How to almost ruin a Fairy Tale?
Author: Tran Thi Hoang Hac, Corporate Communications, Mekong Capital
Jun 2, 2019
It was a typical hectic day. I sat down on the wooden floor, exhausted after a full day of rolling my sleeves to decorate my shop. A sudden call cut my feelings. A sweet Hanoian voice invited me for an interview at Mekong Capital for the Corporate Communications Executive role. I just started my business and thus, I was not looking for any corporate job. However, to my surprise, I — myself accepted the interview invitation, knowing nothing of Mekong Capital.
So here I was at Mekong Capital’s Vision Fulfillment Center. I quickly checked the time. I was already late. My heart beats increased. I could feel my cheek burning. There were butterflies in my stomach. I sat down, trying to hold on my nerve.
Minh Giang, the Director of Talent & Culture, walked in with a smile. Right after the smile, she scared me out of my wits saying:
– “Dear, what time is your interview?” — she asked, looking hard into my eyes.
– “9:00 am” — I replied softly.
– “So you are 7 minutes late. Next time, please inform us as soon as you know you will be late”. Her face did not show any anger, but I still felt “This is it. I’m done”. She just caught the deepest fear in me.
After that moment, the interview had become a complete disaster for me.
Apart from the general questions, I could barely answer any other queries. Especially when she asked, “What do you know about Mekong Capital and this role?” I did read about the company. But no words could stick to my mind. I looked down to my feet and admitted to her that applying for a Private Equity firm was unprecedented for me, and I have never heard about about Mekong Capital. Even if I could learn by heart the company’s profile, I could not give her any insightful answers.
I hated myself. I came to the interview late, and had no prior knowledge about Mekong Capital and the role. I was terribly careless. I wished I could dig a hole and bury myself. I begged her in my mind that she would let me go as I could barely persuade her I would be a potential candidate.
Finally, she released me. I walked out and almost fainted. My ego and my pride hurt so bad. And I realized, there was a voice in my head that wished I could go back and try again. There were so many “if only”. There were tons of behaviors that I should have considered. I could not swallow this failure.
I asked myself: “I do not need a job right now. Why was I feeling so bad?”
I calmed myself down and carefully revisited the conversation. I clung to Minh Giang’s straightforwardness. She was tough but in a very admirable way. When I could not answer properly, she gave feedback directly but not intimidating. She had no comments or judgments about me being careless, lazy, or unprofessional. She just addressed what did not work and proposed what I could have done better. She advised that I should go back to learn more about Mekong, not to recite words by words, but to ask questions. It was the first time in my life that I was encouraged to ask many questions in an interview about the employer, organisational culture and core values. I could never imagine that I would be brave enough to speak up my concerns and be 100% direct in communication instead of holding on to be a “good” candidate.
I knew clearly that I was disappointed with my performance during the interview. There seemed to be a lightning stroke my heart. I realized that I was feeling frustrated because I was so inspired by Minh Giang’s direct communication. More importantly, I went beyond admiring her to fully adore the organization which promotes direct and complete communication. I always want to work in an environment where my teammates speak up to minimize misunderstandings and misinterpretations to deliver better results. The thought of ruining this chance to work for such admirable company made me want to slap my face. For the last three months, I had quit chasing a “suit-and-tie” occupation. I used to think that “There would be no place that suits a person like me”. But then when I sensed that Mekong Capital could be the place for me, it seemed that it was already too late.
I spent that whole evening wishing upon a star…
The next day, I was shocked when receiving an email invitation to the second interview with Mekong Capital’s Partner — Chris Freund. Thanks to Minh Giang’s direct feedback, I prepared carefully so that I could improve my performance for this attempt — my one final chance. I came early, well-prepared with a plethora of questions deriving from my true passion to win this position. I shared my concerns and asked as if I was a real employee trying to fully understand the job description. And at the end of the day, just like a fairy tale, I finally became a Mekong Capital member.
At this moment, the three-month-old Corporate Communications at Mekong Capital is feeling thankful for such an amazing opportunity. Being on a roll, I continuously practice communicating in a complete and direct way so that nothing is in the way, misunderstood or unhandled. Today, I am officially a Mekong-er!
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Mekong Capital makes investments in consumer-driven businesses and adds substantial value to those companies based on its proven framework called Vision Driven Investing. Our investee companies are typically among the fastest-growing companies in Vietnam’s consumer sectors.
In January 2022, Mekong Capital founder Chris Freund published Crab Hotpot, a story about a bunch of crabs who found themselves stuck in a boiling pot. The colorful cover of “Crab Hot Pot,” complete with expressive cartoon crustaceans, looks like a children’s tale at first glance. But as one continues reading, it becomes clear that the work has an important message about organizational transformation, leadership and focusing on a clear vision for the future.