to really prepare and carefully draft what you want to write. 

Q: For  individuals from Vietnam, or any country, considering applying for Chevening, where would you suggest looking for more information? 

A: They are very transparent so when you click on the website, you will see a lot of information and Chevening will tell you step-by-step what you need to do to meet the requirements for each deadline.  And it is a very famous scholarship so there is a lot of information online. You can do research by joining groups on Facebook or watching YouTube. There are even some independent websites that specifically focus on the Chevening Scholarship. Third, seek out a mentor as they can coach you and help you prepare for the essays and interviews by providing critical feedback.


Tuan Pham, Vietnam

Head of Growth at Telio

Warwick MBA 2019, Chevening Scholar

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